I have decided to take the plunge and upgrade to a beautiful acoustic piano. A second-hand Yamaha UX upright, which I will be practicing until… I predict, AMUS. I have named him “Alistair”. Some may call me weird, strange… and definitely I am those things. I see my piano as a breathing, organic instrument. He is made of wood, after-all and although he has most likely passed through many hands, he is as much as mine as he was the others. I will love him, and he will love me.
Alistair is polished, and dusted frequently. I treat him with care, for soon enough he will be someone else’s. Alistair, like most pianos pass through many hands. Just like a lover would…
As I play his keys, I wonder who graced them before I ever did… what became of them? Are they still pianists? Have I crossed paths with them? Has a terrible fate befallen any of them? Who are they… I’m strange like that, yes.
As for my previous keyboard, Alexander, he has been given to my Nephew who has taken an interest to music. Hopefully Alexander, serves him well.
I have also purchased a Theremin, and will name her accordingly.
I have, attempted to… through the weeks… sluice in 3 hours a day, of practice on the piano.
By way of feedback, my teacher is happy with my progress/ She mentions that my technique is excellent. For next week, I must focus on learning repertoire.
*NEW: D Major. (LH/RH) B Natural Minor. (LH/RH) B Harmonic Minor. (LH/RH)
Bb Major. (LH/RH) G Natural Minor. (LH/RH) G Harmonic Minor. (LH/RH) D Chromatic scale. (LH/RH)
Note: Currently I know up to 2 flats, and sharps for key signatures. The sevenths being raised for each minor, does not count. By the end of the year, I hope to surpass this to at least 4 flats and sharps.
This is indeed the year for piano. I’ve marked my calendar/schedule for many pianistic events to take place–specifically at The Conservatorium. I see it as wise, to sit in the front row… directly parallel to the view of the keyboard, and the performer’s hands on the keys… so that I may observe their technique.
In my observations, although sparse… (I began learning piano five months ago, and I began attending musical events, the very same) weight is never forced/sourced from the fingers. Physiologically speaking, that would be impossible. Fingers don’t have ‘muscles’(Sorry, Hanon, your exercises are outdated). The mechanic of movement, that the finger joints are capable of are by way of tendons–which, of course run up the entire course of one’s arms.
Therefore, an efficient way of playing is to never play from the fingers… but rather, through conventions of gravity. Source weight from the pivot of the wrists (whilst keeping them loose) and elbows. With a drop–and of course, the fingers will be shifting positions in a subtle push forward (for standard legato) all the while. Staccato is handled differently, where the push is inverted with the tips. Of course, these aren’t the only muscles to consider. The entire body, is used for piano.
In my sitting closest to a pianist, last performance I had attended… I could hear breathing. The fellow played for an hour, just as well… with little breaks/intermissions, and of course–he did an encore performance for his adoring crowd. Beautiful hands, intelligent playing–grace. He is one of the staff members at The Conservatorium, he looks a bit like Mr. Six from Six flags(Mr. six is cool, don’t worry) and seems to scream PIANO from his very pores.
Err… literally, he was sweating. In-fact, any pianists performing repertoire which is demanding WILL sweat profusely. This fellow was playing Bach, Liszt, Schumann, and Rachmaninov for his entire performance. He’d stop between each movement, crack his hands/fingers at his sides… brace himself for the next piece… taking note that he had no music sheets in-front of him, to speak of. He is such a lord.Lord of the keys!
Sweat pianists, sweat. I’ll smile all the while.
Note: Musicianship will be added to my learning curriculum, mid-year. I will be moved up to fourth grade Musicianship, via the AMEB standard. When I advance far enough, to AMUS, I will be sitting some tests to earn some qualifications in-relation to the theoretical conventions of music. Musicianship, or Music theory. As for my progression in playing, I foresee that this will be a more gradual progression. Eventually, when reaching past seventh grade, I will sit an exam, the very same.
After doing so, I intend to attend Music School. And perhaps, eventually, I wish to bridge into higher-education, so as to contribute to research in-relation. Although, knowing me, this is apt to change.
Why do this? Simple, because I can and I must. If I do not cease this opportunity now, I will live my life in regret. The time is now, for me!
Being a musician IS a trade skill.
Some recommended listening from my teacher: Ian Munro, Jason Gilliam, Boris Berezovsky (the pianist, not the politician).
With these recommendations, I’ve still my favorite. The Rat Stroganoff.
My rat is named after him. Hence, Ratmaninoff. When Ratmaninoff goes to the vet, they have no idea how to spell his name. One of the vets said they searched up the pianist, and listened to him for the first time. Good! More ears need to hear Rachmaninoff. I also have a pet-name for my rat, to which I call him “Rachmans“, which makes absolutely no sense, in reference to the original Rachmaninoff.
Frederic Chopin is also my favorite, and that’s mainly because Chopin was, in my opinion, hot. I gots me a thing for pianists. I won’t deny it.
Melodic minors will be explored during 4th and 5th grade theory (AMEB).
It helps to remember these sequences, by remembering that TONES rest mid-way.
Accidentals: I had trouble wrapping my head around accidentals at first, my teacher clarified this for me… thankfully!
