Friday, July 31, 2015

Resuming with Blues

You know you've been neglecting your (digital) piano for too long when it takes a couple of minutes to locate the power switch. At least I didn't need to dig out the manual, though I was considering it. And speaking of digging out, it took a couple days of desultory sorting and putting away to get my piano space back in order. Dare I confess it had been repurposed as a laundry folding station?'

Reopening the blog, it's interesting to see that I'm re-starting exactly where I left off, wanting to focus on material simple enough for me to practice relaxed focus and staying in the zone, as per Kenny Werner's Effortless Mastery. Before looking at the blog, I had only just transferred Kenny's meditations onto my phone, then listening to the first one was the perfect preparation for resuming my piano studies.

My motivator this time around is that my roommate recently took up playing bass, and is learning his blues progressions, so I thought it would be a great time to get back to the piano and practice up on some blues. I'm starting with Beginning Blues Keyboard by Tricia Woods, which starts out very easy. Years ago I tried working from Tim Richards' Improvising Blues Piano, but that one is aimed an intermediate level student, while I still linger on the late elementary plateau (being an intermittent player like me can do that to you).

Friday, January 17, 2014

New Year 2014

I've been away from the piano and avoiding typing for a couple of months, after hurting my hand while wrangling boxes in search of holiday decor. And then I started the new year with two weeks of a cough so evil that I suspect influenza, so I didn't really get to leverage the new year to reflect, and refine my approach toward my various goals. 

This lack of ritualized transition has been extraordinarily frustrating for me, so now as I resume playing piano, I'd like to do some of that reflection and refinement.

One thing I've been feeling pretty good about, and which I want to continue, is my purposeful regression toward material I can work toward playing with Kenny Werner's "Effortless Mastery", and thus concentrate my energy on staying "in the zone".

To the extent I can cultivate that "in the zone" experience, I've been exploring what it feels like to establish a more relaxed yet energized relationship to the keyboard, and listening for the for the more subtle effects of dynamics and timing I can achieve via developing that kinesthetic/proprioceptive relationship with the instrument.

One much more tangible thing I would like to follow through on, is to do more recording of myself. This is pretty easy to do with my DP, I just need to RTFM to remember how. I've been finding the mere threat of recording myself highly motivational in terms of listening to what I'm actually playing (as opposed to drifting into superimposing what I *want* to sound like over the accident-prone sonic reality).

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The eagle has landed

I've done much shuffing around of large furniture in a small room, with some of the big stuff getting queued up and down the hall into the living room (in a calculated LIFO stack). And now the DP has exited the walk-in closet.

The closet turned out just a bit to narrow to work as a dedicated piano studio. It's a pity, as the black and white keys of the piano looked great with the black and white checkerboard linoleum on the floor. I had ruthless daydreams of adding eye-bleeding b/w Op Art posters to the walls of the closet, but alas, it didn't work out spatially.

Now the DP is in front of the window, but I need to block the lower half of the window with something decorative so the piano is less visible to someone glancing in the window. Plus to diminish the horrifying incidents, when I'm absorbed in practicing a piece, to find myself abruptly face-to-face with one of the young dudes painting the house. Bleagh!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Moving chaos had a silver lining

Well, I have survived this summer's big transition, moving across the river (but actually not a great distance away, just across one large bridge). My room is clogged stacked boxes of worldly goods (gads, boxes of sheet music are heavy!). But amid all that chaos, it turned out that my digital piano faces onto my futon, and I'm just barely high enough to play it if I grab my meditation cushion to sit on.

The upshot of this is that I've been finding myself sleeping very lightly, given this new set of urban sounds to adjust to. But when I wake up, I can roll over, grab the zafu, and play some piano. It's been very psychically recuperative. Moving is stressful!

Monday, July 29, 2013

One step forward, two steps back

I've been nudged into updating this poor, neglected blog, as a lovely member of PianoWorld has spoken very kindly of my intermittent efforts here. I had been been wanting and needing to write for a while, as I've been making a fresh start on my piano playing, which has made me crave an appropriate venue in which to be entirely self-centered and chatter about it all this at length. Where better to be self-centered than in one's journal? But summing up the gaps between my spurts of blogging is difficult, and up until now I've done as much deleting as I've done writing, leaving no evidence of my efforts.

The big bad news is that those loathsome migraines have continued, creating a serious roadblock to my piano progress. As I mentioned in the migraine entry more than a year ago, the migraines are often accompanied by surges of activity in my inner musical life, but the reality is that the headaches make me so light and sound sensitive, that purposefully creating sounds for myself to listen to would be outright masochism. 

And before that was the phase during which I felt so overly emotion-ridden that I didn't want to touch the piano. But even that phase served a purpose in my musical life, reawakening a long-closed-down level of emotional responsiveness in my psyche, which has very much enriched the musicality of my playing (when I've managed to squeeze some in between migraines). 

The upshot of all of this is that I've played so little in the past three years that my skills at the piano have degenerated so very spectacularly that it's time to work on turning life's lemons into lemonade. So I've decided to view this as an opportunity to make a fresh start with my piano playing. 

I've moved back to mid/late level 1 method book material, so that I can focus all of my energy on getting rid of unnecessary tension in my playing, and developing better control over the dynamics and articulation in the sounds I create. 

More on all of that later. First, I'm going to quickly publish this entry, to get all of that annoying backstory out of the way, so that henceforth I can chatter about what I'm actually doing at the piano these days. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Reading about Sight Reading

I've been doing a bunch of reading about sight reading lately (my that sentence parses awkwardly, doesn't it?). So I thought I'd put links to some of my reading materials here for future reference.

Here are a couple of theses/dissertations on the subject:
And here's some other long and scholarly articles:
(Please leave a comment if you know of more I can add to this list!)

Thursday, March 15, 2012


This has been an odd period in my piano life. A month and a half ago I found out that the therapist who had seen me through the last 2 years of momentous personal changes was leaving town. While my conscious mind accepted this philosophically, and worked toward tying up loose ends, my body felt all the angst. Two days after I got the news, I got a migraine, my first one in eight years, and the blasted thing has been coming and going for the past six weeks. 

Strangely enough, along with the migraine came a sudden, deep urge to play piano again. Unfortunately pianos make sounds, and when I have a migraine, each sound is like a nail driven into my skull. But whenever the migraine lifts, I've been playing piano, and experiencing a new passion and power in my relationship to the instrument. It's been amazing...

... until the migraine returns, and then sounds and lights are no longer my friends. The sound thing is frustrating because of the piano, of course, and the light thing is equally frustrating because it is my favorite season here, early spring, when the sun begins to return to the Pacific Northwest, and the world has the wonderful aroma of early blooming fruit trees. But instead of blossoming in the sun as I usually do, I've had to hide from it, because even on days that the migraine has abated, the damned thing is guaranteed to return if I get sun in my eyes. 

But when it fades out for a day or two, playing the piano is a joyous experience.