This month’s post, adapted from a piece of homework from my writing course, is all about my regular piano practice and how it helps me to stay calm and focused in times of stress and challenge.
Me and my piano
Heart rate slows, breath steadies and time stills as my fingers touch the keys and I start to play.
Every practice starts with the same three pieces:
- Melody in C, by Felix Le Couppey, the first piece I learnt to play properly with both hands.
- German Dance in A, by Franz Schubert, my only solo performance piece, played at the Springboard music festival, some three years ago, now.
- Jest in D Major, by Bela Bartok, the last piece taught to me, by my piano teacher.
Each played through quickly and efficiently to warm up my fingers and my brain.
These are my comfort pieces, the ones I can play straight through from memory. I need this regular reminder, the reassurance that I can still play a tune, that I haven’t yet started to lose memory and focus. Satisfying some vague fear, that I’m not losing my faculties.
And all this after pressing the on button, to my Yamaha P90, electronic piano. It takes only a second or two for the green light to appear and I can settle in my chair, plant my feet on the floor and then….
It seems I need to run through a few more checks😉
Where’s my cushion? The one that supports the small of my back and stops it from moaning and groaning throughout.
Are my glasses clean and firmly in place? These days, the notes on the sheet are just a blur without them.
What time does it say on the mantelpiece, clock? I’ve usually got thirty minutes or so before I need to check on dinner.
Am I warm enough or am I too hot? In the winter months, my hands rasp and catch as I rub them together for warmth. In the summer, I need to feel a breeze.
Where are my elbows? Oh yes, they are here resting comfortably on the cool metal handles of my chair.
Is that dust? I should have bought a cover for the keyboard, when I had the chance.
In any case once I finally get down to play, I run through my comfort pieces, add in a few major and minor scales, throw in one or two arpeggios and then, and only then do I get to the new piece:
The Policemen’s Song, from the Pirates of Penzance, by Gilbert and Sullivan.
This will be a wonderful addition to my somewhat limited repertoire and once I have fully mastered it I plan to move onto; Mozart’s, Romanze from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, second movement.
So, as I play, I listen carefully to the music I am making, at times confident smooth and without error or hesitation. At others bumpy with small pauses. If I find I’m starting to stumble too much, it helps to close my eyes and allow the muscle memory in my fingers to take over. Let them dance across the keys with no direction or guidance from me. Though there are times, when I have no option but to go back to the music on the sheet and focus on a single problematic bar.
However, the real reason for sharing this, is that I find I cannot play and be stressed at the same time. It really doesn’t take long for even my playing to still the chatter in my head, slow my heart rate and drain the cortisol from my body as everything slows and comes into focus.
Even the occasional gurgling of the radiator behind me, seems a fitting accompaniment when I’m playing.
So, until next time
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