For example, if one were adding a sharp to a Bb… this would make the note a B natural as opposed to a B#, since one would raise or lower the semitone in correspondence. Initially, I had assumed, that if one were to apply an accidental sharp to a Bb, it would lead one to play a B#–but this is not correct, especially when we are speaking in context of the piano, and how the piano keys sit. The sharp, as an accidental leads one to step up one semi-tone on the keyboard, whilst the flat has the inverse effect. As for double sharps, and flats… these would be equivalent to stepping up and down two semitones–which, would be akin to a tone (there are two semitones in one tone).
Inversions: There is total of only two inversions, for triads. Bach’s repertoire, is demonstrative of some sexy inversions. Especially in his inventions.
Minors: I asked my teacher for further clarification on the different types of minors, there are. In total, three: natural, harmonic, and melodic.
In reading a score with the key of a minor, it is played in the context of ‘harmonic minor’–therefore if a score was in A Minor, one would play the harmonic of that minor–with the seventh raised with an accidental, and not through the key signature (the key a minor has, is sourced from its major equivalent). The natural minor wasn’t introduced in the AMEB syllabus, until recently–for theoretical purposes.
The seventh of the harmonic minor, is raised in correspondence to its diatonic scale pattern.
I’ve been learning about triad chords thus far. I composed this minimalistic piece, some-time ago which makes use of triads. The piece ends on the tonic, giving it a proper conclusion (this is an unspoken rule that can be broken).
The triad chord in this piece is a Tonic Chord. It is built from F to C.
Take note, the 2nds of the Tonic chord for F Major (G), are also added to vary the melody, that is, in separation and not on the chord itself–the primary chords used in this composition, are however triads.
I may re-purpose this piece’s basic rhythm with a Median Chord, and Dominant chord to explore the possibilities further.
F-A-C (Tonic chord of F Major) I Chord. C-E-G (Median chord of F Major, is essentially the same as the Tonic chord in C Major.) III Chord. G-Bb-D (Dominant chord of F Major) V Chord.
When I advance to fourth grade theory, I will compose another piece–that is, with other chords in-mind. I also intend to compose some pieces in the minors I have learnt to play, thus far–that is, with the intention of raising the leading-tone (7th) up a semi-tone manually, through accidentals.
Note: Accidentals are called accidentals due to their only occurring, occasionally in the course of a musical composition. They are distinguishable from the key signature. Before accidentals, musicians played music, in-accordance to what their ears told them sounded good. This is known as ‘Musica Ficta’.
Etymologically speaking. Accidental is sourced from Medieval Latin–from “Accidentalis” and original Latin with “Accidentem”. It refers to something occurring outside the normal course of its intended nature. Therefore, the term accidental in the context of music is indeed very fitting.
For accidentals are characterized by both non-essential attributes, and occur outside of the expected nature of its context. In this case, the key signature.
+ Chords. Completion of ‘Chords’ in AMEB ‘Theory Of Music’. + Annotation of bass clef, up and down two leger lines. + Scale degree revision. Technical names, and qualities.
All 2 8VEs. RH, and LH. Contrary, and similar motion with both, also.
C Major A Natural Minor A Harmonic Minor
G Major E Natural Minor E Harmonic Minor
F Major D Natural Minor D Harmonic Minor
C Chromatic Scale. G Chromatic Scale. (New) D Chromatic Scale.
(New) D Major.
With scales, I exercise technical skill and use of the hands. Paying close attention to playing smooth, and even legato, with smooth tone of each note–just as well, experimenting with the movement of the tips, slightly expending force forward… and exercising the wiping motions for staccatos.
Scales, again are where I source much of my refinement of technique.I make it a habit to practice scales, right before practicing anything else in piano-work.
“Royal March Of The Lion.” “Quadrille”
Refinements of rhythm, and articulations. I am re-visiting these pieces, due to months prior… my hands were still being strengthened and trained to play properly. Technique, always, is at the forefront of my practice, past repertoire.
*LH push in, not down when playing. *RH extension, keep grounded. *Don’t miss any stacattos! *Play bar, by bar. Not the entire piece. *Slow, and relaxed. Be quick to go slow. Fracture mistakes. Don’t play the entire piece, through.
I have been learning piano for roughly five months, now. Music theory, a good eight months, now. Before, I had learnt viola for a good three months–and had advanced to I grade music theory, in those three months. Viola wasn’t for me, I had found… piano, I love.
Before then, I had absolutely no knowledge of music at all. That is the truth. Therefore, I began learning music at the age of twenty-five. Music is indeed a worthy investment.
By that measure, it should take me roughly a year to advance to Grade IV music theory by AMEB standards. I am up to GRADE I repertoire for piano-work, and GRADE II for scales.
Mid-year, I will also be taking up MUSICIANSHIP by AMEB standards to learn.
Piano-work is slower to progress in-comparison, due to my desire to focus on technical skill past playing pretty things. I must strengthen my hands, and temper my fingers in-order to practice efficiently. Perhaps this will be reached by Grade III repertoire? Who knows?
Let the music journey, continue.
