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).
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!
It has been a good two months, since I began my pianistic adventure. And I have learnt much.
There is no easy way through practice. Although, one can make it more pleasant by not ‘forcing’ anything. Enjoy the process. Practice should be comfortable, yet also challenging. Also, when practicing one must focus on that and nothing else at all. The professional pianist has an altered sense of consciousness for that reason, they have the ability to tune all else out.
I have gone out and done some ‘field-work’/studies on observing pianists from The Conservatoire. All varying levels, in regard to their skill–although, all well past ‘student’ level.
When I watch pianists, I watch them intently and take notes. I care just as much about the performer, as I do the very music they are performing. Whether the pianist would like to admit it, or not… they reveal themselves through how they play. To perform in front of others, is to truly be vulnerable. And to be truly creative, is to be vulnerable. One cannot become who they must, until they allow themselves to be. The artist creates for one thing, above all else… connection.
Our desire to connect, is in direct correlation with empathy. To feel what the instrumentalist is playing…
In regard to piano, one learns the fundamentals and requirements for proper technique. Then, with the proper establishing and acquisition of that skill… one can then develop their own ‘style’ on top of that. Similar, to the draftsperson. Piano is quite the popular instrument, as elucidated from my teacher. She mentions that there is a good 50 or-so piano students, in the classical department alone… with a good 20 pianists in faculty. She mentions that the instrument is in demand due to pianists being needed. ‘Deed, they are.
And music is art. Art is art, for art’s sake. There is no intellectualizing true art. Art just is. A true artist creates to do only one thing: to touch eternity, perhaps even for a moment. Art therefore, is an act of individuation. The artist creates by themselves, and is alone for the most part… why pour hours and hours of one’s life into the act? It is not about mere financial security–I don’t believe true art can be created under conditions, such as that. The artist will create, regardless.
Art is created through some level of dissatisfaction, toward life. There must be a fine-line however, between oppression and total freedom. We create, due a desire to connect to others–and in others, we are attempting to connect to something higher. Something eternal. Art outlasts the artist, in most cases.
Similar to those of us seeking true love, one creates art to touch something beyond the beyond.
There is one parallel I have noticed between those, truly gifted in pianism. That is, the ‘top students’ I had observed. Call it a kookiness at a surface level, but one thing remains clear. They have an impressive ability to focus on the now. That is not to contend that they are safe from depressive states, or anxieties… not at all, however, my argument is formed on the basis of the way their neurology presents itself. The ability to ‘tune’ all else out, in favor for the moment.
My teacher had mentioned that it (their mind set) can be rather ‘schizophrenic’, however not in an inherently bad way. Rather, the gifted pianist has the ability to experience several states of consciousness all at once. That is not to contend that they multi-task, rather, the inverse. Their perception is expanded in favor of focusing on, themselves playing, and those they are accompanying or leading. All micro-tasks are attached onto other tasks. Think about is, how on earth can they allow their hands–and by extension, their fingers, to do two different things all at once? They must pay attention to those separate windows of consciousness. But how do they do this? It is through their developing that state of ‘flow’, they had spent hours and hours of their lives… alone, honing and developing. Many of us don’t realize that, in watching a performer. The ultimate result of their playing, is a consequence of their ultimate failings.
Whatever it is they are attending to in the moment, is all that matters. The best of pianists, I’ve observed have that. Never mind rote memory, or practice… that does well to sharpen their communicative abilities, sure. But yes, they all, are connected implicitly to something much higher.
On stage, it reveals itself.
This manifests in behavior which would lead one, to say they (the pianist) are rather ‘mismanaged’ and scatter-brained. For example: A fellow I had the opportunity to speak with briefly, before a Chamber Showcase, exhibited this. He requested that I record him, with his phone. I happily obliged, despite my being a stranger. He wandered off to get ready for his performance, without excusing himself, and left me with his phone for an hour. Was it that he completely trusted me, or he completely forgot all else? I would say, it is the latter. He mentioned after the performance, during a brief chat that he had trouble keeping track and organizing schedules. Ultimately, I could not record the performance due to his phone being password locked–a detail, that skipped his mind. I laughed at this, afterward. They all have this endearing one-mindedness. A tad bit ‘autistic’ in nature. It is perfectly harmless. One that isn’t spawned from their intention to offend. Take note, that this young man is known as the ‘best pianist’ by his colleagues in the University. He had mentioned that he can play all repertoire, even 20th century pieces… though he had began pianism at age seven, and was near 19-20 years of age. If one would permit him, he could talk about the piano for many hours. He had cast appreciation toward my curiosity and respect toward music, when I queried him. Just as well, he was humble throughout, and I could sense that exaltation and compliments meant nothing to him. His mind suited the piano, very well.
Just as well. Each have an endearing scruffiness to them, each dressed in a functional manner. Is it eccentricity, perhaps? It is their individuality which is kept intact, yet, not to a superficial degree. The expression of this individuality is of a much higher degree, one which transcends mere physical strictures. It is elucidated through what they create, past how they appear… ultimately. Just as well, their minds exist on the very edge of this illusion we call time. To be at ease, to be in the middle. To be in no rush. Yet, perhaps to the detriment to all else.
