© 2019  Engulf Ur Passion

Wants to share his knowledge of music to the world and hopefully one day change the way music is enjoyed

       Greetings, Fellow Igniters!   welcome to HIT ANY KEY TO CONTINUE!-a blog that will be updated every 2 weeks   

Dr. Brian Novak

HIT ANY KEY TO CONTINUE

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     I recently re-learned a valuable lesson from some of my FaceBook friends.  It's Interesting how time and habit can work against you- bringing complacency to the surface.  What did I learn throughout all of this?  I NEED A METRONOME WHEN I PRACTICE!!!!  That was really hard to accept at first; But I am glad I turned to logic and common sense.  It has made my practice time so much more productive.  Self discovery is an amazing thing  if we listen to it.  Success usually comes in small doses, and we should figure it out for ourselves which steps get us from A-Z.  This is for the short-term success: almost unrecognizable in the moment and this is what propels us to overall success and satisfaction.  My facebook friends are really helpful, but sometimes- SOMETIMES- they can let their stubborness stand in the way.  Let's look at some of the benefits of using a metronome-  However, it can be quite boring at times!
  1) It keeps you focused on the task at hand.  Whether a scale, arpeggio, or a Beethoven sonata, a metronome forces you to concentrate on the passage you want to get in your fingers.  Your mind doesn’t really wander because you are waiting to reach the point when you can increase speed.
  2) It develops a mindfulness to timing and tempo.  How fast is 90bpm?  Well- it just happens to be the speed of the piece you are studying.  By working your way up to the top tempo desired after a lot of controlled metronome practice, you will begin to sense the perfect speed when you are playing without.  It gets absorbed as you practice.   Your inner timing skill becomes highly developed.
  3) A metronome will help you track your improvement.  Weightlifters, runners, truck drivers, pilots- they all use logs to track their past tasks or performance.  If you keep a record of your metronome times, associated with all your practice- you can see how much progress you are making just by using it.
 4) Your technical skills will improve dramatically.  How could they not?  When you make progress, you go faster.  It keeps on going, even though there becomes a logical point you can’t overcome.
 5) A metronome will help you play with other musicians.  When you play with another musician or singer, you can both a use a metronome before you get together.  When the time comes to finally practice together, that part of the puzzle is already taken care of, and you can concentrate on the ebb and flow of the duet.
 6) Once you get everything out of the metronome you want when practicing a piece, put it away.  Don’t allow it to be a crutch, or a must-have.  At this point-  you start to trust your playing and building confidence in yourself: your memory, your technique, your emotional playing side.
   You all are probably doing this already, but the reasons above will give you a little bit more motivation to use the metronome as much as you need.  If you don’t have one, get an app for your phone.  They are usually free.
The time has come:  Start the metronome and Hit Any Key To Continue.

       Greetings, Fellow Igniters!   welcome to HIT ANY KEY TO CONTINUE!-a blog that will be updated every 2 weeks   

 

      My name is Brian Novac, and I bring you well wishes from the City of Angels!  Wherever you happen to be, it’s a great day to plan and work to achieve your plan.  Since we are all hard-core piano enthusiasts, this blog will be bringing you different points of view on performance, practice, memorization, priority building for your repertoire, among many other topics.  Think of it as a seriously whimsical look at what the piano can do for the performer as well as the audience.Over the past two years, I’ve made some great friends in the piano community, mostly from Facebook or blogs like this one. 

 

     You would all be surprised how many of us are out there, waiting to connect.I started piano at 5 years old, and just turned 60!  I still get a thrill playing scales, and learning new voicings, as well as visiting old pieces from my past.  The piano is so many things for me.  It unlocks creativity, it soothes my spirit as well as my mind, it allows me to take a break from stress, and it frees my mind to think through any problems.But you all know that!!So, as I share my wandering thoughts about music in 2019, please feel free to disagree, comment, applaud.  It’s all fair game, because we’re in this together.  Don’t know how to start?      Just Hit Any Key To Continue

                                             Until nex time, HIT ANY KEY TO CONTINUE...

REALITY CHECK

“There’s nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.”

                                                                                                                                   – Johann Sebastian Bach

 

      I’m not a professional musician, not even close.  But in my living room, alone at the piano, I sound transcendent!  I mean, who wouldn’t buy an $85.00 seat at Disney Hall to listen to me?  But that’s when reality sets in.  I’ve always been very self-aware, which is code for “I know I’m not as good as I think I should be.”   Self-awareness, self-regard.  We all struggle with those.  But if we want to improve, we must be critical of where we are, or we’ll never move forward.  What happens when  we hear someone else’s playing that outshines anything we can accomplish?  What do we feel... What should we feel...  Can we be honest with ourselves?  It takes a long time to have that kind of honesty.    Which, I suppose, is the real lesson.  When we listen to a professional who excels beyond what we have developed, that is an entire spectrum of opportunities opening before us...  We have heard what we want to achieve.  We also know that it IS achievable; it just will take some work.  (If they can do it, so can I!)  We know  what we lack and have a framework for exploration and discovery that we never had before.

