Monday, March 31, 2008

On rejuvenation and remixes

Sigh. It’s been a bad month for piano-stuffs. Work stress has left me totally uninterested in doing anything but vegging when I get home, so that combined with the fact that I wasn’t really getting anywhere on any of the pieces I was working on kind of killed my initiative for a while there.

In an effort to get going again, I decided to take a step back and try some different music. I spent a couple of days downloading and compiling music from games and shows that I’ve liked over the years, and I have a nice hefty notebook full now. I spent some time this weekend plinking away at a few things and found myself much rejuvenated, so that’s a plus.

I do have one of my Chopin preludes ready to be recorded… I just need to sit down and play it until I get a clean run. I’ve left my MP3 player on the piano in encouragement – no portable musica for me until I have successfully recorded! Incentive!

One last little rant: in looking for new music to play, I’ve discovered that I have absolutely no ability to judge how difficult a piece is going to be by looking at it. I either slightly overestimate or grossly underestimate how hard the piece will be in practice, regardless of whether I’ve listened to it or just looked at the music. It’s very frustrating. Ok – two rants: part of the problem there is that all of the game music I’ve been looking at is either trivially easy or entirely ridiculous. Take the Kingdom Hearts Hollow Bastion theme… I have two versions of it – the original, and a fan re-interpretation. The original version looked intimidating, but I sat down and played it through hands together in one go. It was entirely trivial. The fan version, on the other hand, starts with a 10th chord that it wants me to hold the bottom note of while doing a bunch of other crap. C’mon guys, can I get a little middle ground here?

Right. End ranting! The bright side is that I’m feeling much more inclined to play going into April, and I hope to have a new recording up within a week or so!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

To Prevent Further Foolery....

I've finally gotten around to uploading a few pictures of my gorgeous piano. It certainly took me long enough - I know, I know I'm a horrible slacker. But! There they are! You may oooh and aaah appropriately.

[EDIT: Boy picasaweb sure does suck. I updated these links again - hopefully this time they'll actually point to the right pictures.]

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Chopin Overload

Before I ramble about my latest practicing-bits, let me make a little apology/disclaimer:

As of right now, my mp3 files are hosted on my desktop. Said desktop makes a dandy little server for transferring files back and forth, but if the power flickers, or comcast sucks, or someone accidentally leaves their work VPN connected, it's suddenly a Bad Little Server. No Cookie. Apologies for the difficulties with downloading - I beg you to bear with me a try again if you fail the first time. Getting better hosting is next-next on my "piano-related todos," right after "get a better recording setup."

Right, back on topic. As the title of this post suggests, I've currently got more Chopin on my plate than I entirely intended to. Predictable, knowing the type of music I like best, but it was fairly amusing to catalog the things I'm working on and realize that 75% of the pieces I'm working seriously on are all Chopin. Heh. For the moment I've got 4 pieces I'm working on pretty actively: a Sibelius and 3 Chopins. The Sibelius is a piece called Romance, that I spent a good portion of my senior year working on, and is easily the most gorgeous thing I've ever had the privilege to play. I've rambled about it before, I think, so that's enough on it for the moment.

The other 3 pieces are kind of an interesting progression - you're going to have to bear with nicknames for them since I don't have the keys/opus numbers memorized. One is a piece I learned in high school (henceforth Old Chopin), one is a piece my mother used to play (Historical Chopin), and one is (sort of) entirely new (Bemani Chopin). I swear I didn't realize the second two were Chopin until I'd already resolved to play them. Really.

Old Chopin doesn't need much said about it. It's pretty and it has some entertaining runs - who needs triplets when you have seventeenth-er...ets? There's actually a bit in the middle that kind of bugs me, but the rest is nice enough to make up for it.

Historical Chopin has been an interesting experience, because while I've never played it I know how it goes backwards and forwards from listening to my mom play it when I was little. This one's short, just one page of notes, but it's made of big chords! And by "big" I mean "Lisa's tiny hands have issues reaching a few of them." The same could be said for Romance, though, so I'll manage. Surely if my mom's fingers could reach them, mine can too. This one will probably be the next piece I post, since my only issue with it right now is that I screw it up whenever I try to play the first line as Fortissimo as the music wants me to. Don't as me why my fingers are convinced that playing it more loudly should be problematic.

