Thursday, September 28, 2006


Another first!

After listening to that blasted Suzuki CD more than a hundred times, and Rodney Yarrow's companion CD for a while last spring, I always assumed that it would be years before I would be able to actually play along with any of the pieces. It didn't bother me too much, I knew that eventually I'd get there.

Our string orchestra is going to play a relatively simple piece, "Knock on Wood", as our contribution to next Friday's "Evening of Classics" fundraiser for the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra. A last minute change, we had only begun to look at it last week. While it's all straightforward pizzicato, it's packed with rests and counterpoints. We hesitantly picked our way through it that first time. Right away, I knew my big challenge was going to be counting through all those rests, especially since the cello's rests are different from everybody else. Every day, I've been working on it along with my new partner, the metronome :) I counted it aloud; I whistled it (I don't sing); I spoke the notes aloud; and so on and so on. And at this past Monday's rehearsal we played through it several times, fairly slowly. I did OK.

The conductor had given us a link to the JW Pepper sheet music site which included a RealAudio download of that piece, so Tuesday I pulled it up and listened to it several times to find out how it's supposed to sound. Meanwhile I went back to my metronome and worked on that piece, a lot, mostly at around 72 beats per minute. Yesterday I was able to play through it accurately; I had found its rhythm somewhere inside me. So I sped up the pace to 80 bpm, and played through it OK; then 88, then 96, then 104, and then to 112! Imagine, me playing anything at 112 bpm! It seemed the faster I set the metronome, the easier it was to "find" that rhythm among all those rests.

So today, I went through the same process, starting out slow and gradually increasing the speed back to 112. Then, almost offhandedly, I played the tune off my computer. It was only a little faster than I'd just played it myself, so after listening a few times, while reading the notes and counting aloud, I played my part against the recording. And I managed to keep up!

Later, I reduced the bass range on the clip using RealAudio's basic equalizer, to where I could only hear the mid-range and treble parts; and I played it through again, essentially on my own against the rest of the parts.

Three conclusions:

First, the metronome has obviously made a difference.

Second, I've actua
lly played against a recording!

Finally, I'm beginning to feel that I might be able to pull it off next Friday after all.

Yay! Congratulations, Mr. 112+ bpm. All that ticking and perseverating is paying off.
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