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.
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.
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!
“It will take five years to get good. Are you ready?” Hell yeah! PIANO ME UP!
My former viola/theory teacher has been relieved of his position due to his inconsistency in teaching. Although, I do not deny that he led me to much of the basis of what I now know… I am certain I would have learnt much more, from another teacher who had better suited me.
I have somewhere I must go, at the end of it all. I will not let anything get in my way.I am willing to pay whatever cost is necessary, for a good teacher. Money, time, resources… it matters not. All I ask for, is respect, understanding, and patience. That is my decision justified.
The Composers spreadsheet will still be worked on. As will the Musescore composition. Theory, however is my main priority, as is Pianowork.
Chapter I: Pitch And Class. * Letter names. * The piano keyboard. * Enharmonic equivalents. * Double flats and sharps. * Clefs. * Naming registers. * Ledger lines. * Style periods.
By the end of this chapter I should know: 1> How a staff and clef work together for identifying pitches. 2> How the pitches and pitch classes differ. 3> What the function of a C-clef, accidental, and ledger line are. 4> How the piano’s white and black keys assist an individual to determine whole and half steps. 5> Which white-key pairs of note form half-steps with no addition of accidentals. 6> At least two different guidelines for notating ledger lines, note heads, and stems. 7> How octave numbers are assigned. What the octave number for middle C is. 8> Identifying a melody from the anthology set which includes ledge lines. Therein, identifying all of its pitches and octave numbers.
Within the publication, there are a total of 40 chapters. This publication will teach me, all I am required to know as a pianist (at the basic University level). It is required that I know, at least a fourth grade level of theory before ever thinking of stepping foot inside of a University. I believe I am capable of learning up to this level. Even surpassing it. I’ve the time, and the resources. So, I will. I begin at Chapter I, and my studying of its content. And should the process of finding another tutor be prolonged, I foresee that my learning from each chapter will be drawn-out over extensive periods of time, as opposed to rushing through concepts. I will understand everything to sufficient level, and I will welcome mistakes as part of the process… it matters not, for I’ve somewhere to go.
2 Hour practice, daily ’til the next lesson for next Saturday. We will be learning a bit of dynamics next week. Here is my set of drilling:
1> Finger independence exercises. 2> Perfect the C-Major scale. 3> Subdivision and dotted crotchet notes
This week my teacher was quite happy with how I had progressed, therefore, we moved onto new repertoire for this week.
*Finger Independence Exercises:
Specifically, for the left hand. Moving each finger individually, whilst maintaining the curved position. I take to doing this drill for ten minutes, in each hand as a warm-up. The ring finger for both hands need especial attention, due to the three last fingers (5, 4 and 3 on right) being bound by a tendon.
At the moment, I have taken to focusing on the ring finger with this exercise: I lay all five fingers on a surface, in playing position. Then, I lift up and down each, playing especial attention to the fourth finger in an isolated and relaxed way. Going slowly to ensure that it is being learnt the dexterity, the second and third demonstrate. My goal is to eventually work up to the point of lifting the ring finger up to a height, similar to the others.
Relaxation whilst engaging in these exercises is of the utmost importance. Pianism is both mental and physical in its pursuit. If one does not force anything, and allows for the natural flow of playing to just be… more progress in practicing is achieved–and with little effort.
*Perfecting the C-Major scale:
Slow even practice, for a smooth legato.
*Subdivision, and counting for the dotted crotchet:
+ Focus on matching the rhythm to the pitches. + Dynamics are of lesser importance (at this stage) + Relax-Relax-Relax-Relax.
Courtesy Of The “Alfred’s All-In-One Course for Adults on Piano“. My teacher mentioned that it’s a better publication to the Faber “Adult Piano All-In-One piano course“, due to the more challenging repertoire. She however commended the Dictionary section in the back, which I’ve stuck on here for my reference and other passerby’s.
Dotted Minim: 3 beats. Dotted Crotchet: 1 and a half beats. (Half of the crotchet’s value is added to the note).
Dictionary section from Adult Piano Adventures 1,by the Faber couple. All credit goes to them.
Legato, as my teacher mentioned is when one makes a smooth progression from one key to the other holding it… as it were. Slur and legato, on a piano are interchangeable–however, on a viola, the playing style is very different. She also mentioned, that within compositions and phrases of music, patterns appear to repeat themselves. Rag-time also has more of an apparent usage of syncopation. I will come to learn syncopation, eventually.
******She also introduced some compositional forms and styles to me. By the name of: Through-composing (A relatively continuous, non-sectional, non-repetitive piece), and Ternary-Form (Consisting of an opening scene of A, and the following section B–only to then repeat itself).
Through-composing is often used to Lieder (German art songs). An example she provided was ‘Erlkonig’ by Schubert. Each character within the piece has their own thematic material (child and father). The music itself, has no standard form–like Ternary as one hears.
Ternary, in that case would be, if one were to provide an example… “Alouette”. A three-part form, where the first and third section are either alike or the same. Rondeau pieces also tend to follow this pattern. Fugues, by my teacher’s definition could also be considered ‘through-composed’–however, this is debatable from theorist to theorist.
*Practicing the repertoire of:
Alouette, Kum-ba-Yah, and Lavender’s Blue.
Additional notes for the week: My Metronome, as said by my piano teacher is slightly out of sync… poor thing may have been dropped. I have purchased a new one. One of a much higher quality, made in Germany. A good pianist, needs a good metronome.
*My teacher also mentioned that a chord can only be defined as such, if it is three or more notes/tones played together in succession or separately. An arpeggiated chord, played as a melody would be a broken chord… your standard chord is played as a harmony is your block chord.
I love piano… I love it.It’s all I talk about, and it drives my family nuts. The pianists, the hands, the keys… the intervals… the harmony… the articulations… all of it. It is all I had ever longed for. All I will gladly carry with me, for the life long journey which it prognosticates.
Sure, I am very much happy with my Academic career (at the moment) and the release that drawing may afford me from time to time… but piano feels like the missing piece, so-to-speak that I have been searching for my entire life. I assumed it was true love that I had longed for all of my life–but the piano. Playing, albeit I am still very much a beginner, just seems to dissipate that longing. Hours I can spend with him (Alexandre). Hours. My teacher mentioned something amazing today, that there are piano oeuvre which exists for one hand or no hands… compositions which are written for the physically handicapped. For instance: Maurice Ravel, of French impressionism wrote “Piano Concerto For The Left Hand” for an Austrian pianist, who lost his arm during WWI.
She also said, that not all pianists are ambidextrous and that this is a myth. This was in reference to a question I had asked, in relation to whether or not truly experienced pianists were equally balanced in each hand for means of control and strength. She said, by her experience, and through observation of her colleagues “Yes.” This then led into my question of ambidexterity. Further on that tangent, she said that the skill of piano is very different to other demands of the hands. A specific skill.
Love it, and it shall love you. What else is there?