I switched over from my usual podcasts and indie rock this morning to give some iPod love to a genre I’ve ignored far too much as of late: classical piano. To be more specific: Bach and Chopin. What a fantastic way to start the morning.
Now, I’ve spent innumerable hours over the past 20+ years with my backside on a piano bench and my fingers hacking away at some composer or another. And ever since I was a kid, let’s face it, I did a lot of hacking. Sure, I had assigned pieces that I was supposed to practice every day. But more often than not what I’d do is just play through those pieces once or twice, then put them down and move on to something far too hard for me, say, a Rachmaninoff piano concerto or a Chopin Ballade or something by Debussy. The weeks when I actually did practice my lesson, my teacher was always blown away by my progress. I wonder at times how well I would’ve progressed if I’d practice like he expected.
When you have small children, though, the amount of time available for you to practice the piano goes down quite a bit. First, they take up your time directly. Second, they go to sleep early and playing the piano would wake them up. So I haven’t done a lot of practicing in the past few years. Occasionally I’d pull out a book and hack through a little bit of Rachmaninoff, but that has been about it. If I get a chance to sit down at a piano somewhere else, I usually just improvise for a while, though it has been frightening just how much I remember of Beethoven Sonatas and Bach Fugues that I learned back in high school.
The other night I sat down at the piano after dinner and actually practiced a new piece. Rachmaninoff’s Polichinelle Op. 3 No. 4, if you really care. (You can hear Rachmaninoff himself perform it on YouTube.) It’s difficult enough that I can’t just sight read through it at full speed, but not so difficult that I get disheartened trying to practice. I am hoping that I can actually put a little time into it, commit it to memory, and eventually have something new to play on occasion, rather than just murdering a section from Chopin’s Ballade #1 like I usually do.
How I do love my piano music.