Hm, very pretty but it becomes challenging when the melody drops down into the bass just as a matter of touch and emphasis. Right now, I’m working on mastering simply the notes and given how things have worked out for “The Last Spring,” once that’s in the background for me, then pulling out one or the other part to emphasize should get a bit easier. I do want to remain conscious of highlighting the melody in the bass while learning it, though.
Again, the dissonance in it is fascinating to me and definitely something that would come from the pen of composer-as-arranger.
I know I’ve said in the past that I’m sick of Chopin and don’t want to play him anymore since I was so unsubtly shoved at him when I was a kid … but I forgot how satisfying in a not-terribly-challenging-way the well-known Prelude in C minor is. It was something I liked as a kid since it wasn’t that hard, was pretty, and was basically one long riff built on big, strong chords, always one of my favorite things while playing. I’ve always found an enormous satisfaction in pounding on a nice, deliberate twelve-note chord with both hands. Long, nimble chromatic runs I never liked. My turns were always dicey, and my trills deplorable. But I can stretch and pound on a fistful of keys all at the same time like nobody’s business.
And that little prelude is a fun one for that. So I went back and sight-read it last night after not having touched it for almost thirty years and had myself a nice little time. I might actually (said in a low whisper) go grab the other 23 preludes and have some fun with the ones that are also fistfuls of big chords. (Don’t tell anybody.) Honestly though, I’m still jonesing for Ginastera’s second Argentine dance. It may well be beyond my ability level — far beyond it — but I don’t care. If I pound away at it long enough, it’ll give. Most things do.
I’ve decided to be methodical about this.
I’ve casually “diagrammed” the piece into its components bits, written down my strongest impressions of each bit (put in a descending bass, use octaves or sixths in the treble, go soft or heavy in this or that part, etc.) and will be working on various arrangements of each bit this weekend.
Then I sew them all together as a first draft and start editing. Frankenmusic!
There is a nasty stretch in the end of the third/beginning of the fourth bar on the third page of the piece that has been presenting difficulty up to now. This weekend, I’m pleased to say that I found an approach that allows me to hit that stretch every time, and I can now stop fretting so much about that one stretch and begin stepping back from those two bars (and the piece as a whole) and work on simply saying the music as an entire work. I’m very, very pleased — not only that the piece came together and quickly considering that I was coming from an 18 year long hiatus, but also that I’m more consciously aware of the process of learning a piece than I was when I was younger and was simply obsessed about hitting the right notes and not making any mistakes.
That stretch is a C#, the B almost an octave up, and the next E. Positioning is tricky for this — moving the hand too far risks hitting both the Eb and the D that are each a whole step in from the outer notes, and the index finger can’t have any “tilt” to it, or else the Bb next door also risks being struck.
The solution for me came in steps. At first, I simply made sure to position my little finger to the corner of the C# and concentrate on keeping the curve of my index finger vertical striking the Bb. That left the E out in the woods though, subject to random chance. The solution gelled completely when I pivoted my hand down around the little finger, enabling me to catch the E on the edge of the key. That made the C# doable, cleared the Bb while hitting the B and also cleared the D completely while the E was struck, making the chord possible to get right every single time instead of cross-the-fingers-and-hope.
They put lips on the edges of the keys for a reason. A hockey player will often complain if an otherwise clear shot bounces off a goalpost, but like the goalpost, the lip on the edge of the key is part of the equipment, and it’s put there for a reason.
What’s left is to keep plugging away at Measures 4 and 8, and to try to eradicate the inadvertent rolls and other instances of bad timing in chords. (Not easy when one is trying to emphasize the highest note to make sure it sings out above the rest while not rolling in that direction!)
– are quite interesting. Unsurprisingly, “Don’t Bring Me Down” is in a minor, Am. Another one that was probably written on a piano. “Big Wheels” is EbM, a surprising one. “Heaven Only Knows” is Bm, and both it and “Big Wheels” probably began life on a guitar. “Destination Unknown” is Cm, another surprise but a lovely one.
More to come, and indeed “Twilight” is working up into a nice little rag.
It hit me perhaps a week ago.
The keyboard is a lot smaller than it was when I was a kid.
Seriously. It seemed like such a vast thing when I was little, just this endless, scary ocean of black and white levers that seemed so far apart. Now that I’m older (and perhaps less intimidated by the thing), there seem to be fewer keys. Of course, Grieg will still go out of his way to use the ones that are as far apart as possible just for kicks, but in general, the keyboard seems much, much smaller than when I was younger.
I’m in a bit of a quandary. I have two very nice bass lines (very similar to one another) for “Twilight” and have to choose between them. One is a bit standard, but the other while being fun to play is extremely evocative of the left hand in the fourth theme in “Elite Syncopations.” Since they are very similar, I don’t feel that I can use one for the first repeat and use the second for the reprise (rags are built like rondos, where the A theme is repeated halfway through the piece); the ear won’t distinguish them enough. They would need to be further apart than they are in order for a repetition to offer something new to the ear.