The professor of pianism, who teaches my teacher has an air of zen to her… for lack of a better description. I had observed her and her husband (also a pianist), at times during piano performances. Not to the point of being ‘airy-fairy’, however this state in-which I had observed is one which is grounded in this reality. Again, focusing on the ‘now’ past anything else.
Ultimately, for them…
In this room, in his hall, all that matters is the piano.
I know this, for when I watch a true artist perform, I feel that time itself is of no consequence. And perhaps for a moment, I feel that eternity is near. No, it is not I, who is granted the privilege to touch eternity–it is the one who sits at the piano. The one who is at command of all 88 of its wonderful keys. The one who does not play for the sake of playing, but plays due a compulsion deep within. They must play. The piano commands them! This is a numinous underpinning, which leads one to express musicality. Musicality cannot possibly be an act. It is vulnerability… that is the pianist, to me.
One day, I too, will touch eternity.
Recap: There are three types of intervals. Major, perfect and major.
To discover what the interval is, one looks at the tonic/root of a note to determine whether it is a minor or a major. Accidentals, also help. Identifying the scale, also helps.
The root note refers to the base position chord.
The perfect interval is the same throughout both minor and major.
The basic difference between a major and minor interval, is that the minor interval is a semitone less. Three to the four of the major.
* Study up on Grade II terms. I am instructed not to look at 6/8 meters yet. * Annotation of notational values, and their rests up to semi-quavers.
*Triplets: A rhythm which plays three notes, in the space of two. Jazz music uses a lot of this convention. Firstly, we focus on crotchet triplets. A triplet is a type of tuplet, which allows one to play three notes in the time of two notes.
* Annotate 2 8Ve scales, and their relative minors: A, Bb, C, D, F, G. * Fill-in worksheet for diatonic intervals.
I had noticed a cardinal mistake shared between many pianists, at the higher level… a regret, if you will. That is, their regret is in not practicing, or establishing the fundamentals of proper technique. Pianists who are self-taught for instance, are very tense and stiff in their playing… this is opposed to the classically trained pianist. Their hands, and fingers are elegant in the way they dance across the keys. My teacher has stressed this point (technique), and so have the handful of pianists I have queried at the conservatoire. Their advice being, that proper technique paramount.
Each of their bodies intuitively adept to the needs of the keyboard, and the repertoire to which they play. Mobility is of utmost importance. Although they are fixed to sit in one position, they must pivot and move across the keyboard. And in-order to do so, they must allow their movements to be limp and graceful. That special flourish of their moving one hand from a couple of octaves, down or up in an arc-like motion is one instance of that grace.
From what I remember, here is what I keep in mind: Focus on retaining supple, wrist. Graceful gestures. Pivot from the elbow. Do not tense muscles, to an extreme degree. Do not keep shoulders in a raised/fixed position. Posture should be straight, but not rigid to the extent, that you cannot move across the extremities of the keyboard. Ensure that your knees are underneath the keyboard, and if need be… for playing heavier chords, feel free to shift your left foot backward to either lean into the keys, or lean back (both are methods of utilizing power from the feet, to play heavier chords).
A healthy amount of tension is welcomed, of course… however not to the extent that it burdens the process. Tension is painful, if employed at an extreme degree.
Right hand practice:C Major. A natural minor. A harmonic minor. G Major. E natural minor. E harmonic minor. Chromatic scale commencing on G.
Left hand practice: C Major. A natural minor. A harmonic minor. G Major. E natural minor. E harmonic minor. Chromatic scale commencing on G.
Similar and contrary motion practice:
Contrary: Mirrors the playing style for each hand exactly. C Major. A harmonic minor. G Major. E harmonic minor.
Similar: Each hand follows the separate scale model of playing, simultaneously) C Major. A natural minor. A harmonic minor. G Major. E natural minor. E harmonic minor. F Major. D Natural Minor.
For repertoire, I am training myself to sight-read just as well. There is no intention to ‘perfect’ absolutely every note at this point in time. Rather, rhythm and technique IS the focal point. Rhythm, must be 100% perfected as opposed to the notes themselves. In my watching the professionals and or higher tier students perform, they still get their notes wrong-–however, they always keep the rhythm of the piece intact.
A good rhythmic foundation is important in early music learning. My teacher suggests that I do subdivisions of the pieces I am playing through firstly… then, play with the metronome. Eventually, the process of subdivision will come naturally, and then I will be able to skip this step.
* New Repertoire:
Lullaby by Johannes Brahms. Canon in C Major. Quadrille. From The Top.
My teacher gave me feedback, that I am more relaxed and commends me for that. I am encouraged to practice more of this, as well as proper posture. Just as well, to play painstakingly SLOW… rather than speed up anything. If I cannot play slowly, I cannot play fast. She cites her own experience in this. I mentioned it has to do with my pride. I urged her to cut this pride down in my, so I can ‘get’ over myself.
