If you say "don't lose focus," what does that actually tell you to focus on?
A transcript of my most recent practice video.
If there’s any reason for you to watch these piano practice videos, it’s less about watching my skills improve than it about watching me realize, in real time, what I am learning.
With that in mind, here’s some transcript from my most recent video:
Hey! Let’s see how the program is going today. So we’re going to do a bit of Bach, a bit of Mozart, a bit of Chopin, and a bit of Stravinsky.
You’ve heard all these bits before, but I hope that this time they’ll be more… controlled, actually.
Closer to the experience I want us all to have.
[Plays the first half of Bach Ricercar a 6]
So you can see here, if you actually listened to it very carefully — or even not so carefully, if you just had it in the ol’ background — I would think you can tell that the parts that I can shape into an experience for both of us to have are the parts that I know.
The parts where it gets all clunky and junky, you know — and it’s not even inaccurate, it’s just you can hear and sense the hesitations, because I’m still like butts butts butts, what’s the next note, butts butts butts butts butts, because I don’t really know it yet and I’m a little bit insecure and that comes through in the playing of it.
But the moments that I actually know what I’m doing are really getting kind of beautiful. That’s because I know how to make them beautiful. It’s… yeah.
Let’s do some Mozart.
I should say that the challenge for the Mozart — oh my goodness — is maintaining focus throughout and not thinking about what I’ve done before or thinking about what you might think of what I’ve done. Mostly what I think of what I’ve done.
And then the third one, still too fast, third movement still too fast, don’t let’s start the third movement too fast please! Thank you!
[Plays the Mozart Piano Sonata #12 in F Major, First Movement, very well, until the second half of the double exposition where it falls apart. Stops.]
So you can see at this point now I’ve lost a bit of focus. Um… which is interesting, because it was going really well. Um… and I think it was the fact that I was noticing that, I was thinking not precisely about the notes themselves but how suddenly they were — there was that really brief kind of moment where they were coming out the way I really liked them to, I was creating something that I actually enjoyed creating rather than working working working to try and create something that I wasn’t actually sure how it would come out.
And that immediately stopped the whole process.
That is a shame.
[Begins Mozart again, starting shortly before the focus lapse. Plays to the end of the first movement.]
All right. So the second half of that was actually — it was fairly disappointing, in that the challenge after you do something that sort of sort of sort of breaks the experience, shall we say, and often it’s you’re own fault because who else’s fault could it possibly be, right? It wasn’t like any of you had a cell phone that went doo-doo-doo-doo-doo and I got distracted, it was just me. One hundred percent me, thinking about me. Gee. Ugh. No. Good. Bad.
But the idea is — you know, once you sort of break that magic, you have to deal with a broken piece and play to the end somehow. Which is sort of what I did here. I almost lost focus again, right there at the end, it was not great.
It would not have been satisfying if I had done this and you were in the room, and yet you would have said “oh, it was a good job,” and yet we would have been lying to each other.
And I would have said “oh, it was a good job,” yes, just a job. Eurgh. No!
Let’s do the next one.
What am I thinking about for this next one? Oh! I want every little ornamental note to sparkle! Sparkle like my pretty sparkle necklace.
[Shows off necklace, which includes a sparkling opal pendant.]
Look at this! I found it in a box.
[Prepares to begin piece.]
Now I’m stuck on where else does one find things? Sometimes one finds them in bags, I suppose, and drawers. But I found this one in a box, and now I am very excited to wear it.
Nobody cares! Let’s play some Mozart.
[Plays the second movement. It is extraordinary.]
See, now, if you said to me “good job” after that, I would actually believe you.
Now, what was different here? Let’s talk about what was different here. Different, um… if you’ll notice, I said at the beginning “I want to make every little ornament note sparkle.” Right? And that was actually a thing I could do.
If you say “well, don’t lose focus,” what does that actually tell you to focus on? Well, nothing. It just tells you not to lose your focus. That’s, well, you know, don’t let this water flow through your fingers. Well, can we put the water in something? Can we put the water in something?
I put it in the ornaments, this time. I put the water in the ornaments.
If I were a music teacher — did you ever have a music teacher, and then everyone put their quotes, well, they used to put them on a chalkboard and then they put them on a listserv, “music teachers say these really really silly things, root-da-doot-da-doo,” and so if I were a music teacher it would be put the water in the ornaments. That’d be what you’d put on the chalkboard, for me saying ridiculous things that are very true.
Let’s do the third movement! What am I actually focusing on for the third movement? Not going too quickly! Steadily! Yes! Not too quickly!
At this point I’m going to stop the transcription because the reason I wanted to share it with you has already been stated; you can watch the video yourself to see how the third movement goes, and what I have to say about it when it’s done. ❤️