Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Did you ever get one of those days?

This day brings to mind Elvis Presley's song, "Did you ever get one of those days?" when nothing is right from morning to night. I tried to record a video tonight to mark the one month mark in learning this piece and I must have made a gazillion mistakes! I felt like I had regressed - big time! If you've been following this blog, I know you'll probably wonder how I could play much worse than I've already played and I would agree with you - until today! The mistakes have been piling up lately and the piece is so fragmented at different tempos so I have decided to start all over again at the slowest possible tempo with the metronome, which in my case is 32 beats to the half note and work it up to at least 60 - 66 beats to the half note.  When I get there, I'll record a video. Until then, goodnight and thanks for visiting.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I wish my family and friends and all my new PianoStreet and PianoWorld forum friends a joyous festive season and a new year of hope, peace and happiness.

Practice makes perfect ...but how much?

My new PianoStreet forum friend, Kyle, shared a practice tip link with me after reading about my frustrations:


Well, I don't think I'll ever over practice due to family responsibilities so no worries about that! 
I usually begin practicing late at night, about 10:30 PM but I think I'll try and break my practice over the day, starting with a half hour in the morning, if possible.  I'm not a morning person so that may be difficult to do. Afternoons are usually too busy so I'll continue at night, a half hour at a time, perhaps for a total of 1.5 hours. Something like that.

Since I continue to have some problems with certain passages, I'm working on them slowly again and then speeding up. It seems to be working fairly well though I do mess up now and then. Well, I hope to have a video in a day or two. It's still a mess but I'd like to record my progress to document my one month mark in learning this piece.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I'm so frustrated. I've been practicing quite a lot the last few days and it seems that the more I practice, the worse it gets. Now bars 7-8 are all messed up!! I was doing better when I was practicing a lot less. Oh!! Has anyone else experienced this? I think I either need to slow down, start all over again, or take a day off.

Progress Update and other pieces

     I've been debating with myself if I should record a video for this week and decided against it. With Christmas coming up in a few days, most people will be busy so it won't be a good time. Besides, I have lots of work to do on the new passages.
     Next Tuesday, December 27, will be one month from the day I began this blog and began working on this piece so that will be a good time to record my progress. I'm sure you'll all be interested to see how far I've come since then.
     Some people have asked me if I'm working on other pieces. I confess that I'm not good at multi-tasking, being the rather laid back person that I am. Other than this piece, I am also playing Chopin's  Funeral March, Chopin's Raindrop Prelude, Macdowell's March Wind, a piece that I played nineteen years ago, and a couple of other Richard Clayderman pieces. I need to record those pieces for input from my fellow piano forum friends but need to stay focused on Fantasie Impromptu as I have a limited amount of practice time.
     So in the meantime, goodnight and thank you once again for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


     I didn't think I'd be putting up this post so soon. Last night and tonight, I've been working on the exercises that Birba had shown me.  Tonight, after almost an hour's practice doing the exercises, I decided to try playing hands together from bars 13 to 20 and surprise, surprise, I managed to play the on beat accented part AND the off beat accented part pretty well! His exercises are amazing!


fantasie impromptu lesson

Second Lesson

     I thought I'd write a little bit about my second lesson and where I'm at with my project before I post Birba's second video. Since I received it, I've watched it several times and have begun practicing the technique he suggested to reduce the tension in my wrists. I enjoy the exercise and often find myself practicing on an imaginary keyboard when I'm standing at the kitchen or sitting here at the computer. It's good exercise!
     Tension seems to be my weakness. I don't recall that my former teacher in Texas ever mentioned it. Perhaps I wasn't tense or as tense nineteen years ago. Perhaps he didn't realize I had that problem. I wonder if the stress in my personal life is showing up in my playing or if I just never learned the right touch and technique. It may be a combination of the two. Am I the only one with a tension problem? Oh, well, the exercises might be helpful for my hypertension!
     So far, I haven't had too much difficulty with the piece. After overcoming the hurdle of playing four notes against three, I breezed through the first page.
     Now, though, it's a bigger challenge. I wonder if I'll be able to get past this next section with the accents on the beat and off beat, especially on the off beat. I'm worried about it. I must get through it or I won't be able to complete this piece.
      I find Birba's video lessons to be entertaining, educating and incredibly stimulating. Challenging, as well. Have you realized that he teaches without any sheet music? That he knows every note of this piece? He can start and stop anywhere. He has complete mastery of the instrument. He is awesome to watch. And I am incredibly fortunate that he is providing me with the guidance I need to learn this piece. I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Hanukkah and a bit of other things

To our Jewish friends:


I also wanted to write a little bit about the feedback I've received from my piano forum friends regarding my 4th video.

Birba, from PianoStreet forum, who gave me my first lesson says I'm doing much better now. But he said I had three tempi in the beginning of the piece because I wasn't counting. So he suggested I keep my right hand in my mind as I play the opening g-sharp and count EXACTLY in my head as I sing to myself the opening 16th notes. I managed to do this with the help of a metronome. While it ticked away at 60 beats to a half note (my tempo at this moment), I sang the RH running note melody of bar 5 in my head and it worked!  He also said I was tightening up again in the later passage so he has made me a new lesson to help me with this. I will post his video soon. His guidance has been invaluable to me and I will always be thankful to him.

Other forum members have mentioned that my LH is too loud so I'm working on softening it a bit.

