Patience, Preparation, and a Pencil

Tools for Going Back to Piano Practice

Pencil_piano_practice_score
“True notes” by Angelo Amboldi via Creative Commons.
Now that I have gone back to piano practice, the first piece I have committed to learn is the Debussy Clair de Lune. I thought the music would be fairly accessible, perfect since I only have one practice session a week at a music rehearsal studio. I quickly realized that Clair de Lune is not easy at all. It’s technically and physically and mentally challenging, with its constantly changing arpeggios and hard-to-read high notes. How can I possibly learn this?, I asked myself.

These three P’s have me holding onto hope:

First, patience. For all my enthusiasm, Clair de Lune is slow going, and my progress is sometimes barely perceptible. But I have no deadline, no time I need to master this piece by, so who cares if it takes me a full year to learn? It is okay if I only advance, stumbling, by a few measures every month.

It is okay if I only advance, stumbling, by a few measures every month.

Second, preparation. So that I don’t lose all momentum between practice sessions, I’ve been deepening my understanding of the Debussy Clair de Lune in other ways. Thanks to tips from the good ol’ internet, I’ve tried the following: listening to a recording of the piece while reading the score; looking for suggested fingerings and markings on alternate scores; reading the score while practicing with my fingers in my lap; and watching the visual animated version by Stephen Malinowski. Luckily for me, productive piano practice doesn’t always need to take place at the piano.

Third, a pencil. It took me a few piano practice sessions before I realized I should bring a pencil, and when I finally brought a mechanical one it didn’t work. But this week I was armed with a working pencil, and it made a huge difference. I wrote in notes and questions, and marked problem measures that I will look for guidance on later. Maybe I will even start slipping in some of the happy faces and “trouble monsters” that my childhood piano teacher used to draw.

I’ll keep you updated on my gradual but gratifying progress on the Debussy Clair de Lune.

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