Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Wasn't this supposed to be fun? Or, Wake me up when I'm better

At my first lesson with this new teacher, he asked me if the exercises he was assigning would take too much time. I said, "Oh, no; I think this is something I need to be doing." He said, "I think so, too."

So here it is a couple of months down the road. I've worked on this diligently, if not exhaustively. I've graduated from one-finger exercises to scales and arpeggios (two octaves, various rhythmically related uses of the wrist vs. fingers and arm, hands separate). We've worked on five Chopin preludes, my latest Bach set, and the Chopin Nocturne I was learning before I started the lessons.

The biggest emphasis has been on playing softer. I didn't really think of myself as a loud, banging pianist, but definitely did not have the ability to create varied colors, which maybe comes down to the same thing. For just about everything I play at my lessons, I get the same comment: "Too loud."

I'm not really complaining (I hope). This is extremely worthwhile. On the other hand, if it gets to be too much of a drag, I'm going to get discouraged. Right now I'm in the netherworld between my old enthusiastic "go for it" playing and being aware of the nuance that is missing, which is frustrating. And you know, I'm aware of the possibility that the nuance will never get there. Can my muscles even do this? But I sense that they can. And then the other thing is that it doesn't have to be 100% perfect. It's not like the nuance police are going to come and arrest me if I play like too much of an amateur. I still believe that it's better to do something, however short of the ideal, than to do nothing.

In a way, this is an excellent time for me to be working on this stuff because I also am practicing toward the performance of "Pezzo Capriccioso" in June, so having  more limited time to practice the piano is somewhat of a good thing. To put it another way, the relative dullness of the one is offset by the relative terror of the other.

My biggest fear about "Pezzo" is that I will get up there to play and find myself flailing around and making a big mess of it because such virtuosic tricks should not be attempted by someone who spends 8 hours a day sitting in front of a computer in an office. I really need to banish such thoughts entirely and focus on the positive. Such as:
  • I can make a good sound on the cello. Most of this piece is more about that than about pyrotechnics.
  • The piece is only four pages long and has a lot of repetition.
  • Even in the fast sections, making up less than half of the piece, there are only about three places that are hair-raising.
  • I have more than two months left to work on it, and I can already play it up to tempo, from memory. It just needs polishing.
  • If I put my mind to it, I can do this AND have fun with it.
That last point probably holds true for the piano as well! So onward.

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