PracticePrompt Blog

Practice Log for 12/01/2011 at 22:51:58

Posted in Captain's Log by elwynrees on January 12, 2011

Total practice time for 12/01/2011 : 50 minutes

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Practice Log for 10/01/2011 at 22:27:33

Posted in Captain's Log by elwynrees on January 10, 2011

Total practice time for 10/01/2011 : 50 minutes

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Practice Log for 09/01/2011 at 23:01:09

Posted in Captain's Log by elwynrees on January 9, 2011

Total practice time for 09/01/2011 : 100 minutes

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Practice Log for 08/01/2011 at 22:02:35

Posted in Captain's Log by elwynrees on January 8, 2011

Back to "balanced" practicing with sight-reading, pieces as well as exercises…

Total practice time for 08/01/2011 : 80 minutes

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Practice Log for 04/01/2011 at 22:04:21

Posted in Captain's Log by elwynrees on January 4, 2011

Total practice time for 04/01/2011 : 35 minutes

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Practice Log for 02/01/2011 at 22:24:51

Posted in Captain's Log by elwynrees on January 2, 2011

Total practice time for 02/01/2011 : 57 minutes

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A new year – a new beginning

Posted in Deliberate Practice by elwynrees on January 2, 2011

Last year has been a bit of an “annus horibilis”.   Early in the year I started getting numbness in my left hand little pinkie, this worsened eventually affected my outer side of my  left hand with the fourth and fifth fingers becoming less than useless.    All last years plans  for learning advanced pieces went out the window!    I effectively took nearly two months off (with just a couple of practice sessions).  I focussed on conservative treatment and stretching/stengthening exercises.   All of this seemed to help greatly.   I continue with these exercises as often as I can remember but try to do four or five sessions weekly.   These involve stretching exercises for golfer’s elbow, cubital & carpal tunnel and a couple of strengthing exercises using hand weights.

The time away from piano provided an opportunity for a re-think.  Upon return, I started working on sight-reading and completing learning all the scales around the circle of fifths.     Now I wish I’d taken this approach when I first returned to piano several years ago.   Still, better late than never.  

The sight-reading has been incredibly interesting.   It’s gone off the boil a bit over the Xmas period, but hoping to get back into it ASAP.   Sight-reading lots of easy material has been very useful, but studying pieces 1 level above the sight-reading level has been very revealing.   These are like a mini-audit of abilities, and completing one piece a week has covered a lot of ground (compared to my former approach of spending months on a single piece).   This has revealed technical weaknesses in my left hand in particular.

Lately then, I’ve been focussed on lots of technique: scales, a Hanon (no 5) and some of my own making to improve my left hand and the weak fouth finger in particular.   All this work being done to a metronome.    For a while I think I was too focussed on just being able to ratchet up the tempo regularly.    Whilst this has greatly improved, its not the key focus (which is increasing control and dexterity, of the left hand).  Alternatively, perhaps I’ve completed “phase one” of getting scales and the Hanon to a metronome setting of 76 (four notes per click).   

My philosophy now is to treat all these exercises like learning to speak a language fluently (I’m still struggling with just one).   What I mean is to completely internalise the skill and play with the brain.   I completed 30 cycles scales around the circle of fifths, but for many that were new I was “working out” each minor scale from the relative major.   Now I try to anticipate the notes each time before playing.  I’ve even gone back to playing 1 octave of quarter notes with one finger, but trying to visualise the scales first.   Lately I’ve been playing quarter notes (1 octave), eighth notes (2 octaves) and then sixteenth notes (2 or 3 octaves) with several repeats, first HS then HT and then playing with rhythms and alternating stacatto/legato.    During the last 6-7 months, the study task time for this has increased from 15 to 30 minutes.   In addition, I have one focussed task to work on the current “worst scale”.

The Hanon exercise (I’m only doing one) has been a revelation.  Hanon/Czerny exercises seem to get a lot of crticism and it’s been useful to default to this camp and take the “I learn technique from doing pieces”.   I now don’t believe this to work.    It just seems so sensible to work on the technical building blocks that are the basis for all pieces, rather than struggle with them in situ.   When young,  my piano teacher gave me Czerny exercises (101) which I didn’t enjoy.   But I can see the point in musicless Hanon, where you learn fluency in generic finger patterns (which is my primary left hand weakness overall).

In many ways, this has been a bit like starting over and I’m enjoying the sense of doing it “properly” for once!

Practice Log for 01/01/2011 at 23:30:46

Posted in Captain's Log by elwynrees on January 1, 2011

Total practice time for 01/01/2011 : 50 minutes

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