I try to, as much as I can… fit in allotments of music practice in-between my other responsibilities. The skill won’t acquiesce on its own. Save for the crucial element of retainment of knowledge.
For piano work–It is said that my technique has improved, through these five months of instruction. My tone has become more even, from finger to finger. Tenseness has been alleviated. I do not injure myself as much as I formerly did, with improper playing. Thank goodness.
I have made changes to the manner in-which I play, from my teacher’s instruction. To play from the kinetic energy of my elbows pivoting–the fingers, whichever one is pronated, acts in consequence to the transference of force. Finger strength is worked on primarily for the fingers to stay in a fixed and grounded position–not to draw effort from the fingers directly. Efficiency of energy transference is achieved from the fore-knuckle. Wrists must be supple, and loose to allow the hands to navigate from octave to octave on the keyboard–the groundedness and healthy tension applies only to the fixing on the fingers in the optimal position (the context of this, differs from piece to piece).
Between this, I have been filing back my nail-beds and now I can play on the flats of my fingers comfortable. I see this as a worthy trade.
Stiff playing, is attributed to sourcing weight from the fingers alone–when piano demands use of many muscles in-tandem. Stiff playing, is a big no-no.Speed, among other techniques still must be developed–this is, however in regards to the basal technique all pianists must learn to play decently.
Theory (Grade III, by AMEB standards):
This week, I had worked on:
Major & Minor scales up to four sharps and flats. Intervals (number and quality). Scale degrees and technical names. Primary chords, and first inversions.
I had taken notes, in-relation to learning these. As such, my observations:
* The tonic and root are not synonymous to one another. The root refers to the base note in a chord. * A dominant triad of a minor key must have an accidental for the leading note (scale degree 7). * Tonic chord (I), Subdominant chord (IV), and dominant chords (V) are all (1st) primary chords. One will observe their use, mostly in mainstream pop music. These chords, being the primary ones are of PRIME importance. * The circle of fifths allows one to memorize proceeding key signatures. * The mnemonic Fresh-Cherries-Grow-Down-At-East-Brunswick is often used to memorize the placing of signature flats and sharps for each key. * C Major’s Dominant (V) triad is also the Tonic (I) triad for G Major. This pattern is also applicable to proceeding key signatures–such as G Major’s Dominant triad, being D Major’s Tonic triad (D-F-A). The defining feature between each key, of course, is the signature. All is in the matter of context. * Revision of scale degree names, as per the Ionian mode: Tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, leading tone (vii). * The tonic can be numbered as either 1/8, for the pattern repeats itself when the tonic note is reached on the next range. The leading tone, is of a diminished nature–which explains the ‘circle’ above the lower-case Roman no. 7. * Augmented notes, are the inverse the diminished notes–this will be explored further in grade IV music theory. There is also mention of double Augmented, and double diminished notes–again, however, this will be explored much further on.
KnownScales (GRADE II AMEB): C Major. A Natural Minor. A Harmonic Minor. G Major. E Natural Minor. E Harmonic Minor. F Major. D Natural Minor. D Harmonic Minor.
Chromatic C scale. Chromatic G scale.
New Scales: D Major. B Natural Minor. B Harmonic Minor. Bb Major. G Natural Minor. G Harmonic Minor. Chromatic D scale.
Pianism will be delayed in progress partially, due to my PhD being due in early 2022 and my teaching drawing classes for the first portion of 2021. I am, at this stage… up to Grade I repertoire, and Grade III theory by AMEB conventions.
I will, however, always do music for the foreseeable future! It is now part of my life.
So far, I have been doing pianism since 29th of of October 2020. It has been four-five months, in my learning so far. Much has been learnt, and yet… I have barely scratched the surface.
My tone in playing scales is becoming more even. The wrists are observed to be nice and soft. However, the hand positioning needs more work. Being grounded is what I am working toward, with the fingers in-relation to being solid in their foundation. That is, the tips of the fingers are cemented into their position of the keys. No pivot occurs from the knuckle. That exerts unnecessary force. No tenseness, either. There is a fine-line to be drawn between being both tense, and applying the proper weight to the keyboard. Rather, the weight of the arm should be transfer the kinetic energy through the final joint (tip) of the fingers.
The hand moves, not the tips of the fingers. No force comes from the fingers, nor do they move. One knows they’re playing properly, if the playing feels comfortable and not over-strenuous. That is, from the tip of the fingers.
For pianists, especially at the professional grade… they are expected to play for long periods at time–and not just that! The repertoire they are expected to, at that level play, is very demanding. Physically.
Theory (GRADE III AMEB):
The pulse is what the beat is divided into–the individual instance of the notes. An indicator of the rhythm.Grouping of notes, show clearly, how many beats are in each bar.
*Time Signature And Rhythm:
With groupings, one can beam the entire quavers/semi-quavers and so-on in the bar. However, it is not typically accepted, in composing standards. The time signature can always be deduced by the notational values of the notes within each bar—and, the groupings of the notes, if applicable.
Sometimes, on the rare occasion… pieces may not end of the tonic to signify. Instead, it can be from the tonic chord. For example, if a piece written in C Major ends in either C-E-G, it is still correct… however, if it doesn’t end on the C, it’ll sound comparatively more incomplete.
