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30 Prelude and Fugue in D minor from Book 2




I HEAR IT                         Try speaking this in the rhythm of the opening of the Fugue subject

For a lot of people on the piano the problem is not so much about playing the right notes as about letting go of the right notes. It may seem very obvious but it is always worth pointing out that it is impossible to repeat a note on the piano without letting go. While a note is being held down the hammer is not physically able to hit the string again and therefore no further sound can be made with that note until it has been released. If you learn this from a single note on the piano then you can apply it to every note. Let go - release - allow the hand to be free - move the hand to be ready for the NEXT note - allow the music to flow like a river. Sometimes it feels that the verbal content of a piano lesson is just a succession of cliches : E_GO - LET GO - LET GOD

Or more prosaically…… Once you have a note sounding, release your intention towards the NEXT note so that your hand can be ready to PLAY the next note and keep the music flowing forwards.

Or more mystically……. Allow each sound its space without interference from the ‘solid’ intention of ego so that the music can reveal the underlying divine flow which is always present.

In meditation, sound can be used as a mindfulness support, something which the conscious mind can use to bring back the attention to the present spaciousness. The breath can be used in a similar way, something which the mind focusses on as a tool for restoring a spacious awareness of the present moment. But sound seems to me particularly powerful in this regard because it is always changing. Becoming more aware of the soundscape of the present moment is a great discipline for learning the piano - and an excellent pre-practise ritual. For thirty seconds before playing a single note tune your attention in to whatever sounds are present both in the room and entering in from outside. You will then begin your practise with your ears open and receptive. In this state you are much more likely to remember to let go with your fingers to hear the flow of the music moving forwards. Remember - whether you are practising on your own in your own house or playing in front of a large audience - you need to be an attentive listener, tuned in like a radio receiving signals at the right frequency open to the new reality of the present moment Letting go of the notes physically is a strong metaphor, a reminder to let go mentally. When you have really taken this on board you will be able to let go of ‘wrong’ notes as well as ‘right’ notes and not allow ‘mistakes’ to get in the way of the present reality of the piece as it unfolds. (Connecting directly with this point I would highly recommend reading the book The perfect wrong note - Learning to trust your musical self by William Westney ) Playing the piano can then become a metaphor for life itself, a microcosm of how different our lives would be if we continually practise ‘letting go’.