I am incredibly grateful to have interviewed a pianist I greatly admire. Her name is Hana Fujisaki. Below is a video of one of her many great performances from last year (her solo starts around 4:15).
- Why practice? Aren’t you good enough already? -Not only to get better, but because that's one of the things I enjoy and love doing. For me there are few things more fun than creating sound and being able to do it more and more.
- What do you do before physically playing, if anything, to prepare (for example, stretching)? -I do some stretching to make sure my shoulder and arms are completely relaxed so I can control the touch and sound easily.
- What do you do immediately after practicing?- I usually eat something, practicing makes me hungry.
- . What time(s) of day do you normally practice? -it really depends. When I feel like, but usually late at night… I've done it as late as 3am when that's when my motivation came.
- Do you have a practice routine? If so, please describe it in detail. -as a pianist, I always make sure my fingers move precisely to how I want them to move, so I play scales and some relatively easy classical pieces with a lot of eighth notes (Usually Mozart or Bach's) to practice control of my hands and fingers.
- How did you establish your practice routine? Did a teacher, multiple teachers help you? Have you read scientific studies about how to practice effectively? -Yes, few years of taking a classical piano helped me realize the importance of being good at my instrument to be able to express music any way I want, and the key to that is in the simplest movement or practice. I also recently read Kenny Werner's book "Effortless Mastery" and that gave me some additional ideas to add to the routine that involves thinking and focusing my mind rather than actual playing.
- How has your practicing changed since attending college? -I started to manage the time schedule more since I have limited time to use the practice room. Also I started to practice with someone or a group of people more and it helps me notice more of what I lack than when I'm practicing alone.
- Please state your name, instrument, years of study, year in school- Hana Fujisaki, piano, around 15 years, senior.
- Please state the high school you attended (and location)- Senzoku gakuen High school, Kanagawa, Japan
- Who has helped you the most purely in terms of developing your practice philosophy/technique?- My first jazz piano teacher. At the time I was only trying to be better at piano by sitting at a piano as long as I can, but this teacher started with making me clap my hand and knees playing just one note at the time. That made me realize how little I knew about how I played and how better I can be at playing.
- What did you practice today? -I haven't! I'll do it later! (This was around 7P.M.)
- How long do you practice per day?-It really varies.. from 15min to 8 hours!
- How do you achieve your specific sound on the piano? Do you intentionally practice striking the keys a certain way? -yes, I really want to pursue the clean and beautiful sound. I sometimes record my practice and compare it to some pianists that have my ideal sounds to find out what I can do to improve.
- What are the big ideas you use to guide your practice? Examples might be technique, repertoire, improving sense of rhythm, etc.- Improving sense of rhythm. As a pianist my focus used to be only on the voicing and harmony, but I've realized what's more essential in jazz and now I'm trying to improve what was lacking in my playing.
- How do you stay motivated to practice? -listen to my favorite musicians or songs that always makes me happy and want to play! Yeah I'm pretty simple (laughs)
- Do you enjoy practicing? -Yes! But it's because I don't call it practice; it's a time to try some ideas I had in my mind all night but finally get to try with my instrument.
- What is your process for learning a new tune? -Listen to different professionals play that song and establish the idea to make it my own, and then try to playing it based on those ideas.
- How do you practice improvisation? Do you just play freely, or do you have a more systematic approach? -When practicing, I try all different approaches like only using chromatic movements, trying to quote this song and that song to sound like someone, and so on. But all that is so I won't have to do it eventually and play freely and still sound good.
- Which part of your practice do you think contributes the most to your overall playing? -That would be my practice routine. All my sound is based on how my fingers move and even if I had brilliant ideas I wouldn't be able to make the sound I want without my daily finger training
- How do you master different styles such as swing, bebop, Brazilian, etc? - Listen to who is good at it. We are so lucky to have devices help us, so just fully utilize them!
- Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you wish to share about your practice? -it really helps to think about musicians you want to sound like. I observe closely to them to find what makes their sound so special and it helps make my own sound eventually, I believe.Oh and one more thing to add!
I like art as well and I do draw a lot. It might not seem to relate to music but it actually helps being more creative from different perspectives.
When working on a new song and I have hard time understanding the feel or making it my own, I think of the actual color of the song or draw, imagining how the song would look like in a visible form.
You can see Hana’s art here (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hana-Fujisaki-ArtMusic/128012744204678?fref=nf), it is truly fun, interesting, and incredibly good work.
The big takeaways I got from her interview are a focus on rhythm and sound (rather than harmony), and an internal sense of motivation. She listens to what she likes, practices based on who she considers great, and incorporates a lot of different elements in her practicing because she is curious about experimenting with and mastering different sounds. I also suspect that whatever she eats after practicing is really important. The body and brain need nutrition to reinforce the connections they make while practicing.
Different than the drill it and kill it model so many people follow. I also loved the fact that drawing helps her general sense of creativity. Very interesting how things in the rest of one's life affects their music.
Next week will be another great interview with someone new. A musician who isn't focusing on jazz, so hang in there classical readers!