Compound: Pulses are counted. Simple: Beats are counted.
+ More completion of the work-sheet, in-relation to Scale Degrees, and chords.
+ More practice of subdivision and rhythm. Via “Rhythm trainer”, and sourcing repertoire.
Grounded finger exercise: A flat and uniformed surface. Finger-tips stay stationary. The weight is pushed forward in a subtle manner. The tip stays grounded, and stays glued there. The finger-tips will feel well-worked, however not exerted. Do not move the tips. This will help build a foundational structure. One doesn’t play the piano, like a typist.
Form the bridge, and keep it steady. Never raise the shoulders, or wrists. One plays with a slight pushing forward movement, from the tips. It is very subtle. The structure of the hand, for a basis is being done right if no fingers collapse.
The primary knuckles are elevated higher than everything else, on the hand. Not on the wrists.
Intervals = Do so three minutes, three times per day.
Squeeze ball: Strengthen fingers/finger tips.
Extension of finger arc, outward so as to not hit my nails (my nail beds extend outward, to the tips of my fingers… thus I must adopt a flatter curve). The mechanic of applying weight to each key, from each finger is a subtle PUSH forward as opposed to HITTING/STRIKING the keys. Remember to utilize WEIGHT of the fingers. Drop them, don’t force them.
The publication of HANON, in regards to its finger exercises are criticized by contemporary school of piano as outdated. Many will find that the exercises within the publication, will lead to a more rigid style of playing… due to the player not employing the things aforementioned here. The force isn’t at all source from the hands.
Scales: (Grade Prelim to II scales)
Further refinement of playing. Grounded-finger playing. Between each note played, reset the position. Be quick to go slow. Verrrryyyy slow.“Push, and back.” One can see a tip of the wrist, back and forth–to utilize the force/weight produced from the upper-arm and so fourth.
Repertoire isn’t of the utmost importance to me, at this stage in my pianistic progress. More or less, I am intending to spend a good year in solidifying technique. The emphasis with playing repertoire, is to slowly, but surely learn technique in each piece… so as to solidify technique.
Rhythm, and subdivision must also be practiced.
This piece, in-which I am learning has the first tuplet to play, in-which I am firstly introduced to. Just as well, between both hands, the rhythm is different. Learning the delicate process of playing staccato and legato per hand, is still something I am indeed working on.
Begin studying musicianship (theory with an aural component).
Advance to 5th Grade Theory (AMEB).
Advance to 2nd Grade Repertoire (AMEB).
Memorizing all 24 keys (major and minors).
Objective for this week: Practice staccatos: Brush the keys, with the tips of fingers–the flicking motion is utilized by the fore knuckle dragging toward you, the player.
Reduce tension for both hands. Equilibrate weight distributed between both.More flexibility.
Right hand: Skims the keys, as opposed to ‘sinking’ into them. Left hand: Too ‘Rigid’, has lost discernible flexibility. Heavier then the right, due to it being over-strengthened.
Move your thumb over, as you play the next note–not straight away. It ruins the legato.
I must work on both hands, to ensure that the weight/heaviness of both are even and equilibrated. To resolve this, I am told to play very slowly and to sink into the bottom of the keys. Slowly, evenly to build up muscle-memory. Play slowly, and connect each note, slowly. All the while go playfully slow. The fore-knuckles of the finger, at the very tips is where the fingers curve.
I can now play past the black keys, as opposed to keeping at the edge–due to surpassing ‘beginners‘ status.
Technique is of utmost importance.
Misc. Notes: Piano lunchtime concerts will be held again this April at The Conservatorium… and for that, I am excited. With these, I have also booked in advanced for Mahler, Eroica (Ero-ih-ca) of Beethoven, and a Jazz showcase. As well, there is also an oncoming competition for piano being spread across Australia, in a few cities–due to unforeseen circumstances, who knows if audiences could watch? I hope so. I miss watching pianists, live. ‘Deed I do.
There is also a Tchaikovsky concert coming up, sometime in April.
(1 8ve Single) C Major A Minor A Harmonic Minor G Major E Minor E Harmonic Minor F Major D Minor (The same fingering as C Major) D Harmonic Minor (The same fingering as C Major) C & G Major Chromatic scales.
(1/2 8ve Contrary Motion) C Major A Minor A Harmonic Minor G Major E Minor E Harmonic Minor
(1/2 8ve Similar Motion) C Major A Minor A Harmonic Minor G Major E Minor E Harmonic Minor
+Staccato scales. +Gently Separate 4th and 5th fingers(Ensure that you’re not playing two notes, at once). +Move/shift weight whilst playing, for energy efficiency.
“Light Blue”: Hand position changes, and rhythm changes with triplets.
Czerny opus 599 & 299 (what many students practice from, at The Conservatorium).
In review for the new year, here are some objectives of what I plan to achieve this year with pianism and music in general. That is, between other obligations of mine… ’til the closing of this year:
Memorize, and learn all 24 keys before the end of the year.
Advance to second grade repertoire on piano.