The performing pianist will have their ass kicked many times.
For minimalism, the true beauty is found in the simplistic. To strip down the music down to its basis, past decoration or embellishments. A 20th century convention.
In many minimalistic piano pieces, we’ve a clear example of triplets in action–that is, in clear contrast to the standard set of notational values. This is an example of ‘polyrhythm’. Where one hand may be playing triplets, and the other the standard double.
Do not utilize the power from the neck. It comes from the feet.
Whilst playing I simply tell my hands, wrist, and fingers: “No tension, tension does not belong there.” It can go anywhere else it likes, however… never below the shoulders. No. My neck can suffer, I don’t care. Leave my fingers nice and loose. Like noodles.
Problem area: Refinement of pianistic practice model.
I have assumed, like a fool that more hours equals more acquisition of skill. The brain is a delicate thing, and doesn’t respond to sheer amounts of struggle… especially when one is going through struggle with the intention to learn, rather than to achieve something. In practicing for three to four hours a day, I have discovered that I lift my shoulders up and am very tense. This has been causing muscle strain. In my observing pianists playing, none lift or tense their shoulders (unless they are landing heavy chords, and even so, they return to a limp position). I must practice this, lest I injure myself further. Thus, my practice time has been reduced in half. From four hours to two, ’til I steadily develop the muscle strength, posture, and neurons capable of advancing to more hours of practice. I am not just learning how to play the piano, and music theory as well. I am learning how to efficiently practice.
The sweet point of discomfort, and pleasure must be established… pain will generate the opposite, and I assumed, for years… that pushing through pain of any kind will garner results. It does not. Instead, it pushes back progress significantly.
Practice smartly, not like a fool who is attempting to mow their way through a task in-order to achieve it.
We are taught to do this through our seminal years in schooling, as flawed as it is. The detriment of a person’s health, and well-being in favor for work and achievement is all too common. There is no time for patience. Try ‘harder’, we are told.
*Every lesson thus far, since a six weeks ago there is one thing I must learn. How to relax, and how to breathe. I will now take stock of this.
I am further along in learning theory, only because of one thing: my framework for learning and consolidating theory is quite sound. I learnt this through my years of being an Academic. Less bursts of time, in incremental chunks of study is planned. There is no significant pain to ‘fight’ through… rather a state of flow, is being employed. I expect to make mistakes, in research… what do I do? I edit, and keep on going. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Piano, I’ve yet to achieve the same reassurance. I will work on doing so, for an entire year: To achieve that wonderful trance-like state, where one balances focus and relaxation.
Time escapes you.
Yes, I love piano. Yes I enjoy watching pianists. I want what they have, whatever it is. And I will pay great costs to attain it.
Note: Base technique is of utmost importance. This is what I am working on developing firstly. Then, with time, I can add my own personal flourishes on top of that. Making mistakes are welcomed at this point. That is not the objective, which will be focused on. Instead, playing with no tension. Playing relaxed, is the objective.
Professional pianists hide their mistakes, just as well. Perfection is a mistake.
I have since advanced to Grade II, I will be reading up on some notes for Grade II theory.
*Beat Hierarchy Exercises:
+ Notational values, as they are written through grouping conventions rely on beat hierarchy. For example, whether or not one will beam their quavers or use two crotchet rests in place of a minim rest.
Notes: The Anacrusis is treated as the upbeat.
*Annotation of all Diatonic intervals, by quality and number up to 8ve.
*Annotation of D, A major with relative minors and A, E, D minors.
Slow down, and relax. Deep breathing.
Deep Breathing Exercises: 30 minutes.
Left hand scale practice: 10 minutes. Right hand scale practice: 10 minutes. Contrary motion scale practice: 10 minutes.
Repertoire Canon in C Major by Ettore Pozzoli: 30 minutes. (This canon is a finger independence exercise. Finger strength, and independence is of utmost importance in piano-work)
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.
Suggested listenings: Barber adagio for strings. Chopin Grande Valse Brilliante. Strauss Radetzky March. Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 1. Satie Gymnopedies. 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: C Major. A harmonic minor. (30 minutes. Both hands.)
REPERTOIRE: 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.
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.
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.
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’:
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.
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.
*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:
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.
Concurrently with my other duties of research and my PhD, I have still afforded time to the endeavor of music. And I will continue doing so, regardless.
In regard to tracking progress, I have now achieved the ability to practice for one consecutive hour upon the viola. When I had first began, a good month ago, I could not stand for more than five minutes. Now, I can stand for an hour… and no longer, do my fingers bleed from pizzicato (yes, for the month, I would play ’til they bled).
Just as well, I have begun to develop many calluses on my right hand from practicing pizzicato daily. On all the flats of my fingers in fact–well, except for the pinkie… although, that one is next. I have also taken to assisting the process of hardening these calluses, with the application of rubbing alcohol to them every so often. Also, it is very important not to pick at calluses… nor should one ever pluck when their hands are wet. NEVER! It has been roughly, over a month and I have learnt much.
