Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Music Thoughts

Tonight I practiced piano for a bit. It wasn't the three-hour marathon I would have liked, but it was a good practice.

Henry the Grand

I started with scales and arpeggios, as always. Scales have gotten easy. I guess that playing all the majors and minors every single day, sometimes twice a day, for months will do that. I've been a good little piano student and have been practicing at a tempo slow enough that I can play them perfectly ... and then inching them up a notch on the metronome.

Another thing I've started doing every day: In my re-acquaintance with Hanon, I'm playing each exercise every day. I'm up to preparatory exercise 15.

"What?" you say. "But you've been playing piano all your life! Seriously, you're doing Hanon?"

Yes. I've focused mainly on relaxing my left hand, which was tensing up a lot whenever I used my third, fourth, or fifth finger. My thumb would arch back in some kind of compensation for the weak fingers. So after many weeks of practice, I can now play the Hanon exercises (and the scales, and everything, the Bach Prelude in B-flat in particular) without tensing up like I was before. I'm also able to play through the 15 exercises without stopping (and by memory!). I couldn't do that when I first started back--just playing the first exercise would exhaust my left hand and arm.

I focused mostly on the Bach Prelude tonight, starting at ♪=92 and working my way up to ♪=96, playing it about a half-dozen times at ♪=92 and then a half-dozen times at ♪=96. In between, I stopped to work on a couple of measures where my fourth and fifth fingers on my left hand are still "misfiring," giving the measure an uneven sound. By the time I finished practicing, it sounded pretty good. Tomorrow I'll play ♪=96 a half-dozen times, and then ♪=100 a half-dozen times ... and I'll keep doing that until I get to the goal tempo of ♪=160, or ♩=80.

I also worked on the fugue at ♪=63 and, after a few times at that tempo, moved up to ♪=66. I'll practice again during lunch tomorrow and will isolate a couple of measures that are still not quite right. Other than those two measures, the fugue sounds really good. I recorded myself playing it, and I can hear the voices clearly, even where I don't hear them that clearly when playing them! Because I have the notes down cold (except for those two pesky measures), I've become better able to listen to the different voices, and I think the piece will just sound better and better the more I play it.

I also had a voice lesson yesterday and listened to my recording of it last night before I went to bed.

Ugh! I am such a terrible singer! I'd practiced this one English art song, "Come Again, Sweet Love," ad nauseam, and I thought I was sounding pretty good ... but that recording! I love my voice teacher and his patience with me. I'm sure some of the sounds I make are cringe-inducing. I so want a nice, even beautiful, sound to come forth from these vocal cords, from this stressed-out body of mine. And so I practice and I keep going to voice lessons and I keep having faith.

I do see improvement. I know that my expectations are unrealistic--I mean, I'm 48 years old and have never seriously worked on my voice. In fact, I've never even sung that much, ever since being told as a teenager that I can't carry a tune in a bucket. So I have some stuff, both technically and mentally, to overcome.

I'm glad I have piano--a musical outlet where I have some confidence, and where I know I can make beautiful sounds. And I'm glad I have voice, too--not just a voice that is functional to some degree, but voice lessons, and a voice teacher, and music, and these wonderful art songs that I've been exposed to.

While a lot in my life has gone wrong in the past year--one thing that has gone right is that I found two music teachers that I love, and I've spent more hours communing with music than I have in a long time. And that's good.

If you want to read more of my boring music posts, you can find them at my Picking Up the Pieces blog!

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