Advance to fifth grade theory.
In-between this, I’ve the intention of expanding more of my skillset in musicality, finger control, finger strength and so-fourth. I first began studying music some six months ago. Pianism was then studied three months after that. The journey has been a tremendous one, that I will indeed continue for many years to come. Progress may be delayed slightly, due to my PhD being due in early 2022. However, again, it doesn’t matter. The progress is of the utmost importance.
From my experience, when I first started taking lessons under my piano teacher… I was instructed to always practice scales–even she, at her level still practices with scales. I’ve found, in my practicing scales… they are perhaps the most beneficial way to acquire technical skill on the piano, past a sole reliance on repertoire. Many of the fundamental, and underlying skills (there are a lot of meta-skills–think, skills within skills, that a pianist must learn) can be acquired through scales.
Repertoire however, is still important for learning more micro-skills… just as well as articulation, rhythm, hand positions, different fingering, and so-fourth.
Scales have assisted in my becoming familiar with all 88 keys of the piano. Just as well: the amount of weight I ought to apply to register a better quality of sound (no thumping all the time); Finger independence, with finger switching; The position of hands on the keyboard, as well as the elevation of wrists above the keys–and my observation that the forearm, and wrists ought to be utilized past the fingers themselves. The fingers move to a minute degree, however, ‘power’ should not be sourced by the fingers alone.
As a pianist, economizing the use of energy throughout your playing is paramount. Especially since, there is more demanding repertoire to be learnt–and some pieces can extend over thirty minutes. With extensive octave leaps, and articulations… Rachmaninoff, I’ve heard is some of the most difficult repertoire to play. His, and of course… 20th century pieces.
LH & RH separate: C Major (1 8ve & 2 8ve) A Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) A Harmonic Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) G Major (1 8ve & 2 8ve) E Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) E Harmonic Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) F Major (1 8ve & 2 8ve) Chromatic G Major & C Major (1 8ve)
Contrary motion both LH & RH: C Major (1 8ve & 2 8ve) A Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) A Harmonic Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) G Major (1 8ve & 2 8ve) E Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) E Harmonic Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) F Major (1 8ve & 2 8ve)
Relative motion both LH & RH: C Major (1 8ve & 2 8ve) A Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) A Harmonic Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) G Major (1 8ve & 2 8ve) E Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) E Harmonic Minor (1 8ve & 2 8ve) F Major (1 8ve & 2 8ve)
Skachka – Bi 15 from Dvadtstat Chetire Legkiye p’esi Op. 39. Note: Micro-slurs. Dynamics. Piano. Forte. Articulated notes. Hands higher up on the keyboard.
Light blue from Piano Grooves I: Note: F Major. Dynamics. Deviations from key.
A little hush-song No. 5 from First Year Pieces: Note: Compound time signature. Dynamics. New Rhythm Pattern.
Some more practice composing:
The tonic is ‘Eb’, with the piece finishing on Eb–I made it more uniform by starting with Eb, also. Just a test really, with rhythm, articulations, and the sostenuto pedal. A piece truly doesn’t feel complete, unless one finishes a piece with the tonic… it appears to be an implicit rule within many compositions. The bass–or the left hand of the pianist with the triads reveals the time signature, also.
Soon this year will be concluded. I am happy now, to finally advance to third grade theory.
My left hand has healed up nicely–scans reveal that I had tenosynovitis (a commonality for your musicians), which isn’t serious. The third and fourth fingers of the left are the fingers which are effected–which makes sense. These three fingers were formerly being used in the manner, where the tendon bound them together (5th, 4th, and 3rd). Pianism has led me to exercise finger independence, which has led the tendons sheaths to rub against one another. This can be rectified with time, and practice.
I’m astounded, that despite the years and years of abuse to my fingers and hands (being an artist) that they aren’t damaged. In saying that, I am truly thankful. I am thankful that it isn’t anything serious… rather, the damage is all self-inflicted from me overusing my hands against their perceivable limit, at this stage.
Pianists are like athletes, indeed.
I sincerely hope, next year… that there will be more recitals being hosted at The Conservatorium. I will attend as many, as I possibly can. I have been to a slew of musical events this year. A couple of concerts, one orchestra, and a good number of piano recitals–both solos, and concertos.
I had come to the conclusion that I love pianists the most. I look back to the beginning of this year, when I had first began this musical journey… first, I had taken viola up as a means of escaping the piano. I had established my first groundings in musical theory from that time, with the instrument–but I must say, nothing had delighted me more than the piano. With its 7 octaves. With its eccentric cast to command it. With its clear, and defined format… which leads it to be a wonderful companion to music theory.
I thank this world for its very existence. I only hope to continue further on this music journey. And I will. There is something to the piano which draws me to it… past any other instrument. It is not wonder why there is a good many of pianists consisting a huge population to The Con.
* Finish theory sheets. * Brush-up on musical forms, and verse in music. * Annotate all known scales, and their relative minors for both treble and bass clefs.
Left hand requires more strengthening. Left-hand requires more practice of curved, standing fingers. (Isolation Of 2nd especially.) Left-hand requires slow practice. Left wrist needs to be elevated above the keys, at a parallel angle to the floor.
