Wooden Fingers

I’ve been sinking my teeth (fingers) into this pair of Nintendo books. One Mario, one Zelda. (I also threw a Minecraft book into the cart on a whim, but I don’t think my teeth are quite ready for that one.) Yes, we could go on all night arguing about the tracklists or we could just go on reading my post.

The first project is “Dire, Dire, Docks,” a staple of seminal classic Super Mario 64.

Don’t let these ballads fool you as they did me. One is easily duped into thinking “oh man, I’ll play all this nice slow swoony stuff because my stiff ass stilt fingers can’t do much else.” Turns out the Triple D is faster than I remember (and let me tell you I remember well. Super Mario 64 is just one of several video game soundtracks on The Zune, and of that game’s songs, “Docks” probably has enjoyed the most airtime). How fast could it be? 140 dang beats per minute, or 70 in the written cut time nomenclature but who’s cutting? Reading the sheet is one of the first things to go when I’m learning a piece. Strange departure from my tuba days.

I’ve been at the Docks for a month now, and I’m swimming at about 120 bpm, which is the “beginner’s” “accepted” tempo according to this “Easy” piano book. I’m already working with a Fisher-Price Baby’s First arrangement (with a couple of tweaks, I admit). I get it guys, I’m an amateur, but is that really supposed to stop me going another 20 clicks?

The answer, for now, is “yes.” Have a listen at 120, sans metronome, and you’ll agree it’s a safe place to make camp and assess the situation:

Some thoughts:

  • I’ve been practicing this with a metronome exhaustively, and for every recording I do with the click track, the eighth note runs in the right hand come out wooden and uneven. This is my top priority in practice, and maybe I should’ve given it more due 20 or 30 bpm ago. Everything slots in fine with tempo, but it feels rather stiff for what’s supposed to be a water melody. I even have this issue in the free time recording, albeit a little less. It’s something I didn’t hear until I started recording this number (read: yesterday), so there’s the lesson, kids, record obsessively.
  • Liking the left hand work enough, though. Got some unplanned fortissimo in there, particularly when I dip to the E-flat chords, but I think those can be ironed out. Recording still gets my nerves up, which definitely affects my performance. This is why henceforth I record obsessively.
  • Listening back to the metronome version, the long notes feel like they last forever. Maybe just chalk it up to playing solo? That dead air feels soooooo long. In free time, I always cut it short. Just as long as I don’t do so with a metronome/ensemble, I suppose. (Not that I’ll be playing piano with actual musicians any time soon.)
  • I guess I should’ve linked to the metronome recording since I keep referring to that, too, but I don’t have all day okay? This sort of obsessive planning is why this post took the same time to develop as a human baby.

I may have to settle for the Novice Tempo before it’s time to ship this one, but if I can get the stiffness out of the melody I’ll call it a win.




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