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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Still no pictures or recordings, I fear, but there is much jubilation in the LisaRealm of Pianodom, as the post title implies.

Well, perhaps jubilation is to active of a word (though it's also the title of the duet that I hope to record both halves of, then overlay - but that's beside the point). Mostly there is just lots of happy contentment. I've been playing very nearly every day, and I'm quickly discovering that once I sit down I'm pretty much incapable of getting up again for an hour. I suspect it would be even longer than an hour, but that's about the point at which my back can't take it anymore. Reading music is coming back to me at an impressive rate, but I discovered this last week that I have absolutely zero recollection of how to determine what key a piece is in. How embarrassing. I'll be remedying that in the next couple of days so that I can properly practice my scales - though it pains me to admit it, it really does make it easier to transition between pieces. Sigh, I say!

Where was I - ah yes, happy contentment and progress. Let's see. I've gone from working dedicatedly on The Cuckoo and Solfeggietto whilst playing around with Bloody Tears and The Piano to just working on the former two and a Chopin prelude that I've had stuck in my head. I'm making really good progress on all of them - a couple of days on the prelude and I've got it flowing pretty well, though there are some trickier chords that I need to practice. Solfeggietto is, of course, fantastically entertaining to work on, and I already have it memorized though I'm still sticking with the music until I have the bits of it that don't follow the overall pattern worked out. The Cuckoo is coming along the slowest of the three, if only because I keep working on it last,which means I'm starting to get a little stiff and don't feel like drilling the parts that need drilling. Maybe tonight I'll start there instead of with the prelude.

Points of interest and amusement: Have I mentioned I need a metronome? Because I really do. Solfeggietto and The Cuckoo just BEG to have the fun parts played faster than the hard parts and I don't have enough Will Power without mechanical intervention. How about mentioning that I had entirely forgotten about the concept of trills before I started working on The Cuckoo? The first time I played through it my fingers just sort of did a trill from memory, and I thought "Oh Yeah! THAT's what the little squiggle means..." I'm a little alarmed at how quickly my brainmeats broke down in the last 6 years.

Finally, on recordings of pieces that I've mastered: this will have to wait a little longer, I'm afraid. I've had a couple of good suggestions for audio editing software, and I have a site to look into for embedding MP3s with a little player (thanks to Daniel Light, Teacher of Amazement mentioned in the last post). What I lack is any sort of good equipment to record - I'm thinking I'll just hit up a music equipment store and see what they say. Finally, as the gentlemen I bought the piano from warned, my lovely Mason & Hamlin is already in need of tuning. They suggest waiting 3-5 weeks after moving it into the house so it can adjust to the floor, the temperature, the humidity, etc, which means I have a few more weeks to go.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

On Deliveries and Decisions

Well, it's good to know that I've gotten this blog off on the right foot - which is to say with procrastination in updates! Still, better late and in part than never, right? Right?

Anyway, the piano was delivered successfully - let me tell you what an ordeal -that- was. First of all, the truck was supposed to arrive by 2ish, originally... but thanks to traffic issues on their other deliveries they didn't show until 8. I literally spent all afternoon jittering myself silly with anticipation. The delivery guys decided the best approach would be to take it through the back yard, which is probably true given the number of stairs on the front walk. Still, seeing a 600 lb machine trundling over grass on a dolly roughly a third of its total length... rather terrifying. I spent most of the (rather laborious) trip through the grass chewing my knuckles. Luckily they made it into the patio without incident, and the piano cleared the back door by a good inch and a half. A few more antics ensued as the movers shuffled blankets around so they wouldn't step on our carpet (as there was an unfortunate run-in with a doggy landmine - I felt pretty classy about that).

Finally, around 8:45 I had a piano set up in the Library, entirely playable. There are not words for how thrilled I am. Every time I walk past and catch a glimpse of it I get this ridiculous grin plastered across my face. I'm so easy. I've taken a number of pictures but haven't unloaded them from my camera yet - hopefully I can get to that sometime before next weekend (which is bound to be excessively busy) comes around. I'd also like to do a bit of beautification to this default blogger skin, but we'll see how ambitious I get. After all, when I'm at home I could be playing rather than typing, which is a much more entertaining use of my fingers.

