Sunday, June 11, 2006

Practice Log for Week of June 11

This log will be updated daily, whether I'm able to practice or not. If you want to access the week's practice log quickly, simply click the link beneath the piano icon in the sidebar. Last week's completed log can be found here.

Practice Goals for the Week

1) Scales at 76 and arpeggios at 60
2) Suzuki Minuet 4 (by ear)
3) Play through Bach Prelude once a day
4) Learn Fugue hands-separately
5) Work on tone and voicing for Sections 12 and 13 of Liszt; begin learning Section 9

Sunday, June 11: Spent 70 minutes on scales, arps, Suzuki, the Prelude, and the Fugue. Scales and arps are sounding really good. When I write "scales and arps," I mean scales and arpeggios in similar and contrary motion, at increasing speeds. Also included are full-octave inversions for each. Today's scales were B major and G# minor, and today's arpeggios were Gb major and Eb minor. For Suzuki, I played through Minuet 3 and "learned" the right-hand notes of Minuet 4 by ear, which took about two minutes.

I can play through the prelude pretty well. It's very basic and just kind of falls into the hands. There are a few sticky sections that I'll need to spend more time on before my lesson Wednesday.

The hands-separate practice for the fugue is turning out to be easier than expected. The hardest part is synchronizing the rests in one voice with the held notes in another voice. I'm doing a lot of listening to separate voices, then playing two voices together, then listening to individual voices again, then voices together, etc. It would be easy enough to play the voices together without thinking of them as separate voices, I suppose, but that would defeat the purpose of learning the fugue. It's a mind exercise as much as it is a finger exercise, and I am loving every second of it. (That sublime mind-finger exercise thing, by the way, is Reason #214 to adore and admire Bach.)

Spent about 80 minutes on the Liszt (plus a couple more scales and arps to warm up). I'm only focusing on measures 91 through 115 (the last section of the piece, starting with the con agitazione measure). The big challenge for me has been the timing. I learned how to do 2-against-3 when I learned Liszt's "Consolation No. 3" in high school, but the 2-against-3 in "Ständchen"--with the changes from measure to measure, plus the ornaments, plus the voicing challenges--has been a real bear (with 2-against-3, one hand is playing a "1-2, 1-2" beat while the other plays a "1-2-3, 1-2-3" waltz-like beat). I must have played measures 99 and 101 a hundred times today--without the ornaments, with the ornaments, with the metronome, with a special focus on voicing, all together now, etc. And always slow, slow, slow. Imagine the runners in slow-motion in the movie Chariots of Fire. That's how "Ständchen" feels. I'm playing it with all the emotional power I can muster in the dynamics, but at half the speed at which it should be played. Very challenging, and the temptation to play it faster is nearly irresistible.

But resist I must. For now, and for my next few practices, I'll continue to play at a snail's pace.

Monday, June 12: Practiced for about 70 minutes this afternoon. I did the usual scales, arps, and Suzuki as a warm up (more to warm up my mind than to warm up my fingers), then moved on to the fugue.

Whew. I worked on the fugue itself for about an hour, hands-separately. I really want to learn this, and I don't want to cut corners. So I'm approaching it in several different ways. First, I went straight to the "red stars" I'd written in the other night when playing through to see which sections would be the most challenging. The toughest-seeming one is early in the piece--measures 6-11. So I began the drill: play one voice, then the other. Play them together, listening. Back up. Shut the piano. Play one voice on the piano lid, focusing on the fingering. Play it again on the lid, "listening" and imagining the keys. Do the same with the other voice. Do the same with both voices. Over and over again. Focus. Keep "playing" until it feels natural, both in my fingers and in my mind.

This "away-from-the-keys" practice taxes the brain, but when I finally open the lid and play on the keys again ... voila! It's there, and it sounds just as smooth as can be! Once I'm playing on the keys again, I run through those same measures 10 or 15 times each--or 20 or 30 or more, as needed. I focused really hard on measures 1-6 and measures 10 and 11 today. The plan was to do all eleven measures, but I'm not used to such brain-taxing, intensive work, and I had to stop because I was mentally tired.

So, I covered eight measures today. Sigh. The fugue consists of 55 measures. Actually, I'm looking forward to the work. As with my physical workouts, I'm sure that more of these types of practices will simply improve my mental endurance in the long run--as well as make me a better pianist!

I worked on Liszt for about 10 minutes tonight. I was too tired to have a decent practice, so I just played through measures 91 to the end a few times, very slowly, to make sure yesterday's awesome practice sank in. I found that, while I missed a few notes here an there, I have a much better sense of the timing--the left-hand "beat," if you will--and was able to keep it steady throughout the ornaments, 2-against-3 measures, etc. So that's good.

Tuesday, June 13: On the road all day. No practice. :(

Wednesday, June 14 (Lesson Day): About 30 minutes on scales, arps, Suzuki, and Liszt (about 15 minutes was spent on Liszt). Mostly just warming up for my piano lesson in the afternoon. Didn't have time for Bach. This evening, I practiced for about 80 minutes. Did the usual scales and arps as warm up, then got to work in earnest on the Bach. Very intense, focused practicing of hands separately. I've had to do a lot of fiddling with the fingering because the editor's fingerings assume that my hands are bigger than they are. It's also been a challenge to play with the notes detached rather than legato. I'd been practicing legato until today, when Deborah said to make them detached. Sigh.

Practicing the fugue literally exhausts me. When I finished it, I sluggishly moved on to the Liszt and decided only to work on the last couple of measures. They're not hard, but they did need a bit of attention, so I focused on them. Tomorrow in the Liszt, I start on Section 9 (the part with the arpeggios in thirds). Once I've gotten that section down, the rest of the piece will be easy in comparison. I'm glad I'm getting the most difficult sections down first.

Thursday, June 15:

Friday, June 16:

Saturday, June 17:


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