All posts tagged piano

I Finally Recorded Something!

Published July 12, 2014 by Jess Arwen

I’ve had this blog for quite a while now, and I know for certain that I’ve discussed my love of music more than anything else on here, so it’s high time I shared something I’ve played with you all! Since this was my first time recording, it’s not the best quality, so please forgive the background noise. Also, I got a little excited at the end there to turn off the recorder, but overall I think it’s a fair first recording!

This is I giorni by Ludovico Einaudi. The title translated is “The Days,” which always remains relatable. I always picture the seasons passing when I hear or play it, and I frequently play it for the incoming freshman classes at my school, for they will be embarking on their journey of college life.

Anywhos, I hope you guys enjoy it! It’s one of my favourites!


Piano Relationship

Published July 1, 2014 by Jess Arwen

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was truly disciplined in her daily piano practise. It’s because she loved piano more than anything, so she would constantly spend time learning its arts. As she grew older, she practised less and less, and one day, she found herself struggling to keep it up. She knew it was important, and she certainly always felt wonderful after practising, but she still fought herself to practise.

What is it with practising?

When I first started playing, I couldn’t get enough of the piano. I would practise some days for almost five hours without getting bored or fatigued. I truly fell in love with the piano. Confession: I even named my piano Henry in the hopes that if I ever found a man for me, he’d be as dedicated to me as Henry. Henry was always there to hear my sorrows or successes, but then I got older and stopped going to Henry all the time.

I guess it’s the same as a real relationship in that it takes dedication, but I never thought I’d be saying I am in a relationship with my piano. It’s true though. Henry does demand my attention sometimes, and I’m all the better for it, so I suppose I am in a relationship with my piano. Anyone else feel the same way?

Getting Back in the Groove

Published June 21, 2014 by Jess Arwen

It’s confession time.  I haven’t practiced nearly as much as I should have for the past year or so.  Unfortunately, my piano teacher just isn’t that hard on me.  She’s super-sweet, and I absolutely adore everything she has taught me, but I’ve gotten out of practice for, well, practice.  This is where performing comes in.

Thank the Lord that I perform a lot.  It makes me practice more since that last performance could have gone a lot better.  I mean, I guess it could’ve been worse, but I just need to practice.  Today, I brought out the Hanon and started from the beginning to see what the damage was.  Luckily, your hands remember things really well!  Determined to get back to where I was when I was auditioning to get into music programs, I plowed through Hanon, full of focus, and I found I actually enjoyed it!

After working through the first five or so, the concept of meditation came to mind.  I know there are a couple forms of disciplined meditation, and one of them involves thinking of just one idea and letting all other ideas just come and go without giving them a second thought.  You pretty much have to do that in practice and performance.  The music is the focus, so music is obviously great for your mind!

This is kind of a rambly post, but I’m just excited that I actually enjoyed practicing today, and I hope that doesn’t fade.  This is how I got into piano anyways: I enjoyed practicing, so I did so for hours a day from the very beginning and picked it up really fast!  May I continue a huge learning curve!  And, may all the other pianists out there continue to find joy from practice and performance!

The Philosophy of Piano-Tuning

Published October 29, 2013 by Jess Arwen

About once a week, my Piano Division has Repertoire Class. This is a safe environment in which anyone, regardless of experience or technical skill, can practice playing in front of people. For some reason, in this week’s class, the only people who played were beginners to the piano.

When people who haven’t spent years perfecting their technique perform for you, beautiful things occur.

Obviously, however, this is not what this post is about.

After all their sweet little tunes and nervous bows, one of our full-time teachers gave a presentation on piano-tuning. He began rather humourously by telling us that every piano is different, that every piano has personality. I chuckled and said to myself that pianos are people too! It is true, however, especially when you play a vast variety of them.

I’m blessed to go to an All-Steinway School, but one of our baby grands has gotten so bad that we are sending it off to New York, thanks to generous donations from our patrons, to be all fixed up.

Anyways, following that statement, he told us his history of being a piano-tuner and how long it takes to learn. Apparently, you don’t really know what you’re doing until you’ve tuned at least one-thousand pianos, even if those first thousand sounded good.

There are also different styles within different tuning systems, and every tuner tunes differently. Sometimes the piano-owners like what they hear, and sometimes they don’t.

I suppose what struck me most during this presentation is that piano-tuning is not a science after all, even though it includes a lot of physics of sound and acoustics.

No, piano-tuning is an art. And like all art, there is a philosophy behind it.

What You’ve Got to Say, and Some Sweet Tunes

Published August 18, 2013 by Jess Arwen

Tonight’s the night to tell a tale. My heart is full (thanks to good music and excitement for the upcoming school year), and rain beats out its sweet rhythm on my window. It’s a night of new beginnings, and thus a celebration of what the Past carried to the Present.

I mentioned once or twice before that I have only played piano a couple years to this point. As I approach my second year of undergraduate study as a Music major (and now an English double-major!), perhaps it’s time to share my story.

