Sunday, December 15, 2013

That's a lot of whole notes!

This has nothing to do with NLHRI, but I am totally geeking out on piano right now. Why, you ask? I recently acquired an electric piano. I was able to purchase a relatively low-end one (the Korg SP-280) because I grew up in the 1980s. What this means is that, compared to what was available then, the cheapest piano in the store (Thanks, Muncie Music Center!) felt to me like playing a real piano. With the added bonus of a built-in metronome and several different piano tones. (I ignore all the other sounds, of course. Especially the horrible "keyboard" sound which blighted my childhood.)

I decided to begin by focusing entirely on an aspect of piano which is particularly challenging to me: rhythm. To this end, I have been remaining almost entirely in C.

So far, my practice has been developing little one-off exercises that allow me to count quarter, eighth, and sixteenth notes and triplets in a variety of tempos. One interesting facet I noted, when I was reading up on this, is that articles advising you how to get better usually say something like, "start with some moderate tempo and build up your speed from there." Um....that's only half the equation, buddy.

I started out with a lot of five-finger exercises at different tempos. Ideally I was moving smoothly between counts, but unfortunately I currently find triplets quite difficult, so I have to stop before before I move into or out of them, count a measure of silence, and then resume at the new tempo, but the goal is to be able to move smoothly between any of these counts for any number of beats. I find I can reliably keep time (and keep up) between about 50 and 120 (100 for sixteenths). I look forward to extending this in both directions.

Then I decided to do some exercises that would have me traveling the entire keyboard. I've been closing my eyes where possible so that I can really learn to feel the keyboard rather than watching my fingers (as I recall doing in the past). A few exercises I've enjoyed are:

  • Begin on C1 [left hand]/C2 [right hand] and do a few 1-octave C-scales up and down. Then run up two octaves and down one, so you are now at C2/C3. Do a few 1-octave scales here. Continue up and down the entire keyboard. Repeat, this time traveling up three octaves and down 2. Etc.
  • Do an arpeggiated C-chord in triplets, beginning at C1 with the left hand, followed by a triplet beginning on C2 with the right, etc. Then do a sixteenth-note arpeg. beginning on C1 and ending on C2 with the left, followed by a sixteenth-note arpeg. from C3 to C4, etc. I find the latter much harder to while traveling the keyboard, and the last note with each hand is not as reliably C as I would like.
  • One exercises my piano teacher (many long years ago) had me do was two handed scales and arpeggiated chords. Begin at contra C (c2) and go up four octaves, then down four octaves to the original position. Repeat. Then go up two octaves and then reverse direction with the left hand for two octaves. Reverse again so hands meet where they parted, go up two and back down, part again and then rejoin, and then go back down to the original position.
  • Then, I moved on to the other aspect which has always bedeviled me: two fingers at a time. In other words, depress C/E with fingers 1/3, then release while simultaneously depressing D/F with 2/4, release and depress D/G with 3/5, and then reverse. Unless one of the fingers is the thumb, I struggle to press the two fingers absolutely simultaneously unless I'm going reeeeeeeeeeeally slowly. So that's what I did: whole notes and half notes at 60. For like, 10 minutes. That's a lot of whole notes and half notes!

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