Last week, I began working on Chopin’s Nocturne in D flat Major. It was a piece I have heard over and over again in my life but never had a chance to learn. A classic! Beautifully written with a soaring melodic line and rich dramatic harmonies.
Also, not the easiest piece. Not for me at least. After all my music education, I often feel that I should be able to sightread every piece of music out there. In fact, I feel a little embarrassed admitting this!
Even after 18 years of experience, my progress in learning new classical music seems familiar. I break down the piece into chew-able sections that I can work on. I don’t get all the notes and rhythms right every time. Sometimes I don’t even get it right by the end of my practice session. After getting to know the notes and rhythm more, I start to think about dynamics, phrasing, expression. I know that all of this will take me more time. Although I want to be able to perfect the piece in one day, I know that this is the grind of classical music. Classical music is full of technical challenges, complex twists and turns, and potential for creative expression
However, despite the familiarity of the grind, I noticed that I’ve learned concepts that help push me along throughout the years
- I practice better. No longer do I play something from beginning to end repeatedly. I employ random practicing, instead of block practicing and see my improvement accelerate
- I keep it consistent. Even when feeling discouraged, I schedule 30 minutes of my day to practice.
- I celebrate the small progresses. Even if I can’t play the whole piece smoothly, I celebrate the sections that I notice has improved.
- I improvise. Besides the classical music, I book off time in my schedule to improvise and create other types of music. It makes me feel that there is variety and options in my journey.