I love my Yamaha YDP-160 digital piano, bought in a box right before we began our journey to Juneau from the east coast. I acquired it as a result of one of those “going to the store to buy a loaf of bread” situations* – the details of which I won’t go into here.
My parents started me with piano lessons when I think I was 8. For the life of me I can’t dredge up an image of who taught me, for nothing comes up except that I “know” I had lessons. Lessons continued for 8 years – part of my history that I “just know” though I can’t recall any details. I do remember the name of my teacher after I turned 10 – June Birch. Didn’t like her much, she wasn’t warm or fuzzy, but somehow she and I stuck it through those years so that I acquired enough knowledge, bare competence, and liking for the instrument to bring a new one came into our family at great expense when I was in my late 20’s.
With children around I played nursery songs, Christmas carols, and strident marches – often to the dog’s howling. Then I began to eke my way back into a comprehensive collection of classical stuff buried in the large pile of music I’d acquired as a student. Some no doubt unappreciated family member boxed it up and shipped it from Scotland to me a few years after my emigration to the US .
Then came The Sting, popularizing the works of Scott Joplin. The only movie I think I’ve gone to 3 times in rapid successions. I was entranced; acquired the music and began to learn it. From then on I played and practiced haphazardly until my marriage crumbled. After that, though I shipped the piano around with me on my many moves, my heart was no longer in it. I could barely listen to music for years because it always made me sad. Something associated with hearing music brought up all kinds unaddressed longings in my not-yet-mature soul.
Time passed. Bill and I hooked up, and happiness crept back into my life slowly displacing work as my prime focus. When we moved onto Callipygia we handed the piano over to some young friends for custody (along with all the music.) Eventually we gave it to them (retrieving the music) since it didn’t make any sense to keep moving it around.
I seem to have got distracted here – my intent was to write about practice, not the history of my piano or my lessons. Ah well, so the mind does the a person.
I recently found(with the help of Mr. Google) and then acquired (with the help of Mr. Amazon) The Fundamentals of Piano Practice by Chuan Chang. What a book! Dense, wordy, but loaded with gold. Why did no-one tell me this stuff when I was taking lessons? (Maybe they did and I wasn’t of a mind to listen.) It’s about learning stupid, not about the piano. It’s about the brain dearie, not the music. At some point I’ll write some lessons learned about piano practice. Suffice to say, I’m going at my practice in a completely different way than I ever did before. This time I study the pieces I work on – so that I can tell you what key they’re in, what the time signature is, how fast it should be played, how many bars there are, what the repetition patterns are. These things go into my head – and actually stay there. Then in order to learn a piece I memorize it hands separately so I can practice in bed at night. Good grief, who’d ever have thunk it. What this means is that once I start putting the hands together I already know it!!!!!!!
*This line comes from a poem by Canadian Alden Nolan about the power of the happenstance, such and such happens because that other thing happened, none of them foreseen.