When playing, try your best to look at your hands directly as opposed to the side mirror. The side mirror should be used to re-adjust your posture.
For LH practice. SLOWLY. PAINFULLY SLOW.
* Squeeze ball exercise (LH) * Slow and deliberate scale exercises (LH) * Slow and deliberate contrary motion exe, for articulations (LH & RH).
Exercise musicality. Phrasing within playing mini-slurs. The last note of a mini slur is played in the manner of a staccato. As a general rule, unmarked notes are to be played in a legato fashion.
Quadrille: Not so mechanical. Focus on phrasing, and musicality. Let it flow.
Staccatos: Allow it to be more detached. When playing both staccato and legato simultaneously, one holds the legato note down–longer than the staccato.
Allow the LH to be steady, at all times.
March Of The Lion: Again, focus on playing both articulations and dynamics through. Don’t focus on accents, as of yet.
Consider this a very delayed post. More or less, I sprained my left-hand from over-practicing and had to rest it for a good week or two.
By my teacher’s estimation, I should be at Grade III music theory by the end of the year. That isn’t bad at all, considering that it took me a total of five months to get up to that point. By that measure, next year… I should be well past the sixth grade of music theory. And in no-time, I should be up to aMus (Associate Of Music, Australia).
Theoretically speaking, AMus is diploma level of music in theory. Even if I don’t advance that far, in pianism… I can still surely excel in music theory, and study musicology. Although, I would always wish to use the piano as my instrument for entry. The piano has given me, much more than I could ever wish for.
This week, marks the third month I had since started learning piano. I am a couple of weeks away from Grade I repertoire.
In discussion of building muscularity for one’s fingers and wrists, it appears that I’m doing fine. My wrists pain, as well as my fourth fingers but I expect that. My teacher mentions that I ought to allow them to become stronger, on their own terms. That is, through the progression of this pianistic journey. Never force anything. Tiredness in the fingers and hands aren’t bad. It means that they’re being strengthened. Good pain is like fatigue. A tiredness. I have also taken the task of re-adjusting my posture, so that I may allow better circulation around my body… and by extension, hands. I know it’s working if my hands pleasantly tingle, after practicing scales.
More on discussion, speaking of pianists… especially concert pianists, there appears to be a lot of economizing in utilizing their energy. That is, one wants simplicity in their movements and gestures to conserve that much needed energy. When one reaches those higher grades of repertoire, it’s especially demanding. My teacher said that it can be exhausting, when one performs. Just as well, I’ve noticed some of the pianists I’ve watched ‘sweat’ whilst performing.
After they’re done, just as well. They look exhausted. Winded.
Pianists fascinate me. Your metaphorical toolbox of techniques is observed to never end. Even when you reach the higher levels, still you’ll always be learning. New repertoire introduces new meta-skills to add to one’s metaphorical toolbox. Articulations, for one, are like tools used for rendering finer detail… precision. It’s like, as my teacher said… little pockets of skill, that pianists build on top of one another to create something beautiful.
They’re like athletes in a way. Such skill goes into pianism. One ought to be disciplined. One ought to take it seriously.
My teacher likes metaphors.
I miss watching pianists perform.
Memorize all Grade II terms.
Memorize all key signatures up to five accidentals. From both sharps and flats. On both the treble and bass clefs. Then, play this on the piano is memorize it further. Annotate these key signatures in 2 8ves.
Practicing the writing of accidentals for keys must be exact, that is the ordering. Take reference of the mnemonic:’
Fresh. Cherries. Grow. Down. At. East. Brunswick.
Some further notes:
A hemiola is a type of syncopation. Syncopation is the displacing of time, in music. It’s, to put it simply… about messing with the hierarchy of beats within a piece. The displacement of normal accents of beats and/or pulses. Jazz is a genre which does this. This is comparable to, rubato. Rubato, instead… stretches time. It alters the tempo past the hierarchy of beats.
By advice, I can learn how to sight read by memorizing where all of the notes are… and also, read in thirds.
Accents In Verse (Poetry):
In verse, words are arranged in rhythm. With verse, just as one would find in music… there are both accented unaccented words.
Unaccented and accented words stress which words in verse, are to be aligned with a note.
In general, small words such as ‘and’ or ‘the’ are often unstressed or unaccented.
When words in verse are formed with more than two syllables, one will syllable of the two will often be accented.
Accents within syllables, often begin with the first portion of the word.
TERMS AND DEFINITIONS: Pui = More. Meno= Less.
I.E: Pui Forte = More Loudly.
Mosso= Movement. Refers to tempo markings, or renderings of time. I.E: Pui Mosso = More movement.
Words such as ‘Pianissimo’ and ‘Fortissimo’ which denotate dynamic changes are original words such as ‘Piano’ and ‘Forte’, rendered by the superlative ‘issimo’. The Italian ‘issimo’ renders the original meaning of the words–soft and loud, to very of each.
Issimo= A superlative, which means ‘very’. Adding another ‘iss’ before Issimo renders it further to ‘Very-very’.
Pianississimo: ppp. Fortississimo: fff.
