Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Practicing in silence

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David Bar-Illan

I worked as we all do, by playing the music out loud, until one day before a concert in Buenos Aires, I was rudely interrupted by a very unpleasant woman in the apartment below. Although it was daytime, she threatened to call the police. So necessity being the mother of invention, I tried to practice as quietly as possible. I noticed that if I depressed the keys very, very slowly there would be no sound at all. I quickly realized that this could give me some interesting results. First of all, since some of the motions were so slow, I found this to be a marvelous way of checking on how securely I had memorized the pieces.

And after that day I continued to practice in this way because it became clear that the kind of pressure used in such careful depression of the keys strengthens the fingers to such an extent that when you play at the proper tempo, it seems easy. You’ve seen baseball players practicing their swing with two bats in order to feel the relative lightness of one bat. This kind of practice gives you a margin of strength and security on stage, where we may be performing somewhat below our optimum level. And of course on tour this has become one of the blessings of my existence. I can practice on any bloody keyboard that is available. So many pianists say they can’t practice because the piano is not good enough, and to me that’s nonsense.

David Bar-Illan, to David Dubal in Reflections from the Keyboard

Written by nevalalee

June 18, 2016 at 7:30 am

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