Saturday, July 08, 2006


What a difference the sun makes!

From gloom to ecstasy in minutes! For the past three days, it has been cloudy, cold (45F to 55F), and rainy. Today started off no different. The drive to Homer for Lesson 12 gave no hint that the day might improve. But by the time I left to come back home, the sun was just beginning to show itself on the Bay. It took four more hours for that better weather to finally arrive here. Now, the skies to the west are bright blue with a hot sun - in minutes the temperature rose to the mid 60s, and we are looking forward to a long sunny evening. How quickly our moods improve with the sun!

Lesson 12 went quite well. I was pleased (mostly) with my playing and we had a good discussion about second position fingering techniques. My work on the target notes for the second finger seemed to have paid off - I was able to find them fairly easily, and also the new fourth finger notes (E/A/D/C).

I have to work on moving my thumb in coordination with the whole hand, particularly to slide (loosely) the appropriate fingers on the string, rather than lifting my hand altogether and jumping to the correct position. This poses a challenge for my first finger, since the rubber cot won't slide. Maybe it's finally time to try playing without it.

We talked a lot about keeping the upper fingers loosely on the string while pressing with the appropriate lower finger (e.g. playing D on the a-string with the fourth finger, keep the first three loosely resting on the string but not pressing). The same goes for keeping the thumb loose - always. Release the tension!

This came up as a result of my concern about slurring. Holding my unused fingers hard down on the string makes it harder to lift them easily, for example when slurring down the scale. It helps also to make a positive step-change when going up the scale (this is harder to describe than it was to do). It will take quite a bit of work to consciously relax, continuously. She suggested I try slurring the four-note combinations as two sets of two - first, until I'm comfortable with them, then eventually I'll be able to combine them. Also practing slurring across strings using open strings, first. I should also play my scales using slurred couplets.

We played several rounds together by sight-reading. I did OK - usually needing one or two run-throughs to get it right. I have to try to always play from the music, not from memory - otherwise as the pieces begin to get longer, I'll not be able to keep it fully in memory. It also helps to watch the music for technical information such as, rests, bow changes, playing in rhythm, etc. This too, will be a challenge to keep in mind as I play.

On the Long, Long Ago Variation I have to work on my hooked bow stacattos. My bow stroke should be controlled by the forefinger - forcefully pushing the stick down onto the string in a short sharp stroke, taking care not to use my arm to control the pressure or the stroke.

Finally, I started a new piece - Minuet No. 1 by Bach. It looks rather easy with only three second position shifts - that's three into second position and three back to first. She reminded me to take my time as I learn it - to make sure I can play it right slowly before trying to play it fast.

At our next lesson, we'll do some review of Book 1 (that means keep up the practicing of all the old stuff).

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