Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Piano Practice as a Mardi Gras Thing

Today’s analogy is a really bad one, but it’s the one that comes to mind, perhaps because it’s the “holiday season.”

My practices lately have felt like Mardi Gras. Only sober.

Let me explain.

Say you’re in New Orleans at a Mardi Gras parade. People on the floats are throwing all kinds of trinkets, beads, candy, etc. If you try to randomly catch everything that’s thrown, you’re not going to catch anything. But if you look a float-person in the eye and yell “Throw me something, Mister!” you’re likely to get a handful of beads zinged right at you (unless, maybe, the float-person is not a mister).

I don’t know if that’s how it really is. I haven’t been to a Mardi Gras parade since 1989, and I haven’t been sober at a Mardi Gras parade since … before that.

All these new piano pieces—Bach, Beethoven, Shostakovich—are like Mardi Gras trinkets and beads sailing past me. They’re all so pretty and shiny and fun … I don’t want to have to spend my limited practice time focusing on just one. I want to enjoy all of them! Now! Throw me something! Everything!

I think it’s important that I focus on at least three (if not all four) pieces each day. My practice time is roughly 50 minutes. If I spend five minutes—OK, ten minutes—warming up, that leaves me with about 40 minutes. That leaves me an average of between ten and 13.33333333333 (ad nauseam) minutes per piece.

So I’m trying to look each piece in the eye and hope I can catch whatever trinket is there for the offering.

Onward to today’s practice …

After warming up, I started with the Fugue. Worked on the RH for mm 37-46, focusing mostly on the last few measures, where the LH and RH are tossing the alto part back and forth. I think I got some good work done for those 10 minutes.

Next, the Prelude. Did rhythms for mm 12 and 14 for about 10 minutes. So much fun to play.

Next, Beethoven. Worked on the LH run sections: mm 12-15 and mm 26-29. Did some rhythms, but the truth is, the notes fall so naturally beneath the fingers that rhythms seem less than necessary. (Ha. Rhythms are always necessary … particularly, perhaps, when they seem otherwise.) 10 minutes.

I spend the final 10 minutes on Shosti. Worked on RH only, mm 21-27 and mm 45-53.

So, those were the trinkets. I think I did OK. I focused intensely on short sections for short periods of time. It’s a different way of practicing—these short bits and pieces of time—but I think it’s what I’m going to have to do for now.

I’m ready for Saturday—I get to have marathon practice sessions on Saturdays! Lotsa beads!

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