Piano Diary

BREATHING

It is not the easiest thing for me to focus on my breathing! But why? Perhaps because I am not used to controlling my breathing and using it to my benefit.

Observations: I am beginning to use rotation of the forearms while practicing Oblivion. Doing this, the sound improves drastically, NONETHELESS, I still forget to breath :/

TEST No. 1:

I start by taking 4 deep breaths and then begin playing.

This actually allowed me to focus and relax before I even began playing the piece. I maintained focus and I felt aware throughout the piece.

Observations: Because I previously (Test 1) played the piece and then prepared myself for Test No. 2 (which never took place :D), I felt my arms slightly tired and tried to stretch them for a bit, which actually helped. This brings me to the conclusion that it would be good at the end of my practice to do some stretching, ESPECIALLY of course I feel the need to.

Breathing exercises

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing: i)  inhale and exhale from your nose normally using your diaphragm, ii) inhale from nose and exhale from mouth while using diaphragm.
  2. Focused Breathing: “Alternate nostril” technique. i) Sit up straight, ii) Close off your right nostril with your right thumb, iii) Strongly inhale for six counts, iv) Exhale through this same nostril for six counts and make sure the lungs are completely emptied, v) Wait for 10 to 12 counts, vi) Switch nostrils and hands, and repeat the same steps.
  • Practicing this on both sides is one cycle. Repeat between 3 to 20 cycles.

AWARENESS

Oblivion, Piazzola A. / Invention No. 4, Bach J. S / Nocturne in cis moll, Chopin F.

My main goal for today is to be aware of the way I move from the moment I sit on the stool.

First let’s talk about arms

Observations: This arm-focus based practice has helped at relaxing my arms and has allowed a faster warm up in the palm area. It has also helped in memorising the music faster. I felt more concentrated.

But what about the rest of the body?

It did NOT work very well when I tried to look at my body as a whole. To pay attention to everything at once. I ended up not paying attention and I lost cohesion. Forgot some notes and was not aware of which part of the body did what.

?Would it help if I simply begin training my brain by isolating body parts?

TEST No. 1: Legs

As an attention test, the result was quite interesting.

?Did it work? -> Yes and no

I am not accustomed into sending my focus on my legs and I guess this is the main reason it felt so different and unusual. I could focus in musicality and expression, HOWEVER, I did not miss a lot of notes (as I expected during this particular process) AND I stopped thinking about a bunch of irrelevant things..*

  • For some reason, while practicing piano, I start thinking about what I am going to wear the next morning, what I am going to have for lunch or even make negative thoughts like…”Oh, the difficult part is approaching, you will make mistakes..” or “Are you sure you’re doing it right?” etc.

TEST No. 2: Lower Back

This made such a huge difference!!! It relaxed my playing so much! I felt more calm and I felt more flexibility in my movements.

TEST No. 3: Shoulders

Again, what a difference! The result for me was to make bigger movement (whenever I needed) and more effortless.

?DO you think I am beginning to improve already on my awareness, therefore, with every test my playing feels more relaxed, focused and effortless?

For Bach’s Inventions No. 4, the same practice as in Oblivion was followed. The results were great. The music was flowing with purpose, attention. It was moving from one part of the body to the other. Each shift was noticeable and I was in charge of it. I was able to focus also on the music itself…I remembered as well as improved when I needed.

For Chopin’s Nocturne, I continued with a similar process. I felt a significant improvement. HOWEVER, there is still some stiffness in my core!

Observations: These dividing-attention tests, and creating awareness while isolating body parts lead me to the conclusion that this type of process/preparation releases playing, movement and furthers/improves interpretation.

The targeted focus of each body section results in attention to all of them together or even their isolation whenever this is required.

The performer is now aware!

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