Sample Journal Entry

N.B. Journal entries should be typed double-spaced, using a font no larger than 12 pt size. The example below is single-spaced for web purposes only. The length of the journal entry below is 1.5 pages, double-spaced, approximately 482 words.

 

John Doe

2/15/02
Journal Entry #1

 

When I learn a new piece, there is always a challenge to get it “into” my fingers, my head, my being. Playing a familiar piece, (for me lately, Debussy’s 1st Arabesque) I am able to get the best sound from the piano, and my coordination flows with the phrases. But with a new piece, it's different. Even after working on a new piece for months, sometimes I am still struggling with playing “notes,” and I don’t sound convincingly expressive.

I suppose anyone who wants to learn to play the piano well, at the heart of it they want to learn how to play expressively, because music is an expressive art. To play a piece well, a pianist needs to have the sensation of “painting” with the sounds. To do this, there needs to be a deep knowledge of all aspects of the piece. There needs to be a long period (at least several months) of practice with the score, and then practice from memory.

What helps me is once I learn a piece in depth, to take a break from it, don’t play it or look at the score for a week. Then, I play it through without looking at the score, and any weak places needing work are obvious! Then I go back to the score and correct sections that had errors.

As I think about it, the biggest challenge for modern piano teachers has to be teaching students how to be patient. There's a lot of repetition in practicing piano. I'm used to that; it doesn't bother me. I expect it. But I'm not sure how to teach someone how to be patient, and how to enjoy repetition. It's comfortable for me. I don't expect myself to sound great instantly. I know it takes months to learn a challenging piece. I suppose there's some psychology to it, if you have a student who doesn't like to practice, helping them learn how to enjoy practicing.

I sat down and played through the Bach 2 part invention #4 for the first time in a week. Last week when I recorded myself playing the piece, I could play it through fine but had to really concentrate. It took me 5 or 6 tries to get an acceptable take.
Today I did another recording, and got a good take by the 2nd try.

Yesterday I was playing 4 hand piano with a friend, and found a short passage rhythmically difficult. We went over it several times, but I could not get it. Finally I somehow found the correct rhythm and we moved on to the next section, which went very well. We were sailing through, enjoying Mozart’s inventiveness, and kept playing without any troubles.
Interestingly, I had no trouble at all with the repeat of the difficult part, I just sailed through that part as well. I know that if I had thought about the hard part coming up, I would have stumbled! Since I was in the “Zone”, I was not “trying” to think about playing, and was able to play it perfectly.

So often, our playing is sabotaged by us trying too hard with our brains. I know that my best playing occurs when I feel very relaxed and enjoying the sounds, I can play a whole piece without “thinking” about playing. It is very much like driving along the highway - in a heightened state of concentration, but relaxed and enjoying the scenery.

Playing piano is so complex that we get worried about some aspect of our playing, but maybe concentrating on our mental state should be our goal. Before I start playing, I like to do some stretching exercises and then play a piece through, with the metronome, 4 or 5 times. I find that after a short time I am in the “Zone” - relaxed, centered, enjoying. When I have attained this, I am in my most productive state. Maybe repetition in practicing is sort of like meditation. Hmm. That might be a good angle to try with a student.