"Why in the world would you call the last Chopin piece 'Bemani Chopin,' Lisa?" I can hear you crying in bafflement! This one was actually pretty funny - I was hanging around minding my own business when the background music playing somewhere started sounding... really oddly familiar. I was completely befuddled for a minute or two - my brain absolutely could not reconcile the piano being played with the level of familiarity. Then my feet started feeling twitchy, and I realized it was Kakumei from Dance Dace Revolution and IIDX. Yes, I'm a geek, I know. A whole lot of Bemani music is based off of classical-type-stuff (ex: Vivaldi's Winter is V) but this one caught me off guard. I managed to track down the case for the CD being played so I could get the sheet music... and of course it turns out to be another Chopin: Etude in C minor (opus 10, no. 12 as it happens - I had to remember this one so I could find it again!) or rather "The Revolutionary Etude." Practicing it so far has been... really, really hard. This is the first time in 7 years that I've tried to work on a completely new piece with very little reference for how it should sound. It's painful. I also suck at site reading, and easily lose my place amongst all of the accidentals in this piece. Still, I think it'll be really fun to play once I start getting it down, so I'm going to stick with it.

Goodness, I nearly think I've rambled quite enough. As a parting note, a little birdy told me that I'll be getting daily comments spam if I don't upload pictures of my gorgeous piano soon, so look for those next week. I promise!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Music Clip the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd

Well, it took me entirely longer than it should have, but after much fiddling with my desktop, apache, Audacity, my MP3 player, and (of course) my piano, I have 2 new performances and one old performance to re-post for you. I'm tempted to wax amazed here about how far embedding music into HTML has come since I did might web-coding, but since this is a piano blog, I will refrain and stick to the important things.

**Edit - a little birdy told me he wanted direct links to the MP3s, so now you get links -and- embeds! Fancy!

Clip the First: a re-post of Rollin Prelude No. 2

Clip the Second: C.P.E. Bach's Solfeggietto

And, Clip the Third: Chopin Prelude in B Minor

Before I ramble on about these a bit, a question to my (admittedly few) readers. Would you all be interested in a more complex music player? Something over to the side that listed all the pieces I'd uploaded, so you could play them at your leisure in the order you'd like? Just something to think on.

Now, about the two new pieces I posted.

I'm absolutely thrilled to say that I had to play the Prelude exactly once to get a clean recording of it. That's right - one time through, no big mistakes. I was quite pleased. ...Unfortunately, my success with the Prelude did not carry over to Solfeggietto. I've played it through both quickly and cleanly a number of times, but this time it was not to be. The first day I tried to record I literally played it through 20+ times, and got nothing even approaching clean. The trend seems to be: either I have one huge, awful, glaring mistake and have to backtrack; or I have a whole bunch of smaller mistakes riddling the music throughout.

I've tried re-recording Solfeggietto several times since I took the recording I put up here, but have still had no luck any time I was actually recording. As such, I'm going to stop before I get monstrously frustrated with it, and just put up this version, which contains a number of little foibles - though listening to it again after a long hiatus, I don't notice nearly as many. Guess it's not that bad after all :]

I suppose that's about it! Thanks to anyone who is still reading, in spite of the hideous delays in getting actual music posted. I hope to post at least one completed piece a month for the rest of the year - I can't promise they'll be new or exciting pieces, but I think it's well within my capability to get one old piece a month back into playing order while I work on new things.

Now, enjoy the music (please?) and look for another upcoming post about what I'm working on now.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

To stoke the fires of anticipation

This post is but a placeholder - a bit of a way of making sure you're still paying attention (few though I'm sure you are who read this). The one bit of news I have is this: Friday the piano tuner is coming to give my lovely dear her first in-home tuning. Once that is complete, I have not one but TWO(!!!) pieces that I'll be recording and posting, hopefully in a few stolen minutes over the weekend before family gets into town. Hopefully within a week you all will be the proud listeners of two shiny new MP3s! Hooray!

Backing up a bit (and making this entry a bit more substantial than was my original intent): what do you all think about the sexes of musical instruments? I noticed that above I made my lovely piano feminine without thinking about it... but I'm not sure that's quite right. I'll have to consider it. My car is certainly a girl, and my computers are boys one and all... but my piano? I'm just not sure. Maybe when I post some pictures you readers can help the personification process. No, I'm not naming it.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Solfeggietto and Slackery

I know, I know - I've been a derelict little piano poster. Whereby poster I mean "one who posts," rather than "large, flimsy piece of cardboard with pictures and text on it." Gosh, why do you always have to be so down on my alliterative tendencies?

