After a while I have learned to stop feeling guilty from not practising for a minimum of 4 hours a day. There is more to music and improving one’s piano technique than locking yourself up in the practise room for hours on end. Now I am content with 2 hours of solid practice.
I realize that I need so many other things, such as inspiration and stimulation from the world outside. We need to surround ourselves with something we love – a solitary existence with only the piano in front of me is not how I wish to experience my music and improve my piano technique.
To arouse my senses is why I always make it a point to attend musical events such as the one featuring the Italian classics presented by the Penang Philharmonic Orchestra. The goal is to enjoy and absorb the harmony of the various instruments performing as one and try to imitate the flair of the sophisticated music they create with the piano.
However, a monstrosity of a piece such as Largo by Vivaldi will take an enormous amount of time and effort to master - something that you will have to be prepared for when you set out to conquer a classical song on the piano. It is going to be a long term project.
I have been practising a sonatina by Mozart for several months now. In my most recent session with the tutor I am still discovering new technical challenges that I have to overcome, such as navigating the scales to ascend the keyboard in a continuous musical line and guiding it back down. How important it is to lift the middle finger high so that the fourth and fifth finger can land on the keys firmly to project the melody with steely clarity.
She was a bit amused that I was so excited to make the breakthrough after so many months, but the sonata has a depth of piano technique complexity that I seldom encounter. I have resigned myself to learning it slowly, build technique incrementally in order to be able play it well enough to do it justice. After all, this is a piece by Mozart.
Challenges with regards to piano technique posed by the sonatina and the works by Verdi, Puccini, Di Capua and the rest of the Italian composers introduced by the orchestra offer us a repertoire to learn more from.
For instance, Albinoni created a soundworld vastly different from the one produced by Verdi. When making music on the piano one has to capture the essence of the soundworld the composer wished to give birth to. Coaxing the correct rhythm out of the piano in the perfect tempo to bridge the melody in a smooth flowing musical line is required.
While agility in the fingers, piano technique and other skills to play these classical songs can be acquired through regular practise, to gain a sense of the music hidden in the notes takes time and the use our sense of hearing, imagination and experience - watching performances by other pianists, listening to recordings and attending concerts by the orchestra help to engrain the musical sense into the heart and mind.
From the heart to the piano; colour your own interpretation of the song you are playing as you connect them in a musical line. Apply fluid wrists and long arm movement to balance the accompaniment in the left hand so that it does not overshadow the melody being played by the right.
Proper finger distribution goes a long way in paving the way for an unruffled play. Difficult passages should be marked with the fingering combinations you find most suitable for use, having a clear idea of the most appropriate fingering for chords is also crucial for a spellbinding execution of a song.