My Saturday morning student, an adult beginner, went all the way last week! What a wonderful experience. The usual enormous amount of interference was completely replaced by fluid playing.
This student started out in my piano class. When the class schedule changed, she could no longer attend. She decided to try it on her own. That worked for a while, and then I received a phone call about 6 months later.
She has a lot of anxiety going on and regularly constructs roadblocks. The ever-present analysis about everything that could go wrong impedes progress in a major way.
Some of the problems have disappeared in the past few months, allowing for more understanding, looking ahead, using good fingering, and gracefully negotiating a phrase here and there. This all happened gradually.
Last week’s lesson
Something incredible happened! There was no angst about the difference between the student’s keyboard and my acoustic piano. No disastrous scenarios were offered before playing a note. For the first time ever, the student just played!
The piece for the day was a “Polovetzian Dance” by Borodin, arr. by Bastien. The theme is also heard in the musical Kismet, where it is known by the title “Stranger in Paradise.”
The Bastien arrangement is simplified.
Requirements of the piece
Immediately following the lesson, I made a list of the problems presented in this piece:
- Sustaining the low note of the left hand chord, then adding chords above it to form triads.
- Crossing over the thumb in 2 different ways:
- moving hand after thumb plays, as in playing a scale.
- leaving hand in the new, contracted position after thumb plays in order to facilitate a fingering 2 notes later.
- Play a phrase smoothly that extends from one staff to the next, negotiating the cross over the thumb on the 2nd staff.
- Play the melody clearly when it moves between hands.
- Do the same when the melody changes hands with no rest between phrases.
- Finish the left hand’s accompanying phrase while beginning a new phrase in the right hand’s melody.
This piece has quite a few difficulties!
My student nailed it!!! I have to say that I was taken completely by surprise.
We have worked together for about 12 years, and this was a first at a whole new level. Individual challenges had seen some progress. But this is the first time sp many things worked together.
This did not happen because of mindless hours of practice. My student has been very busy at work, pushing to finish a project on deadline. She probably practiced 2 or 3 times last week.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s not the amount of time you spend at the keyboard. It’s how you use the time you have.
So, determination and patience do pay off. It was time for everything to come together.