Right, sorry, staying on topic - this time with less silliness. The piano playings have been going well lately, though with the holidays in sight I've had much less time to devote. I also have been horribly derelict in calling the piano store about coming out to do my first tuning; I really need to get on that, as the tone and keys seem to have reached a steady point of settling where they don't get any better or any worse. Slackery aside, I'm very nearly ready to post a recording of my next piece. Really, I could record it now and call it good, but Solfeggietto really deserved to be performed at Blazingly Fast Speed, and right now I've only got it clean at approximately Nearly Greater Than Just Middlingly Peppy Speed. I am making progress, though, and about three quarters of the time practicing Solfeggietto goes something like this:

1) Sit down and run through a scale, because I'm a good little practicer and I screw up much less often if I do a scale, though I'm loath to admit it.
2) Play through the piece at about half speed. This takes about 3 minutes, and I can pull it off entirely cleanly about 90% of the time.
3) Realize I was entirely negligent of any kind of volume dynamics. Not that Solf. has much other than Forte and Pianissimo, but still.
4) Play through again at half, trying really hard not to get bored and stop paying attention.
5) Start over again, this time a little faster.
6) Wish really hard I had a metronome.
7) Screw up as soon as I hit the measure that breaks out of the standard melody.
8) Start over again at the same speed.
9) Screw up as soon as I hit the measure that breaks out of the standard melody.
10) Stop to play said measure and the notes after over and over and over again until I can get it right many times in a row.
11) Start over again at the same speed.
12) Screw up as soon as I hit the measure that breaks out of the standard melody.

I'll leave it at that, but you get the idea. Still, I'm getting through cleanly at Nearly Greater Than Just Middlingly Peppy Speed more than half the time, which is good.

"But Lisa," you say, "you said that the set of steps elegantly delineated above only constitute 75% of your Solfeggietto practice."

To that, I reply: what is it about red wine that makes me want to futz around on the piano, and how can I ever (even slightly inebriated) think it's a good idea to try and play at Blazingly Fast Speeds (or really, at all) when I'm tipsy? This question is nearly as unfathomable as how I managed to get through Solfeggietto quickly and cleanly far more often when I'm a couple of glasses of wine in. My guess is that red wine is a little known aural filter for weeding out sour notes in musical pieces - this could merit some scientific investigation.

Right, I think I've said quite enough on that topic. In regards to the other pieces I'm working on, the Chopin Prelude is also nearly recording ready - in fact, I likely would have recorded and posted it already, but I don't really want two slow, sad sounding pieces in a row to set a precedent for the musical tone of this journal. (Hint: that's a verbose way of covering up my laziness.) I've mostly put aside The Cuckoo in favor streamlining Solfeggietto, but I fully intend to work on it again soon. I've also already broken my original "get in practice plan" of starting with only old music and working up to the harder things, as I've been dedicating significant time to Sibelius' Romance. This is a piece I worked on for almost all of my senior year, and absolutely the most beautiful thing I've ever played. I should have known I couldn't resist getting it back up to snuff. The bright side is that it's coming along magnificently; if I focus a bit I can certainly have it performable by Christmas.

With that, I think I ought to end this entry - I intended to ramble a bit about playing on a piano that's not mine for the first time in a while, but given the length of this text I think I'll save that for another time.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Music Clip the First - Prelude No. 2

Update: Thanks to the lovely Copykitty I now have a filtered version of the prelude and instructions on how to fix it myself in the future. Excellence!

This evening I was hit with a fit of productivity, so I recorded my first piano piece to be posted to this site: Prelude No. 2 in C Major by Catherine Rollin. The playing went fine; I only had to re-record twice before getting a more-or-less clean run that was mostly mistake free and didn't have the dog snuffling at the mic. I really really wanted to get this posted so that I can kind of... get rolling, get in the habit, get moving or what not on actually updating. So, bearing that in mind - here are a few big disclaimers.

1) I couldn't get the embedded player I was trying to use to work quite correctly, so you'll have to download the MP3 instead. It's little, I promise.
2) Speaking of little, I recorded this using the voice recorder on my MP3 player. That means that the quality is FAR from stellar. It is, in fact, really awful - thus why it's only a 2 meg file. This is also why the crescendos and decrescendos are not very pronounced.
3) There's some high pitch interference at the beginning that's not bad if you have good speakers, but pretty awful if you have crappy ones (like the ones on my laptop). Again, apologies - it gets down to a tolerable level after a few seconds. If anyone knows how to use Audacity to fix this a bit, I'd appreciate tips.
4) I'm waiting a month for my piano to settle before getting the first in-house tuning, so sorry if the pitch is a bit off. I figure with all the other shortcomings, you'll barely even notice.

Now, all of that said I'll quit my dithering and provide you with the link. Hopefully in the next week or two I can get an improved and embedded version of this uploaded - in the mean time, my apologies to your ears.