It has been a month since my last in-depth post. Over this month, I have learned more about the concept of tempo and continued to focus on practicing playing the song Legend.
I had been working on playing the last section of the song Legend over spring break. As I was practicing, I realized that a few sections of my playing seemed to sound slightly off. Confused, I tried to determine what component felt wrong. I tried to focus on the dynamics by emphasizing the dramatic sections, but it still sounded off. After messing around on the keyboard for a while, I realized that I had not been focusing on tempo.
In music, tempo refers generally to the speed of a piece. When I played the song, my playing speed gradually slowed down as I got to the harder sections. A consistent tempo is crucial for a musical piece to flow. Also, the tempo of the song affects the overall mood it conveys. Songs with faster tempos tend to sound more energetic, while songs with slower tempo may feel more relaxed or melancholy. Keeping this in mind, I decided to focus on the tempo as I played the song Legend. First, I tried playing the song at different tempos to find a tempo that I felt the most comfortable playing. Then, I used a metronome to practice sticking to the tempo. Oftentimes, I begin playing at the rights tempo, then begin to slow down or speed up as I play. The metronome was an effective tool to help me keep to the time and develop my internal feel of the tempo.
(The names of the different ranges of tempos. Tempo is measured in BPM, also known as beats per minute. For example, 60 BPM would be one beat per second, and 120 BPM would be two beats per second.)
However, I still found that I tended to slow down towards the more challenging sections of the song. This was because the tempo that I was comfortable playing varied for different sections of the song. To solve this difficulty, my solution was to purposely change the tempo at the hard sections instead of gradually slowing down. This way, the song still flowed well, as the tempo remained consistent for each individual section. Overall, I have learned a lot about tempo over the last month, and I am now putting more emphasis on maintaining the tempo in my pieces.
Concepts and Alternatives
Over the past month, I had two meeting meetings with my mentor, Aubrey. Aubrey was really busy with schoolwork, but he was kind enough to find some spare time for us to go over the song that I am currently working on, Legend. Our main focus over both meetings was to work on the final two sections for the song. Like before, we began by reviewing what I have learned so far. I played through the first half of the song, and Aubrey provided me with some feedback. He said: “Ok cool, try to make your notes connect with each other more. So, don’t suddenly press on the keys.” To make sure that Aubrey and I were on the same page, I generalized what he said into a concept. I told him: “Wait, ok, so the main concept here is basically finger pressure?” He told me that it was a general idea. More pressure used when pressing down on a key will make the note sound more pronounced. To connect the notes more, Aubrey told me that I should work on controlling how much force I use each time I hit a key.
From this concept, Aubrey and I were also able to generate ideas. I asked Aubrey: “Wait, should I try practicing controlling my finger pressure by practicing playing scales on the piano really softly?” Aubrey thought that could work well, and also came up with the idea of playing chords with one finger at a time while pressing down each key slowly. These ideas stemmed from the general concept of finger pressure.
Another concept that Aubrey and I discussed was note jumps. In the middle section of the song, I needed to shift my fingers around the keyboard quickly. Aubrey and I determined that the main concept that I needed to focus on was note jumps. He told me that note jumps were very important to practice, as many difficult pieces required the hands to move around suddenly and quickly. He then recommended me to take the section slow and avoid looking down to build up muscle memory. Eventually, I would be able to build up an intuition of where each key is located. Discussing a specific concept allowed us to find particular strategies to help me improve my playing.
(The fingering from bar 18 to bar 25 required a lot of jumps for the right hand.)
Next, we moved on to learning the new section. While going through this new section, Aubrey suggested that I try to work out the fingerings by myself first. I thought it was a good idea, so I began to slowly try out fingering combinations. After fiddling around for a while, I came up with a fingering that felt pretty good to me. When I slowly played the new section of the song using my fingering, Aubrey told me that it was pretty good, but there were some alternatives fingerings that worked too. Instead of using my index finger for playing one note, then jumping to the next note, he told me to try using my thumb instead. That way, my other fingers could naturally reach for the next note instead of jumping. I found Aubrey’s alternative fingering felt more comfortable, and I stuck to that fingering instead. By being open to seeking alternatives, I was able to simplify and improve my fingerings.
Overall, I have made lots of progress over the past month. I have finished learning all the notes for Legend, but I still need more practice. I will be aiming to learn one or two more songs over the next month. Here is a video of me playing up until the final section of the song Legend (Click here if the video does not play on the blog):
As we are approaching in-depth night, I have begun to think about methods to present a portion of my learning and hard work over the past few months. Learning the piano has been an activity that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I want to convey some of my passion into my learning center. For the learning center, I plan to record and edit a video of myself playing a few pieces on the piano. I will choose some pieces that I had particularly enjoyed, and pieces that demonstrated my growth over the course of the project. After recording the pieces, I will compile the songs into an arrangement and share the video with the audience. Currently, I have a few songs in mind for the final performance, and I will be finalizing the list after learning one more song.
I am really excited to show my piano journey on in-depth night! Stay tuned…