Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Then and Now

Playing the piano as an adult is different in many ways from my experience when I was a child. For one, my lessons cost 10 times what they did in 1960 and I am the one paying for them now. For another, the nature of practicing has changed incredibly.

When I was young, my teacher suggested that I practice 30 minutes a day and gave me little direction about what exactly to do in those 30 minutes. I was most successful putting in my time in the morning before school, as opposed to waiting until I came home tired with a bunch of homework. In any event, practice when it happened consisted of playing through a number of pieces at breakneck speed until my time was up.

Today my approach is much different. I have the luxury of practicing whenever I feel rested and ready to play. But more importantly, I approach learning music in very small chunks. I work the left hand and then the right hand. I play a few measures over and over again until I can rely on my fingers to execute them in time with the correct rhythm and fingering. And then I work on the next chunk. In some cases, it’s even necessary to memorize a small section because there are just too many notes to read.

These days I seldom glance at my watch, but when I do I am inevitably surprised to see how much time has passed. There are days when I never get to the end of any piece I am playing, but that no longer matters.

Maybe this has to do with the way adults learn as opposed to the way children learn. I don’t really know. But I do know that if I played to the end of any piece simply ignoring the mistakes, I would never be able to remember where they were by the time I reached the end.

I’m currently working on Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata. The largo movement is the one that supplied the theme song of Karl Haas. The rondo is Beethoven at his finest. It’s music that you continue to hum long after you play it.

I’m happy to have music in my life and content with savoring small bites at one time.


Blogger media concepts said...

But aren't you now free to have the teacher show you Coldplay or Elton John or "Smoke on the Water"?

1:02 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MC -- Somehow I don't think the new teacher with her diamond-studded tennis bracelets has those pieces in her repertoire. I may be learning Elton John on my own. Not such a bad idea...

8:56 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Tania is especially proficient at racing through music. Often it seems she is pushing herself to see how fast she can go technically rather than playing the esthetically.

Jason just bangs something off and considers it done.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- Your children are obviously quite normal!

6:04 PM  

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