Practice for Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Duration: 55 minutes
Piano: Zan the Grand

Remind me not to schedule my Carnegie Hall debut for the week before my period.

Yes, I had a PMS practice today. (Sorry if that’s TMI for some of you.) My fingers feel like five little water balloons at the end each hand. In addition to that, I have the requisite UMS (Ugly Mood Swings) to go along with it. So you’d think today’s practice wouldn’t be so good.

It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t too bad, either. Kind of lukewarm. A four on a 10-point scale.

I started with the usual scales and arps and played them pretty well, considering I had water balloons for fingers. I’m at 80 for scales and 54 for arps. I’d gotten a lot faster on them until Deborah said (noticed? realized?) my technique had gone back to pot, and that I was being all finger-y and not arm-y enough. So I was demoted we backed up. Way up. Or down, I guess I should say. And now I’ve worked my way back up to 80 and 54 after what has seemed an eternity. As my arpeggist friend says of the glacial rate of improvement for adult students,
"It's like five years spread over fifteen; it may have only been five years of study, but because of intervening time making the total fifteen, it seems like fifteen years of study."

I continued the usual “warm-up” routine of the C# P&F and “The Elf.” Then it was onward to the new pieces …

Bach, Prelude & Fugue in B-flat

Prelude: Where to start? I’ve written in all of the fingering. I’ve studied it enough to have an idea of how the chords are progressing and how things are happening musically. I’m ready to start bumbling and fumbling my way through learning the notes.

The first step, for me, is to look through the whole piece and divide it into sections. I came up with 10 sections, which is a lot for a 3-page piece of music. The last five sections are all on page 3, though. Each new line offers a new cadenza-style challenge, so I figured each should have its own numbered section.

The next step is to eyeball the individual sections and determine which one is likely the most challenging, and to start working on it. I decided on Section 10, the very end. It was a good choice for two reasons: it looks like it’ll be the hardest most challenging most complex, intellectually stimulating, and downright fun. And I've long had a bad habit of learning the beginnings of pieces well, and then slacking on the endings. Not good. So the ending must come first, or at least not last.

So I started working on the last few measures, using blocked intervals.

It’s going to be a long road. I’m giddy, the same way I used to get, back when I was young and spry and in college, upon embarking on a really long road trip.

Fugue: I didn’t have a lot of time for the Fugue, but I did review what I had worked on yesterday. Amazing how after 24 hours, some things just seem to sink in. ("And then sink back out," murmurs Pessimist Self).

Shostakovich, Lyric Waltz

Next, I moved to the Shostakovich. The fingering on this one is tricky, and I am open to suggestions. I think I may be making this more difficult than it is.

OK, if the same note is to be repeated multiple times, it typically works best to let the fingers take turns playing the note. It helps keep the repetition from sounding tired and … well, repetitive (in a bad way).

What do you do if the same third is to be repeated multiple times? And then that third moves up by a half-step? And then that third moves up by a half-step? If I use the same 1-3 or 1-4 or 2-4, I get that tired and repetitive (in a bad way) sound. If I let my fingers take turns (on the higher note, at least), the sound is much better, but then I get a “back-against-the-wall” feeling when it’s time to move up a half-step.

Sadly, my practice session came to an end much too soon. I’ve been feeling PMS-y and yucky all day, and the practice session really helped me to get my mind off of it. Again, it wasn’t a great practice session … but I did get some good work done, I think. I do feel sorry for the church employees, who can't help but hear me practicing. I fear I treated them to what sounded like a bad rendition of the Raindrop Prelude, Shostakovich-style.

Ah, my days of playing through Bach and Liszt, working on “continuity” and “flow,” are definitely a thing of the past for those unfortunate listeners.


robert said…
Welcome back, Nina! Those are great acronyms, esp. UMS, which I think all NAPS types get, PHD (that's not just a degree, but Piled High & Deep). You haven't lost any of your prose skills while cranking out, er, "Now you're talking Tek" (with apologies to William Shatner).

I'm quotable! It warms the cockles of you-know-where, and makes me persist in my opinionations.

Not to pot! Muscle habits take a lot of time to become auto; those little oligodendrocytes learn fast, but not a trans-warp speed. Impulse, maybe (Shatner again).

I'm glad you've taken a look at the Bb prelude. Oddly, I always found the last section the easiest; you just rattle up the keyboard, dimuendo, and end with a nice soft "ping" at the top. Lemme send you some fingering and articulation ideas, but you're doing everything right with blocked chords. Just don't forget to block the RH by itself and alternate blocking with just RH notes, whacking the top note (in practice). And you can play LH at the start (and other places), legato -- see what the arpeggist wrote about just such you-know where. It's a winner of a piece of music, no doubt about it.

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