Updated on 12.22.10

2011 Resolution #2: Play Music

Trent Hamm

In an effort to talk about the power of goal-setting along with some methods of setting and achieving goals, I’m going to discuss my three resolutions for 2011 this week.

Another of my 2010 resolutions was to learn to play the piano, which is something I feel is coming along very well. For 2011, I’ve been thinking about tackling some intermediate-level pieces and working with them until I can play them very well.

For the moment, I’ve settled on four pieces that I want to be able to play without error by the end of 2011. Two of them are classical and two of them are pop.

1. Scheherazade (piano solo) by Nikolaj Rimsky-Korsakow (listen to excerpt)
2. Beautiful Day by U2 (listen)
3. In the Hall of the Mountain King (piano solo) by Edvard Grieg (listen)
4. Clocks by Coldplay (listen)

My plan is to continue my piano lessons as they are and work through these (at first) completely on my own. As I start making breakthroughs, I’ll then take the piece to a piano lesson and go through it with my teacher, as she’s good at spotting where my problems are. I’ve basically asked her not to pull punches as I’d rather get good than have my ego fluffed.

For this resolution, I don’t have to set aside (much) time that I’m not already setting aside for piano practice. Instead, what I’m doing is setting new goals and renewing my commitment to learning an instrument.

Are these pieces over my head? Maybe. It really depends on the arrangement I wind up working with. I have arrangements in hand for three of them that I can at least comprehend and work through slowly at the keyboard.

I view these pieces as my “challenge” pieces. In a normal one hour practice session, I usually spend fifteen minutes on finger exercises and scales, fifteen minutes on a piece or two I know well, and thirty minutes on pieces that challenge me. They’re complex enough that I can’t just sit down, flop the piece in front of me, and just play it.

Why is this a goal? One, music education is a piece of my own personal education that I feel I missed when I was younger. I’ve always wanted to play an instrument and now I’m learning how. Two, I want to show my children that music is part of a normal, healthy life. Three, I might someday end up playing at my local church as a backup pianist for services. Fourth, I want to show myself that I can do this.

That’s reason enough for me.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. mary m says:

    I love Clocks, in my mind it is the perfect song.

  2. Candy says:

    Are you using the actual arrangement that Prokofiev is playing? I grew up listening to the orchestral version and didn’t realize that a piano version was available! So I would love to know where to get the music. Love your blog–my daughter-in-law is from Ames, so I have an extra connection there!

  3. Chantal P says:

    I too started learning to play piano a year ago, at age 50. I just started book 2 of the Alfred adult piano book. My teacher is 27 years old. It’s fun.

    My goal right now is to play ”Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.

    I was on a cruise ship over Christmas and during the afternoons, I would sneak in one of the ship’s dining rooms and play on the grand piano. The staff were going around me setting up the tables, but no one ever said anything, they just smiled. That was very nice

  4. Caleb Wojcik says:

    When I find the time to pick up piano Clocks will definitely be on my list too.

    Good luck on progressing to the intermediate level!

  5. Karina says:

    What kind of pieces did you learn to play this year? You sound like you are progressing very nicely.

  6. DougR says:

    As far as music practice is concerned, I find that Rule No. 1 is “Get your Ass in the Chair, and Everything Else Follows.” You can then get so absorbed with working out technical details that the time just flies.

    As far as the “over your head” notion goes, I know tons of top-flight players who do major work in major venues, and guess what–the music is ALWAYS over their heads, until they sit down & work it out. Part of the way you grow as a musician is constantly tackling over-your-head stuff, with the caveat that you only go as fast as you can actually master what you’re practicing–slow, thoughtful, repetitive playing is the key. (One might say here, “never play a piece faster than ‘perfect.’)

    Playing music has been a major gift to me, and practice has become a kind of meditation (one I don’t do nearly enough, I should add!!)

  7. Jordan says:

    Congrats on tackling four lovely pieces. My step-brother learned how to play Clocks, and once he got the timing issues sorted out, it sounded lovely. Enjoy your practice!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *