Friday, March 20, 2015

"Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong."

There is no source for this quotation, which in itself is inspirational: pedagogue musicians have perhaps been saying it to their students for the last two or three thousand years. At work, we've been enduring "Traffic Week", (a colossal exercise in "teslik"), and everyone was given a kind of party bag containing colouring books and crayons, (dished out to grown men, mind), and a pack of cards to play some kind of Happy Families safety game. So I've given each of the cards a value from the ABRSM Grade 1 Piano syllabus scales and broken chords.

For example, the card "Follow The Speed Limit" on a red background = A minor harmonic RH. That was the first one I turned over, and I set about learning the scale, playing it again, again, again; looking at the music, looking at the keys, looking at my hands, looking out the window, slowly, quickly, pianissimo, fortissimo, again, again, again. The same mistakes kept coming up, mis-playing the F on the way up, or playing the G as a natural... slowly, slowly, it took shape. I could look out of the window and feel (for example), the F sharp brush against finger 3 but not sounding as I played the F natural on the way back down, hitting its sweet spot right at the top of the key.

And this morning I've drawn "Pedestrian Crossing Zone" on a blue background, which is D minor harmonic LH. That should keep me out of mischief this weekend. Hitherto, I was a bit snooty about playing these single handed scales, wanting to play them all two handed. But now that I've spent a week with A minor harmonic, I understand what the ABRSM syllabus designers have done: single handed scales and broken chords are the smallest building blocks at this Grade. One needs to get a really intimate knowledge of that scale or chord, how it sounds, and looks on the staff, and feels under the hand. Again, again, again.

It feels as if this is where the actual work starts, this is learning to play the piano in achievable wee chunks: scales, chords, pieces, grade by grade. And when I'm watching my hands and fingers as I play without any conscious input, playing as if I can't get it wrong, they are beginning to look like a piano player's hands.