Monday, September 23, 2013

Woot, Measurable Improvements

  Shortly after I started this adventure, I removed every app from my phone except a music reading app. I decided that I would spend my downtime in lines and things of that nature being productive instead of goofing off. Here's how bad I was doing at sight reading shortly after I started:

I was doing better than usual that time too.
  I'm doing a little better nowadays. Here is today at lunch:

  To be fair, I was on a roll and I tend to average low 20s of late. I was still pretty pumped. Hopefully sometime soon everything will just be locked in my memory instead of having to find a nearby note that I know instantly, and working my way from there.

"This is not the sound of a new man..."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Delving Into Theory

  I believe I've mentioned this before, but the main reason I started piano instead of picking guitar back up right away is because I wanted to use that as a pathway to increasing my knowledge of music theory. I had no idea that I'd enjoy piano as much as I do, so that is a bit of a side bonus. When I dust off the old guitar, I hope to come back to it with a stronger grasp on the makeup of music and for once do more with it than simply play songs someone else has already written. But for now, my classes are what I look forward to most during my week.

  We've been getting into a bit more theory the last two or three classes, which has been making my day. I love how every week I can return and look at old music with new insight and how mysteries are slowly unraveling right in front of me. It's the same feeling I get when reading a good book and some subtle nuance finally snaps into place in my brain. I spend the rest of the day mostly in my head, pondering the new revelation.
  The catch is that learning to play and learning theory at the same time can be a little overwhelming, especially during a busy week when I don't have as much time to devote to practice as I'd wish. I occasionally find myself bumping against a wall when I'm working on new things and for some reason my brain can't seem to function correctly. Even if I KNOW what I need to do and CAN do it, sometimes my mind just refuses to participate and I just stare blankly at the keys, eyes glazed.
  Quite by mistake, I found a way to help myself around those walls. When I'm overwhelmed, I pull out old music that I've already spent a lot of time working on that I feel very confident playing. Or just taking out the book I use to study from, starting from page 1 again, and playing through everything I've already gone over. What seemed so difficult a handful of weeks ago now seems pretty close to natural, and playing through makes me feel like I actually know what I'm doing. This is how I feel like I look when I'm tearing it up on an old song:

But hopefully I have cooler hair.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Comparisons Are Dangerous

  Anytime I start learning something new, my first thought going into it is, "maybe I'll be a natural at this!" I don't know if that's setting myself up for failure or not. I like to be optimistic, but it might be smarter to go into something expecting to not be great at it and then discover I'm better at it than anticipated. Regardless, that's not how my brain works. Thus far I've yet to be magically amazing at anything from the get-go, but there's always hope for the next thing I learn. I just hope I don't end up being a knitting prodigy or something. That would be sort of a bummer.

  A friend of mine who knows I recently started learning piano sent me a link to a video of a this 5 year-old piano wiz which I fired up so I could see what an actual prodigy looks like. My initial reaction was to throw my hands in the air and shout, "I give up!" That is probably how people feel who've told me they watched that show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" and found themselves lacking. I always thought it was strange people would get depressed by that, though I might feel the same if I'd ever seen the show, who knows. But young minds are made to soak up knowledge. Plus when's the last time you really needed to know the electron configuration of zinc?
  Young, sponge-like mind or no, this kid is clearly a natural and has a gift. Initially frustrated, I allowed myself to be inspired rather than daunted and decided to try and tackle a new song. Then I became daunted when the song said, "nope, you will not learn me for I am far too complex". I've been riding up on my high horse the last few weeks because I've felt my progress has been going really well so it didn't occur to me that something might be beyond my current abilities. This took the legs right out from under aforementioned high-horse:

It doesn't seems so bad now, but in front of me at the piano, it looked like Greek.

