Friday, March 21, 2008

My Other Hobby

Those of you who followed me from my old blog know that I took up the piano again last year after a fifteen year lapse. I have a wonderful piano that was built sometime before the Great Depression. I've had it tuned and repaired. The only thing now wrong with it is the tuner was reluctant to tune it up to concert pitch, because it's so old. Therefore, A is closer to G#. But I can handle that. I don't have perfect pitch (but I believe I do have relative pitch).

Anyway I started working on Fur Elise last summer and I think I can safely say that I've got it. Yes, it took me nine months to learn it. Yes, I probably tackled it when I was not technically ready for it. But this is the way I learn music. The key is to make sure the difficult piece is not too difficult, and that it will musically keep your interest for a LONG TIME.

Anyway, I was playing Fur Elise last night. I didn't play it perfectly; there are two measures in it that occasionally trip me up, and I need to drill on those two measures (in different parts of the piece) until they are easy. When I played last night, one of the tricky measures tripped me up, but I breezed right by the second one. Buoyed by my success, I went right into the arpeggios toward the end--which is the climax of the piece--and played it at a rapid tempo with nary a flaw! This was the most technically difficult part. You do arpeggio jumps and scale descends most of the way up the keyboard, and then you rapidly descend while playing every note on the chromatic scale (both black and white keys). While going up the keyboard, you play chords with your left hand. All of this is in 6/8 time while playing triplets. Then you transition back to eighth notes into the familiar motif.

The best part about having technically mastered a piece is you can now infuse emotion into it. When I play Fur Elise, I can make that piano weep. In fact, the more I get into a piece emotionally, the better I can play it technically. I play Fur Elise better than I can play Bach's Minuet in G, which is supposed to be a much easier piece.

So now I'm trying to think of which piece I want to tackle next. I'm tempted by Mozart's Piano Sonata in C Major, K545, but I'm not sure if it will keep my interest. I'm also tempted by Dvorak's Humoreske in G-flat major. I have a transposition of it to G major. (I also have the original G-flat.) It's more difficult than the sonata, but it is more likely to keep me musically interested. I could SO get into the Humoreske. A friend is urging me to try Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (first movment), which is certainly in my reach (I tried it), but I think I want to try another composer, first.

Anyone know of any other interesting intermediate piano pieces?


  1. Wow; it's like I'm talking to myself. Not many piano players here, I guess!

    I decided to try Strauss's On the Beautiful Blue Danube. It's easy enough that I can almost sight-read it, so it won't take nine months to learn this one. It transitions between C major and B flat major, so it's not too easy and not too difficult. And it's not in a minor key. I can't always be playing sad songs.

  2. Tia -
    Sorry for the late response. I'm a sucker for the Romantics. I've played several Chopin preludes. How 'bout giving those a try?

  3. Thanks for the suggestion! I have several, but I think I'll have to listen to them before I can make any sense out of them. Chopin gives me fits.

    That's why YouTube is such a wonderful resource for musicians! I can enter the name of just about any piece and can find someone who has put a recording on YouTube.

    I discovered a great Schubert serenade in the meantime.


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