Saturday, March 28, 2009

Repertoire and the After-Work Musician (II)

Back in November I wrote about trying to build repertoire on a shoestring practice budget. At the time I was holding 13 pieces at performance level. Keeping a daily practice log allowed me to concentrate on squeaky wheels without letting the more settled pieces go too long without attention. But I was already feeling a little stretched; I wrote:
I'm curious to see how far this routine will take me. Will it continue to work with 20 pieces? 25? Or am I already at the limit for the number of hours I put in?

Here is my four-month update.

I've managed to bring up three more pieces. So I have 16 that I would feel comfortable playing from memory in public. As expected, the practice gaps for most pieces have gotten longer. I may go a week or even two without playing Puerto or Sonetto 104, etc. But they don't seem to be suffering much. When I come back to them, the memory is fine and there's even a freshness to the interpretation that I'm really enjoying. I'd probably want to work them hard for a week if I had a serious performance, but I'd have no qualms about whipping them out for something more casual.

As for new pieces... I'm working on two big ones and three little (tiny) ones. The big ones are a Rachmaninoff prelude and a Mozart concerto. I played the Mozart a hundred years ago, so the learning curve isn't too steep. It's longer than the solo pieces, so that takes time. I've never played the Rachmaninoff before (or any Rachmaninoff). It's a challenging piece and requires daily attention. But I'm definitely over the hump and it's getting close (mostly memorized, almost to speed).

The three tiny pieces are from Schumann's Scenes from Childhood. Mom sent me the music and I chose three of the more popular ones to learn. It's good to have some short, popular tunes in the bag.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Fifteen Minutes

I'm not quite sure how to "file" this, but I thought my blog readers (all three of you) might be interested.

That great video hosting site that I love ( allows users to create "channels". A channel is simply a place to showcase videos that have something in common. Anybody can create a channel on vimeo and add any videos they like to the channel. Channels are organized into categories (comedy, music, nature, etc.) making them a great way to discover new videos.

The creator of the Classical Music channel on vimeo stumbled across my piano videos and added my Moza Donosa video to the channel. I think it's pretty cool to see my video somewhere that I didn't put it. (But I amuse easily).

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's not the heat...

What is the the maximum room humidity for a piano to be playable?

In general, I don't know. But right now, for my piano, it seems to be about 60%.

I used a humidifier during the winter to keep the humidity up to a level comfortable for the piano. But in the space of a week the temperature has jumped in CenTex, humidity is into the 60s and my baby is suffering. I have one hammer that's sticking pretty badly. A few dampers are a little sluggish. And in general the action just feels a little less responsive... a little less crisp. (Or maybe I'm just playing badly these days.)

Anyway, I'll break out the dehumidifier. But humidity in the low 60s shouldn't be a problem. I'm sure the action still just needs some first-year adjustments. I've heard it's pretty common to have sticky keys/dampers in the first year.

Paging Gary....

Monday, March 2, 2009

Piano Lid Pillow!

Behold my new, one-of-a-kind, Essex piano lid pillow, custom-made by my wonderful wife, Johanne:

If you're wondering what a piano lid pillow is, don't bother Googling it. The Internet doesn't know what it is either. It's a cushion that sits on the lid of a grand piano so that when you fold the front part of the lid over it doesn't rest directly on the back part of the lid and mar the finish.

I've been hunting for one for months, but nobody makes them. The only one I've ever seen is made by Estonia pianos. When you buy an Estonia piano, you get a lid pillow with it.

So Johanne made one for me from an Essex polishing cloth. I expect that this post will now be the only Google hit for "piano lid pillow".