I imagine that if I were to, like with other notes, do these round-ups once every month or so, they would be less monotonous and less stressful (also, I’m doing a lot of academic and creative writing so I don’t want to waste too much word-energy on blogs). I really couldn’t be bothered to make another hidden blog so I’ll just do the Euterpe entries here and hope I don’t get overcome with musical imposter syndrome again. Blech.
My music learning journey since January 2020 has been very very rocky indeed, as should be expected when you’re restarting your classical guitar formal training after oh, 13 years (but only four years since you went inactive), and starting formal piano lessons from scratch. I’ve now passed my first classical guitar exam with a 78% merit at Grade 5, and my first piano exam with a mere piddling pass at Grade 1 (I’m really disappointed about that still).
In the past 2-3 months since exams, I’ve been focusing a lot on technique and method. I’ve also been keeping offline logbooks for my music learning which are more thorough — and to remind me what musical “homework” I have. Ha ha.
- I’m thrilled to bits that my third piano teacher IMMEDIATELY got me started on Hanon’s The Virtuoso Pianist. I got that book second hand ages ago and tried to learn it in 2020 but it looked so difficult. Two years later, I’ve taken to it like a fish to water and it’s bringing me so much comfort and joy. I really love working with it and am really enjoying my piano classes. Every now and then I have to pinch myself that my fingers are flying across the keyboard with these exercises. Such happiness is impossible to document.
- Grade 2 ABRSM scales: G-Major HT and HA, D minor, D melodic minor and D harmonic minor HT and HA. Also my teacher got me started on arpeggios for piano. Learning a lot about hand placement and position also. Really enjoying this and go into a kind of trance-like state when I do them.
- Working on all my exam pieces, but focusing on the de Gambarini Minuet (delicious, delicious counterpoint and ornamentation, yesss) and Gaudet’s Angelfish, which I’m working on with le metronome.
- Madden’s The First Flakes Are Falling is also wonderful and an exam piece I’ve chosen but we’re focusing on the first two first. Before I started with my teacher a few weeks back, I was working on it and really enjoyed how it reminded me of some Tori Amos songs, but for now I’m really appreciating the detailed work we’re doing on the first two pieces. I think I should probably play this piece a bit more this coming week so I don’t lose the sense of it from my fingers, though.
- side-note: for the ABRSM digital performance grade exam, I believe it’s four pieces instead of three so when I discussed it with my piano teacher, we considered the possibility of me doing that Ravel Beauty and the Beast duet piece. But still wondering if it would be an okay option for the digital grade, if I was playing to a recording. Would be so deliciously wonderful if I could play Ravel for a music exam. And I need to learn to play duets or with accompaniments.
- After I told my teacher that I’d first used pedal action (using it for Angelfish) on the Debussy piece, she wanted to hear me play it for her, so I’m going to be working on that in the next two weeks. My first teacher already gave me an excellent start on that and was even kind enough to record me a tutorial. Would be great to revisit. Anyway, suffice it to say I’m in a very happy place with my piano playing right now. Hope I will get a better score for Grade 2. Will work very hard for it.
- I have been practising the Carlevaro and Walker drills religiously, and now am returning to Pumping Nylon.
- I feel very proud of myself that the Carlevaro drills have now become my happy place. If I’m really stressed up after a hard day of work, I really look forward to the warm-up sessions and just getting into a zen-like state of mind with the Carlevaro formulas. It just calms me down.
- Apart from assigned warmups, I also added a very simple vibrato exercise that I kind of cooked up based on a combination of things I’d watched, and inspired by one of the Walker RH exercises. And uh. It’s really been great, I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable with vibrato after years, maybe decades of feeling like my fingertips are deadweights. Hope springs eternal!
