Should I feel fortunate or cheated for not having to play scales until I was 59 years old? My new piano teacher is a firm believer in scales, promising that the mastery of the basic scales will cure all my piano-playing ills.
It sounds easy enough. C major: play every white key up and back for 4 octaves on a metronome setting of 72. NOT! First of all, the fingering is important. But your left hand has a different pattern of fingering from your right hand. It’s sort of like walking and chewing gum at the same time.
Successful piano-playing seems to be about training your fingers to remember how to repeat something with less and less reliance on your brain for direction. Does that make any sense?
I’ve been dutifully playing scales every day, using the fingering indicated in the Hanon book (The Virtuoso Pianist). I’m nowhere near 72 on the metronome and so far my fingers are not terribly reliable at their job of remembering.
My next lesson is on Thursday, so I’m hoping for some scale breakthrough before then so I don’t look like an old fool to my yet older teacher who can play scales with her eyes closed I’m sure.
But whether I succeed at scales or not, I think this teacher is going to work out well. I arrived to be greeted by a large Obama sign in her front yard. At least our politics are the same.
She was just pulling up as I knocked on the door, having alerted an older gentleman (who turned out to be her husband) to watch for me and tell me she was on her way.
She came in and made herself a chicken sandwich while she listened to my piano history and before any notes were played. I could see that the formality of my last teacher was totally absent, a good sign.
I played a couple of pages of Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen. That was enough for her to note the tension in my shoulders. But she also noted that I know how to pedal and I have a good sense of rhythm.
She decided (probably wisely) to steer clear of the chamber music, letting Bill handle those lessons. Instead she will work on purely piano pieces with me.
She dug out an ancient book of Chopin mazurkas and told me to work on #45. What a luxury – a beautiful 2-page piece that I can actually play pretty well by now.
My new goal in taking lessons is to get help in choosing music that is within my reach, that I will delight in playing every time I practice, and that will help me work on avoiding injury to my aging body. She has an additional goal of teaching me a lifetime of music theory in a short time that will help me understand why I’m playing what I am.
Let’s hope I can achieve all of these goals because I think Anadel is a keeper of a teacher and she’s a good 12 years older than I am.