Yes, I study piano at school, but I decided to take voice lessons for fun. Well, I didn’t do it just for fun- I thought it’s be a good idea since I ended up directing the newest a cappella choir on campus, which is a funny story really, and I’ll write about it one day. Anyways, my voice teacher one day told me how she’s always wanted to write a book about what it means to make music. She titled it “What You’ve Got to Say” and explained that every time we make a sound, we communicate something from deep within us, that melody or rhythm that keeps our lives moving forward and not back.

Every day that I’m alive, I realize how much more alike we humans are, and I see that somewhere in all of us is a listener, is someone eager to hear the stories of others. There was a quote one of my high school teachers said about reading: “I read to know I’m not alone.” While I can’t find who said that, I know it’s true not only of reading but of any art form in the least.

For me, music combines that distant and abstract form of visual art and sound and silence, themselves, with the poetry that outlines history through human interactions.

It’s poetry.

And it’s beautiful.

And if you want to go back to ancient Greece, you’ll see that they saw music as synonymous with poetry and dance and theatre. It was all one big way to communicate what’s inside, what you have to say.

To the point of this, my first year of playing piano, I practiced a good five or so hours a day, and don’t tell me of this nonsense that I wasn’t practicing right. I’ve seen a lot of that criticism on the internet for people who practice for more than four hours. Not cool, guys. But anyways, I got into the Music Department at my school and was noticed by the other places I auditioned for.

But then the inevitable happened.

You know when you get really excited about starting a project, so you get so much done in the beginning and then kind of forget about it a little later? Yeah, that happened, and I didn’t discipline myself and didn’t practice much at all anymore.

Yet, something always reminds me eventually of why I play. I’ve got a dream, you know. It’s to play music. And a friend of a friend is a phenomenal musician, and any time I listen to his stuff, I instantly want to practice all day, because I remember I love music, so I want to make it. Perhaps the point of this post is to urge everyone to not forget, is to begin to say what’s inside (as I’ve always been hesitant to do so), and to share a pretty cool musician:

Give these guys a listen, you won’t regret it!

Maybe one day I’ll post something of mine here, but for now, here’s what I have to say.


Something Magical

Published July 12, 2013 by Jess Arwen

Anyone who plays an instrument understands the common difficulty in keeping up with practice. There are tips and tricks all over the internet, but sometimes they just don’t seem to help, especially if you’re no longer feeling your practice.

This is my story.

I began playing piano a little over two years ago, and man did those eighty-eight beautifully arrayed keys thrill me to my core! Nothing came close in the amount of joy playing piano brought me. It gave me a purpose, so I easily practiced at least five hours a day and was accepted into the Department of Music where I would attend school the following semester, all with just a year of experience!

My pride, as the saying goes, was my downfall.

“Forget those five hours a day” something in me sneered, “You are simply great, a prodigy perhaps. You don’t need practice.” Unfortunately, I did.

Granted, my first year of undergraduate study left me flustered as I got myself involved with so many different clubs and organizations, but I made no effort to simply walk to the practice rooms. I skated by on sight-reading, and by the end of the year, my piano teacher sat me down not to scold me, but to discuss how I handled the year.

Why did I even want to be a Music Performance Major? I get so stage-fright that I’ve never performed a piece without missing at least three notes as far as accuracy goes. I can’t express well in performance setting, because the audience is the only thing on my mind, and I can’t wait for the end, so I can hide away. Not even the trick of visualizing the song to distract from all else helps.

But something else did.

My boyfriend (the first one I ever had and vowed not to have – more on him later) agreed to ask me daily if I’ve practiced. I physically cannot lie to him, so it’s gotten me to practice. Even though it sometimes feels like a chore, it helps me be more confident, and if I hadn’t been practicing, I wouldn’t have discovered something magical.

A few nights ago, I tried the visualizing a scene trick again, this time with a memory in the stead of an imagining. The song is Debussy’s “La Fille aux Cheveaux de Lin”. I always imagined it as a girl spinning in a gold field feeling bliss, perhaps for the first time. I tried it in practice, and as usual I forgot what I was doing and got lost, even though I know the song by heart.

Determination found me that night, so I gave a strong memory a shot. Embarrassing as it is, I recalled my first kiss with my first boyfriend, as that may be the first time I felt bliss. Sadly, the same result occurred.

Then a fluorescent light-bulb came on above my head in the form of my desk lamp and an idea.

What if I only focused on the feeling and kept the rest of the image to the song? It was worth a shot.

Music, itself, transformed before my heart as my fingers magically gave life to this feeling within me. Aldous Huxley once wrote, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing inexpressible is music.” It came to mind that feelings are very difficult to put into words, as they are not creatures of the mind, but of the heart and cannot be described by the language of the head. Perhaps Music is the language of the heart. It is a romantic idea.

In any case, I became so enthralled that nothing could distract me, and I do believe audiences will be a tad bit easier to face once the next semester starts up. I did some experimenting with other pieces and feelings, and nothing has been more amazing. For once, I found something magical.