Sunday, June 30, 2013

Piano Class 1: Notes, Measures, and Rhythm

  (Class Date: 6/5/13)

  After making a New Years resolution to start back with music, it has only taken me half a year to actually follow through with it. Unless you count my haunting renditions of pop songs while in the car, in which case I never really stopped. Not that I'd ever admit to knowing or liking such songs.

  While guitar has historically been my instrument of choice, I decided I wanted a fresh start and to reintroduce myself to playing music by learning piano. When I left off previously, I felt like I was stuck on a plateau that I could not traverse, and I didn't want to begin anew only to feel like I was stuck from the onset. Plus I figured so much music is based off of piano that it would help me with the theory aspect. Thus I dusted off my old Casio keyboard, made sure it could still play the midi version of "Green Sleeves", then signed up via The Skillery for a seven-week group class.

  I didn't think I'd enjoy a group class, but right away I took to it. Looking back, my love for playing diminished when I stopped being social about it. I may not get as much practice time in a group setting but I feel the collaborative atmosphere really energizes me about what I'm doing. Watching other's success and failures teaches me a lot more than I would have expected. Everyone seems to get charged up by each other's little victories. Besides, if I was alone, who would appreciate the fact that each time I use the keyboard I somehow switch it into a mode where each note sounds like a tugboat horn?

  Being forced to play in front of others when I KNOW I'm bad will be good practice for playing in front of others - be it other musicians or simply observers - when I'm less bad. If I ever get to such a point. And while I'm not especially competitive, if someone does better than me, I think to myself, "well I can at least do it as good as that," and I feel motivated to try a little harder.

  Much of what makes the class so great is our instructor, Ariel. I've never before seen anyone as excited to teach a subject as she is to teach piano. Super energetic and positive, she somehow makes mundane things like practicing scales seem exciting. Almost. Her positive reinforcement reaches heights I didn't know existed. Even when you completely botch something she finds a way to be positive about it. A direct quote from her that I loved was, after one student finished a piece that they had struggled playing):
"Fantastic! That was beautiful. Your posture was wonderful and I loved the curve of your fingers and your timing was excellent. All I would say is next time try and hit the right notes."
  If we had more teachers out there who loved to share their knowledge even half as much as she does, we'd be in much better shape.

  As far as topics go, there not a lot to discuss yet, as far as class one goes (of which I have completed 4 as of this entry). I don't even think we hit a single note that class. It was the five of us (4 students, 1 teacher) introducing ourselves, sharing our history, and goals. After that, we covered some beginner stuff. Basic note values (quarter, half, dotted half, whole), measures and timing, then rhythm reading. Then we all clapped along to notes in the book to see how well everyone could keep time and read. I felt a little silly because timing seems very natural to me but I thought that, while this part may be basic to me, it won't take long before I'm in deeper waters trying to keep afloat. Most things I've learned over the years I've studied on my own and I always find that there are key areas of knowledge I end up missing. It will be nice to start from the very bottom and learn in a more structured manner for once. And if I have to clap until my hands are bleeding to get the foundation laid right, that's what I'll do.

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