Anyway, that's it for now. I took a day off practice yesterday so I need to practice today.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The journey thus far

     It's been 17 days since I began this blog and it's been a very interesting journey, definitely a fun one and also one of the best decisions I've made. I know that I would not have come this far in this piece if I hadn't decided to do this project. Frankly, I'm not one of those people who are driven and I'm definitely not a Type A personality. I needed this blog to stay focused and remain motivated and it has done that and more.
     I watched the 3 videos I had posted again just now and had a good laugh about my "performances." One thing I didn't realize when I began this project was that I would be displaying my flaws to the whole world! The last time I had piano lessons was 19 years ago. Boy, does that make me feel and sound old. And in between that time, I played very little piano. In fact, I didn't have a piano for 11 years. So I suppose when I began, I was rather idealistic, like one of those hopeful but hopelessly untalented contestants on American Idol. Fortunately, a Simon Cowell like character hasn't shown up yet to tell me that I should be doing something else! So I keep chugging along.
     My friends and family have given me their undying support and I have also made friends with pianists on Piano World and Piano Steet forums. They, too, have been incredibly supportive and encouraging.  Birba even gave me a "piano lesson", demonstrating how he would approach the technicalities of this piece. I am thankful to him for taking the time to do that for me. It was incredibly generous of him and for that, I'm grateful.
     So I'll be back in a few days with a new video update.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Piano Sage and Practice Update

     Well, I've been watching the tutorial that Birba made for me and working on lightening up and loosening up my wrists, also doing a lot of hands separate practice and speeding up the tempo hands together (trying to do it without muddling up).

     Another Piano Street Forum member recommended The Piano Sage website and it's a tremendous resource for anyone who is learning this piece or any other pieces. Paul Barton gives a wonderful lecture about this piece with detailed analysis and history and he also shows you how to play certain parts of this piece. Of course, he makes it all look so easy. When he shows the TRLRLR pattern for learning to play the 4 notes against 3, he plays it so evenly. Unfortunately, when I do it, it doesn't sound like that at all. But if I keep watching him do it, I might learn to do it right. So for bars 13 - 24 where the accent first falls on the 1st beat for 4 bars and then on the off beat for the remainder, I am starting to practice them the way Paul Barton demonstrates.

     I am beginning to work on the middle Moderato Cantabile section, which is my favorite part of this piece.

     I hope to be able to have a video update in the next few days or by the weekend, at the latest. I'll be back! And I hope you'll keep visiting. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A lesson from Italy

Birba (screen name), who is a Piano Street forum member, created a videoclip for me in order to demonstrate how this piece should be practiced. I enjoyed his lesson very much and I'll work on his suggestions. Here's the link to his video:

Thank you very much, Birba! I appreciate your taking the time to watch my videoclips and making a demo video for me.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Other editions

I'm using the Alfred Edition with the accented first beats in measures 13 through 16 and the accented off beats (2nd note of the group of 16th notes) in measures 17 through 20 but I found out from the footnote last night that in measures 13-16 and 17-20, Klindworth, Jossefy and other editors add quarter note stems to the accented notes, which means that you hold the accented notes. So I'm going to try practicing it both ways and decide which method I prefer.

I'm still having difficulty coordinating the R/L for bars 17-20 because the off beat throws me off balance. Then, when I return to practice bars 13-17, my fingers are quite uncoordinated again because of the different notes that need to be held or accented. I hope I'll get it before my hair turns completely gray!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I think I've got it!

Well, after using the TRLRLR pattern for a few days and getting used to the feel of the notes and keys for bars 11-16, I switched back to fitting them in, 4 notes in the RH to 3 in the LH and voila! It worked! Now I'm no longer pausing on every beat. I'm also slowing the tempo down from the beginning and working on making sure the notes that are supposed to be played hands together are doing what they're supposed to be doing!! No more runaway fingers!! Hasta La Vista ....I'll be back!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Update ....

I'm working on the second page, bars 11-16 at this time, using the TRLRLR pattern. I didn't use that method for the first page. I simply played hands separately, then fit the notes together. For some reason, that's not working here. I am also re-doing the first page as my RH is running away with me, quite out of control. From suggestions on the piano forums, I will need to slow it down quite a lot and make sure that the notes that are supposed to match up between both hands do in fact match up. I also have to make sure that I get a balanced L/R polyrhythm.  Will be back when I've made some progress. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

Many thanks to Kathleen LaBonne for creating this gorgeous gif for me!
I dream of having a piano like this!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bookmark my blog

Thanks so much for visiting! I hope you'll bookmark my blog and stop by regularly. Just click on Follow at the top left hand corner of this page. Please feel free to post comments. I hope to see you again!  I'll be back soon with a video update on my progress.

Fantasie Impromptu - Two days later

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Let's start at the very beginning ....

Hello fellow Chopin lovers:

My name is  Choo Choo and I have always wanted to play Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu in C # minor, Op 66, which is a challenging piece to learn but one worth all the hard work it takes to achieve for its haunting and sublimely beautiful melody.

So I thought I'd begin this blog as a way to motivate myself to persevere and complete this piece. If you've always wanted to learn to play this piece, come along with me. Perhaps we can motivate each other to completion. If you're already playing this piece, I hope you'll still follow along. I could use your tips through difficult passages and in this piece, there are plenty of very difficult passages.

Thanks so much for visiting! I hope you'll bookmark my blog and stop by regularly. Just click on JOIN THIS SITE on the right hand side of this page. Please feel free to post comments. I hope to see you again!

Choo Choo