Further “Bethena” annoyances and improvements

They just don’t stop. The second theme will remain a serious challenge for me, although things have improved recently now that I’ve managed to get some traction on removing some rolling in a few chords that has nagged me since I started to study the piece. Oddly, making some progress on that rolling has helped me with the other challenges (just big octave jumps, nothing intellectually complex); in the past, I’ve had trouble concentrating on the octave jumps because I was always distracted with thinking ahead to the rolls. Now that I’ve got a bit of a grip on that, my ability to focus on the jumps has improved. As with most issues, trying new fingering often makes the most headway on solving the problem. It’s an Eb-Bb-C chord, and I’ve been using 1-2-4 for it. 1-3-5, strangely, seems better although it’s a bit counterintuitive. I just have to do it a bunch of times to reprogram myself to reach for it that way.

There was also a irksome chord in the bridge back to the first theme that bugged me that it turns out a 1-2-3 works best with — one of the long string of diminished chords he likes to use to bounce from one key signature to another. What is it … Db-G-Bb? I think that’s it. Lifting my hand to use 1-2-3 really solved a lot of the rolling problem I had with that, and the problem with the G swamping everything else. Gs tend to do that for me; I don’t know if it’s my fingering or my ear, but stick a middle G into any chord, and it’s like putting onions in a sandwich. Doesn’t matter what the other ingredients are — that damned onion is all you taste.

So that’s improved. And there’s also another thing that I want to be sure to remember all the way in the last part in DM before the main theme recap, the big splashy one with all the fireworks. There was a shoot up to AM in there that I would get out of by using 4 … mostly because 5 was already occupied on the A at the top of the chord. However, using 4 to go down on the G weakened my hand terribly. I have no clue why, but it did — the minute I pushed down on that 4, my hand turned into jello and the whole phrase got rickety. I pushed at that for a while before realizing that the only thing for it was to just lift 5 to go from the A to the G. I didn’t like it, but it allowed me to maintain strength and clarity through the whole thing. It’s amazing how one problem will domino forward through a whole phrase, just knocking everything off that comes after. And the mental anxiety of knowing that That Part’s Coming Up will also unsettle everything that comes before.

It’s also important for me to realize when I’m implementing the right solution incorrectly, and when I’m implementing the wrong solution. I tried to get that 5-to-4 on the AM to work so much. I kept telling myself that I had to just woodshed on it, when in reality what I had to do was to get it to sound right, whatever fingering I might have been using, and that if that 5-to-4 screwed me up constantly, it was time to try something else. I’m not sure if there is a faster way to recognize these sorts of situations. I suspect not. I just need to be open to changing the fingering when a problem is really proving to be stubborn. It feels like I’m “cheating” my way out of the problem, and that I “should” be able to use my initial fingerings, but … well, that’s stupid. The best way to handle a problem is to avoid it in the first place.

Other stuff I’ll eventually want to deal with include some timing issues in the Bm part that’s so pretty, and those big chords in the part before that that wind up on Am. There’s a couple big handfuls that repeat, and I know I’m not getting them as clearly as I want to. I also can’t figure out how to evolve that section nicely. You know how it is — when you have a repeat, you don’t just play the thing the same way twice, you generally play it By The Book the first time, and then see what you can bring out and make the audience notice about it the second time, some neat part of the structure that you want to bring to their attention. Well, I need to find something in that structure that I can point out on the second go-round because right now I’m just playing it twice the same way, which is dull. I’ve got nice ways to approach the other themes differently on the second go-around, and I’ve got a couple additional ways to approach the main theme, which is nice because that gets played the most. I just need to find something extra to draw out of that thing in FM.

Anyhow, some nice news regarding “Bethena.” And when I get my new laptop next week, I’ll be able to get more arranging done during the week as well since I’ll have a computer at home all the time. I’m really looking forward to it.

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