I have since Advanced to Second Grade Theory. This post is from two weeks ago.
The pygmalion cyst on my right wrist cannot be removed, until early October… therefore, I must exercise caution in practicing at all times.
Many thanks to my teacher. She has the ability to simplify complex concepts of music, down to more simplified conventions. Much of her knowledge is what I’d describe as “cheat-sheets” for my process of learning music theory, to a sufficient standard.
1> Revision of intervals.
2> Tones, semitones & scales.
3> Manual Transposition.
Note: One can only transpose from minor to minor, and major to major. Prior knowledge of both keys, and scale degrees help tremendously with on transposing. Transposition is of use for the composer–especially for certain instruments, such as the Alto-Saxophone. The piano is already finely calibrated, therefore basic transposition can be done with considerable ease.
The intervallic pattern, in-which I am abiding to is from the ionian/diatonic scale. Whole-Whole-Half-Whole-Whole-Whole-Half. There are many more patterns or modes for me to explore, however I will save that for when I advance to University level.
Relative/Parallel minor scales:
There are three known minor scales, and these are:
Natural, Harmonic, and Melodic. At the moment, I only know of ‘Natural‘ and ‘Harmonic‘.
*Natural minors, retain the corresponding key signature to their relative major.
*Harmonic minors, also retain the corresponding key signature–however, the seventh (leading tone) is raised a semi-tone.
On the keyboard… should one wish to find the enharmonic minor equivalent, to a major… one starts from the tonic of that key, and steps backward (toward the bass) three semitones. As an example, C Major is the enharmonic major equivalent to A Minor.
A natural minor: The key signature is “no flats or sharps”. A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A.
A harmonic minor: One raises the seventh, with is the ‘G’. Sharpening it. A-B-C-D-E-F-G#-A.
My intention is to soon enough, memorize every major and minor key with absolute ease. That is, in correspondence to the keyboard. Possessing knowledge of keys is of utmost importance, I believe… especially when one plays scales, and one wishes to transpose a piece from one key to the other.
A tonic triad, is a three-note chord… that is, one stacked in thirds. The arpeggiated variant notwithstanding. The triad is built on the tonic, also known as “scale degree 1”. The ‘dominant’ is the technical name of the scale degree (5).
A tonic triad example, from C Major would be: C-E-G. (I chord.)
A dominant triad example, from C Major would be: G-B-D. (V chord.)
From scale degree V, of the dominant triad we begin building up the chord–whereas the tonic begins from scale degree I.
Different chords from a particular major, are named in accordance to where the ‘root’ of the triad begins.
I won’t be venturing further, than those two at the moment… as the inclusion of other chords, as I’ve seen involve ‘diminished’ variants. One of which, I am not up to as of yet.
*I asked question of hand-positioning and pianists. That is, if one were to hypothetically have a group of pianists sight-read a single piece… would each play differently, in accordance to their hand size/shape? No pianist is created equally. I’ve seen many different pianists. The stereotype in regard to their personality, may have some kind of truth (introspective and ridiculously intelligent) however, the stereotype of a pianist looking one single way (physically) is not at all applicable. Although, again… there is a strange subconscious parallel, that I can see within the pianist past other instrumentalists. One numinous, one subconscious. I can identify them to other instrumentalists, perhaps immediately. I don’t know how I can, but one day I will find out as to why I have that ability.
My teacher confirmed that “yes”, if not written on the piece, all would play intuitively–in accordance to their hands, and the way they move across the keys. Being a pianist for a huge sum of their lives… the student pianist, for example, would be very familiar with their hands and the way they work. Hours and hours practice, grants the pianist this ability to intuitively know where their hands ought to be placed whilst playing a piece through. Just as well, the pianist will often do a preliminary reading of a piece before playing. The first note, from the last note assists them in deciding where they will ultimately begin the piece, and end it. All of this, strategically goes hand-in-hand (yes, pun) with muscular strength, adroitness of the muscles and so-fourth of the hands. Looseness allows pianists to move across the keyboard, freely. A lack of experience, or being taught the improper technique will result in stiff playing. One can identify the inexperienced pianist, who is still at the beginner stage. You observe many on Youtube, for instance who… although, they are able to play high-level pieces, think Chopin, they had skipped pivotal training to develop that fluidity in their hands and fingers. Their playing, and the sound of their playing… by extension sounds flat, and without emotion–completely antithetical to Chopin. Chopin was all about emotion (play how you feel), and a pianist cannot express themselves to a sufficient standard, lest they are skilled enough to do so. Skipping over preliminary technique training, is dangerous for each pianist. One must always develop their technique, before investing into ‘pretty’ pieces. Pianism comprises considerable meta-skills, those of which, need to be built incrementally. That is why, I told my teacher that it doesn’t matter how long it takes for me to master the preliminary skills necessary. I don’t care if I am on preliminary repertoire for a year, so long as my hands develop the adroitness necessary for that period of time, to ensure that for the future… I can indeed play complex pieces. My intention, is to one day play Chopin’s oeuvre to a commendable standard. Would my journey end there, when I reach that point? Of course not, but I do believe that Chopin’s oeuvre is a goal that will sustain me for the five or-so years to come.
