Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Change of Scenery

Our practice routines are normally quite structured and regulated. I tend to begin my day at the piano with scales followed by either Czerny, Hanon, or the opening section of some Baroque or Classical piece that gets my fingers moving. After this, I'll begin to move to issues in my repertoire that need attention or polish before moving on to learning notes in new pieces. It's not uncommon to hear a few measures repeated multiple times to gain control or commit the passage to memory.

Not only are our processes marked by routine. I tend to enjoy practicing late in the morning and then again before dinner. There is a dent in the floor below my piano keyboard where I have regularly placed my feet while playing. The routine of our practice can sometimes become a hindrance as well. At times, our practice sessions can benefit from a change of scenery.

Last week, a black key (specifically the D# above middle C) detached from my piano while I was practicing Jeux d'eau by Ravel. Who would think that a single key would have such an impact on the rehearsal process? With auditions and performances on the horizon, I couldn't spare the time off because my piano was out of commission. I needed to find an alternate space to practice.

What I found was the sanctuary of the church I'm currently attending. That single session was invaluable! Because of the size of the room, I began to hear things I hadn't noticed in my home studio. For pianists, a new space also involves a different instrument. The sanctuary grand, a Baldwin, had a very sluggish action that didn't respond as I had hoped. (Am I the only pianist that CRINGES when I see a Baldwin that I'm expected to play? Inevitably, I tend to find them everywhere I go.) Even though I wasn't immediately getting the warm tones I desired, I was getting an opportunity to work on my adaptability to new situations.

This summer, take a chance, break out of your comfortable routine, and schedule a rehearsal in a different location. In addition to churches, you might investigate theater spaces, libraries, or even a private home with higher ceilings. If your instrument is easily moved, think about practicing in a secluded park among a cluster of trees. Wherever you choose to practice, the unusual setting will reveal aspects of your playing you weren't hearing before. Who knows? You might even find yourself inspired with a new interpretation or approach to the music. That's the ultimate goal of all of our practicing, after all.