Bringing mental pitch exercises into everyday life

Our greatest recent joy has been welcoming our daughter to the world last week.  Having a few minutes free after a diaper change and helping her relax into sleep, I thought it would be a good opportunity to post about bringing mental music into everyday life.

In my goal to master perfect pitch by the end of 2010, I think I am about 60% there.  Daily I mentally play through both hands of Bach’s First Piano Invention, which focuses mostly on the “white” keys since it is in C major.  Several times a week, I also work slowly through Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which focuses more on the “black” keys of C Sharp minor.  I have finished memorizing the piece.  Now, as I’ve described before, my challenge is to play the starting note of each of the movement’s ~65 measures, then mentally play the measure to its end, then compare my mental end note to how it sounds on the piano.

It will probably take me until September to get to the point where I can mentally play the entire piece.  I am focusing mostly on the right hand arpeggios since the left hand mostly plays simple bass whole tones throughout the piece.

Because of our baby’s arrival, I wanted to see if I could keep working on mental music even when doing other daily activities.  The intent here is not to make myself crazed with multitasked activities, but just to find some way to keep my enjoyment of music going even when other priorities are the focus of my life.  I estimate I would spend 30-45 minutes each day doing mental practice or composing.  Once I have mastered perfect pitch, my ultimate goal is to use my mental music time to compose like Mozart did.

Recently I tried mentally playing through the Bach piece while walking to work and found it quite exhilarating.  I especially enjoyed walking at a relaxed pace, letting the CLAP of my feet on the pavement mark the beat.  One has to be careful not to walk too quickly, as this leads to inaccuracy and an uncomfortable sense of rushing.  Instead, walking at a slow pace encourages a relaxing indulgence in the mental sounds, without making me worried that I might invite injury from cars at intersections or obstacles like poles and recycling cans while walking, absorbed in music.

Otherwise I have not been doing much musically.  I pick up a sax about once a week, which is fine for now given my other priorities, and try to keep my embouchure in shape by doing isometric exercises (for instance, see last paragraph of this article).  Band rehearsals have been on hiatus, and I find myself wondering about finding some kirtan musicians to play with.  But that may be a pipe dream for now, I just find myself drawn lately to some really simple music like that of Krishna Das or various shakuhachi players.


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