Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Day 2 of Self Discipline

This is Day Two of my empowering new morning music routine.  This new routine will be necessary to complete and prepare the music for my second album, sheet music book, and tour (yes, I said tour).  I really do want to get all my compositions scored fully in Finale, including those I'm behind on from the first album. But being a full-time stay-at-home mom right now, this requires a plan and commitment to fit it all in.  I was going to have to beat my kids out of bed and have an early session at the piano and computer. This means rising at 5:00 AM!!!  I figure -- my friend with 8 kids does it every day, and serious swimmers do it, so why can't I? That's right! So how's it going?  Here's my report:

Day 1:  Actually, my plan for 5am failed a bit yesterday, but only because my iPhone alarm startled my three-year-old, and I had to lie with him until he fell back asleep.  The alarm put him in "get up mode," so it took a while.  Once I finally got downstairs, I figured I'd put in a load of laundry while my coffee was brewing, because that's always my morning routine anyhow, and if the laundry for five people gets behind, we have a mountain of trouble and nothing to wear.  I figured I'd forget the laundry if I put it off, so I'd better do that before hitting the piano.  Then I hit the piano.  It was 6:05 or so.  What did I accomplish?
  • Practiced major scales C, C#, D, and Eb at 110 = quarter, in quarters, eighths, triplets and sixteenth notes.
  • Practiced major arpeggios C, C#, D, and Eb at 78 = quarter, in quarters, eighths, triples, and sixteenths.  Played my patterned arpeggio exercise as well (sheet music forthcoming).
  • Practiced Hanon No. 1 several times at some reasonable tempo, but not flying.  Just firm touch and strong sound.
  • Fleshed out the chord progressions of my newest composition (glad I didn't forget it over my month-long hiatus) and wrote them down.  
  • Practiced new composition enough to remember how it goes without fumbling too much.
Day 2:  In spite of my son having another mysterious fever the night before, he was back to normal in the morning, so I rose before 5am, beating my alarm!  
  • Put laundry in.
  • Practiced major scales E, F, F#, and G at 110 = quarter, in quarters, eighths, triplets, and sixteenths
  • Practiced arpeggios for the above keys in same manner as Day 1.
  • Practiced my "Filled-Out Arpeggio" etude that I wrote for myself and students a few years back.
  • Attached MIDI cable from Roland Piano to HP laptop.
  • Wrote out complete score for "Filled-Out Arpeggio" exercise in Finale.  I'll make this exercise free for now.  Download and print the pdf doc here.  I've used it with my advanced students and I practice it myself.  Here's a sneak peak:
I felt like that was a pretty good start to getting me back to the grind.  The biggest thing I have to worry about is losing my technique at my age.  I have to keep my fingers moving quickly and doing acrobatic things that require intense motor skills (my compositions are often fast and difficult).  So even if I don't practice actual songs each day, at least I will give my fingers a serious workout before my kids get up.  And maybe I can assemble a technique book for teachers and advanced pianists of all my special exercises!  I am doing a video journal of Album Two preparation, and I will post a video update periodically.  


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Self Discipline - The New Schedule Begins

I will briefly recap what I wrote on my Facebook page today:
"So my life has been devoid of music for three weeks, well...virtually. I really don't have the opportunity to make music without babysitters or superwoman energy. Actually, I am trying to figure out how to fit it in, and it will probably require some discipline on my part -- perhaps getting up at 4 or 5am to practice and compose. Interestingly enough, even though I have not been "in" music that... much lately, my compositions have just started popping into my head. Beethoven does not pop into my head. Coldplay and Fleetwood Mac do not pop into my head, but my own creations do. I will wake up with one playing in my mind, and then another a while later. This mental haunting of past compositions seems to be a very involuntary mechanism. It does not seem to be triggered by any willful act of the conscious mind. They literally just pop into my mind, or I awake with them playing. My mind obsesses over my melodies, and plays them over and over, even as I type now. Sometimes my mind will start editing the piece and adding new layers and themes. Eventually, this mental obsession will draw me back to the piano. It is amazing how mysterious the mind is -- how sometimes data or music can lie dormant for months or years, and can then suddenly rise to the surface of our consciousness; how remarkable the memory is. I can only surmise that this means I need to get back to work; not for money, but because it's the work I'm have to do."
So my new self-imposed schedule begins tomorrow.  Wish me luck.  I will be rising at 5am to work for a couple of hours at the piano and computer.  Then I'm taking my boys fishing!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: A Piano Fast

I heard that Jimmy Hendrix carried his guitar with him everywhere, even on dates.  Well I guess my piano-fasting would disappoint Jimmy.  I actually break up with my piano now and again to create some space to accomplish other things.  It gives me a chance to focus on my children and relationships. 

In fact, I haven't touched a piano in two weeks.   I think we'll get back together, but I'm careful not to worship the instrument.  A little musical fast now and then is good for recharging my creative batteries.  Sometimes you don't know what something means to you until you've lived without it for a while.  

I'm curious to hear from some of my musician friends on this topic.  Do you and your instrument ever spend some time apart?  Is it ok to take a break?