learning to practice (warning shop talk blog post)


One of the results of working on constantly improving practice techniques is the freshness with which one returns to previous attempts at learning or practicing pieces.

Thus Prokofiev’s piano sonatas and Chopin’s nocturnes feel more intact as I rehearse them more slowly and carefully.

Fine tuning the tempo of rehearsing has helped me since I am practicing slowly but not so slowly that I can’t still hear the music idea clearly.

This may have something to do with my own ear continuing to improve.

I don’t mean to sound like I have arrived or anything. Quite the contrary. I feel more and more like a beginner as delve more deeply into learning piano and organ music.

This Sunday I have schedule an organ piece by Gwyneth Walker, “Reverence” from Sanctuary.

Gwyneth Walker

This is the piece that turned me on to this unusual living composer. I bought it in a sale from a publisher and set it aside. Then I read through it one day and was impressed.

Walker admits to the strong influence of folk music and the music of the Beatles on her composition aesthetic.

Wow. I can relate to that. And I heard it in this piece. Unfortunately there was a page of pedal work that would require some prep so I buckled down and got to work.

I did get to the point I could play that section but by that time I didn’t need the piece for work (Lent).

I went back to it recently and discovered some more places that I thought needed more work than the obviously challenging (to me at least) pedal passage.

I think  I made this discovery because I am gradually improving the way I practice.

Anyway, I think the piece will go well Sunday and am looking forward to finally performing it.

Likewise I have worked on William Bolcolm’s setting of “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” and “Mouvement” by Jean Berveiller.

Like Walker, both of these composers are speaking a language that is distanced from the usual academic organ music. That is my attraction to them. Plus I find them both challenging.

The Bolcolm is designed for a much bigger organ than I have. I only this week figured out how to register it on my little instrument. The piece has to be scaled down in a way I hadn’t thought of since most of my practice is about getting the fucking notes correctly (slowly).

This week I began to think I might actually be able to schedule this piece this summer sometime.

The Berveiller is a piece given to me to consider by Rhonda Edgington. (Thank you, Rhonda!)

Jean Berveiller

Written in the fifties it is more successful at using a driving almost rock and roll feel than most attempts I have seen and heard.

It’s not that easy but not that hard. I just need to practice it until it’s in my feet and fingers.

All of these pieces have benefited from my improved practice techniques. Cool beans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.