So you think you have what it takes to become a classical musician?
A classical pianist at that? The piano is the most profound and complex instrument. 88 keys and when played correctly, the piano can bring the most beautiful imagery to mind, or mimic any sound. Hell, I will even take it a step further by going to the extent of claiming that it will make grown men cry— but don’t hold me to it, I don’t need to be blamed for someone’s insensitive a**.
BUT YSSSA, How do you define the word “Correct”? There is no simple way of putting this. Correct = The European Conservatory Way. As much as I hate being the bearer of bad news, *crucify me* I’m going to throw another heartbreaking truth out there. If you are studying with a teacher who has never studied abroad or attended a conservatory in Europe you might as well consider those hard-working years as well as the thousands of dollars invested in musical studies a complete and utter waste. Like Shakespeare said, “Oh! Woe is me.” (Trust me, I’m in the same boat but luckily we have paddles.)
For new subscribers, if you don’t already know, my name is YSSSA and I’m doing conservatory bootcamp 101. Classical Orchestral Music is a whole different breed of musicianship and I’m excited to document and share my experience with you along the way.
Ok, Getting to the good stuff… && fasting forward to my initial response upon our first meeting. FUN FACT: Transparency is one of my core values, to be point blank my initial thought was,
“oh, f*ck. “What did I get myself into? Here are a few of the many things I picked up on very quickly.
1. European trained Maestro’s know their shit.
and I mean they REALLY know it.. & they can back it up to boot. Soon enough you are going to know it too. In no time, you’re going to be so invested in the lives of Bach, Beethoven and Chopin that you may turn existentialist or mistake yourself for a long lost time traveler stuck in between lifetimes. You are going to learn everything, from the great composers, what inspired them, down to their mistresses. You also aren’t just going to play the piano, you are going to learn every detail about the piano, how it came into existence and why. Get ready for a major history lesson. Say Goodbye to the Modern world as you know it, we’re going “Bach” in time dating to the 17th and 18th century. Pun intended. Your Maestro is your tour guide.
2. They don’t hold back.
To the non-musical ear we could play chopsticks and it would garnish attention. If you’re looking for a pat on the back,some validation or a tiny gold sticker: you have ventured into the wrong territory. Maestro’s are passionate— in simpler terms; borderline obsessive compulsive with a hintof perfectionism. They will nit pick until you reach perfection. In fact the saying “Perfection does not exist” does not apply to them. It’s not in their vocabulary. Their job is to find every flaw, every bad habit (and trust me, there’s a A LOT) and correct them. It’s a tedious process but the results don’t lie. They expect you to take your learning serious and if you don’t, hell hath no fury like a maestro who’s student is slacking off. If you don’t take piano as serious as they do, they don’t want to teach you. PERIOD. Thick skin is needed, but know it’s done for your best interest and to bring out the optimal pianist in you. After all, you’re only as great as your last performance.
3. Technique is EVERYTHING.
Just assume everything that you have learned through private lessons, you have
learned incorrectly. Be prepared to dive into the wonderful world of finger independence and technical exercises and trust me, embrace yourself for awkwardness and SORE FINGERS. Your fingers will learn to move in ways you never knew they could. All I’m going to say for this one, is patience is a virtue and you will learn it.
4. Scales should be played like second nature.
regular motion, parallel motion, in thirds, sixths, arpeggios, triads, inversions, inverted, diminished & every other combo. Scales need to be second to breathing. Make sure you play them and you play them well otherwise you won’t be touching repertiore for a very long time.
5. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings.
“Should of, could of, would of.” It’s all nonsense. Stop fixating on the past and thinking about how much better you could have been if you had the proper training. You’re being handed the tools to learn now. Use them precisely and wisely. Focus, Practice your heart out, give no excuses and don’t practice without intention.
That pretty much sums up my revelations. Check back to hear about my assignments from hell. My next post I’ll be going over what they were, how I handled them, and the insights I obtained.
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