peterbirks: (Default)
I picked up the sheet music for Moonlight Sonata last week for £1.49 from the charity shop in Blackheath. It's marvellously challenging, (C Sharp is an ace key, but leads to some odd ways in which the notes are expressed on the page). But most interesting was the massive amount of bollocks written by one Donald Francis Tovey (1875 - 1940), who in his commentary and introduction to the piece came up with such classics as this (on how the triplets should be played:
"a loose wrist and a finger-action which does not leave the thumb lying stretched to its note, but gathers the hand on each triplet towards the little finger with an upward and outward turn of the wrist".
Can you imagine a description more guaranteed to put off someone starting out on a piece of music?
And it's bollocks. This technique gets you to play it how Tovey wants to hear it. But more likely it will put you off trying at all. And this, apparently, is meant to be helpful!

And that would be sad because, TBH, the actual playing of the notes in the first section (if you ignore the two pages of total shit written by Tovey) is no harder than, say "On The Nickel" by Tom Waits. Indeed, in places it's easier to learn (On The Nickel has two major key changes).

I suspect that the phrasing and fingering (on this sheet by one Harold Craxton) would be expressed slightly differently these days as well. And, as someone used to seeing the "base chord" at the top of the staves of the piano pieces (to help guitarists) the absence of these "clues" in the classical score makes it harder for me to follow the flow of the music in my head (chord progressions are there in the Beethoven piece -- they just aren't written as such)
All in all, looking at this commentary and the way the score is put to page, I'm not surprised I found the piano so hard as a child. These peoplewant to make it difficult and it isn't. You don't need to produce "easy-play" pieces (these are invariably horribly boring and are equally likely to send you away not wanting to come back). It's a matter of putting the existing pieces on the page in a simpler-to-understand fashion. Denote the base chord. Get rid of double-sharps. If need be, transpose it into a different key that's easier to put onto the page.

It's good to move onto "proper" classical pieces. They are held out as so scary, and that's sad. Just get in there and practise. Play it again and again and again. You might not please the Toveys with the way that you play it, but that doesn't matter. You're a pianist, playing proper piano stuff. And you increase your appreciation of it no end when you hear someone really good playing it. And from that listening, you improve yourself. You start getting mood.
Piano teachers insist on getting "the right technique" at the start because they insist that you can't unlearn "bad technique". But think about it, unless you are aiming for a high level, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you enjoy the process as well as the result. If you don't, then you will give up.

August 2017

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