My Piano Practicing Experience in Guelph

A peek of Liebestraum.

August 22, 2019

Today’s blog post will be some discussion about the various things that made the recent piano practice I’ve been doing in Guelph this semester some of the most effective I have ever done. I didn’t particularly intend to optimize for effective practice—it was just the circumstances.

If this piece of writing was purely for quick, everyday consumption (Ten Piano Practice Strategies that will Revolutionize Your Learning!), it might evolve into a bulleted list right about now. However, this is a blog, and it will flow more similarly to a stream of consciousness, meandering here, and drifting there.

A little bit of a recap of what I’ve been up to this summer, for posterity: summer 2019 (early May to late August) is my first of six co-op semesters of the mandated by the University of Waterloo’s Software Engineering program. I found an Android development position in Guelph, and moved to the University of Guelph’s residence for the duration.

The University of Waterloo offers a Music Studio course which consists primarily of one-on-one instruction in a musical instrument. I had been considering taking the course in my first year, but intimidated by the audition process, scary responses to “how many hours a week would I need to practice”, and a 30-hour-a-week class schedule, I never got around to the actions required to enroll in the course.

This summer, after a month or two of a ton of programming and other tech-related stuff, I decided I missed formal musical training and committed to auditioning for Music Studio. One small problem, though: The University of Guelph residence I’m staying in didn’t have any piano or music facilities available to its residents, so for the first two months I stayed in Guelph, I didn’t play the piano at all. The solution I landed on? Sign up for piano lessons, and ask if I might be able to rent or borrow a piano room to practice in.

It is a bit of an odd feeling to be able to simply walk into a music school one day and enroll in piano lessons. Up until the last year, my parents would have been responsible for coordinating any sort of out-of-school program that I took part in, contacting the program to enroll me in it, and paying whatever fees were associated with it. Now, all of that is my responsibility.

I think in the past, I often had feelings of reluctance concerning going to piano lessons or practicing piano, stemming partly from the fact that I sometimes felt it wasn’t really my personal choice to go to lessons, but rather, a decision made by someone else, even though I had agreed to take lessons. By signing up for piano lessons myself, I took full responsibility: the choice of long practice sessions making it to lessons on time was mine alone.

I rented a piano room at the music for about eight hours each week to practice in. When I had practiced at home previously, I often found myself distracted by all sorts of things, but in the relatively unfamiliar environment of the music school, I had less things to be distracted by, and managed to stay focused on practicing a lot better. In addition, since I was actually paying something for each hour in the room, getting distracted would be equivalent to wasting money.

The fairly regular schedule of renting the piano room helped as well. I booked some times at the start of each week, and just showed up and practiced. The decision I made to practice was separate from the actual act of practicing, so it was easier to commit myself in advance. I guess it can sometimes be easy to overcommit when presented with the choice in advance, though. Most days, I found myself leaving the house at about eight thirty in the morning and not getting back until nine at night.

Over the course of 11 weeks, I learned two entirely new pieces: Mozart’s Alla Turca, and Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3. It may not be the most impressive results, but I’m quite satisfied. Today was my last day of playing the piano at the music school. In about two weeks, my audition will take place, and we’ll see where things go from there!

Thanks, as always, dear reader, and see you next blog.

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