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Want to know what life is like as an ANAM musician?  In Between the Lines is a blog post written by one of ANAM’s first year students.

Just an Ordinary Lesson

My lessons this year are quite extraordinary.

You know how as a kid, or even older, you’d sometimes go to lessons knowing that you hadn’t practiced enough, and that your teacher was going to yell at you for it, or you knew exactly what your teacher was going to say because it was the same thing as last week. Or that feeling that you’d let your teacher down, or that fear of going into a lesson because of all the above thing, and  more?

Well, I don’t feel that at all this year.

This is not to say that I don’t work hard to try and incorporate every thing that I’ve been taught in my previous lesson into everything else but,I certainly don’t feel that sense of dread that my teacher is going to yell at me. I actually really look forward to each lesson because I know that I’ll learn something extraordinary and will change my perception of my technique or musical idea.

Today was no exception. We only had a little bit of time, but short or long time, these lessons usually leave  me much to contemplate. I had intended to get through a lot, but it was to be so. We spent about 45 minutes on these two lines or so with a particularly difficult section. If you’re particularly interested, it is the end of the first movement of Beethoven’s seventh violin sonata in c minor with that tricky broken octave bit that trucks along and causes great misfortune to pianists.

So I’m having troubles with it because:

  1.  I have little hands
  2.  Repeated broken octaves in that particular figuration does my brain (and hands) in
  3.  The last of those octaves in the left hand is a G Major – all white notes!!! No reference point doesn’t help

So what to do? Take it to your teacher, of course!
And thus the lesson of a whole heap of pratice techniques and discoveries. This is a list of them that I’ve noted for myself:

  • Practice with earplugs. Dulls all the overtones and enhances peripheral perception of technique and physical things going on, rather than the actual sound feedback and the auditory sense. This totally came about in this fashion: As my teacher was fiddling with my hands trying to explain muscles and what not, he saw the stamp on my inside right wrist and asked how the nightclub was. I quickly explained that I’d gone to a pub to see a friend’s band, but don’t worry, I had earplugs to save my ears. And he smiled and said, “Well, speaking of earplugs…
  • Fingers 2-3-4 acting as a unit. Band together with elastic band/cloth/other device so they stop flapping about unnecessarily.
  • Stops on bottom / various stop combinations. Oh heck, stop practice is HUGE this year. I can’t even begin to emphasise how much it’s helped!
  • Core of body but keep breathing! Related to Alexander Technique, which has been a massive change this year. There’s pelvic floor that’s related to the core, which is different to holding in your stomach. Go figure.
  • Cupped hand position to brace 5th finger. Work that massive interossi muscle! Pianists with little hands often have a HUGE muscle on the outside side of their hand because they’ve had to develop it to do stuff. Mine is possibly one of the largest developed muscles in my body. How embarrassing!
  • Relaxing the muscle between 1 and 2 even if the thumb doesn’t contract.
  • Letting go of stuff, including the above, and as a result of having a strong core. That is, free arm, free wrist, free everything.
  • Voicing between left and right hands

So yeah, that’s what we did in about 45 mins.
And although not all lessons leave me with quite as many practice methods, they’re all extraodinarily helpful and enlightening.

Yep, an ordinary lesson indeed.

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