I have now earned the right to begin bowing, at last!
Admittedly, at this moment my technique is clumsy, and unpleasant to the ear. However, I give myself reassurance in my position as a novice–In good time, I will develop a wonderful quality of sound. Just as well, in my hour of playing, I see that two indentations have begun to form on my skin. One, just above my collar bone… the other just under my jaw. My instructor had dubbed these a ‘viola hickey’. He has one himself, which leads me to believe that he and his viola are very-well acquainted.Violists and violinists alike tend to develop these, after 8-Hrs of daily practice–yes, the professional ones. Such marks do well to demonstrate their diligence!
I too, would one day, love to sport a hickey. To wear thine hickey like that of a medal!
More on the progress of music. Even though I had done my best to avoid pianos. They haunt me. They taunt me. I see them everywhere. “Play me Meryl, play me.” I had made mention to my instructor, that my reason for seeking his tutelage had much to do with my wish of eventually studying musicology, and composition. I should like to compose good pieces, eventually. His advice was that I purchase a digital piano should I wish to “…be a good composer“. His advice was that the good composer would be expected to be multifaceted in their skill. Just as well, the piano is perfect for composition… with all of its 88 keys, flats & sharps being lined up. One can play, write, and recite from the instrument with ease. Therefore, it is indeed rudimentary. To learn the language of music, not only as how it is written, but how it sounds… just as well, in practice.
So now, I not only learn the viola. I also learn the piano at a basic level.
I could not escape the piano, no-matter how I tried… Even in seeking to learn the viola, I find myself again, staring at its 88-keys. I will yield, dear piano. I will yield…
But this is excellent, no? Therein, I can write sonatas. For viola, with the piano being an accompaniment. One day soon enough! I have taken to ordering a piano, and have arranged my living spaces to properly accommodate it. To be specific a “Korg B2SP Black – 88 Key Digital Piano with Stand and Triple Pedal”. Yes… give me all of the pedals. Yes… give me keys which simulate the acoustic piano. ALL YES! Good bye, digital piano.
I have named my piano “Alexandre”. All of my instruments are named, and those of which I haven’t yet started learning… will also, be named. All have male names, for they are all my lovers. My viola’s name is “Treasure/Gaspar” due to viola being the instrument, I wish to master.
Much soliloquy was expressed… Now, onto the meat of study and practice!
This week of both practice and theory.
My instructor has said that I will not learn how to tune my viola, ’til I have learnt all notes on the viola. So far, I only know of seven: A4, G3, G4, C3, D4, E4, and F#4.
I will be, firstly, learning how to play the D-Major scale family on the viola… hence, at this current writing, I am missing a C# on the ‘D’.
All in good time. All in good time.
My instructor revised my drilled notes, and was happy with my progress.
Homework for L.VIII:
Preliminary Music Craft Exercises, p.9. Questions 1.b.2:
Arpeggio and chords. Both Arpeggios and chords are found within scale families, however their function in how they sound when the instrumentalist plays them are very different. Arpeggios are played in succession, whilst chords are played simultaneously. Hence, through notation they are written as such.
Intervals, and scale degrees are also another facet of scale families. To build a simple C-major chord, one builds through the intervals of the root note (c), to the major third (e) and finally a perfect fifth (g). If one wishes to build a four-note chord, one can go through the method of doubling. One doubles the tonic’s pitch family, by stepping it up an octave, I.E: C4 to C5.
The interval for C5, would be known as a perfect octave (P8). It would be, as written from using the middle-C as the root note:
The leading tone is always the note before the tonic. In the C-major scale, for instance, both Cs are scale degree 1 (The high C, being 1 or 8). Therefore, the ‘B’, would be the leading tone.
I must continue bowing, at this current writing, my coordination is quite terrible. I will, however capitalize on mine strength of compartmentalization, and separate tasks into micro-tasks. My right hand isn’t moving in-time as of yet, for it hasn’t been trained in comparison to the left. I will now spend time ensuring that my bow is moving at the right speed, with the right weight. Firstly on open strings, then I will…
* Say the note names out-loud in beat of the metronome. * Then say the finger numbers. * Then bow.
I now move onto playing minims. Playing with minims in-mind, one holds the minim for two beats in accordance to common-time. By advice of my instructor “Remember to be a reflective learner. If you make a mistake, stop and tell yourself. Then start again and ensure that you improve on it.”
There is one major criticism to my technique, as perfunctory as it is. I am not making use of the entire bow. I must use the entire bow. That is the idea of bowing. Just as well, I bow at an angle as all beginners do. My teacher however did quell my anxieties, in that he too bowed in an angular fashion when he first began playing viola. It took him a good year, to finally straighten his bow.
Bowing: The lane concept is used, only to refer to the placement of the bow on the viola, for ease of semantics. Later down the line, as I advance in playing, placing of the bow will be referred to through the spatial relation of the fingerboard and bridge.
