The Practice Project – Bach, Episode 2 (technicals & improvisation)

This video is proving to be the longest video I have shot to date. It is, however, I think one of the most interesting ones I have recorded.

The first section is purely technical – me working out and finalising fingering in each hand. Because my aim here is to get the Fantasia ‘note-perfect’ so that I can work out exactly what fingering I need to navigate the music, I am pretty much correcting every single wrong note or wrong fingering.

The middle section is mostly made up of improvisatory techniques; and this an extremely important area where I really do feel that too many students are too scared to delve into. Improvising, for me, is all about discovery and experimentation, and this is where I really start to find out about the structure of the music, the harmonic sequences, the direction and shape of the music, and the sounds that lie behind and underneath the notes. Students (and parents) are often worried that this is not ‘really practising’, that it is ‘just mucking about’, or that they do not know how to do it, or that it might be ‘wrong’ (just listen to the sheer number of mistakes I make whilst I am improvising; it often takes me 4 or 5 tries to find the harmony I am looking for!) They could not be more mistaken; discovering new things about music is never a ‘waste of time’, and there is no right way to do this, the process of experimenting is far more useful than the result itself. When I go back to playing the ‘right notes’ after improvising like this for a good session, I feel like I bring a new understanding and new knowledge to the music.

Improvising is never a waste of time, it benefits the performer in ways that ‘normal’ practice can’t even get close to.

The final section is another technical one; this one shows me attempting to co-ordinate the two voices and get my hands working well together (with varying degrees of success!)


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