Since I’m only going to be posting these notes once or twice a year, and since more advanced libraries also have music rooms (or options to listen/borrow music CDs/vinyl/tapes/etc), I’m returning my music-learning notes here. Good continuity since I’m also posting about chess and language learning, anyway.
I’ve been on quite a journey since last year between my trigger thumb issues and my spine injury that had me bedridden in the hospital for nearly five weeks. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t ready for exams in 2022.
I still don’t feel ready for exams. I haven’t been able to practice enough due to increasing workload (yes, even while incapacitated I never stopped working) and the fact that I am now an active author again. But still, I have managed to get some kind of groove and rhythm going.
With increasing complexity/intensity of both my piano and classical-guitar learning, I find that it’s not always possible to practice both instruments on the same day so I really need to strategise my practising time. On days when I just cannot because of health or fatigue, I don’t fault myself for not practising. Life’s hard enough. When I *do* practice, I spend almost an hour with my Hanon drills before I work with pieces for my piano exams (though I’m also flirting with Debussy and non-exam Bartok pieces during weekends). Ditto with classical guitar, I can spend close to an hour doing warmups, scales and technique-related work before I actually practice the pieces. But I think this is a good thing — despite all of the setbacks, I think I might actually be playing better in some ways. Really glad to now have teachers for both instruments who very intensely coach me through technical work — which I badly need.
I do miss the days of practising 3-4 hours a day because that was magic. It’s no longer possible, because I am stretched in too many areas at once and I need to prioritise my health first. As always, it’s about finding that balance and this year’s been aided by the epiphany that I will always be an author first. I wasn’t sure of that before, in 2020 when I started (or rebooted) this journey. I’m sure of it now. I love music and will always be a composer, but I am always an author first. With that realisation came release. It’s really too late to make much of anything, seriously flinging myself into formal learning this late in life. But it’s not too late for composition or even recording. That’s a later option. Right now I just want to enjoy playing the exam pieces I’ve selected and hopefully not do too badly in exams. My aspirations for my composition remain the same, however. As far as I’m concerned I’m working not just towards performance diplomas but music theory diplomas and composition diplomas.
My selection of pieces have not changed for piano (Grade 2): da Gambarini, Madden, Crosby-Gaudet, and Bartok. In fact my teacher thinks I’m ready for exam recordings but I told her that it’s too intense right now so I’ll submit maybe in June. For classical guitar (Trinity College Grade 6), I swapped out the Piazzolla for Mertz’s Capriccio after I fell head-over-heels in love with it. I am not done learning it because it’s so difficult! But it is so beautiful and so epic that I will be so happy once I can play it fluently.
In fact, I think some of the Grade 7 pieces I’ve played to decide if I wanted them for exams seem easier than some parts of the Capriccio. But I’ve never been one to back down from a musical challenge so I’m slowly working on the problem areas. The problem areas are essentially my weaknesses across the board when it comes to Classical Guitar playing so it’s good to have a piece that needs me to confront those weaknesses head-on and to work slowly on those notes, bar by bar, isolating the different elements with each session.
I’m probably going to sit for the Grade 2 piano exams first before starting work for my music theory exam at around Grade 3. I’ll sit my Grade 6 classical guitar exams later this year. I’m tempted to hold out till December but that is probably not wise. Instead, I need to work smart and practice smart(er).
Nothing else to report except that composition-wise I’ve been notating more and am getting more comfortable notating for piano (doing both staves as I notate). Increased music theory knowledge has done things to my composition, which makes me feel like everything I’ve done before was so incredibly lacking in depth and dimension. Which doesn’t mean I’m happy with what I am doing now, but at least I have some sense of musical direction. And we must all be content with that.
I’ll post another note later this year when I’ve completed all exams and have hopefully attained the grades. I’m excited to start working on new pieces for both instruments so I have to make sure I do well enough to attain both grades.