Monday, March 24, 2008

Wow, those pages went fast

Took a couple of days off this past week. But to my astonishment, when I actually did sit down at the piano, I found that not only had I not lost any ground, but I seemed to have improved during the brief sabbatical.

All those waltzes and waltzlike (hey, another new word!) pieces? Check.

Those new blues pieces I was raving about last week? Check. Well, check-minus, anyway. Hold that thought.

I have skipped The Can-Can due to my utter distaste for it. I don't like it when professional musicians play this, much less a hack such as myself. I am working on The Marines' Hymn right now, with a couple of brief forays into Why Am I Blue?

What's up with the sudden progress? A couple of things, I believe. First, I think there was simply a settling of learnings that happened with time and few good nights' sleep. (This reminds me, I keep meaning to write about Piaget's theories of Cognitive Development and how I think they relate to learning the piano, but then I keep putting it off. Maybe subconsciously I am afraid to run off the 5 or 10 of who actually visit... I'll get back to you on this.)

Second, I think I have lowered my standards a little bit for when to progress. Earlier (like, you know, a month ago), I wouldn't move off a piece until I had it absolutely perfect. Backwards, eyes closed, different tempos, whatever. Then I learned, and reported here, that just because I played something perfectly weeks ago, it doesn't mean I have learned perfectly... I was revisiting conquered pieces from the past, and playing them poorly. So instead of trying to reach a perfection that, it turns out, was merely a mirage, I now get to the point where I can comfortably and consistently get through a piece, even with an error or two. Hence the check-minus on the blues pieces. I still have a hint of a pause as I work my way through measures 9 and 10 in Got Those Blues!, but I'm good with it for now. I hope to get better as time passes, and I use this in future warm ups.

I am now at the point in Alfred where we are slowly introducing new key signatures. The Marines' Hymn (and, sigh, The Can-Can) are both in G-major, which is a necessarily tame start. This has been a major fear point for me. As a kid playing saxophone, my instrument (the alto sax) was an e-flat instrument. This meant, for reasons utterly beyond my comprehension, that most of the key signatures I played in were pretty tame. A sharp or two at most, almost never a flat. I developed, in those three years, an intense dislike for any "exotic" key... which, in my book, is any signature with more than one flat, or two sharps. About two months ago, I found a score for U2's New Year's Day, and saw three or four flats on it... immediately threw it away. I hope Alfred will cure this phobia of mine, and I welcome any suggestions from folks who have conquered a similar condition. Most of the really interesting things I want to play are in some funky key signatures, and I will welcome a mindset that says "Oh cool!" rather than "Uh oh".


Anonymous said...

Like pretty much everything else, familiarity with key signatures gets easier with time and practice. Scales will help in getting the sharps and flate under your fingers. Do you have a book of scales? Alfred's publishes The Basic Book of Scales, Chords, Arpeggios and Cadences, which is what I use. Go around the circle of fifths (the order they are in the book), one at a time till you are comfortable with each one. I do a few a day as a warm-up. You may be surprised at how fast you start recognizing and being less intimidated by "different" key signatures.

Always Wanted to Play Piano said...

I was afraid that would be the answer. No, I don't yet have a book of scales, but the time will come soon.