So we have a piano-tuner currently in our house fixing our piano (yes we have a piano, my parents are musicians shush) and the mechanism was off, so he’s completely taken it out of the actual piano and it’s just sitting on one of my parents’ practice chairs and just
I have no idea what the hell was going on with me today. I worked really hard this week and felt like I made some real progress, but for some reason, today I just fell apart at the keyboard. Screwing up fingerings that I hadn’t screwed up since I first started the piece… completely forgetting to use pedal even though my foot was on the damn thing the whole piece. It was ridiculous. I don’t even know what happened…
So you know what? I’m going to go plant a garden.
Can I just say I had the same experience this week. I’d been feeling so good about my progress lately, and then my lesson on Tuesday was totally borked. Must be the change in weather or Mercury retrograde or somesuch.
Anyway, this week I had a second lesson on Friday morning, and I went in feeling vaguely anxious, but my teacher totally talked me down from the ledge. His trick was simple: listen to the sound you’re making. Really listen and be in the moment, not thinking about the measure ahead or what just happened in the measure past. Focusing on the ring of the sound from this piano right now in this room really helped me let go of all the unnecessary nonsense that was holding me back.
Funny I keep having to re-learn the same lesson again and again in different disguises.
FW:What do you consider to be the most important concepts to impart to beginning students, and to advanced students?
MP:Being in the moment with the music we’re making. Focusing on right now. To do that we have to relax. Which isn’t a question of “Are we relaxed? Yes or no?” It’s that relaxation is a continuum. Which means we can always bring it to deeper and deeper levels.
Also important is listening to the sound that comes from the piano. Listening to how the piano resonates. How it projects. One way forward with this play and listen to single, sustained notes – long tones at the piano.
It’s like magic but ears and mind usually then go right to the moment – because they’re listening to the attack, sustain, and decay of each note and then each note after that.
Noa Kageyama has a great post up about his recent experience sitting in on some masterclasses by cellist Frans Helmerson.
"Theme #1: Simply feeling the music is not enough Helmerson often asked the cellists to (a) describe the story, character, mood, or emotion in words, or philosophical terms – so as to encourage them to be more specific about their intentions. But he wouldn’t stop there – he would also ask them to (b) describe what they wanted to express in more practical terms. As in, what do you have to do with your body, arm, hand, fingers, to actually produce the kinds of sounds that will engender the desired response within the listener? Where is the grazioso? Which note? What part of that note is responsible for the grazioso character? Is it the way you release the end of the note with the last third of the bow? Or some combination of things?
He often noted how he could see in a musician’s face or body movements what they were trying to say – but that it wasn’t coming out in the sound.
Theme #2: Expand your expressive toolbox via self-handicapping To that end, Helmerson asked the musicians to do some intriguing experiments. For instance, to play without using any crescendos. The idea being, what if you couldn’t use a crescendo to express an increase in intensity? What else could you use? How else might you express the same character or emotion?
What if you couldn’t use vibrato to express the mood you wanted? What other devices might you utilize?
The point was that it might occasionally be helpful to tie one hand behind our back to hone other expressive tools and avoid becoming over-reliant on the same tool for everything.”
“I remember that on 27 June  — shortly before leaving for the Crimea — I’d for once in my life given a really good performance of the Tchaikovsky Concerto, at Dzintari, near Riga, on the Baltic. I hadn’t admitted anyone to my dressing-room — I never let anyone in — and had fled the building through a side door. I ran about a kilometer, tore off my tailcoat on the beach and threw myself into the sea. It was almost dark, and the waves were an absolute treat. A really successful concert.”—Sviatoslav Richter, Notebooks, 96 (via homilius)