practice doesn’t always make perfect

The hours I put in at the piano should mean that so long as I haven’t been unable to practise, I sit, warm up, refresh previous work and continue to some further improvement. But take yesterday. Complete collapse of a much-rehearsed exercise, loss of control over 4th and 5th fingers of right hand, and a hideous lapse of memory. I slid away, apologising and mortified.

It may seem silly to apologise to a piano, but I think that like horses, pianos have temperaments, and not only physical – temperature, humidity – but personas that can give or withold their gifts. Just as a rider’s scratchiness can provoke a horse into jibbing and jogging, so a player’s mood can provoke a piano into sticking and stumbling. My piano is very generous. It puts up with me, for goodness sake. But if I open it up in a bit of a mood, we sometimes have words. It says ‘Now look here. You get out only what you put in’. I say, ‘But I put quite a lot in’. Mine is a ridiculous response, and the piano lets me know.

Yesterday, I must have been in more of a mood than I thought. Today, as I retreat to basics, I’m determined to be Mrs. Unmoody. The last time I managed this I was either unconscious or not yet born. A bit of a challenge, then.