Right! So! Now comes the part where I ruminate about how best to get back into practice. My first and biggest concern is that sheet music has become embarrassingly hard to read after a 6 year hiatus. Luckily that seems to be passing fairly quickly - I've played for 45 minutes or an hour every day since The Delivery, and I'm not longer having to struggle over every note. This is aided by the fact that I've started myself off gently working on some pieces from my first few years with Daniel Light.

Hmm - let's pause for some back story.

My mom started me on piano lessons in second grade. She had played for years, but mostly was back to about the level that I fancy myself at now... which is to say she could still pluck out a few of her favorites but mostly just from muscle memory. I remember that she used to play Moonlight Sonata for me as I fell asleep some nights.

Regardless, I was absolutely thrilled to get the chance to learn to play myself. I started taking lessons from Mrs. Ballou, the mother of one of my schoolmates who lived a street over. I remember how excited I was when she let me start working on a simplified version of Moonlight Sonata in 3rd or 4th grade. I took it home and perfected the first few measures and then waited for my mom to pull into the driveway so I could be playing that part when she came through the door.

I studied with Mrs. Ballou until I was 12, at which point after a long time on a waiting list my mom had managed to get me lessons with Daniel Light, arguably one of the best teachers in the southeast. Certainly the best in Louisville. With Mrs. Ballou I mostly learned less serious pieces (folk songs or movie soundtracks, for instance). When I started with Mr. Light he promptly tossed all of that and started me on "real" music, making sure that each year I had pieces from each musical period. I had never done recitals before but with Mr. Light they became a thrice-yearly ordeal (including one duet recital). Additionally every year I'd participate in Guild... which involved memorizing a bunch of pieces then playing them for a single judge that would then rate your performance. More on that in another entry.

I suppose the point I was getting across there is that I've decided to get back into practice by taking a step back to some of the pieces I worked on early in my time with Mr. Light. I've picked out a few of my favorites from my second or third year with him and I'm trying to get them back into shape. Of course the quandry I'm facing is that I have FAR too many pieces both new and old that I want to work on, so focusing on something long enough to master it is a challenge. I've mostly settled in and am working on Daquin's The Cuckoo and CBP Bach's Solfeggietto. Remind me to check on all those names when I get home to make sure I'm not butchering them entirely. I also found an easy little prelude that will probably be my first piece I record and post here, as it's very pretty and I can already make it through with almost no mistakes. Additionally I've been plinking away at Bloody Tears from Castlevania and The Heart Asks Pleasure First, from the movie The Piano.

My plan is to try to get an old piece or two up to snuff every month, moving up to increasingly harder pieces until I'm back where I was my senior year. Once I reach that point I can begin the process of working on new music more in earnest.

Goodness, this entry got quite long - congrats to anyone who made it to the end! Anyone who sees me in the next week, please pester me to figure out how I'm going to record performances so that I can get my first piece up. Does anyone have suggestions? Thoughts on music-editing software? Any suggestions are much appreciated!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Post the First - In which I introduce the theme of this blog in hopes that you will become a recurring visitor

*cough* My apologies - the title you see above would really be more appropriate for that other blog of mine. But! In my excitement verbosity got the better of me - let me start again.

Welcome to Six Inch Keys, the sister site to my book blog, Seven Foot Shelves. Where 7FS is a compendium cataloging and reviewing my various literary conquests, 6IK will be a place for me to relate my Adventures In Piano! I hope to post here about the process of getting back into practice after a 6 year hiatus, which I'm sure will include lots of dithering about sheet music, dramas about sight reading, rants about pieces from the Baroque period - oh, and last but not least, recordings of my accomplishments.

My new[1] piano arrives tomorrow afternoon, at which point pictures will be procured, squeeing will be audible for blocks, and hopefully another post with a gushing description of the Fine Instrument with which my mother has gifted me appear. Wish me luck!

[1]New is a relative term, to be elaborated upon in aforementioned upcoming Gushing Post.