With all these piano lessons, wouldn't you think my fingers had gotten stronger?!
I've started on a series of exercises by Schmitt that look deceptively easy. They actually show off how weak my fingers are. And Trudy's piano has a much harder key action than mine, so I have to strike the keys harder and that also shows off how far I still have to go. Trudy suggests "pinkie barbells" to shape up my pinkie fingers. With sweat bands. She gets all giggly as she imagines full workouts for specific fingers.
The current series of Schmitt exercises (Nos. 34-40; I am not making rapid progress at the pinkie-barbell gym) calls for holding down C with the appropriate finger on each hand while repeating a little sixteenth-note phrase with the other four fingers. IT HURTS! Apparently there are muscles in the forearm that control these fingers. Who knew? I have to stop and shake them out after two or three repetitions.
Meanwhile I was trying to improve my speed on the Hanon exercises, but it turns out my ring fingers are still too weak for that to be acceptable. I can't play evenly. So I've had to slow down again and work on the ring-finger barbells too. And then my thumbs don't like to find the right notes. And I'm "blurring" (playing two notes simultaneously) between middle and ring fingers. "Basically, the problem is only in the first five fingers on each hand," I observed to Trudy. Being sleep-deprived at the time, she didn't get it for a minute, but she finally laughed.
This week I was an emotional wreck because my beloved orange cat has disappeared. I tell myself he's off having adventures but I am bereft; and Trudy has a wonderful friendly "rag doll" cat that just reminded me of my misery. So it was hard for me to ask what was on my mind: could she not tell I am practicing regularly? Last week as I was leaving she asked, "How is the practicing going? Are you able to practice consistently?" and I was afraid that meant I really sucked. She can't even tell I'm practicing! But no, that's not what she meant. She just thought I seemed a bit more hesitant that week than I had before, and so maybe that week I'd missed some practice time. (In fact, I was hesitant because we'd rescheduled for late in the day, and her husband was home, and her children wanted her, and I needed to get back to work.)
Then she said what I wanted to hear: "Oh, no, Kay, you're doing a great job! Keep it up!"