I’ve recently made it my mini project to learn Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu, Op. 66, while I am home and have access to a decent piano (contrast the decrepit ones at school). I’ve always admired this piece, but never had a chance to learn it. And it took me until the week before I leave Calgary to decide, what the heck, let’s learn it.
At first, I wondered if my fingers would even cooperate after years of disuse, having replaced playing piano with typing on a laptop as the only finger exercise I got for the last four years (though my left hand is still quite limber due to reaching for guitar chords. My right hand is dismally stiff compared to what it used to be). After stumbling through sight reading it once through (never my strong suit), I started working on the different sections. To my surprise, my fingers weren’t as out of shape as I had feared, and technique quickly came back to me. Learning techniques taught by M.E. have become much more effective now that I’m older. By the time I had learned the skeleton of the piece, two and a half hours had elapsed without my knowing, and I realized that I had played without any stop or break that entire time.
This realization astounded me. It was a record, both in length of time non-stop playing, and basically learning a piece in one sitting. You must know that, though I practiced for hours and hours back in high school, they were oft-punctuated with breaks every 20-30 minutes. Depending on what I was doing during those breaks, they could last anywhere from 5 minutes to nearly an hour, much to the annoyance of my mother, who would constantly nag at me to get back to practicing (which in turn annoyed me; cue vicious cycle). The fact of the matter is, I only stopped because my fingers were getting very tired and I knew I couldn’t push them much longer. Which is when I checked the time, and realized with a jolt that it was well past a polite hour to be making so much noise at night. I know my walls aren’t very soundproof.
It was crazy. I realized that the only reason I had been able to play for so long and learn so much in that time is because I actually enjoyed playing. This concept never previously applied to my relationship with the piano. It was more along the lines of, I practice because I must. Don’t get me wrong, I did like the pieces I played in ARCT, but because I had been playing piano since the age of 6, it was still a chore to practice; albeit an exciting chore because the pieces I played were fantastic. But now, free from the confines of piano lessons, free to play what and when I wish, it was exhilarating. Add to that the fact that I could hear myself improving as I practiced – to take a page from psychology – cue positive reinforcement!
Funny moment, about 1.5 hrs in:
Dad: “Why are you practicing?”
Me: “Because I want to.”
Funny because my dad knows very well my history with practicing piano, as described above. Funny because of the look he gave me: incredulous, yet bemused. Funny because he once again had cause to pull out his ol’ TV headphones that allow you to listen to the TV via headphone instead of trying to compete for volume (automatic lose). My mom, on the other hand, is loving the fact that I’m playing again. I know she missed the music. Though I am enjoying myself learning Fantaisie Impromptu, I still balk whenever my mom goes, “Why don’t you play some piano?”. I can’t easily bury the instinctive urge to refuse, because honestly, I only play if I feel like it. Please don’t force me to, it will make me feel like I’m in grade school again. I think she realizes that now, and I can really see her struggle to contain that question, even though I know she wants to say it so badly.
I’ve always been in awe of my hardcore piano-playing friends who often say that they had to learn a piece in a week, and they did it successfully. I now understand how they do it. If I had really applied myself back then as I have been these past few days, I wonder how much better I could have become before gallivanting off to university and the world of science? Would I have chosen to depart from music? Only God knows (when I get to heaven, I’m going to ask Him to show me all the different combinations of my life that could have happened if I had chosen x instead of y. Haven’t you ever been curious?) .
Anyways, progress-wise, gotta work on accuracy, phrasing, and get it up to speed. I’ve been listening to various professionals play it (Yundi Li, Horowitz, and Jung Lin), and it is fast. I swear Jung Lin has rockets for fingers. Though I prefer a slightly slower rendition so you can actually hear the notes and beautiful phrases instead of one brilliant blur (serious kudos to those who can play it prestissimo). I’ll be happy with presto, thank you very much. As such, I like Yundi Li’s rendition the most out of the three (though the video is uber cheesy):
Compare that with Jung Lin’s rocket fingers:
I’m aiming to have the piece in decent shape before I leave, i.e. next Wednesday. At times I do wish I could have a lesson with M.E. again, as I could definitely use some advice. I suppose learning it on my own will just mean more time and patience to polish it up. But man, this feeling of enjoyment is amazing. For the first time in my life I can honestly say that I love playing piano!!!