Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Review Time

Lesson 9 last Saturday, at the teacher's house. We worked through the basic pieces - she played harmony, and we identified several issues that I need to attend to:

Play with the middle of the bow; I'm primarily using the lower third. This should allow my hand to loosen up a bit and involve the weight of the bow on the string - practice on open strings.

I am not holding half notes and dotted notes for their full count; one approach would be to count out the rhythm, aloud (without singing).

Stacatto: We talked about notes with dotted and dashed lines. Dots above or below the note should be played with a rapid initial kickoff with a rest inside the count. Dashed notes (Tenuto) are started the same way but held for their full length. [I picture the count for each note divided roughly into fourths. A full note sounds for all four parts (S-S-S-S). A dot below the note sounds for one fourth followed by a rest for the last three fourths of the count (S-r-r-r). So, a hooked bowing with two notes dotted would be (S-r-r-r, S-r-r-r).] I should also be letting my wrist "flick" a little bit at the end of each stroke. In the "Long, Long Ago (in C) Variation" the hooked bowing needs to be more emphatic.

My bow grip needs to become a bow hold; I'm clenching the bow too tightly. It should "float" in my fingers, and I should feel the bow move around in my hand - differently on the up bow than the down bow. I have to hold my right hand flatter - curving the second and third knuckles to straighten out the back of the hand at the third knuckles - in line with the wrist. The forefinger should control the force of the note - pushing into the string as needed for volume and intensity.

I have to lift my left arm a bit more - with the hand more parallel to the wrist and forearm. But not overdone, either.

At the lesson, I kept hitting the first finger notes a bit flat (at home, it's more often sharp). To help find their home position, I should listen for the ringing of the A-note on the G string, and the D-note on the C string.

Finally, I've memorized one sequence of the Andante wrong, but it's been easy to fix.

I'll spend the next several weeks fine-tuning all these basics, before moving on to the second position. So far, I'm successfully applying most of these fixes in the past few sessions; but a lot more work is needed.

It's been difficult finding a window to play every day with school out and lots of activities. Lately, I've not been too happy with the sounds I'm getting, and my left fingers don't seem to be finding their right spots on the fingerboard. It makes it hard to keep up a full two hour session on days like this.

Last week our contractor put in the driveway and pad at our new one-site campground on Tustumena Lake Road. The pad is on top of a little hill. To the east we have a nice view of some of the Kenai Mountain Range as well as a glimpse of Tustumena Lake . To the west we can see Mt. Iliamna, Mt. Spurr to the north, and we have a partial view of the Caribou Hills in the south.

We parked our MH up there for several days this weekend. It was nice. We planted ten Larches and a few Scotch Pines on the south face of the hill to screen us from the subdivision road (there are sure to be some neighbors one day.) We're waiting for Homer Electric to install a power line sometime in June and we'll put in an RV connector box with a 50-amp plugin. Then we'll spread some calcium chloride on the pad and drive and some grass seed in a few other places to control the dust.

We spent an afternoon clearing out some of the brush on the west side of the hill. There's a lot more to do, with a handful of dead trees to cut down as well. Eventually, we're going to bring out a cement mixer to install some posts for a driveway chain, a mounting pole for the dish antenna, and a post for the RV outlet box. Finally, we're going to build a "floating" 12 x 12 deck and a picnic table. Eventually (next year), we're going to build a gazebo with removable glass "walls" (with screens) and finally install our parrilla. It will also serve as a heater letting us enjoy the property well beyond the normal camping season.

This week the contractor is going to overhaul the driveway at the house.

Saturday evening I went to a recital by nine students who had recently performed in concerto competetion sponsored by the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra. Three winners were chosen from the twelve participants, and they will perform with the Orchestra in the fall. By far the most outstanding, was the final pianist, Jessica Schallock, who played a wonderful piece by Mozart. She completely mastered the piece technically, and it was easy to see her passionate involvement in the music. It was a long piece (maybe 10 to 15 minutes) and she did it all from memory. Really masterful! The cellist, who also won, did not perform in this recital. I was really disappointed at the poor turnout. Aside from immediate family members, I doubt if 20 people were present (although it was a beautiful warm sunny evening, in the middle of a three day holiday weekend.)

Hey, does this include lavish praise for myself? Thanks for the kind words--I didn't think I played that well at that recital, but sometimes we just have to relax and play the music. --Jessica Schallock
Your performance was indeed worthy of lavish praise. You are definitely going places. (BTW I really liked your non-fiction piece in the Homer News.)
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