Push the angle
I am working on something new. It is kicking my butt. My mind and my body rebel against the concept. I just cannot make it mine. What to do? Push the angles, I say. Push-The-Angles!
Let’s say I have a piece that full of obstacles and landmines. By the way, if the song has TOO MANY difficulties, I usually decide to postpone it at a later date. I promise myself that eventually I’ll get there. And, because I’ve always practiced and progressed, I’ve rarely broken those promises. But, with a song that contains a reasonable amount of pitfalls, I soldier on and do the job.
The first order of duty is to dissect the music. “Let’s see here, I mutter to myself, this is easy, all the way up to here, good! then there’s this little tit bit that’s going to make me trip every time, that’s one! Then we go into that passage of average difficulty, then we are off to the bridge and Holy Molly, it’s chock full of traps, that’s two! Then the repeat, then I’m out and the coda will be a little mountain to climb, that’s three!” All right, I’ve got three parts to tackle in this piece. Each part can offer a different challenge. It could be because of the speed or the nimbleness, or the phrasing. Fine! Time to unleash the method of (all together now!) Push the angles!
First, I keep on dissecting. I try to understand what each hand is doing. I try to see when the notes will be connected and how what coordination is required. I then play the right hand, then the left, then, very slowly both, and I listen to the cogs of the clock adjusting with each other. I repeat the passage over and over. Sometimes that’s not enough, I might need to invent a little exercise on the fly that will help me resolve the problem. I might even create a warm-up exercise, one that concerns only the technique and will smooth out the creases. Once I get a fairly satisfactory result, I then tie the bar or the passage to the previous few bars and the ones after, to make it flow. In other words: I recognize the challenge, analyze it, shrink it to the smallest denominator and work just on that. Just on that! I (I.. I what? Anybody?) I push the angles.
Is the method efficient? Yes! I can attest that it works. So much so that, even if I’ve never been gifted for music, I still ended up with the life I wanted: to be a professional musician.