Monday, February 23, 2009

DIVA Moments

My friend Barbara Brandt is leaving the Bay Area for a job in Washington DC...She is not a musician, but she has been President of a National Labor organization and certainly has had her "diva" moments. I made this card for her goodbye party...

(the caption reads: Diva - You Don't Need A Stage To Be One!)

Actually almost every woman I know (and a few men) have had their DIVA moments. For example, check out the You Tube postings of my husband singing art songs by the French composer Henri Duparc

I've played these piece by Duparc with David in the past. Now we rarely appear together on stage (because of off stage DIVA battles). Luckily for him, he has found an excellent pianist, Seth Stafford, to collaborate for some of Seth's DIVA gestures at the piano - they never detract from the singer, but they are pianistic DIVA moves none the less!

I'm sure that someday soon my DIVA moment will come...I'd better go practice for it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Week's Progress

After one week of 10 minutes a day on the Chopin Etude (Opus 25, No. 9) I've

1. learned all of the notes,
2. can play the left hand at quarter note equals 90,
3. have memorized 12 bars of the music, and
4. can play hands together at half tempo / quarter note equals 55.

Areas of concern...

1. the middle section is not as good as the beginning and end sections,
2. I keep missing notes in the left hand at the end of the piece / I'm having trouble playing the 5ths and 6ths when my arm has to cross in front of my body and the octave jumps from "G Flat" to "D Flat" that descend at the end...I keep missing the notes (I want to put the third of the chord "B Flat" into the octave progression), and
3. I'm already in a panic about the tempo!

This week I plan to

1. start in the the middle of the work,
2. continue working on the left hand alone,
3. continue memorizing one measure at a time,
4. review, review, review what I've learned so far, and
5. only play at half tempo or slower, but move into position quickly

I'm going to also try some of the techniques I was exposed to at the Portland International Festival from my participation in the workshops lead by pianist Frederic Chiu . He suggests spending a great deal of time with the score and thinking about the piece away from the piano. I'm very interested in his program "Deeper Piano Studies" and I'd like to attend one of his workshops. I'm going to increase my study to 20 minutes this week (10 at the piano / 10 away from the piano) to see if that makes a difference. I'm also listening to as many performers of the piece as possible.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Speed of Octaves

I'm now in a panic about my right hand octaves...

I found this website regarding playing octaves in Chopin Etudes...It's called "The Truth about Piano Technique and How to Acquire It". If only! I must admit, my eyes glazed over when reading it...

and for $100 I could do this...

then I found this You Tube video by Edna Golandsky...

An excellent reminder on basic techniques showing how to play octaves. (Disclaimer: I've been a student at the Golandsky Institute for two summers, so I've experienced Edna's phenomenal teaching techniques firsthand.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oh No!

Continuing on the ten minutes of practice a day Chopin Experiment I've hit upon a snag...

Getting the left hand up to tempo wasn't as big of a chore as I thought it was going to be (years of playing stride bass parts finally pays off!), but the right hand octaves up to tempo will present some challenges. What was I thinking? I hope my Butterflies won't be arthritic (ie: slow) on March 1!

Here are some links to YouTube performances that inspire me...

Alicia de Larrocha

Maurizio Pollini

Dr. Walden Hughes

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

10 minutes a day

I'm always telling my students that just 10 minutes a day of practice will make all of the difference in their playing. My students do not really believe me, so I decided to prove my theory by learning a Chopin Etude in just 10 minutes a day (so I'm not just saying "do as I say, not as I do", but "do as I say and as I do too"). I will perform the piece for my students on their recital on March 1, 2009.

I began this experiment on February 2, and I've chosen to study Chopin's Etude "The Butterfly" Opus 25, No. 9.

First I slowly read through the piece hands together. Then I began to formulate a practice plan.

For me the left hand part will be more difficult that the right, because of the leaps and there are more notes (!)
1. practice the left hand alone every day
2. bring the left hand up to tempo right away / practice 4 - 8 bars up to tempo

Try not to start at the beginning every day
1. start at the "end" one day, then the "beginning" the next day
2. only work on sections / 4-8 bars a day

Slowly put the hands together
1. I found uncomfortable stretches for my right hand - then because I was slow, I realized that I was not bringing my arm over with my hand
2. Play lightly - sometimes when I'm slow I tend to use too much arm weight / think light butterflies fluttering from note to note

Memorize as I learn
1. I heard about this technique at the Portland Piano Festival last summer (July 2008). It was a tip from pianist Hans Boepple. Learn the first measure and play from memory. When the memory is secure memorize the second measure and then play the first two measures from memory, repeat until the piece is memorized
2. Analyze the harmony / this helps with memory and quick note learning

This is my strategy for this week. By next Monday, all the notes will be learned, the left hand part will be up to tempo, the whole piece will be played hands together at a medium speed, and some parts will be memorized.