- I’m mostly focusing very obsessively on Bach’s Sarabande from the first violin Partita (BWV1002) for exams. Of all the pieces I’ve learned, I feel this is the one I can play the most emotively. I hope I can gain more musical fluency and confidence enough to play it the way it’s supposed to be played. I’d like to get a higher merit for Grade 6 😉 (I’m not going to hope for a distinction, my playing is flawed, also I don’t want to peak early. Distinction at Grades 7 or 8 might be nice tho).
- Dowland’s Can She Excuse My Wrongs. Usually when I was practising this intensely between Dec-Jan, I warmed up by doing several rounds of other lute-tuned pieces first (some from my previous teacher’s book because happily, I’m extremely good at compartmentalising and focusing on what’s important), then work on the Preludium. Then, nicely warmed up I would gain the lute-tuned/early music fluency I need. But I have been lapse over the past few weeks of intense academic work and emotional exhaustion. I do a couple of rounds of Preludium and then work on Dowland. So, my divisions are not so groovy for this. Woe is me!
- Preludium‘s coming along nicely. I did get pretty good marks for it during exams but I was still not satisfied. I want to play it with more emotion, more gravitas, more fluency and uh, more vibrato. So I’ve been working on that whenever I’m not too exhausted.
- Bach’s BWV1007 Prelude, that I can never get over. Still working on the Duarte transcription. In no hurry so every now and then, I tune down to drop D and work on those killer barres and slurs on the first page. I am going to do that for a couple of months before I return to the bariolage and chromatics section. I also gave the Koonce transcription (used for G7 exams) a whirl and I’m not aurally convinced yet. It’s certainly much easier than the Duarte version but I really prefer the Duarte version a lot. Nevertheless, will work on Koonce after G6 exams.
- Piazzolla’s El Viaje. This is my third exam piece. As is usual when I practice El Viaje, I warm up w/ other Piazzolla pieces I know how to play, first. Am baffled by strumming section but that’s to be cleared up in class.
- Couple of pieces from Eduardo Martin’s Álbum de la Inocencia. They’re elegant and look easy but really complex chord shapes and I call one the chessboard piece, because if you mess up the fingering just a little bit, you’re out of fingers. Mate in one! Looking forward to playing more pieces from this book!
- I have yet to complete the second two weeks of the Uni of Edinburgh’s Fundamentals of Music Theory because am stuck. Nevertheless, progress has been made.
- My piano teacher got me buying the ABRSM workbooks and I’m already working through the G3 exercises for divisions. Semidemiquavers ahoy! I enjoyed the math 😉
- While I enjoy learning from across the spectrum of G1-G5 (while also reading undergrad level music theory, haha), I think it would be good to sit for G3 because I want a really solid and stable grounding in music theory. After all, I want to sit all the way to a diploma in Music Theory and thenceforth a diploma (or two) in Composition. Best to really get these things right with a solid foundation.
That’s it for now. Will post another note either in April or May. I’ll likely be playing the same things for weeks so it’ll get monotonous otherwise. Gone are the days of me playing many things for the heck of it. Not much time plus — I really really want to do well on these pieces so I feel I need to be more responsible in my practice sessions. Still, every now and then I itch to play something new. Maybe when things get a little less hectic (will they ever), I may start a new musical/sight-reading fling.
As for composition — I’ve been improv-ing a lot on both instruments. Wrote down some notation but nothing completed, nothing that makes me go “Ah-hah! I want to turn this into something bigger.” Not yet, not since Lady Dissonance. But…I’ve been daydreaming of doing an actual long thing for the Cantata of the Fourfold Realms. What kind of music does one write for that? We’ll see. Stay tuned. I’m improving my musical knowledge, my musical vocabulary, my technique, my grasp of theory. I hope at some point I can write something that I’ll be very happy with. I can feel I have it in my bones. I just don’t know how to bring it out yet. It’s like with writing — when I know the words are there, and I feel burgeoning with them, and it’s an itch you can’t scratch until it all comes out, and it’s wonderful.
I feel that way with music. My whole life. But it doesn’t come out in the right way. Maybe because I don’t have the skills yet. Something to work on.