I’m also going to have to find someone online (I think I’ll throw an hourly consulting fee at a few people I know of) who can check the transcription and let me know how far off it is. I suspect that I’m writing things in a clumsy fashion that can be written more fluently, which would not be a surprise.
I’m also going to have to work up a B theme now. There’s a few possibilities in the song; the chorus suggests itself, but it’s such a lovely thing that I’d rather put that at the end of the A theme and use that as the repeat since it can be toyed with a bit more creatively.
I think I may have to relinquish the rondo format, in the end.
Ah, well. With a three-day weekend coming up, I have some time to play around. I’ll see what happens.
Just got the first two bars down last night. It’s a lovely piece, and I should be able to add more to it during weekends, although my next few are quite busy with work-related issues, sadly. It also seems (at least within the first two bars!) to wander fairly freely between Cm and EbM just as “The Last Spring” danced between its major and relative minor. I’m very glad that I looked through the collection of Grieg pieces that I have … that I didn’t even know I had. It’s a bit bashed up as well, so it’s been in my collection for ages, all of which I ignored but none of which I parted with for 18 years. I don’t even know how the Grieg collection got there, when I got it, nor who gave it to me, but it’s going to be a real treasure to me. I’m even happier that he did the arrangements himself, since there is more dissonance in his arrangements than another person would have felt comfortable putting in there (several instances of notes a half-step apart being struck at the same time, even in legato chords), and the dissonant bits are very interesting. I don’t think another arranger would have been daring enough to do that with someone else’s work. I’m used to cringing at a half-step (most people are), but he manages to make them very beautiful.
I imagine I’ll be happy to work my way through Grieg for some time and need not spend any time with Chopin, Beethoven, or Mozart at all anymore; I know Chopin is a favorite for many pianists, but I just spent too much time on him and was too unsubtly pushed toward him when I was younger. He’s wonderful, he’s very well understood, and he’s played to death by people of greater skill than I. Let them do it. I don’t have to spend my time there, nor with Ludwig nor Wolfgang. The shamelessly sentimental yet bizarrely dissonant Edvard Grieg it is.
Other than that, I’ve ordered an enormous collection of ELO from Amazon.com and plan to start work on more of Jeff Lynne’s music as well. “Twilight” continues to interest me, but until I can take the time to begin writing down parts of it, it will always be in the “noodling around” stage; I’m eager to do just that and at least work on writing a ragtime bass down. I’ll probably revisit it and others time and again to see how else they can be interpreted and hope to settle on a good, faithful interpretation as well.
Meanwhile, “The Last Spring” continues to go well, with several stubborn land mines buried in the terrain that are proving remarkably difficult to dig up and throw away. Measures 4 and 8 will be bugbears for some time to come (especially Measure 4, which I wouldn’t have guessed), and for some annoying reason I continue to have difficulty eradicating every vestige of a roll in some chords. There are probably tips and tricks that would help, but I’ll just have to suss them out on my own.
Hm. It makes quite a nice rag in the middle.
And I seem to be working a bass up to Journey’s “Lights” in my head as well. I haven’t a clue what the melody will be; as I’ve said, it’s so relentlessly vocal that it will prove a massive challenge for a piano. A duet with piano and flute-or-violin may be as close as it gets, and at the moment I’m uninterested in playing duets although I may score one at some point provided I can work my notation abilities up to par.
I think I’ll practice with the left hand in the ragtime-”Twilight.” Ragtime bass is usually a fairly standard oom-pah type of thing, and that should give me a bit more structure to hang the dotted thises and thats from in the melody.
I also need to work on my “penmanship” in notating music. Right now, it looks like an old Scantron test with little blank and filled circles.
A beautiful lightshow-rock classic. Wonderful chord progressions although between this and “Come Sail Away,” I’m beginning to think that any rock song that’s written in CM probably began its life on a piano (or vice versa).
A challenging set of chord progressions to work out, but one that I’m proud to say I did without any recourse to guitar tabs or any outside assistance at all. Several lessons learned on nonharmonic tones — telling the difference between a G7 and an Em can be a bit of a climb for someone who has never done this before when an E pops up apropos of nothing, and FM and Dm seem equally happy to occupy two sides of a spinning two-headed coin much to the confusion of the amateur pianist.
My adaptation is of course sounding a bit andante/legato, but I’m hoping to be able to make it a bit stronger as I become more and more comfortable with it.
I’m also still amazed at the complexity of chord changes and timing in rock and pop as opposed to most classical music, especially the classic classical (post-Baroque). I’ve always been ecumenical in my love of music, but I must admit, Muzio Clementi is a piker compared to Jeff Lynne. Good popular composers don’t get the respect they deserve from the classical world. It would be interesting to score this straight (all those eighths and dotted scotch skips in place) and put it in front of a typical classical pianist who hasn’t heard it before and see if they can sight-read it.
Also, I think I have “The Last Spring” down to the point where only Measures 4 and 8 require real attention. Everything else I either have down well enough to satisfy me, or else well enough that satisfaction is a matter of paying secondhand attention. Very pleased!