Sunday, January 22, 2017

I Can...Chopin

I've been playing the piano for well over twenty years...and while I'm hardly a concert pianist (my hands are tiny), and I can't accompany to save my life, I can play some fairly advanced-intermediate tunes and my knowledge of theory isn't too bad. I know all my major and minor scales, etc. etc.

I remember as a child being extremely excited when I finally learned my first Beethoven piece (the way-easy "Ode to Joy"), and later, being even more excited to learn a sweet little Beethoven sonatina and eventually, Für Elise.

My piano lessons stopped when I left for college, and while I played for fun and as a music teacher over the next several years, I focused more on clarinet and singing. I tested out of the two-semester piano requirement in my major program.

Fast-forward to a year ago, when I decided I ought to play my piano more. Even just ten minutes a day. After all, I've had this particular instrument--an electric piano--since high school and it has now lived in Chico, Folsom, Port Ludlow (WA), Lincoln, Antioch, Stockton, Lincoln again, and Antelope. If I'm going to haul it everywhere I move, I might as well use it.

So I fulfilled a long-standing goal of learning the theme song to "Hill Street Blues," and re-learned the lesser-known bits of Für Elise. I played some favorite Clementi sonatinas and practiced my scales. I learned more chords and sang Keane songs.

A week or so ago, in my daily practice, I decided it was time to learn a new piece. I flipped through my ancient book of classical pieces and landed on Chopin's Minute Waltz.

I had never played Chopin.

Frederic Chopin was known for writing lush, beautiful--difficult--piano pieces. Friends at Chico who majored in piano struggled with him. I stared at this short waltz for a moment. Four flats (not too terrible). A lot of left-hand leaping around. Eh, I can manage.

Why shouldn't Chopin be accessible to me?

So I started, slowly. Very slowly. It did not in any way resemble the typical ONE-two-three of a proper waltz, but I was putting mostly right notes together.

Fast-forward a week, and I'm hearing improvement. When I play the hands separately, I can get that waltz time. Together, they still hesitate a bit. The leaping left hand part doesn't scare me anymore, though, and the right hand knows exactly where to go.

With ten to fifteen minutes a day after a full day of teaching, time at the gym, and scooping litter boxes, I'm hardly on my way to being a concert pianist...but there is so much joy in making music that is just for me, and so much satisfaction in taking something difficult and slowly putting it together.

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