16 November 2009

Piano Proficiency (iv)

In addition to the general excitement of working towards something new, my piano adventure presents the opportunity to explore two very interesting questions of interest to any music teacher. First off, while I'm one of those twenty-somethings who doesn't quite feel like the word "adult" legitimately applies yet, the truth is that I'm undertaking this project well after science tells us it starts to get harder for people to acquire new muscle memory. Of course, I've dabbled in keyboard technique since I was that young, but none of it was focused or consistent, so while I have some important basic skills (as well as all of my musical experience as a tuba player) to work with, I would expect that if there's something to all the talk of brain cells changing after adolescence, that I'll be facing that challenge as part of this process.

To go along with that, the truth is that while I've become motivated to practice in a way that is focused and goal-oriented rather than aimlessly noodling, I still don't have time to do it every day. I don't have a keyboard at home, and while there are places I can go to use one, making a special trip every day just isn't going to happen with everything else that's going on. Even if I did have one at home, I'm still not sure it would become a daily thing. Hence, while you could say I've been consistent, it has been on a less-than-daily basis.

I experimented on and off for about half a year with practicing tuba only every other day. It worked better than I could reasonably have expected before trying it. Part of my theory was that the extra rest would keep both my chops and mind fresher, hence enabling longer practice sessions on the days that I practiced, which would add up to something close to the total time I was practicing already. While I can't say that my technique stayed right where it was before, it certainly didn't suffer too much, and I made great progress in learning new repertoire, since I was able to focus rather intensely on it one day, and then let it percolate for an extra day before coming back to it.

For better or worse, I could never get away with this now simply because I have to play almost every day either in a rehearsal or gig, which wouldn't allow either for the day of intense practice, or the day of complete rest. However, by default, this is essentially the approach I'm taking to the piano at this point. I'll be curious to see how far I can get this way before I have to make it a daily thing.

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