  My hands aren't quite ready to do lots of rapidly changing individual notes with both hands yet. Chords with both hands? Fine. Sustained chords with one hand and notes with the other? Okay. But not this. It appears this is the next mountain I need to climb. And it seems a lot higher than the staccato mountain I recently overcame.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flimsy Excuses For Not Writing Lately

  I've decided that trying to blog about every topic we cover in class is a bit too much of an undertaking. I'm already about 7 lesson behind and that is steadily increasing. Often times there's not really a lot to put into words when we have a class that is so focused on just getting through a song. And while I've always thought of myself as a fairly entertaining writer, I've never tried to write on such a focused topic before and I've discovered it's a lot more difficult to make a single topic interesting than it is writing about awkward situations you might find yourself in out in the world, which is typically what I write about. I'm still trying to tackle that problem.
  On the plus side, while I haven't been writing much these last few weeks, I've spent that time instead in practice and I (think) I've made some great strides in that time. Splurging on a better keyboard for myself has made me want to practice all the more and I think it has paid for itself already, figuratively if not literally.

  In non-music related news, life has been keeping me on the move lately. Work has been very productive and I feel like I've gotten 2x better at what I do just in the last month or so. The overwhelming project I've been tackling - which I was pretty sure would make my brain explode - is finally winding down and I've gained so much out of working on something that felt out of my league. That's the way I prefer to learn though...trial by fire. The lessons always stick much better though it can be exceptionally frustrating while you're experiencing it.

  Having decided that I'd be staying at my current house for a while, I've spent some time improving it, mostly via landscaping. Cutting a trees worth of overhead branches, weeding, mulching, and trimming bushes made quite a difference.

Previously you couldn't see any part of the house except the bottom 1/4th.
  Walking out of the house feels a little bizarre now with the yard so open to the sky. And who knew how nice it could be to actually see more than tree limbs outside of my upstairs windows? There's still some work needing to be done, such as power washing those grass stains off of the bottom of the fence. Even seeing them in the photo makes me die a little inside.

  Finally, I saved the most adorable dog from being run over the other day. She was munching on something (that I decided I probably didn't want to look too closely at) in the road when some crazy people came flying up to her and laid on the horn. The dog, apparently not all that bright, just sat there chowing down. No other cars, a wide road, yet these people kept honking and yelling out of the window. I snatched the pup up so I could call her owners. Turns out that despite having a collar, she had no tags. I threw up notices in the area and on Facebook but had no luck, so I decided to run her down to the vet to see if they could scan for an ID chip. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and it took a while to find an open one.
  It was halfway through this adventure that I felt my face itching and noticed in the mirror that I had a flea strolling casually down my face. Turns out the dog was completely infested with them and I guess I just didn't notice, so overwhelmed was I by her cute puppy face. I mean, look at her:

Cute face or no, she was covered in parasites. And now so was my car. And so was I.
  I was already in it at that point so I soldiered on, all the while suddenly feeling every square inch of my body start itching. I should point out that I'm the type of person who will walk into a spiderweb and then be convinced for hours that I have spiders all over me, even if someone looks me over and sees none, and even after an exceptionally thorough shower. I'm itching a little just writing this out.
  So later - after nuking my car, nuking myself and my clothes, spraying down everything I own, and getting a close (clearly VERY close) friend to check my hair for fleas and finding nothing - I could still feel them on me. All in my head, I know. But regardless, the next day I went out and had my hair completely chopped off just to try and silence the ridiculous voice inside my head that said I was covered in bugs. Not my manliest of moments.
  Due to her flea problem, the pup had to stay in my fenced in yard because I wouldn't risk her spreading fleas all over my house and especially to my dog. Sadly, she escaped during the night even though it didn't seem she could fit through my fence. I've been on the look out for her since but have not seen any sign of her. I'm hoping someone picked her up and she now has a happy home. If the groomers had been open that Sunday, I'd have gotten hear groomed and then kept her in my house which, in the end, would probably just end up with me having a second dog.

  With all of that said, it's back to practice for me. We started dipping a little deeper into the waters of theory this week and I'm eager to work on that. I'll touch on that when next I write.