D.C Al fine: Play from the head upon repeat, and cease playthrough ’til ‘Fine’.
2 8ve, begin from the end at stop at the beginning: C Major. A Natural Minor. A Harmonic Minor. G Major. E Natural Minor. E Harmonic Minor.
RH: 123,1234,123,123 LH: For the next octave, the 4th finger comes over.
For scales, I will be focusing on learning every single key and their respective minors. My teacher mentioned that she plays scales every practice, and in doing a play-through it takes her 20 minutes to play through all scales up to the eighth grade. Eventually, I will be doing this for the rest of my pianistic journey too. Always, will the pianist need to play scales. Always.
Articulations for ‘Quadrille.’
For articulations, I have been taught a new technique. One the last note of a mini-slur, as a staccato. A mini-slur comprises of three notes of less in a slurred together. The pianist plays the last note of the mini-slur, generally as a staccato.
Staccatos take gentle movements of both finger and the wrist. A see-saw motion.
Staccatos ought to be crisp, and sharp when heard by the ear. The key is swiped with a gentle movement.
I am again, encouraged to go slow. To be fluid in my movements, and not clunky. That is, to move with a combination of fingers and wrists. Never should the fingers be doing all of the work. Never.
And remember, the weight distribution of the fingers. It is subtle. It is slight. As if performing surgery, in a weird way… errrrrrr.
Dynamics for ‘Royal March Of The Lion.
Mozart’s ‘Aria’. Note: Transcribed from an Operatic piece, there is a bar where one plays different parts. I.E: Holding down a note, then adding to that note like a mini-canon except with fingers.
I was told that I had a big improvement from last week.
For my contrary motions, I’ve learnt a nice circle motion for technique.
I’ve got tension from trying to keep myself relaxed, funnily enough. It must be the ‘level-up’ variant from the original tension I possessed, for the tension isn’t as bad as before.
Keep going. It’s been over two months. Keep going. My wrists hurt, my fingers hurt.
Some things I ought to do: *I need to keep my fingers more curved. And strengthen my fingers with squeeze ball exercises.
What I need is good strength, in a good curved position. Focus on squeezing with the fingers. The strength of the pianist comes from the feet. This is where it is sourced from–and the energy is channeled from the base of the feet, to the spine… and finally, to the hands.
Always have a flat curve with fingers. ‘Horizon Fingers’, or a ‘Dome’ in my case, due to my protruding nail beds.
Right: Middle finger needs more work, to strengthen it. Left: All fingers.
This is needed (finger strength, at the fore-knuckles and a good curve), so that efficiency for energy can be established… otherwise the pianist will restrict blood flow to their fingers. The piano demands a lot of physical strength!
Sometimes pianists don’t play notes. Sometimes the finger doesn’t hit the key right, with enough weight. I do recall my asking some pianists “Did you miss any notes.” To which they were quick to admit. Even a prodigy, I had observed, admitted that he did miss some in a Liszt piece. That is what I am afraid of. However, I shouldn’t be afraid of it. Every pianist does it. My tension is sourced from this anxiety.
I want to hit every note. However, I shouldn’t be concerned with that.
Music Theory (Grade II):
Tenuto: Hold down the note for it complete, and total value. It is an emphasis on a separate note, that it must be played as its notational value.
Accent: Is sort of like adding forte to a single note, as opposed to a whole bar/measure.
Interestingly enough for 6/8 versus 3/4, the correct grouping for crotchets, being three per bar is only applicable to a 3/4 bar-except! If the 6/8 bar is a hemiola.
The accents are grouped differently, within a hemiola.
The 6/8 meter, by default, does not work that way.
Now, pulses and beats. Pulses are often found in compound meters–although simple meters do have pulses, they are only apparent through subdivision. Pulses are known by compound meters, for that reason.
Annotation of treble and bass clefs in all known key signatures, at 2 8Ves.
Practice the difference between the clefs. Bass and Treble. Always read the clef.
Memorization of Grade II terms and definitions:
*Mezzo is pronounced: Metzo. Mezzo-forte means ‘Moderately loud’. One plays at a standard volume for that bar.
*When there is a hyphen between two dynamics on a bar, this signifies that one play that second dynamic when one repeats a piece. I.E: Mf-p.
Two different forms:
Binary: Two part sections.
Basic Ternary: Three part sections. A section and B section. The pattern goes as follows: A-B-A.
The A and B section are both different to one another. One can also render the A section for the last part (the second A), to be A-prime if needed. However, the variation is slight.
If the A section repeats itself, at the end, the form is ternary.
Now, into the territory of themes.
Note:Thematic material means, the theme, basically.
Abstract/pure music does not tell a story. For example, many of Mozart’s sonatas do not tell a specific story. There is no context.
There is thematic material in all music. The melody can demonstrate the theme, for instance. If one were to listen to a the first bars to a quadrille, for instance… a theme sets the ‘sound’ to put it crudely. Which permeates throughout the entire piece.
Note: A light motif, refers to the specific character or feeling within a narrative. However, from movement to movement within the piece, it reoccurs. Unlike Saint-Saenz’s “The Carnival Of The Animals.” Light motifs are found, most often in Operas.