With pianism, just as well I am studying music theory. I believe theory informs the practice, and allows for the instrumentalist to appreciate music.
With all of the concert-level pianists I’ve had the opportunity of watching live, so far… They had one thing in common: Their hands were limber and adroit. Their wrists would be loose, which would allow them to execute a graceful, and fluid movement from key to key with all ten of their voices (fingers). Although there would be marked differences, and styles to which each would play… the same thing was apparent throughout. The musculature of the finer muscles within their hands were very well-developed.
I intend to watch more pianists in-person, and I intend to observe them closely. I have had the opportunity to watch pianists perform live, now, three times. Next week after this post, I am attending a concert with a fellow playing 24 of Chopin’s etudes. I thought to myself “HELL YEAH! CHOPIN! HELL YEAH! PIANISTS!” I had been wishing for this, for a long time. Always had I wanted to see a pianist perform Chopin in front of my very own eyes.
Pianists are my favorite. Ya’ll are nerds.
Barber adagio for strings.
Chopin Grande Valse Brilliante.
Strauss Radetzky March.
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 1.
Debussy La Mer.
Bach Well Tempered Clavier BK 1.
Purcell Fairy Queen — Semi opera.
Haydn Surprise Symphony.
And: Lieder, string quartets, oratorios, masses, tone poems, dance suites, transcriptions, madrigals, piano trios, fantasies, sonatas, duets.
PIANISTIC PORTION: (3 Hours)
- Scale Exercises:
C Major, A natural minor, A harmonic minor, G Major, E natural minor, E harmonic minor.
(1 Hour, 30 minutes per hand)
- Contrary motion:
A harmonic minor.
(30 minutes. Both hands.)
Blow The Man Down.
(1 Hour. Both hands.)
I often practice my scales with a metronome.
Between each set. I take a good five to ten minute break. Or, even before then… should I feel tensed, I rise from the piano, and walk around for a bit. Then come back. Breaks in-between are of the utmost importance.
In two weeks time, I will be advancing to new scales. I must commend scales, above all other manner of practice through my experience. Scales, and the playing of them is perhaps where most of my acquisition of skill comes from. My teacher, still to this day plays scales when she practices/warms-up. I know, that I will always be practicing scales, for the rest of my pianistic journey. I love scales…
I enjoy listening to how each tone sounds… and I enjoy how they free-up and loosen my fingers/hands. They are tremendous!
For the repertoire I will be practicing, I must take into account:
- The hierarchy of beats. A 3/4 (simple triple) meter in a standard piece has the hierarchy of:
Strong-weak-weak. Chopin’s pieces, being various Polish dances set to triple time do not follow this rule, for instance. This is in accordance to cultural conventions.
In playing, I was advised to bounce my fingers whilst playing the chords, to allow a more ‘graceful’ movement of snapping from one chord to the other. I will be taught how to snap properly, later on. I am discouraged to do so, in a ‘mechanical’ or ‘abrupt” manner. Pianists must have grace, in their movements. Also, I must practice moving my left-hand around, whilst the right-hand is playing at the same time. The wrist must be kept flexible. Never should I lift my shoulders. The wrists should be the only part lifted/elevated above the keys..
*My shoulders appear slouched inwards, they should be held back.
For my hands, I’m becoming more familiar with them. As my being double-jointed, I can use this to my advantage… however, I have paid extra care to keeping my fingers bent at all times. Luckily, this habit appears solidified. I have realized in playing for the past month, by instruction of my teacher that the pianist need not exert so much ‘force’ on the keys. Rather, the natural weight of the fingers and gravity itself should allow one to register a decent sound. Especially at these earlier stages, when one is expected to play in mezzo-forte. I am perfecting a motion of caressing the keys with my fingers, so as to attain that beautiful fluidity of fingers I had observed in my watching the few pianists I have so far. My hands are quite small (they are the size of a child’s), but luckily, my fingers are quite long–therefore, I must approach playing the piano differently to those who are lucky enough to have larger hands.
I will be purchasing an up-right acoustic piano when I reach third grade repertoire. For frame of reference, fourth grade piano repertoire is Bach’s inventions.
My teacher suspects that it will take me a year or two to master the basics to a sufficient standard. From thereon, my own barrier is muscular strength of my hands. She said, that after one has the basics down-pat, the rest of the repertoire to follow should come seamlessly in-comparison.
You must have a good, and solid foundation in technique.
Otherwise, one will find themselves… whilst practicing intermediate pieces, still ironing-out bad habits. A big no-no.
I have done some more thinking in planning out practice for pianism, efficiently. I intend to graduate from three hours of practice, to four for six out of six days in each week.
As well as piano-work, I will be studying music theory for one to two hours daily. Even on Sundays. Music theory, I suspect I will master quicker than pianism… I am quite good with theoretical concepts. As for my hand-and-eye coordination, that is a significant caveat, indeed.
NUMBER ONE THING I NEED TO LEARN: