Nov 152010

One thing I discovered on my memorize-away-from-the-keyboard experiment is that I can look at a page of sheet music and hear it a lot better than I used to be able to. I am not to the level of looking at a score, atonal music, or music with a lot of accidentals and getting very far. Mozart and Beethoven (carefully chosen) are not too hard.

I’m starting with Beethoven’s variations in A on the song “Quant e piu bello l’amor contadino”. This is a fairly simple theme and the variations don’t look too formidable. I think I have the theme and 1st variation nailed. Next step is to try it blindfolded.

Nov 152010

I can say that this would be a good exercise to do for any musician, at least occasionally.

When I first sat down at the piano, I tried to center myself using my arms stretching out to each side of the piano. I tried to hit middle C and missed it. Got it pretty easily by ear, though, without too much hunt and peck. (The first to C’s of the first piano solo in Gershwin’s Concerto in F has burned the sound of C into my brain).

I first tried “I’ve got the world on a string”, and after some hunting around I found my first intro chord. Kinda flubbed the second chord of the verse, but got it pretty quickly. This is the point of doing this exercise. Using eyes, I was a little weak on the tactile distance between the 1st and 2nd chord. It’s better now.

Moved on to “If I only had a brain/Over the rainbow” medley I do. Again, a little bit of hunting for the opening F chord. From there, it went pretty well, until the Bb came up. This is the same issue as mentioned in the previous paragraph. I seemed to “lose” it, though, which proves if you have to stop and think while playing you are probably about to blow it.

I’ll try the same, next time see if there is improvement.

Nov 142010

Day zero. Remember the blindfold taste-test TV commercial. Me neither. I’m borrowing my insomniac-wife’s extra blindfold and I intend to play piano or guitar with blindfold for 30 days…and see what happens.

Why, pray tell? First of all, some of the most amazing keyboardists and musicians ever were blind or visually impaired: For example, Art TatumGeorge Shearing, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. In the classical world there is Joaquín Rodrigo, the Japanese phenomenon, 22 year old Nobuyuki Tsujii, first place tie in the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Secondly, I am a terrible real-time reader. In the classical realm, unless I’ve really been at it on a particular piece, my playing sucks. Conversely, I have a great ear. I learned by ear, and always fudged a bit when reading. So my ear got better and my reading only got sorta better, slowly and painfully. In jazz and pop, I can read melody lines and chord symbols and sound pretty decent. But with classical pieces, that paradigm is not really there (It used to be from ancient times through part of the 19th century).

My “Pepsi” challenge to myself is to see if I can play without benefit of sight, and without horribly flubbing, as well as I can sans blindfold.

So off I go, and I’ll be letting you know!

Nov 132010

Day zero. Location, location, location, they say in the real estate world. In the playing-an-instrument-world, same deal (except nobody says location, loc….). In guitar playing, if your left hand is on the wrong fret, or right hand plucking the wrong string, or you hit the wrong note at the piano, yuk! Directions to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

I said in a previous post that I’m not the greatest real-time reader. So I thought I’d improve on my time management by making better use of my bedtime hours. Experts say you shouldn’t read in bed. Got it. And forgot it. Almost my entire life I’ve read in bed: novels, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, technical manuals, etc. And for the last year or so, I became totally hooked on Sudoku. In bed. And boy did I spend a lot of time on that (Got pretty good, though).

I’m one of those rare people who can cold-turkey just about any habit, and not look back. Well, I think the gods must be with me when that happens; I’m not sure how much is self-control and how much is just fortuitous timing. Probably the latter.

In any case, out with Sudoku and in with memorizing music.

Sweet dreams……