Monday, January 28, 2008

Negativity & Uncertainty

Last night I dreamed I was railing at my piano teacher. Then I dreamed I went to my old piano teacher--the one I had in junior high, the one I did not get along with--and told her how much better she was than Deborah.

Why did I do that? A student's attitude and motivation (and lack thereof) has a lot to do with how "good" or "bad" a teacher is. I had a bad attitude when I was 13. I like to think I have a much-improved attitude now, 25 years later.

Strange how times long past can pop up in dreams, and bring all the emotions and intensity with them.

So I had a lesson Saturday and had several moments when I just wanted to cry.

I hadn't had a lesson in a month. More than a month. For that time, I practiced 4-6 days a week, averaging approximately 50 minutes per lesson. Not as much practicing as I'd like, but it's what I was able to manage, so I was OK with it. Practice sessions were focused mostly on scales, arps, Schumann, and Bach. I didn't want to lose "The Elf" or my C# Prelude & Fugue, so I was playing all of it through, at least twice a day, and having a blast doing so. After all those months (OK, more than 20 months) of learning the notes, working out the fingering, and drilling, drilling, drilling, I was so happy just to be playing the blasted fugue, start to finish, at a nice tempo. It felt good, and it sounded good.

So at my lesson we focused mainly on things I hadn't focused on in practice sessions. I hadn't worked much on the Shostakovich because because I had many questions about the fingering and hadn't wanted to learn everything with the "wrong" fingering. I hadn't worked much on the Beethoven because I wanted to make sure Deborah was OK with me working on it. I hadn't worked much on the B-flat fugue because ... well, I spent more time on the prelude.

Her first comment upon seeing the C-major bagatelle: "That was the one I was least interested in having you learn." Hmph. I asked why, and she said it was because it had more of a late Beethoven and she wanted me to start with something that had more of an early Beethoven sound.

I said, "Well, I really liked A-minor, too. We could do that one."

"No, C-major is fine."

I'd finally decided against the A-minor because it reminded me of "The Elf," and I wanted something with a different "feel" to it.

My assignment for next time: Write in all the fingering.

Then onward to Shostakovich. I had written in the fingering as assigned, but I'd been very confused about it. She said I'd given it a good effort ... then proceeded to erase everything and work out new fingering (with my input) and write it in. Yes, I felt like kind of an ignorant, even though she said that Shostakovich is like a foreign language to me (since I've never played anything by him), which makes sense ... but still.

The low point of the lesson came before we started working on the P&F in B-flat. I asked if I could go ahead and play the C# P&F, since I'd practiced it and wanted to play it for the group class in February. "Sure," she said.

I made it about a page into the prelude before I finally gave up in frustration. Nothing was working. My hands were running over themselves. It sounded like I hadn't practiced for a month, when in reality I'd been playing it--and playing it well every day.

So I decided to play the fugue instead. Same thing. A page in, I stopped. Was this the same piece I'd been playing every day for a month?

"I don't know why I can't play these today," I said.

"Well, you haven't had a chance to practice them."

How many students have looked into their piano teachers' eyes and told this bald-faced lie: "But I did practice!"

I felt like I looked the very picture of the lying student when I said that on Saturday: "But I did practice!" Only I was telling the truth.

She finally said that I shouldn't "perform" it every day, then gave me the one nugget that I'm going to carry away from that lesson: "Performing loosens screws. Drilling tightens them."

So I need to focus more on drilling and less on playing the piece through. OK.

I'm just so tired of drilling. I want, at least once in this life, to play that P&F for someone besides myself, and play it well.

Needless to say, I've been in a funk ever since that lesson. And I'm wondering why I ever thought I could be good at piano, or could quality for the Cliburn Amateur's Competition, or anything like that. It seems like I am stuck in "advanced intermediate" and will never get beyond that.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    I am sorry your last lesson didnt go too well. Sometimes things we have worked on seems to fall apart. Don't give up. You are probably about to experience a break through in your playing. Just go back to why you play piano in the first place.... because you love to.
    Whats interesting is that my teacher also said the same thing about early late beethoven. She said the late Beethoven is easy to mess up and its always better to start with an earlier one. I guess this is one of those areas where you just trust the teacher and I think we will understand what they mean soon.
    Goodluck!

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