Often times pianists get overwhelmed when learning a new and very challenging piece. I am going to blog on my progress in learning the Hindemith Trombone Sonata, and while I certainly don't have all the answers as to how to learn a difficult piece, perhaps my experience in the upcoming weeks can be of help.
To be honest, I began this piece earlier this summer, seriously beginning work on it in August. Therefore, my first post will be looking back at what I've done so far and have accomplished. I'll eventually get to more current posts as to what I'm doing right now to prepare. I have a very specific deadline which is at a collegiate recital on October 22nd.
I started getting an overview of the movements and determining a strategy of "attack." There are many similarities between movements, but the first and last have some striking similarities. That is where I began, starting first with the first movement and then moving to the last to get an overview.
After several practice sessions this way, I knew I needed to get serious. Learning a piece like this takes very slow practice and slowly getting the unique harmonic sounds in one's head so they are memorable. This is one of the greatest challenges in playing a style like Hindemith's As pianists, we can rely on our intuition with much of the music we play. I can sight-read many accompaniments simply because they are predictable. Hindemith is anything but. The good thing is that there are patterns both melodic and harmonic, but we just have to find them. I wrote about that in a blog last year while learning the Tuba Sonata. Finding and recognizing these patterns makes the job so much easier.
In working on the first movement, I cut the tempo back to less than half. Part of the time, I may have been at 1/3 or 1/4 tempo simply to do some repetition and get the harmonic and melodic ideas engrained in my mind. The tempo marking is 80-88 for the half-note. I believe in a lot of variety in practice, but now that I'm getting the first movement learned (more-or-less), it is varying the repetition that will help me master it. Today's routine for the 1st movement went like this:
At the same time, I'm working the second movement. This work is happening simultaneously. I feel I can work on two movements at a time and be able to put in the focus I need on both. Stay tuned for my next post and how I'm attacking that movement.