Master piano songs by overcoming the hurdles of maintaining a repertoire, sound production, fingering, control and coordination
An ever expanding repertoire becomes harder to maintain. Much more so if playing the piano is more of a time-wise non-affordable passion instead of a full time profession.
While increasingly beautiful songs are being introduced and taught to me by a gem of a piano teacher, I agonized over how to squeeze learning ‘Canon in D’ in on my own time without falling behind in keeping up with songs I had to learn in lessons.
Want to have your cake and eat it too ha…? Absolutely yes. The work by Pacheibel is so moving I have been obsessed about learning it. But lessons with my teacher is a constantly inspiring experience that soothes the challenge of reproducing notes on the music score, I must have both.
Maintaining a repertoire is one of many hurdles an aspiring pianist faces. There are many more. Let us have a look at some and how to overcome them.
On average a person pursuing a career as a pianist practices at least 4 hours a day. If I had 4 hours to practice my repertoire would not be in such a mess. Since I do not, all I could do is play at least 3 learnt songs before I start work on the new one.
Tomorrow I would play a different set of 3 songs. It usually takes under 30 minutes to repeat this routine, so it fits nicely into my 2 hour practice regiment.
I realized that this habit helps me to not neglect and therefore forget the older songs that I have learnt even when I begin delving deeper into a new composition spending more time and effort on it.
Surprisingly, the routine has an unexpected benefit – in sound production. Another hurdle one faces in learning how to play the piano. This is when the arduous work of music making first begin to get noticed.
To the untrained, it is thought to be simply an attribute of the pianist’s natural musical talent, but I had none when I started learning the piano, so I know from experience it is a learnable skill.
No two songs are the same, each has its own DNA. Because of that by keeping up the habit of playing 3 different songs with the intention of maintaining my repertoire; the different tones, rhythm and dynamics get absorbed by the mind - developing my inner ear.
They are etched in my head that I am able to hear the sound just by looking at the notes on the printed page.
So clear can I hear it, the story the song is telling began to conjure up in my imagination, as if Pacheibel himself was speaking words into my ears through his music. It is true then that music has the great ability to heighten the meaning of words.
Once I understood the story the song wished to convey and getting the musical context, I am able to play with more conviction in my articulation and expression because my conscience is clear knowing I am doing justice to the composer.
A crystal clear vision of the musical context of the song in turn helps to overcome one more hurdle in learning how to play the piano – the mechanics; such as fingering, arms and body movement, pedalling, touch, coordination and control.
When a song wishes to voice itself in a hushed tone, you shall need to exert control over the fingers to land them in a delicate and proportionately light touch on the piano keys. Descending down from the climax demands a subdued harmony, slower in tempo calling for the arms to be lifted higher with grace and dropped with pinpoint precision on the target keys. Such elegant movements of the arms come into play when notes are separated further apart.
Overcoming such hurdles by practicing 3 learnt songs to maintain a repertoire, absorbing the tones, rhythm and dynamics to gain insight into their musical context in addition to building the technical skills in fingering, pedalling and coordination brings you closer towards the goal of becoming a good pianist.