For homework, I dedicate one hour daily to playing all pieces 1-23 with bowing as opposed to pizzicato. I must use the entire bow. Then I will practice lines 29, and 30. First slowly, then quickly.
Composition practice, and composers research:
My teacher also conjured up this fantastic method of keeping track of an excel spreadsheet. Within, we list composers and works, and he gives me questions to answer–so that I may build an appreciation, and web of understanding for composers, from movement to movement. This will help me greatly, in my intention of composing seriously in the future. This week, I focus on that nutter Louis-Hector Berlioz. Man was a genius. This man constantly needed to be in-love in-order to write. If one looks through his history. He pursued love affairs with just about anyone until his death. One wife dies, he gets another. And I will also be looking at another Frenchman, by the name of Claude Debussy (Ah, yes, I know you). I will be exploring what impressionistic music is; Who are some impressionistic composers; and how can one define an impressionistic piece of music? And mostly… What are its defining characteristics?
(From last week’s Chopin post. Rubato means, to be ‘robbed of time’. Therefore, Chopin’s method of rubato does not adhere to the tempo exactly… however, his musical compositions still retain a beat. I think that’s obvious. Chopin was a finicky hottie.)
Then, I have also been instructed to study what the genre ‘Programmatic music’ is. Namely, that of Prokofiev’s romeo and Juliet suite no 1. Also, just as well, I think my teacher knows implicitly that I love scores within film… I was given the advice to expand outside of orchestral forms, and genres in regard to composition. As a composer, I will need to write music from many forms. And just as well, I will need to learn how to write for vocals eventually. However, I will save that for the future.
Therefore, this little foray into programmatic music is warranted. The more I can expose my ears to, the better.
I have also, throughout the week, been instructed to write variations of compositions, for homework just as well. Below, you will find my very first sketches. That is, to the proceeding ones I will be making in the years to come. This is my life now.
I am still at kindergarten level, I did just begin this journey over a month ago… I now begin composing sketches, on Musecore. My teacher however suggests, that when I do become more experienced, I ought to purchase Sibelius for my eventual composition work. ‘Deed I will.
Here are my first attempts into writing music. Admittedly, I am influenced by Nobuo Uematsu, of Final Fantasy fame. His compositions, were some of the first I heard during my seminal years. I believe, his work is what truly set my tastes. Especially Final Fantasy VIII. These pieces are therefore, composed from my mind, as per his influence.
Just as well. These are my very first compositions, so go easy on me…
I also did an arrangement , which is really just a variation of “Chiyoko’s theme” from Susumu Hirasawa. The theme–or the central notes are still retained.
And here is another composition I wrote. It’s quite rough around the edges. It is called “Mirror’s Edge.” in the C Major key. Most triumphant!
Then… a sketch of a piece I’ve composed for viola, mainly. I dub this sketch, “Gaspar” Suite no. 1. Op 1. Set to simple triple time, it’s a bit of a waltz. The composition is named after my viola.
The theme was composed for three violas.
By instruction of my teacher, I am encouraged to create more variations. I will, eventually, with the “Gaspar” suite.This will, additionally do me well, to practice all of the theory which is being taught.
Gaspar theme 1.
Gaspar Suite. Variation 1.
Gaspar Suite. Variation 2.
Sidenote: My instructor was wondering how I wrote the theme in six flats… I honestly don’t know how I did it…
I will take to uploading more “Gaspar” variations, soon enough. I intend to write a good one-hundred variations to the original theme. They will all be experiments, akin to some rather juvenile sketches found in a sketch book. These are my sketches, in-which I’ve made during my musical journey.
Music is a language, and I speak the language in a broken manner indeed. Patience, as my instructor says… I always do wish to learn rather quickly.
Back to PhD drawing, for the rest of the week. ‘Til next Sunday.
Music history, and composers (one must appreciate music, to be serious about it).
Triple and duple metres.
The left-hand technique upon the viola.
Restraint of the D string by use of the left hand’s one finger, two finger, and three fingers to produce the pitches: E4, F#4, G4.
Bow hold with pronation of the index finger.
First, “Music Theory”:
With all of this, I was also introduced to a small amount of piano theory. My instructor tuned my Treasure, first of all… by referencing the ‘A4 note’, on the virtual piano. This note is the basal note, for the equal-tempered scale of the piano… set to 440 HZ. The A4 registering to 440 HZ. Using that as reference, he then tuned the corresponding pegs (the remaining three) on the viola–that is, bearing in mind that both instruments register differently. The piano intrigues me, just as much as the viola does. After I had spent a good many years advancing through grade-school theory, I will eventually move onto piano. First and foremost, I want to understand the theoretical underpinnings of music. I dearly love it.
I am curious, just as well… when it comes to the frequencies of each respective note. There is a chart on the site provided below, which shows all of the respective pitches and their corresponding frequencies. This is all set to 440 HZ. The piano is set to 440 HZ.
