PIANO/MUSIC THEORY. 3 MONTHS. GRADE 1.

Meryl Keioskie


It’s been a little over three months, now. I have now graduated to Grade 1 of Music Theory.

31-05-2020 is when I began my first Viola lesson (roughly three months ago).
27-07-2020 is when I began teaching myself piano (A month ago).

Viola has now been dropped, in favor for my dedicating myself to piano full-time.
This week, I receive my first lesson in piano.

In this lesson, I am far more impassioned than anticipated.


Theory Portion:

1> Composing portion:
My theory Instructor and I have been working on variating a theme, for a composition practice–call it practice or whatever. His tutelage has been exposing me to some excellent forms of composition: Diminution, augmentation, retrograde, doubling, and so-fourth. It’s been composed for piano in-mind, which I find quite apposite. He is my main instrument now.

The piece we’ve been working on together. I call it “An Oddity”–although, I will most probably add it to my Gaspar suite later, when I do some more work on the harmony. There’s more work to be done on it, yet… however. My teacher is very stringent on ending on the tonic.

Bach’s compositions in-particular, are just magnificent to observe and study. The man was an absolute genius.

With my being taught composition, in-between , I reworked the Arpeggio & Scale Berceause from my Gaspar Suite. To make it more ‘sweeter’, and ‘tender’:

I am still working on that suite, of course… I intend to get it up to 100 variations and pieces before I compile it together.

Then, there is also this variation to the above. I call it “Ambien Dreams”:

2> Theory:
My instructor has told me that he is confident in my completing the rest of the Music Craft Preliminary book. I have done so, and we are now moving onward to the musical text book. HELL YEAH! And now… I am finally out of Kindergarten.

I went ahead and ordered this trilogy: “The Musician’s Guide to Theory and Analysis, 3e.” To study from, in guidance of my teacher. He is a such a damned nerd. I swear. And oh yes, I respect him. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have hired him.

I feel like Billy Madison.

Me, all day of the week.

Tempo Markings:
Tempo markings present themselves in a range. I.E:
Andante is set to a range 56-88 BPM.

Tempos are best identified through the context of the piece. Ranges often overlap–therefore, for one to identify the tempo marking, one listens to the piece.

3> Composers Spreadsheet: Charles-Valentin Alkan.

I am instructed to answer this question, in-relation to Alkan’s piece, “Alkan – Etude op.39 no.12 – Le Festin D’Esope”.

Write brief notes on each variation. Discuss what has been altered in each variation. Always compare the variation to the original theme.

A: 1) The first variation, we’ve set to the key in G Major. The meter, duple. 2/4. Eight bars. The theme with the dynamic ‘Piano’. Often Alkan is seen to deviate away from the key, just as well. His quavers and semi-quavers having staccato rendered upon them. The tempo, Allegretto Senza Licenza Quantunque. Which means “Rather fast, without any license.” The piece is instructed to not be played in rubato. 2) Second: Both bass and treble are still marked with staccato. He introduces both tenuto and tied notes within this variation. Thence, it produced strange ‘flighty’ effect in its playing. Also, the thirty-second sextuplet flourishes are marked forte (He augmented his damned notes). 3) In this variation, he diminishes his notes. Still, he keeps to staccatto. Harmonic tension is apparent in this one, and pauses in melody with the staccato, and emphasis on bass are apparent. Also. There’s trills! 4) Staccatto still continues, especially in the bass. The four bars to the piece have within, third and sixth notes. The tension is resolved, at the end frm the first variations. 5) Octaves marching. Triplets of sixteenth octaves for both hands provide momentum while the harmony is switched between E minor and F minor. There is an impressive ascending scale in octaves throughout the two keys. 6) Continues with the theme of the march. This time, Alkan switches the key to C Major. The movement, comparably more quiet than the others before it with its marked ‘piano’. This is broken later, with the return of ‘forte’. 7) A quiet trill for the bass. In range 2. Tension is created, and syncopation occurs often. The important bar, being marked by Alkan “Pochissimo crescendo”. 8) In tonic major (I had to look this up). Also written by Alkan as ‘Maggiore’. Sweet and sustained in comparison to the former. 9) Sprightly bounces for upper registers are heard. He lifts up the range slightly. Each chord is preceded by wonderful ornamental embellishments (acciaccatura). These embellishments are not pivotal to the melody, but serve to decorate. 10) With Ostinato. the preceding variation is embelished further with ‘onstinato’ (a repetitive motif) set to a higher range. He marks it ‘Scampanatino”. 11) Still Ostinato, however now converted to thirds. Marked ‘Molto Legato’. The melody once again, is relegated to bass since variation 7. 11) Chords are supported by modculations and references from Romanticism and impressionism are accutely heard. Bass is written with very wide broken chord and arpeggios. 12) Still keeping to his conventions. He inserts a tiny acciaccatura (embelishment) within. 12) Forte and ‘trombata’ are marked on the sheet. Staccatto still retained, with a constant overlapping of bass and treble. 13) The left hand is seen to switch between sixteenth notes, and loud expansive chords of both D Minor and C Minor are played before ending in E Major. 14) Bass remains in staccato and still retains wide artpeggios. However, the key is set to C Major. 15) Octaves, Alkan! JESUS CHRIST. The treble and bass are seen to overlap constantly. And some chords are lowered by a semitone. 16) Thick chords… and loud as hell. Fortississimo (fff). 17) An explicit reference to animals are made. 18) Returns to minor key. Both hands are on bass. Pedal is marked throughout. 19) Tremelo is included. Melody is established in the first bars. Again, many chromatic scales. 20) And so, we end… with a trionfalmente fortissimo. Very loud. He wanted to end on a bang, so to speak. A crescendo leads to the final eight-bar.