     Vladimir Horowitz said the piano gets harder the better you become.  A whole new world became obvious for me when I read this years ago; it is so STARTLINGLY true.  Will any of us ever play like Liberace, or Lang Lang, or Herbie Hancock, or Art Tatum?  Probably not; but does it matter?   By celebrating the talents of the masters, it makes us better.  We know what our target is.  Even if we never achieve their level, we’ll always have something to aim at.   We can make our good become better.  Hopefully, our better will never be our best, because that means we have stopped learning.  It gets easier, as time goes on, to know what we want and how to get there.

Thelonious Monk said “the piano ain’t got no wrong notes”…that’s just genius in our time!  Wrong notes get us to the right notes if we let them.  Wrong notes show us the way to perfection.

       Let’s join those two thoughts.  Mistakes are inevitable but are key to growth.  It gets harder as we get better.  We attempt harder piano pieces and genres as we mprove.  It also gets easier, because we get a clearer view of our goals, our talents, and our limitations.  A desire to play like our heroes turns into motivation.  So maybe, someday soon, when you are playing in your living room, by yourself, and for yourself, you really are worth the price of a ticket to the Concert Hall.

                                               

                                               Until next time, HIT ANY KEY TO CONTINUTE...

           Life is better with a piano…

I’m a Professional Pianist, sort of…

       I always wanted to be a professional musician; you know, a working piano player.  I’d play at Staples Center, Wembley Stadium, Capitol Records studios, and on and on.  All for the love of the piano, the adoration of my fans, and to prove to myself I could do it.Well, that didn’t happen.  Turns out, I just wasn’t as good as I needed to be.  I didn’t have what it takes to make it as a professional, even though I’ve been paid for my   services over the years.These days, I do have a permanent gig:  church pianist.  Best job I ever had.  I get to improvise, I get to solo, I get to fill dead air during the service.  And even though I don’t make a dime…the old ladies love me!!!

 

IT’S NOT FOR EVERYBODY, BUT…

       I play in the old style of church music:  I try to use ALL the keys whenever I can.  Sort of Southern Gospel meets Ragtime meets George Winston meets Van Cliburn.  I try to give a full sound when I play so that the congregation has a lot to hear as they sing along.   I use scales, arpeggios, alternate chord voicings, as well as whatever jumps into my fingers to elevate the experience for the listener.  All that early technique has paid off inestimably.

Admittedly, I’ve played most every song in the hymnal for over 30 years, so I’m pretty comfortable going off the page.

       Most often, this turns into the highlight of my week!  I don’t do it for applause, which I never get anyway.  I don’t do it for compliments, which I do occasionally receive.  I genuinely look forward to using my skills and talents.  I do it to play the piano, and to play unbounded.  To play on my terms, hoping that I know what is needed in a given situation.  To play to enhance the service, to get people in the proper mood for Sunday Morning.  (Yes, there is a religious component at work here as well, but I won’t get into that right now.)

My practice sessions during the week revolve around the upcoming Sunday morning, getting ready for whatever is on the song list.

       I’m lucky enough to have a really nice acoustic piano to play during the service, and I think that makes a difference for me; I’m a bit of an acoustic snob.  But I’ve played many electric keyboards as well.

So, my fellow pianists, if the opportunity ever arises, give it a try.   No, you will not make any money.  You will seldom be applauded for your efforts.  No, you will not be asked for an encore; you definitely will not be paid.    What you will get is genuine satisfaction that your talents are being used for something important, and that you yourself become part of it.  You are on stage as a musician!

Again, it’s not for everybody.  But…if you ever feel the opportunity knocking...Take a leap of faith, and get involved.  You won’t be sorry...                  Until next time- HIT ANY KEY TO CONTINUE...

When I nod, hit the RECORD button…
        Do you want more confidence in your playing?  Do you want more precision, more progress, more reliability in your piano skills?   VIDEO YOURSELF!!!  As I have mentioned, I’m on a couple of Facebook Groups for piano players.  Everyone posts videos, and we get a chance to see what different people are working on, with a wide range of ability and music.
The first time is daunting!  You think it must be perfect; you think you should have done another take; you think you could have done better.The most important person to watch your video?  YOU!
          When you play the piano, you can hear, you can feel, you can do a lot of things to make yourself better.  But you can’t see yourself play.   Are you sitting straight enough?  Are your wrists and hands in proper alignment when playing?  Are your fingers curled properly?  Are you sitting too close to the bench?  Your video can show you so much that you don’t realize what you are not self-inspecting.  I resisted posting a video for the longest time.  I can be a bit sloppy when I play, because I play for myself.  Its therapy and maybe even cardio, who knows.  At church, I play a lot of solos, and I get serious about those pieces.  So, I’ve started videoing myself in practice.
            By making a practice video, you will be able to see tiny nuances of your playing you never thought about, and if needed, you can correct them.  So, put your iPhone on a tripod, or balance it on a chair next to the piano, or have your son or daughter hold it for you. Then, watch yourself.  You will be surprised that 1) you look and sound better than you thought; and 2) you will notice things about your playing that never occurred to you before.  If you want to post it, or send it to someone, awesome!  Do what you are comfortable doing.  But remember, the most important person to view it is you.
So, my fellow keyboardists.  In the very near future, Hit the Record Button.   Then,...

                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                Hit Any Key To Continue…