The piano has 88 keys, and is capable of 7 octaves in comparison to the 4 of the viola. On the piano, each key is tuned equally and set to the frequency of 440 HZ. The pitches of the piano are slightly sharper, than that of the viola–however, we use this online piano as a way of reference before I get one of my own (I intend to purchase one with traditional hammers–no digital). With this in-mind, the piano has all of its pitches lined up quite nicely… and with that, I learnt of the C Major Scale:
C4 to C5. In-between: C4, D4, E4, F4, G4, A4, B4, C5 (Bare in mind, that this is from the treble staves).
C4: 261.63 HZ (Lower HZ registers a lower pitch) D4: 293.66 HZ E4: 329.63 HZ F4: 349.63 HZ G4: 392.00 HZ A4: 440.00 HZ (There’s a reason why I love the A4 note.) B4: 493.33 HZ C5: 554.37 HZ (Higher HZ registers a higher pitch) (The Keys on the online piano also follow suit, with I-O-P-Z-X-C-V-B. )
Now, the higher the number… the higher the oscillation per second (HZ refers to the rate at which a sound ‘cycles’)–that is, how high that respective sound vibrates. This registers, through our senses (auditory) as a higher pitch. These frequencies refer to the piano, which is equal-tempered in its scale.
The C-Major Scale is also connected to Solfege (I won’t be delving too much into this, by advice of my teacher) of DO-RE-ME-FA-SOL-LA-DI-DO. The procession, repeating itself from 1-7. Just as well, in the way that each number assigned to each of the treble’s staves… corresponds to the HZ (frequency) which determines whether the pitch is lower or higher. C4, is considered as the middle-C… whilst your C-5 is raised a step higher. When notating the C-major scale, one must place a leger line underneath the default treble staves. This gives way to the addition of both C, and D outside of the default range. All leger notes are temporal. I have notated this, repeatedly to understand the conventions just as well! And have began experimenting with the three different bar-lines, which act as a convention of ‘organizing’ music written into nice boxes. Double bar lines, end a section if they are not found to be at the end of a set of bars (if it’s at the end, it’s the end).
With this, my Viola instructor also had me create an excel spreadsheet document. Upon this document, we are collaboratively contributing composers and musical suggestions having to do with viola. Through this, I have discovered and learnt of many great composers as well as musical movements: The Romantic period, being my favorite, next to Classical. With each movement, one can begin to form how each had informed the compositions. Romanticism, for instance is very sweet and concerned with emotion–however, it was an era that was informed by the structural conventions of Classical… therefore, the catharsis which presented was still ‘controlled’. This is in comparison to the chaotic conventions of Baroque. My fascination with Romanticism is attributed to Frederic Chopin’s works, which I was familiar with before I began my musical journey. Also, don’t judge me… but I have the hots for Chopin. He was a very handsome looking man, okay! With nice hands, beautiful eyes, and a mind to follow suit, too. My dream man.
Many great composers I had not heard of, had been discovered such as: Carl Phillipp Stamitz, Franz Anton Hoffmeister, Henri Vieuxtemps, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Béla Bartók… each contributing beautiful concertos, and sonatas composed for the viola in-mind.
All I love. It is hard to choose a favorite, although… Vaughan-Williams is delightful. His pieces are quintessentially British (in that his music informed a lot of contemporary composers from the UK).
Past theory, I am also tasked with practice… just as well:
Clapping to triple, and duple metres. I instead take to playing the metres written, via the digital piano found online. It helps me understand the notational values of both the crotchet, and the minim–the minim equating to two beats. On the viola, one would draw out the note defined by the minim for two beats.
Left-hand technique of holding Treasure: 1) Straight wrist, 2) C shape formed with thumb and index finger, and 3) Loose thumb upon the finger board. One takes to using three fingers for restraint: The index finger, the middle finger, and the ring finger. In doing-so, I must build up the muscle of that arm in an incremental fashion–that is, firstly practicing it by five minutes, then to ten–extending the duration of practice with skill acquisition.
Using the left-hand technique, one then restrains certain sections of the ‘D’ string to play these particular notes: E, F#, G. All registrations of (4) in regard to frequencies. Whilst doing this, I compare the digital piano’s pitches to the viola’s pitches with my ear to ensure that I am playing them correctly. The “X-S-P” corresponding to “E-F#-G”. My instructor marked the neck of my viola, so that I may memorize these placings. With practicing these notes, I also take to practicing compositions from Stephen Chin’s “My First Pieces”, pages 15-17. All the while, keeping in time with a metronome set to 60 BPM.
And finally, practicing my bow-hold again.
Gathering tutelage under a teacher, is the best thing I ever did! This is the third lesson, and I have learnt more than I ever have… in an entire year of messing about. Hah! He is a good teacher, however. My mind can be somewhat chaotic, and tangential. I, by nature, jump from point A to Z without having considered the remaining 25 letters in-between. He is quick to snap me back in-line. That is what a good teacher does.
And yes, from this third lesson and my journey thus far. I love music, and I want it to be part of my life ’til the end. I see myself spending many years learning, and this is what I have always wanted! Therefore, I look forward to doing this for the rest of my life.
