Monday, August 20, 2007

Piano Diary #1

I started learning piano the last day of May, 2007. Three days later, on Saturday June 2nd I was, of course, already an expert, as you can see from this clunking “performance” which Alex captured while visiting. (.3gp, 5 MB).

Nearly three months later and there has been a genuine improvement. I’m spending time on “Sheep May Safely Graze” - which requires the right hand to move around the keyboard in ways I find hard to control - while my next project will be the “Menuet in G Major” (BWV 114) from Anna Magdalena’s Notebook, made famous by The Toys' 1965 hit single "A Lover's Concerto." The sheet music is freely available on the Internet here.

Although both these pieces are attributed to J. S. Bach, it appears that the latter was actually written by Christian Petzold.

So how am I finding piano? I understand intellectually there is a process by which one internalises the music from the score and gets the fingers to play the right notes, in the right order, and at the correct tempo. And then come the finer points of style and movement and speed and volume and smoothness. And as all that becomes automatic, the end result is interpretation and finally music.

As we reach the three month point, I am almost entirely at the very first of these multiple stages. To prove it here is the video of my ham-fisted efforts on the aforementioned minuet (.3gp, 1.3 MB) click here.

Suzanne, my piano teacher, is however, doing wonders - focusing me on legato, and timing and style when all my focus and effort is just to play the damn notes! Unaided, I am pretty much blind to the other things! I also have to thank her for the scales and finger exercises, the bread and butter of eventual competence.

“Patience, Perseverance and Practice” she advises, and warns me that no-one should attempt to master “The Well-Tempered Clavier” until grade 7 or 8. Apparently the “Inventions and Sinfonias” (BWV 772-801) are a precursor to the WTC and can be done earlier: maybe even grade 5 or 6. So four years away? Patience!

So meanwhile, I try for 40 minutes per day, and probably hit around four to five days per week. And I’m really looking for an increase of the Reward/Pain ratio while doing it! I must say that practice is more fun than the anticipation of practice.