On the 15th September the Malaysian Youth Orchestra Foundation held its sixth annual music festival. Piano solo and duets, violin solo, string quartets and chamber ensemble competitions took place throughout the day in the various event halls inside the plush Marriott Putrajaya Hotel.
To gain some exposure and experience I have entered myself for the piano competition. My main purpose for being there was to watch other pianists and musicians who are in the premiere league in action, hoping that I would be able to learn something from them to improve my own piano playing.
#1 - Do(s) and Don’t(s) of Piano Exercises – Don’t play through
It was Kevin Field whom I learnt something from. Three years ago at the same music festival I saw him conducting an orchestra to brilliant effect at the closing ceremony. This year he is one of the judges adjucating the chamber ensemble competitions.
At the end of the performances, commenting on what he saw on stage he advised the musicians not to play through. It was noticed that some of the emsembles were not playing the rests. “Without silence there is no music. Play the rests, do not play through”, he explained.
I have received similar tounge lashings from my own piano teacher for not playing the rests too. I am guilty for playing through some of the times as well. For reasons such as wanting to complete a piece quickly before the next lesson, the false sense of getting it right already in the first place and fatigue. Unless it is pointed out to me, I would not be aware of it.
The opposite of playing through is to play with devotion accompanied by a strong desire to bring out the best music possible from each bar you are practising - silence when there is a rest, a short and detached sound to accomplish a staccato and gradual fading of the music when it says pianissimo on the score.
Avoid being in a hurry because that is what leads to playing through. Allocate the time dedicated to practising the piano exercises only, ignore all else and delve deep into each bar of the music.
#2 - Do(s) and Don’t(s) of Piano Exercises – Don’t neglect sight reading
In the heat of the moment rendering beautiful piece I have a tendency to close my eyes to feel the music. When I open them to look at the score again I would have lost the location of the segment I was playing, the only thing I could do next was to play from memory – which I am really good at.
Due to this habit my sight reading remained weak. Poor sight reading is a huge disadvantage when you are trying to learn a new song. I used to play a bar with my right hand and memorize it, then play it with my left hand and memorize it and then play them together from memory. Imagine how long it took to complete a song. If my sight reading was top notch I should have been able to look at the music sheet and play without glancing down to look at the keyboard.
Another frustrating outcome of having weak sight reading is it becomes almost impossible to maintain a repertoire.
Possession of a rich repertoire of piano songs requires constant practice and I doubt there is anyone who can practise all the songs already learnt from memory alone, from time to time you will have to play while looking at the music sheet.
Not being able to sight read the music sheet while playing because you are so used to playing from memory eventually causes the songs you have already mastered to be forgotten. Very few people if there is any at all, can memorize a hundred songs without ever having to refer to the music sheet once in a while.
With good sight reading you can just take out a music sheet, put it on the piano in front of you and play. Continue reading part 2 of 'The Do(s) And Don't(s) Of Piano Exercises'.