Life According to Piano





phrases in music!

across the meadow, through the forest, over the stream

birth, growth, death, transformation

love, loss, grief

healing, forgiveness, joy


Draft31 Passages cover copy

Daily Practice: Forgive

A very long time ago (April 20, 2017) I began this post. And then I didn’t publish it; I mentioned that in the blog over a year ago. And now I have no idea why I didn’t publish it. So here it is!

Have I mentioned yet today how much I love playing Forgive?

I love playing Forgive!

Love love love love love it!!!

I think I have mentioned before that the 2 most lush pieces that I’ve ever composed — in my opinion of course — are Forgive & the arrangement of Londonderry Air. BOTH FOR LEFT HAND ALONE!!

I didn’t really believe that I could play Forgive at a performance level. It features arpeggios, which I’ve always considered the bane of my existence as a pianist. Poor training when I was a kid (no arpeggios at all that I remember; although in Mrs. Unger’s defense I must admit that I quit lessons just about when arpeggios would have been on the curriculum; so maybe she was or maybe she wasn’t avoiding them. I have certainly avoided them!)

[True, and marginally on topic, story: One of the pieces I performed on my master’s recital, a millennium & a lifetime ago, was Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C minor, WoO 80. Theme: very Baroque! 1st variation: arpeggios in RH. 2nd variation: very similar arpeggios, now in the LH. 3rd variation: oh hey, now BOTH hands are playing the arpeggios, in opposite motion! What fun!

Variation 1: I was good with that one. Variations 2 & 3 were more ... shall we say ... hit or miss. Not for lack of practice*, but for lack of confidence. I didn’t really believe I could play them accurately, and all too often that turned out to be true. 

There I was, playing my master’s recital, just about to begin Variation 2, when I suddenly realized that it was just as easy to land on the correct notes (which I had practiced & practiced & practiced) as it was to land on any other notes. So, I decided I would; and I did. I played variations 2 & 3 beautifully on my recital. I don’t frankly recall anything else about the Beethoven that night. (I recall only one other thing about that recital at all, which is its own story for another occasion.) 

Happily, I have carried that liberating realization with me into this new millennium: having done the practice and cultivated the ability to play the correct notes, it is just as easy to play the right notes as the wrong ones, no matter what else is going on. It is a decision on my part to do that and only that. I have tried to convey this to my students; I hope that it’s among the (probably very few) musician advantages I have been able to give them.

*yes, Vicki, I could have practiced them even more, that’s true.

End of marginally on topic story.]

So, I didn’t really believe that I could play Forgive beautifully, because arpeggios galore. But, those arpeggios are so beautiful! I wanted to get over my reluctance to try, and I used the occasion of the broken right wrist earlier this year to practice this left hand music.


I mentioned (here or on Facebook) last year when my right wrist was broken, how it astonished me that I was so very clumsy trying to whisk the breakfast eggs with my left hand.

I am quite right-handed, everywhere except the piano, where both my hands match each other in ability and flexibility. (And thank you to Geoff, who insisted I needed lots of left hand alone practice, lo those many years ago. It worked!)

So I believed that something like whisking, which is just a wrist action, would be easy to pick up with my left hand.


So awkward. So clumsy. So slow. It was a touch mortifying. (Yes: first-world problem, for sure. I am very fortunate that unskilled whisking is the kind of issue I have in my life, and I do appreciate that.)

Once my right wrist was healed, I was happy to return to right-handed whisking; a more timely breakfast being the main consideration. But a stubborn part of me has kept up the occasional left hand practice of whisking. (Old voices: “Left hand practice! Left hand practice!” Thanks again, Geoff.)

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