The weird alchemy of learning

I am practicing the piano again. I must be doing about two hours minimum per day. I know, I know it is nowhere near enough, that I should be  doing around 5 to 8 hours per day. After all, my kids are now out of the house, my job is not too demanding and I’ve got a nice instrument and nice neighbors. Nonetheless, because I had dropped the ball for awhile, it is good to be back tickling them keys.

I have been working on the scales again, emphasizing the minors. Ah! Those minors! They are trouble. They have those weird alliteration (I’m looking at you Melodic Minor!) or that weird ending (I’m looking at you Harmonic Minor!), they trip your fingers, nothing seems to fit, and yet, your ears recognize the progression and follows it like it’s an old friend.

I’ve also been studying the arpeggios. If you don’t know what scales and arpeggios are, I know a great piano teacher that can lift the mystery for you. The arpeggios are not difficult by themselves. Once the hand runs on the keys, it’s almost second nature: you don’t think, you trust it, you play. The arpeggios can also be chopped up and played upward or downward one step at a time. It’s called the broken arpeggio. Not the same lemonade! Much more difficult! An innocent C major arpeggio becomes some kind of a monster with tricky fingering, hammering thumbs and wrong notes played. But, they are a staple of piano playing, you got to do them, and so, off goes Sol, sweating and swearing trying his best to make that exercise as fluid as possible.

I’ve also reconvened with classical music. I revisit old chart, discover new ones. That’s fun! I realized I haven’t lost too much since the heydays of my youth. But here’s the weird part: I am not currently working on jazz piano, yet it’s improving! My runs are clearer and more determined, of course, since I’ve been working on technique, but my improvisation has also made significant progress. For example, I take my time defining a phrase, articulating it. I also take my time to create a nice crescendo with the spacy soft notes that build to the moon. The weird alchemy operates at all level. I’m able to understand and play a brand new Jazz song. I can even carve a few choruses on the spot.

I love studying music, it’s always full of surprises. Some are bad, but some are good. It’s important to talk about the good ones, that way we don’t see practicing music as just a chore.