Editor’s Note: This diary entry is the twenty-second in a series of entries describing Teresa Dybvig’s strategies for preparing for an upcoming recital after a long break from performing. Keep posted for further installments. For more about The Well-Balanced Pianist, click on this link: http://www.wellbalancedpianist.com/
Thursday, October 16 – discipline
Today I do not feel like practicing. It’s like I spent so much energy focusing on yesterday’s little performance-let that now something in me petulantly demands a break. I am fortunate, in that I almost always want to practice. I enjoy practicing so much that I don’t want to make it heavy by practicing when I don’t want to. For that very reason, I wouldn’t practice today, except that I have this recital date coming up, not to mention a more immediate goal of my lesson with Carol on Monday. So I feel I must practice. My state of mind reminds me of words of encouragement one of my students received from a friend: “Give yourself the gift of a great recital.” My student, describing this in an email, added “(every day in the practice room, of course)”.
Yes, every day in the practice room. I’m always telling my students that there is nothing like being “in training” at the piano; regular, focused, and plentiful practice improves our playing, and helps it becomes solid and consistent like nothing else. Courtesy of the same student, I learned this David Campbell quote, “Discipline is remembering what you want.” Although I must add that I don’t remember her saying it came from David Campbell; ahem, I found that attribution through Google. Wherever it comes from, I like it! What do I want in relation to the piano? My overall goal these days is to feel happy and comfortable performing. Which means practicing most days, even when I feel like I want a break.
Fortunately I have great music to practice. My plan is to practice Janáček today and record it tomorrow.
I am a little easy on myself when I am in this state. I don’t try to improve challenging technical passages too much, although I put in a little time so I feel better about them. Mostly, I make an extra effort to be accepting, and allow myself to appreciate the music. Believe it or not, checking my own tempo against the written metronome markings helps with this. As I mentioned previously, I am playing some of the pieces a little faster than marked, and I’m curious about the effect on the music when I slow it down. One piece feels heavy and forced at that slow the tempo, but sounds beautiful and loving at a pace in between my sprightly one and the slow marking. The others sound more rich and sostenuto at their slower tempos. They remind me of the harmonium recordings on YouTube, which struck me partly because the sound was so sustained. I double check which pieces were originally written for harmonium. All of the pieces I am slowing down and making more sostenuto today were in the original set of pieces for harmonium! Interesting.
After a gloomy deluge that lasts all morning and part of the afternoon, the sun starts to come out from under the clouds. I feel like I shouldn’t allow myself to be at the mercy of the elements like this, but suddenly I feel more perky and eager to practice more. Why not take advantage? I have another goal, which I hope I will get to even before I play for Carol on Monday: to play through the whole second half of my recital. I played through the first half last Sunday, but the second half still hasn’t had its turn. In preparation, I do slow practice on some of the more technically challenging sections of the Pastorale. Now I feel that I have really done my job for the day. Even though I started out grudgingly, today’s practicing ended up being interesting and productive.