There will be a one-week delay with any updates to my musical progress, which I am very sad of… I enjoy studying this. I truly do. I must get eye surgery. I’ll continue when I can.
Notes from last week:
+ I must take to cutting my nails to its beds, each week. It would appear that my nails grow back, very quickly. Instrumentalists play with the flats of their fingers.
+ My instructor stated that my hand-and-eye coordination had improved, from the last time he had seen me. This is welcome news.
+ It was observed, that my hands had tensed up a bit in handling my Treasure. Switching between the confining act of drawing, and typing does this. It’d be best that I relax, whilst handling him… those experienced in viola, are seen to be quite composed, albeit pensive. In-fact, all experienced instrumentalists appear this way. And I like that.
+ My posture, however is good. I will admit, there is pain involved: The calluses being developed, both the shoulder and arm muscles agonizing and… the pain incurred to one’s back which is used to slumping for years and years (I draw for a living). However, I care not for the pain. I will take it! It is worth it. What is a little pain in this moment? This is to set the theme of my life, for the next twenty years (and more, of course).
I am twenty-five years, at the age of writing this post. I am undertaking music for the first time as subject. Always had I wanted to learn music, since a young age. Despite my parents being very loving people, who still to this day, are very supportive of me… they did not possess the means to adequately fund me through music education. For that reason, I believe I turned to a more cheaper mode of expression: drawing. Although, I embark on a musical journey for the first time, drawing is still a domain I owe a lot to. If it were not for drawing, I would not have been granted the financial means, through my Academic career, to finally study music. Therefore, there is no regret in feeling as if time was robbed from me. No, everything is meant to happen as it has and ever will. I am only thankful that I now, can… and it is I, who chose. Although, there a lot of rules and conventions within the field of music. I see that there is a lot of love, just as well. And love is a rare thing indeed.
I am practically at Kindergarten level.
29-05-2020: First Lesson. Baby Steps.
The first lesson is not found to proceed this post, as such… therefore, consider this post as a ‘I’ and ‘II’. From my first lesson, my tutor instructed that I:
I am learning the viola. It was an instrument which chose me.
Practice proper posture, and positioning of standing with my viola 30 minutes a day.
Practice P.13 of Steven Chin’s “My First Pieces”. The compositions are a pizzicato, and should be played as such. All-the-while doing so, pay no mind to the time signature. Memorize the string placement of your instrument, as well as how to hold it
Practice memorizing the Treble (g) and Alto (c) clef in writing. Not just the signatures themselves–but also, the pitches within. Place them correctly on the staves.
Purchase the following, to complement the equipment I already own: A good-quality music stand, Stephen Chin’s “My First Pieces”, and AMEB booklet A (I also purchased ‘A1’ for further learning). Anything done with theory in-mind, my instructor says, should always be hand-written first.So yes, memorizing both clefs in a workbookby hand.
He stated that the violist supports the instrument by way of both their jaw/chin and clavicle/shoulder. One does not hold the instrument with their hands. That is a juvenile mistake. He said that there’s a reason for this. I will be sure to find out soon enough.
My posture is quite bad here due to undeveloped muscles. From beginning, I can barely pass ten minutes of standing. That is where practice, discipline, and diligence come in.
An instrument is quite the personal thing. I’ve named mine to form an attachment… of sorts. His name is ‘Treasure’ and he isn’t bad for a $300.00 student viola. When I do eventually upgrade, as those venturing in music tend to do… I believe I’ll keep him regardless. He is, after-all, my very first. I never want to forget where I came from. It leads to where I will be.
My Instructor is very firm, and strict in his teachings. He reminds me of deliberate practice instructors. Although his teaching method can be quite sharp in the beginning, I do believe that his methods of teaching are indeed efficient. They are sure to yield results at an accelerated pace. He is quick to discourage anything wrong, whilst commending that which is correct. It is akin to building good habits, early. What’s more, I find that most BAs in Music have several foundational courses focused on specifically teaching music. It appears, that anyone who pursues higher education in music… is also training to be a teacher, just as well.
As for my instructor. He said that one simply cannot begin: 1) Bowing, 2) Focusing on theory, and that which hasn’t been taught yet.
All with good reason too. Music, and the very convention of it is a very complicated and expensive venture. And yes, I am prepared to spend many years and hours of my life learning it.
I questioned his method of teaching, as this was a new domain to me… the conventions of drawing is far more liberal, I suppose, and that is what I am most familiar with in having learned it and taught it. Music theory is what I wish to learn past its very application. Yet, there presents a caveat within my wishes to learn the principles within…that is, music theory is a label that shouldn’t be mishandled. Music theory is an umbrella term which houses a huge sum of theories. That is why it is called ‘Music theory’. It is the theory OF music, and my-oh-my, theory can span over centuries. Theory, in-of-itself is epistemology tacitly recorded through many modalities (whether that be written or aural to name a few). Notation, is one of the theories among (but not all) others, such as: harmony, counterpoint, form, imitative procedures, music pedagogy, sound synthesis.
