Friday, March 20, 2009
Conrad Black's Second Piano Lesson
Okay, World, there she be. It's only a small part of the revolutionary Red Book of Scales, but, with explanations, it should make a very good start. Who was it said that a picture is worth a thousand words? Perhaps. But, in my experience, if the picture is any good at all, it needs ten thousand words to explain why.
I've been talking about camera images for a while, but only now have we got one that is worth discussing. And that was virtually by accident, as MT had only taken the camera out to record the first crocus of 2009. A lovely shot. She showed it to me as I was at the keyboard with the above, very happy to have in A major what I had sketched out a month or more ago in C. I had jotted the first pair of staves at two a.m., then the second set toward noon after we came back from shopping. So I said, "See if you can get this!" And she did, and then she was able to get it on the computer and then on to the blog, and I could see that we really were in business, and also why I was in the last 24 hours incapable of either making bread or writing more of short story #3. In fact, I couldn't even go to early morning dance class, so anxious I was to get that first exercise on paper.
C is all right for starters, as it illustrates the scheme of how the major and minor intervals lie - all white keys get you the half-tones at the 3-4 and 7-8 spots - but it ain't the best key for this guy's voice, which hangs around best in the same range as those of Johnny Cash and the aforementioned Emmylou - adjusting for the gender difference of course - and I really do like rumbling along in A. It would be great fun gigging it up with the Dali Lama and his boys in northern India. And of course that range carries a certain authority. When it turns up, on the rare occasion of an acceptable hymn, it irks the nuns with authority problems no end. They like the male voice to sound as caponed as possible. Take that one to a shrink if you will.
That's right, A. Three bleedin' sharps. Totally defiant of the conservatories, who put A major in fourth place, and most definitely the sort of thing that used to scare me off any time I moved from an instrument to a sheet of paper.
That situation, of course, only existed because I hadn't figured out the numbers, and tried to follow the directions for using all ten fingers instead of the sensible beginner's two.
It's a Biblical principle that keeps turning up in these music investigations: God has ordered all things in number, measure, and weight. This means that you recognize that the orders of music are in the numbers rather than the letters. It also means that you cannot actually measure
intervals with multiple fingers, as this means relatively little to the brain's real sense of measurement, easily cultivated with the probing of one finger only - initially the middle digit. And it further means that only moving the entire forearm can give the student a true sense of the true weight involved in striking the note. Naturally, there is a place for the rest of the hand as the music becomes more complicated and true skill has developed to the point where speed as a merit. But, as with all things, the musician who starts off centred will remain centred.
I actually was making some pretty good use of the brown book, counting up and down the octaves and triads of A major with just the third finger and the numbers, sometimes with one hand, sometimes with two, but the schema there is so incomplete without the alternation of major and minor - plus the one diminished - arpeggios that are found in my second pair of staves.
The first set is the scale divided into its three logical parts, based on the natural division that comes with the three notes of the tonic triad. This is absolutely necessary to a comfortable assimiliation of the 2,3,4,5 left hand notes as harmony. No, those are not numbers of the fingers, they are numbers of the notes!
Some seasoned keyboard readers will no doubt instinctively plunk with all the digits, and that is all right if that is what it takes to experience the pleasure of truly musical studies for themselves. But sticking with this procedure will never reveal the freedom that comes with starting properly and will only encumber the student with mental lumber he or she doesn't need at the beginning, especially where there is an innate sense of rhythm just looking for a good little tune to boogie with.
I assume that the Ministry of Education in Ontario is still dragging its feet, and my CEO has just informed me that he knows all sorts of young pros back east discontented with the conservatories. Good timing on both our parts. Now concerned teachers and literate students can get down to work.
Let the Force be with you!