This week, I’ve been going to my studio first thing in the morning, throwing down my bags, taking off my coat, and hopping onto the piano before other obligations can get to me. I got a few new books on Tuesday - stuff written for children from Gurlitt, Koehler, and Bartok. Besides making excellent material for sight-reading, these are pieces I could potentially teach to my students. I had fun reading through some easier music the way one might read through a novel or an interesting newspaper article.
Today, I decided to start with guitar, since I have burned through all my practice time so far this week playing only piano. Instead of playing through written music, I worked on learning some songs by ear. I don’t feel like I got too far with any one thing, but I’ve been away from it for awhile and I have to build up my finger strength again. Because of this, any playing I do is beneficial - but when I don’t have a lot of structure I don’t feel committed to a piece of music, and don’t really achieve mastery.
I feel as though I’ve gone through a long tunnel with piano - it is finally a joy, after years of self-doubt and confusion. I was full of baggage: I didn’t start until late in childhood, I’ve always practiced inconsistently, I was always a crummy sight-reader, and I never really felt like I had a strong foundation. Through sheer determination, I’ve been able to keep coming back to piano and put in the effort necessary to get to a place I can feel good about.
Now I have to do the same thing with guitar - and after years of self-doubt and confusion, I think I’ve finally figured out what to do. I must follow the exact same path I’ve taken with piano: go back to the basics and build up my skills step-by-step, balancing any serious challenges by playing many songs and pieces that are relatively easy. This is the same program I use for my students.
What makes teaching guitar a little trickier than teaching piano is that I have to do a lot more work to find songs that are both at the right level of difficulty for the student and also will suit her taste in music. I have learned a lot from this process, however, and I need to do the same thing for myself. Maybe I’ll go to the music store and find the equivalent of Kabalevsky and Koehler for my level on the guitar, or maybe I’ll just put together a book for myself: lead breaks from Beatles songs, Carter-style picking, and Chuck Berry riffs.
Silvio Rodriguez - “Ojala”
Radiohead - “High & Dry”
McCartney - “Put it There”
Gurlitt - Opus 187, Nos. 1 - 49
Mozart - Allegro (K. 15a)