January 24, 2008 Practice

Practices have been both wonderful and frustrating.

We’re working shifts, so I have one hour—no more, no less—for practicing. I’ve begun practicing on Thuddy Theodore every day simply because Thuddy is about four minutes closer to my desk at work than Zan the Grand is. Multiply by two, and I lose approximately eight minutes of practice time per day—that’s 40 minutes per week!) if I decide to practice on Zan. So Thuddy is my man these days.

My scales are up to 88. They’re sounding good, and they’re looking good—by that, I mean my arms are doing more of the work and my fingers are relaxed, even when I’m playing the sixteenth notes in contrary motion. Today I played through A and f#-minor and it sounded flawless. So much fun to play these scales when I know I’m doing them right and they sound good and my hands don’t get tired.

Arpeggios are at 56, or somewhere around there. The technique seems to be working there, too. I’ve never, ever felt comfortable with arpeggios, and I still don’t … but, as always, I get a little closer to the comfort zone with each practice.

“The Elf,” now a warm-up piece, sounds great. Each day I play it through a few times—sometimes slower, sometimes faster. Sometimes I have a lazy elf, sometimes a sprightly one, sometime a downright manic one. Sometimes an angry one, sometimes a sweet one. It really is a great piece for experimenting with different moods, since it’s so short (about 30 seconds, if that long).

The C# major P&F, my other warm-pieces, are among the greatest joys of my life these days. I am having so much fun with them. I am listening to myself more than I am concentrating on getting the notes and the techniques right--I have them down cold, so there are few, if any, missed notes or issues of lost concentration. I am listening to my own playing the way I might listen to a recording, focusing here, then there, on how this voice gives way to that one, or how the other voice melds with the first while the second one is picking up the main subject again … pure, unadulterated joy, it is. I feel like I’m dancing.

This week, for my “new” piece, I’ve focused mostly on the Bb Prelude. I can play through the entire piece; it’s really not that complicated (at least compared to the C#), though there are a few tricky places. But I’m not going to let myself be fooled by the “not-that-hard” myth, or I’ll end up putting not enough effort into it. I have been working on three- to six-measure bits each day. Drill, drill, drill. It’s been painstaking (though never boring), and when I played through the piece today, at a slow pace, without stopping, it sounded far smoother than it did last week, when I played it through without having gone through all the drills.

Shostakovich, Beethoven, and the Bb Fugue have been on the back burner this week. Oh … would that I had more hours in the day for piano!

It’s been a good week for practicing, though. Practice sessions have been all too brief (which has been frustrating), but I think I’ve made good use of what little time I’ve been able to take.


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