I’m quite certain that I numbered these wrong… if so, ah well. In all honesty, that was a very complex piece to read. Far past my level. Ah, Europe. That is where art is.

Pianistic Portion (Alexandre):

Four weeks in. Now, I learn from a professional. She had begun playing piano at the age of five, and is now a Masters student at the Conservatoire. Watching her play on the piano, she… is natural. Her fingers like pistons, and I am in absolute awe. This was the first time I ever saw someone play, right in-front of my eyes… and I am awe-struck. Amazing… just amazing! Her hands fluid, and she, relaxed when she plays. For her, I see the piano in her soul. She is bound to it. I see that in all pianists. I love pianists. ‘Deed I do. They all have something within, which illuminates them… especially in their eyes. I want that same light in my eyes. That’s why I’m drawn to the piano.

THIS IS WHAT I HAVE LONGED FOR. I don’t care or mind how long it will take, so long as I get to even do 1/16th of what they can do… damn, that’s all I ever wanted. Yes please. For the next twenty years. HELL YEAH. I found it. Finally.

To have what they have. One day, I will.

Half an hour of practice a day, is a good start for me.

Alfred Series Practice:

1) E for the right and left hand.
2) Inverted C Major triad.
3) Middle C position.
4) Dynamics: Crescendo & Diminuendo.
5) Fermata: One holds a Fermata approximately twice the value of the note… however as a general rule, one can hold it (within reason) for as long as they like.
6) Eight notes/quavers.
7) Hanon hand exercises.
8) Dotted crotchets.

Lesson I. Piano. Basics.

Pro-tips:

*Avoid slouching.
*Avoid being tense.
*Avoid over-practice.
*Use my Czerny and Hanon judiciously. With good judgement.
* It is thoroughly important to know not just practice, but also theory as well as aural skills. If you practice incorrectly, you WILL injure yourself.

I can sight read, albeit slowly, however… I have not yet, learnt the ability to proper express these denotations on the piano.

1) Acquisition of correct hand positioning and changes, as well as fingering. C Major scale, right and left. Utilizing the relaxed dipping motion of the wrists to play. Also, with scale-playing, one brings their thumb under to move. Keep your wrist supple. Use your fingers in a relaxed fashion. And “Happy Birthday” from the Alfred’s book.

Relaxed mode first. The piano is your frieeeeennnnnd~

2) Hand position extension. For example, when one is moving from C to B with the first finger.

*Notes from the lesson:

First step, is to consciously think of my technique. Posture, fingers, hands.

+ My stool is a good distance away, and height just as well. The arm must be parallel to the floor, roughly.

+ My fingers must be curved. Due to the edges of my nail beds sticking out, I cannot play on the flats of my fingers. Therefore my fingers cannot curve completely, and I must play slightly flatter. The first knuckle however, must always be arched. The pianist plays from their feet, funnily enough. Especially when you are playing virtuosic repertoire. Ensure that your fingers don’t collapse. Practice holding a tennis ball to maintain the position. One can also rest their hand on their knee. The shape of my hand, will be more of a depressed angle. Like an arc as opposed to a ball.

+ For the middle C position, I can choose to switch between thumbs being place on the key. I choose one thumb to sit there.

+ I’m too tense when it comes to playing, I need to relax whilst playing. Relaxing my shoulders. My feet become numb, due to my being tense. One must be mindful of their relaxedness. The trick is not to try and control anything. Just allow it to be relaxed. I will meditate.