This week, I focus on Dynamicsand articulations.
Saint-Saenz’s Carnival Of The Animals ‘Lions’. Dynamics, needs to be refined.
+ Piano + Mezzo-Forte + Mezzo-Piano + Forte
To make it louder, apply more force/weight. Not tension.
Mozart’s ‘Aria’. Needs to be learnt. The introduction of Semi-quavers and dotted quavers. The subdivision count can either be [Ti]kati[Ti]kati… or One-E-And-A-Two-E-And-A-Three-E-And-A-Four-E… and so forth.
Haydn’s Quadrille. Needs to be mastered more so. Especially the hand movement, in the middle of the bar.
*New scale: Chromatic scales, C Major and G Major.
The refinement of curved fingers, finger strengthening, and keeping the wrists raised above the keys as the default position will be the focus. Eventually, this will be allow the wrists to drive the fingers for playing. I cannot advance to more complicated repertoire, unless I do this.
When one is playing chords, or intervals… and holding them. One lifts up, not down with the hand. You must allow your hands that mobility to move across the keys, however, they must be grounded upon the keys… just as well.
My teacher said that I can now skip Alfred’s “All-In-One” Level 1 to the very back of its repertoire. From page 89 to 140 “The Entertainer”.
Rhythm practice has truly benefited me, with that, understanding Music Theory to a Second Grade level has helped tremendously. I intend to more to the third grade, of course.
I have practiced rhythm up to 16th notes, with syncopation of both 4th and 8th notes.
My teacher said that the only thing which stands in the way of my progress, is the ability to relax my hands in playing.
How long have I been playing under the tutelage of a teacher? Over two months, now. And what a benefit it has truly been.
Therefore I must, again. Practice: “Relaxation”.
Music Theory (Grade II):
First compound time example: 6/8.
Some months back, I composed a Berceuse (French Lullaby) on Musescore:
In my experimenting with 6/8, I noticed the difference between 6/8 and 3/4 has much to do with the pulses in a bar. For 6/8 we have two beats per bar, due to 6 being able to be divided into two. Therefore, 6/8 is a compound duple.
For 6/8 we’ve the subdivision counting of 1-2-3-2-2-3. That which is bolded, is when one hears the ‘beat. Again, two beats.
The hierarchy/accent of the two beats (strong & weak) is separated into six: Strong, Weak, Weak, Medium, Weak, Weak.
Therefore, every quaver receives an accent.
Duple: Refers to two beats per measure. Simple: Means that each beat within a measure can be divided into two notes. (I.E: Two crotchets in a 2/4 bar can be divided into four quavers.)
2/2 and 2/8 are examples of simple duples. 3/4 and 3/8 are examples of simple triples. 4/4 and 4/8 are examples of a simple quadruples.
9/8 is an example of compound triple. 12/8 is an example of compound quadruple. 6/8 is an example of compound duple.
The simple, again, indicates that any beat can be divided into two notes.
All simple meters will have a 2, 3, and 4 for the top number in the signature.
As for compound meters, each beat within a bar is divided into three notes.
All compound meters will have at least one dotted note as its beat. In example of the 6/8 meter, two dotted crotches fill one bar. One can then, subdivide those two dotted crotches into six quavers to fill the bar. Thus, dividing each note by three as opposed to two.
A recap: Rhythm refers to how music fits in time. Rhythm does not consider pitch, if viewed as a separate value. Take for example, an atonal bar for a percussion instrument not capable of pitch.
Melody refers to a single line of music, and it takes into the account of both the note’s pitch and the way they are arranged in time (rhythm).
Harmony refers to several lines of music heard, or played simultaneously. The harmony is a feature is music, used to support the melody.
Pianists can play both melodic and harmonic pieces, due to their having both bass and treble at the mercy of their fingers and hands. The left is often relegated to harmony, whilst the right often leads with harmony. Especially in the beginner stages.
It is as if, the pianist accompanies themselves.
That’s why you’re all social recluses, hmmmmmm?
This week, it’s all about relaxation and nothing else.
Solidifying technique, past learning how to play anything ‘pretty’ is my key motivation here. I learn music for the wonderful journey it provides me. How it enriches my life, and introduces me to new experiences.
Therefore, I dedicate at least one hour a day to relax. And to concentrate on feeling relaxed, only.
1) Finger independence exercise: Solely to relax + mix with stress ball exercises.
2) Scales: Play extremely slow. EXTREMELY SLOW. Do not advance further, onto the next note, ’til you are confident in that you are feeling relaxed. After each note played, do a conscious body check.
3) Repertoire: Master Quadrille. Camille Saint-Saens “Royal March Of The Lion.” Mozart’s “Aria”.
Mozart’s Aria ventures into the introduction of semi-quavers… that is, semi-quavers paired with quavers. Excellent. I love Saint-Saens, just as well. Here’s the entire “Carnival Of The Animals”:
By the end of the year, I will be up to first grade repertoire. For which, I am tremendously excited. If it took me a good four months to get to first grade, that is progress indeed.
I’ll be with you all, soon, my eccentric ivory ticklers!