About a month ago, I started on a new project - to work my way methodically through Bela Bartok's Mikrokosmos
motivation for doing this is largely because this is very different from my usual modus operandi. I've never worked through a method book, and I'm keen to see if the discipline of doing so will do me any good. I'm working through in order, starting with Book 1, to see how far I can get. I'm making recordings of each piece as I go both as a way of marking my progress (I don't move on until I have a satisfactory recording of a piece), and for posting here as a potentially useful resource for others. I'm also starting this thread as a kind of blog of the whole process.
I've just finished Book 1. The recordings are here
- on box.net. You can download or preview the individual files, and there is a also a zip file containing the whole book.
The early pieces went very quickly, and I could pretty much sight-read these straight into recordings. So far so good.
Later on, a few pieces proved a little tricky but I was in pretty comfortable territory until near the end of the book (the last half-dozen or so pieces) where I hit a serious difficulty ramp. Not that the pieces are hard to play - technically they are straighforward - but I found them very difficult to play without stumbling or hitting a wrong note somewhere. I think it is largely because of the lack of the sort of patterns that I now know I probably rely on too heavily in my reading and learning processes. With chords, or Alberti bass, or even an imitative contrapuntal structure you can read the pattern and there's a lot less real-time information to deal with. It's been a good workout, if only for that realisation, and the opportunity to work on it.
On the whole, I like the 'method', and I think it's a great approach for an adult beginner. The early pieces concentrate on
just getting the fingers moving, without necessarily trying to be too musical. They are more like abstract excercises.
Later on, but fairly soon, hand independence is introduced (the early pieces are all two hands in unison). The emphasis is
on doing different things with each hand, before trying anything too difficult with either. For me, this is the right
approach - tackling the two-handed nature of the instrument straight off without doing any hands-seperate work first. Many of the later pieces are quite musically satisfying, for example 'Imitation and Counterpoint', although only a few bars long is very satisfying to play, and some of the short folk-inpired pieces (e.g. 'Little Dance in Canon Form') are very nice. I
don't think many people would want to learn using only this series, but after Book 1, a lot of more varied repertoire such
as the Anna Magdalena book and Burgmuller's Op 100 would be available also.
Book 2 will probably take me considerably longer. My initial aim was to keep going at least through the first three and
then see where I'm at. I'll probably take a break now to work on some other things and return to Book 2 in a few week's time. I'll post my progress here when I'm back to it.