+ My finger tips must be stationary on the key. Having my wrist drip and rise with each key played. Practicing this motion between each finger. When you dip, you must come back. Keep the fingers slightly flat, however, do not collapse them. The playing motion, is a lot like a wave. The wrist is driving things. When dipping the wrist, do not over-extend it dipping… if it feels tense, then you are not doing it correctly. Never should you feel tense, or feel pain in playing.

+ Both hands must be equally as strong as one another. So practice with both.

INFO: Accoustic pianos are real beauts. One can register a different sound of playing, by how far inward your fingers are, on the keys… different effects.


Playing with collapsed fingers will damage your tendons. The pianist must pay attention to all of their muscles. Which muscles are you using, one must ask themselves in playing firstly. The pianist uses all muscles… all muscles. And they must pay attention to how they breathe. Piano is serious business. As a beginner however, I will begin with the fingers. The fingers are connected to the musculature and tendons of the neck and arms upwards. One must have a supple wrist that’s flexible, like glue-tack.

First step, is to consciously think of my technique. Posture, fingers, hands.

Fourth finger is the weakest.

For me, learning proper form and hand technique is of utmost importance before anything else on the piano. If I don’t develop the proper habits necessary to play the piano, there is no way in hell I will be able to increase speed for the jazz I intend to play.

I have also set aside a workbook for my teacher to write what I ought to practice, that is, to better keep track of my learning process toward the piano.

So far, I am familiar with:
C Position: C Major chord, G7 chord, F chord.
G position. G Major chord, D7 chord, C Major chord.
Middle C Position.

And so, begins me watching hours and hours of pianists play:

My Piano teacher’s teacher. Damn that technique is MINT. She’s like… Yoda’s Yoda.
AND MORE. Dammit, this is fucking amazing. HOLY HANDS. She has fingers like a centipede’s legs. THE MOVEMENTS!
And this delicious specimen. HANDS! HANDS! HANDS! such hands! Such focus. Such passion. SUCH EMOTION. For your standard infatuation, you’ll find women preferring the run of the mill celebrity. Or that guy… who plays Thor (I forget his name).

As for me, I always find exceedingly skilled pianists sexy. Famous or not. Who gives a shit? I have always loved me a delicious pianist. If he can tickle the ivories… Especially with bigger hands. AND MUSIC THEORY. HE MUST KNOW MUSIC THEORY. YES. PLEASE.
I WILL marry one. Then I can watch him play, all day of the week. I envision myself saying: “Dear, don’t mind me. I will sit here and forever be amazed at your virtuosity. Yes-yes, never-mind me. Your piano comes first. That is your true love. Please never stop playing. That is all I ask. “

You marry a music man. You marry their music.

On another note… I need to see some professional pianists perform live. NOW! I will ask either of my teachers, soon enough… where I may watch some perform. I will most probably be the only one in the audience, with a gargantuan grin on my face. Nodding to myself. My mouth agape in excitement. GOD DAMMIT WHERE HAS IT BEEN ALL OF MY LIFE! This brings me tremendous joy.

Written on their faces. Such hours… such solitude… SUCH MUSIC.

——

*Viola Portion (Gasparini):

This is the last lesson I will receive for viola. I am retiring the viola and moving onto piano full-time. Do I regret learning the viola? Not at all. It led me to piano, as a matter of fact. Through my viola instructor, I was put into contact with my new piano teacher who is already playing virtuosic repertoire. Just as well, I understand music theory at a grade I level. Although I had initially attempted to run away from the instrument, it caught up to me… and by god. I am glad that it did. I may re-visit the viola again in the future. Who knows? In the future I will purchase an acoustic piano. And I will name him Gasparini. That, I promise. I do feel guilty Gasparini, I do. Forgive me. You will be reincarnated, into a magnificent Steinway and sons. One day.

As a final ode to my Gasparini, I will leave these notes… just in-case I may decide to return to him, one day.

Tuning:
*Large pegs: Larger tuning. Never go above the note, for you will put unnecessary tension on the string. The ends of the pegs are tapered–therefore, when tuning, you push in the pegs taking that into account.

*Finetuners: Just for finer adjustments, to tune the HZ of the string to finger calibrations. Often, when tuning… one string being tuned will knock others out of balance, from the tension created in the peg box.

1) Left hand pizzicato (fourth finger). Flick the pinkie, and use the whole hand.
2) Harmonics (fourth finger): doubling the hertz, also known as the oscillations. I.E: With lightly applying your fourth finger to halfway of the string, one doubles the frequency of the string’s base note. I.E: 440 HZ of the A (A4) string to 880 (A5) HZ.
“When the instrument rings, it is telling you. That’s the correct note.”
3) A on the D string (fourth finger).
4) Playing at 120 BPM.

——

I love each of my instruments. I name each for them… for they are to be respected.

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