So what do I wish to learn?: Notation: musical staves, keys/time signatures, tempo, beat, rhythm.
Scales (Major) and the intervals within.
Harmonization by triad and 7th chords.
Haromonic function: tonic, subdominant and dominant function.
Scales (minor) and the intervals within.
Extended Chords, and Melody.
And of course, modern conventions.
(Take note, that I don’t know what any of those terms mean… however, I do feel my eyes light up with an, “oooh, yes–I want to learn that one!” echoing in my mind.)
Why do I endeavor into music? What do I hope to achieve? Although I am very much satisfied with my Academic career, I do believe that now calls for a new journey to embark upon, concurrently with the one I am due to begin in two years (tenure at my institution). I love, above all else, knowledge. And not just retaining knowledge for myself, but also disseminating knowledge. Teaching. ‘Deed I do. Therefore, music is perfect. I should like to one day teach it. No matter how long it should take for me to get there. I will teach it, one day.
What a complex, and rich field it is. It is a journey! And Yes, the time is now. What’s more, perhaps one day, I should also like to write a research paper on music pedagogy. And not only write it… but understand it too. One day.
06-06-2020: Second Lesson. To Be Precise .
My Instructor was happy with my progress from the first lesson, and stated that I learn quickly. I’d attribute my pace, to my application of practice. I take to practicing what he outlines for me, each day for one hour, at the most… with of course, Sundays, being completely reserved for more hours.
For the second lesson:
Continue practicing proper posture, and standing with my viola 30 minutes a day through the drills laid-out for homework.
Learn how to identify steps, skips, and leaps within compositions, on the manuscript paper. Annotate your own. However, take to firstly, practicing the treble clef and its pitches. We’ll come to the alto clef, and bass clef, much later. + A step, is one step lower or higher for a pitch. That is, how it sits on the stave. From line to space, and space to line. Whereas, a skip adheres to line to line and space to space. A leap is larger than one interval, in regard to the note’s placing.
Continue practicing P.13 of Steven Chin’s “My First Pieces”for one page, now.The compositions are a pizzicato, and should be played as such. Memorize the string placement of your instrument, as well as how to hold it.
Practice P.14, section 7. of Chin’s “My First Pieces“.Keep time, whilst doing so, just as well. The ‘Open Strings’ for this pizzicato composition are not annotated. This will do good to solidify in my mind, memory of where each open-string is. Thirty minutes of this one.
Practice P.14, section 7. of the above mentioned. However, utilize the metronome at 60 BPM. One should follow the ticks, not the spaces in-between. Before doing so, count the 1-4 for the first bar/measure. This method of counting differs from time signature to respective note value. In the case of Chin’s composition, we have four quaver notes which equates to one whole note for common time. Another thirty minutes of this one.
Practice the bow-hold with a pencil. Not on the bow. Firstly, ten minutes… then increase the increment with comfort.A Bunnyhold without the restraint.
Then, he’s assigned me with yet another homework task which I’ll take to doing in a proceeding post eventually. As he stated “One must have an appreciation for music…” to be serious about it.
My Instructor mentioned that the Alto clef was created specifically for the purpose of violists. Whereas, your piano doesn’t at all need to use the alto clef… for it extends to both tones within both the Treble and Bass clef, the viola needed that mid-range clef (C).
Feedback from last week:
He said my posture over-all is good. However, I keep locking my knees. I must relax them, instead. With practice, I’ll eventually relax and learn how to properly ground myself. He also said “Try your best to stand up straighter”.
“Cut your nails” my instructor said. And I asked “Do all violists cut their nails?” And he said “All instrumentalists cut their nails”.
Your music stand should always be at eye-level.
Do everything in pencil.
Focus on only what is being taught. Advanced-level theory, will come much later.
My Instructor suggested that piano is a requisite skill, due to it being capable of eight octaves to the viola’s four.Funnily enough, my supervisor for my PhD, Mike said this when I was intending to study music mid last-year “I see you playing piano”. I intended to play bass guitar, before I intended to go into piano–however, I opted out for the viola, due to my believing that it suits my personality more. I see myself playing the viola. The viola seems like a Meryl thing, to me. However, I don’t oppose the piano at all… it is a very sexy instrument, and very masculine in its milieu. My choice is grounded on my seeing that the instrument would suit those more extroverted (pianists are often expected to lead in an arrangement). Therefore, I will eventually learn piano–however, much-later, when I understand basic music theory. Also, I wish for a piano that has hammers over the digital variant; And my living spaces as they are, don’t hold any sufficient room to house such a grand instrument. Anyhow, I will one day get up to that stage, as well, for I do believe that the piano is a perquisite for the classicist intending to venture into higher education. Would I ever abandon my treasure? Of course not. Viola squad, for life! And I love my treasure.
Next week, my instructor said that we would be learning ‘Pitch Names’. I have also extended our lessons further, to 1 HR and 30 minutes. As mentioned, I am serious toward this endeavor. And I intend to learn as much as I possibly can!