monkey practices

it's been somewhat uncreative days as far as blogging is concerned. it's always on the edge of my mind, as it does make me happy to share thoughts to not-so-random-public.  and there has been much conversations with monkey surroundings, things that speak audibly and things that speak silently. but it does take a fair bit of time to adjust and assess thoughts, then put it down.  perhaps couple new small habits are getting in the way?  it is a weird thing, one can stay out from home for a long time and do many hours of 'work,'

however, being a freelancer means that one does whole bunch of different things in the day.  there are less familiarity with the days- if i was working at an office, for instance, i would have some constants: co-workers, my (rigidly confined) tasks/responsibilities, geographical logistics (path to work, home, favorite coffee spot, pick-me-up-bakeries, my working area, etc).  but often such things, taken granted and even despised once in awhile (by complacency turning into menacing monotony), do free up certain percentage of one's energy i think.

a typical day can include anything from: doing nothing ( ! ) to practice, then to rehearsal (even in couple different locations within an afternoon, with different people and changing reps), or even to recording (bit different mindset from playing) or stagework.  so once all these irregular hours are pegged down, only then i can start to locate time for things that i need on regular basis: going to ymca on opportunistic times to avoid michael phelps of slow lane, for instance, or even just doing laundry.  getting groceries (as the idea of getting ethnic groceries from ethnic shops are just way too tempting vs. overpriced, usual, ordinary, sterile north american food aisles of big chain grocery store).  sweeping the floor (it is incredible how much dust we get on 32nd floor, all that city dust being blown into the house somehow- it's literally handful everyday!).

an afternoon with two different persons is enough to do my head in, usually. i try to be attentive and make notes.  and same goes for learning the reps.  i was taught to always examine how i could physically play based on musical phrasing i see on the page (which leads to much cross hands, split-hands, thanks to my midget fingers, or even playing 4th finger over the pinky, etc etc., all kinds of general no-nos), which eliminates having to control two contrasting thoughts (musical vs. physical) when one is bit 'slow'; it is awesome when it's all worked out. however, often it takes a bit of time to work it out.  too long! haha!  so i think safely after two hours of hard-thinking, the rest of 'playing' is never at 100%, which is a bit of a pity.

and then there's that 'warm up' routine.  when i decided to play and actually care for what i play (doesnt matter what/who i am playing for; should always be at least 'attempted best'), i realized that there isnt enough time to actually learn each composition to its full depth (how i miss learning one concert program for the entire month or two!). so the best way i could do for now is to have three separate sections in 'practice': mechanical check ups and drills, learning of scores, then something for myself.

(this something for myself is so important for 'accompanist,' as it is so easy to lose the identity as a 'performer' at times; it is so tempting to just degrade into 'required sound-making machine.')

any pianist could tell you about basic piano drills: scales, arpeggios, chords, etc.  i used to pick up a selection of exercises, like section of hanon or czerny, and just go over it while i (shamefully) read the newspapers or something.  then i realized that doesnt really help anything- im bored! so i am not aware of my own damned self! and (it) does whatever's convenient.  oooeer. deadly combo.  so with inputs from bookbomber and bit of a masochistic streak, i am now trying out couple different things:

*i am sorry, non-pianists, this is turning out to be rather narrow writing but i think this may be useful to some pianists, or even just general musicians.

1. scales: in all keys, contrary/parallel motions. then in pairs of minor-major.  sometimes it's relative major-minor (c major and a minor, for instance), then switch hands.  a bit more cynical one is major-minor of same tonic (c major and c minor). attempt contrary'parallel motion if there's bit of courage.

2. broken chords: LH broken chords and RH arpeggiated chords on major/minor basic triads.  switch hands.  it'll be something like:  (c-e-g-c') vs. (c-g-e-c'). all keys. or attempt.

3. arpeggios: dim 7th arpeggios along with dominant 7th arpeggios.  parallel and contrary.

4. scales- octaves: hands in contrary/parallel motion.  try grouping in 2, 3, 5, 7, 9.  this is not so easy, i think i must be too slow.

5. mirror hands practice: a piano keyboard is symmetrical from midpoint D (black key- white- white...) when hands are actually moving parallel, the fingers are not.  this is why simple octave passages can be so hairy for pianists: ex. end of the schubert trout quintet, last mvt. sounds the same, feels not same at all! arrrgh.  but if you put your thumbs on D and see your hands 'away' from D, it is... voila, symmetrical! i find this useful to 'stretch out' my hands, playing intervals such as 9th and 10th, thumb active, hands low, fingers relaxed.

6. mirror practice with variation:  you can also mix in different groupings,
ex.  2 vs. 3:  (d-c) vs (d-e-f), which will line up every 7th
ex.  3 vs. 5: (d--c-b) vs (d-e-f-g-a), which will line up every 16th
and this, you can do all kinds, and once in awhile, im kind to myself to do both hands in sync, 7-7 or something.

so it's bit eclectic and i think it takes about good 1 to 1.5 hours.  it is a long time to put on for 'warm up,' but i do find now 'learning' scores much easier, as my hands have better idea of executing what my little brain wants to do.  i also wonder how long i would keep this up.  i wonder if it'll become eaiser?!  the most nice thing about it is that it requires most of monkey brain. i have to concentrate, no more thinking of lunches and other stuff... boo. hahaha.

and it is also a nice thing to opening up my ears to so-called 'dissonance.'  this dissonance thing is such a bugger to pianists who sticks to traditional repertoire.  anything hindemith-y, you see pianists go cross-eyed very often. haha.  dont get me wrong, i didnt really dig them either.  it's only after years and years of listening to non-classical music and getting used to the 'whacked out harmonies' (or the lack thereof) that made me willing to hear it carefully.  dim 7 and dom 7 together in arpeggios sound pretty awesome now, i have to say. and yes- because it is physically difficult, i do listen 'more.'

so a meager explanation on 'why' i havent been writing. i think i prob spend the best portion of my head on these drills now (it's new regimen this year! it's exciting! haha!) and then there's the 'playing something for self' that gets in the way. this wk, ive been trying to record one short track per day.  like a single bach prelude. then this also takes up at least an hour, i find. how crazy is that!!  but may be one day, i will have one single track that i like, from all the ones that added to it.  yesterday, between two over-an-hour rehearsals and looking for pants zippers (and impulse shopping) ( ! ), i didnt have a take that i thought was even passable, for me to watch in privacy with a key to the entire distillery. pity.

but i think it's worthwhile to find the way to enjoy one's working process. it is a great thing to play an instrument.  kinestatic, intellectual, emotional, all these wonderful things can be present and a simple thing, such as a well balanced chord can be such a joy.  and i am lucky to have friends, like the book bomber who continues to add more ideas for me to decadently enjoy myself.

what do you do to keep yourself happy at your tasks? if you can think of couple things, i bet you are already a happier being than the average.  it is a luxury to find joy in the things that one 'has to do.'  if you are a bit short on that list, take time and try something different!  as i am going to try this minor-major business once again. with much laughter at failing such 'simple' task.  life is imple, not always easy yet has the potential to be every so beautiful. love to you all.

1 comment:

  1. tasks for improving self are always good for others! it's a collateral bonus; everyone benefits.
    this is an inspiration to all.