There was a breakthrough in my piano playing recently. I was playing one of Czerny’s exercises from his op.599, exercise number 28 to be precise. In the treble clef of the piano song, it trains the right hand to execute a short legato phrase followed quickly with staccatoed notes.
The right hand acquires rhyhtmic control, varying touch when landing on the keys and a sense of carrying a musical line articulately by practising this exercise. The left hand learns to play alberti bass evenly and with continued practise with pinpoint accuracy.
I have stayed away from Czerny’s exercises for several months now because of the piano song by Mozart that has been dominating my time. However in my quest to get the sonata perfect, I had to build technique, endurance and agility in my fingers by practising lots of Hanon’s exercises.
Lo and behold, I managed to play the whole of Czerny’s well enough to earn a rousing compliment from my tutor. All the heavy lifting by the fingers practising Hanon’s everyday has even made my Czerny better.
When I moved on to play Hanon’s exercise number 34, it went so well both of us were pleasantly surprised. Even tempo, absence of mistakes, firm fingers and accurate timing, it was perfect.
The key to this breakthrough were several methods I discovered through reading, once I began adopting them, I found to be helpful in making my piano playing more serene less rushed and generally better, especially when there is an audience.
The forty five minutes of piano lesson that I have been attending is a well planned one. Each week, I am required to start with some exercises that were designed to improve technique, increase flexibility in the finger and accumulate pianistic skills.
The exercises evolve from Hanon to Czerny and Chopin, all with the same intention. Then I am asked to play a piano song. It was given to me beforehand to practise, and my progress in perfecting the song is looked at closely each week.
Knowing how the lesson would go, I can always come prepared. Days prior, I would practise every exercise and get at least one movement of the piano song ready for the lesson.
Location of rests in the song should have to be identified and adhered to, the beginning and ending of dynamics identified and if there are ornaments in the piece, the correct fingering to to execute them studied.
On the day when it was time to show what I have got, getting there an hour early becomes an obsession for me.
It gives me more time to make some final adjustment in my execution of the piano song and correct the stubborn mistakes still present in the piano exercises. Above all else, arriving early provides relief and relaxation, which is what you need most on the day of the performance.
When it is time to perform, I have always felt that it is much too late to correct mistakes, so I use the extra hour I have by arriving early to rehearse.
I used to think that I could use it to practise, hoping that I could improve more in just sixty minutes before the lesson starts, but that only adds to the pressure causing more stress and rob me of the fun of playing and learning.
But, rehearsing is different. I savour the piano song up to the point I have it mastered, bask in the delightful music that I was making the piano sing. Come lesson time, the bits and pieces of the puzzle that makes the piano song will fall into place.
A few weeks ago it rained heavily on the day that I had piano lessons. I got there wet from head to toe. Luckily I had a plan for such circumstances – I kept an extra set of clothes in my car. If I did not, there was no way I could have played that day. The better plan would have been to have an umbrella ready as well which would have kept me dry in the first place.
The piano score, exercises scheduled for play during lessons and if you are taking music theory lessons too, the books should be in a special bag placed in the car the night before the lesson. No room to forget, misplace or going missing at the last minute.