Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Practicing Piano...

I love making music with other people. Singing in a choir, playing violin in orchestra, singing while someone else is playing piano or guitar, singing duets or trios or quartets, etc. are some of the greatest joys I've known in my life and how I've come to know most of my best friends. It's just so much darn fun! But... I have to tell you that one of the most exciting moments in my entire life was the moment I realized I could sing and accompany myself! Not that making music by myself replaces the joys of making music with other people -- not by any means -- but the idea that I could experience so much joy without having to wait for other people to become available was thrilling! It started with learning that I could "fake" my way through pop songs (read chord symbols and arpeggiate - or play by ear). Then, I learned it was pretty easy for me to write my own songs to play and sing. But, my piano skill is limited, so the joy of playing and singing often gives way to feelings of frustration for not being able to play more interesting, difficult lines -- and for sounding clunky and ungraceful. Some of my very favorite music in the world to sing and listen to is German and French art song. I have always loved the combination of beautiful melodies, rich harmonies, and exquisite poetry. I have always wished I could play and sing these wonderful pieces myself, but the piano parts are so intimidating, so difficult, that I have always been embarrassed by my feeble attempts. I can pretty confidently tell you I can play and sing "The World Feels Dusty" by Aaron Copland, from his Emily Dickinson songs, but not much else. I have worked on "Heart, We Will Forget Him" from the same set, "Nacht" (Strauss), "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" (Mahler), "Sure on this Shining Night" (Barber), and many others, but usually I only play them when I have a craving to hear them, I stumble through, get frustrated by my lack of skill, and then quit. However, just recently I started practicing "Die Mainacht" by Brahms. I decided I would thoroughly and methodically work on it for as long as it takes -- every day -- with the aim of playing and singing it well. (Incidentally, it has been in my head almost non-stop since then.) I can ALMOST play it. Oof! But, it's SO frustrating. Sometimes I just feel like I don't really know how to practice piano. I mean, I know how to dissect things and practice the trouble spots. I know I need repetition. But, I swear there are times when practicing too much makes it worse. It's like I become more awkward and uncoordinated the more I focus on trying to get things right. This is not something I have experienced playing violin or singing. I don't know what it is about piano, but I swear there have been many times when the first try playing through a piece was better than any of my subsequent attempts. I know there are several pianists who read my blog. Help!! :-)

4 comments:

Suze said...

Yo, talk to Martha F! She not only plays and sings at the same time, she's performed doing that! I'm sure she could give you some tips.

Pam said...

Thanks, Suze. Martha F does rock. I realized last night while practicing that I might be beyond help. Oof. It is so frustrating. It's really all about the piano. Coordinating the two is not really the issue at this point.

LadyD said...

I love your blog and the way you express yourself in writing. I am a piano teacher and sightread very well. I am learning to play by ear w/ some excellent music resources. I wrote an article on Ezine re: practice tips and I've posted it here on my blog. http://ladydpiano.blogspot.com/
Keep practicing and be encouraged! ~ LadyD
http://pianodiana.blogspot.com/

Pam said...

Thank you!! :-)