Monday, January 16, 2012

Lesson 3

I didn't write the blog post for this lesson immediately after because we had friends visiting. The best I recall, lesson 3 was about the importance of knowing the left hand well. One reason of course is that we tend to look at pieces as "right hand melody with left hand accompaniment" and by default, for most of us, the accompaniment is somehow "less important". This is far from ideal of course. The other purpose behind knowing the left hand well is to know the progression of harmony exactly, so that we get a sense of direction as to where the music is going harmonically. That will help us plan our dynamics and will help us play it even more musically.

We worked on the third movement of the tempest again. I showed him the fingering that I had worked on. It works well. The tied note just needs to be held the entire duration of the bar as notated (but I had misread it). So now it sounds much smoother and when the pedal comes in in bar 9, it doesn't feel abrupt. The ending note of each of the figures in the beginning also needs to be more "portato" (not too long but not too short either). In measure 23, we talked about how the motion to the sf was more of a gesture than a dynamic marking. The pedal also needs to be lifted at the end of the measure to implement the rest in the left hand while the right hand holds the tied note.

We also looked closely at dynamic changes. I had been implementing the crescendos far too abruptly. So my playing sounded like an accordion. My teacher gave me a useful guideline for smoother crescendos. Do not begin increasing as soon as you see the crescendo marking but play at the same level and then with the next harmonic change, give it more volume, then stay, then less and back to normal. So implement these dynamics at the level of harmonic changes. This is why practicing the left hand, especially as blocked chords, is useful!

So I practiced the entire Chopin etude as blocked chords and then learned to play the entire left hand all by itself. It helps immensely! I had also been struggling with the pedal. I was advised to use one pedal per measure and to slightly lift off towards the end of each measure. The left hand first note was to be more prominent. So the main task for the next lesson was to practice the left hand as blocked chords first and then the complete left hand exactly as notated. I worked on all these for the past couple of weeks and saw some good results (see lesson 4 description).

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