Tuesday, October 24, 2006


And three more new pieces.

Today's lesson (#18) was the best I've had yet. Everything seemed to work right; I played almost as good as I've been able to at home - that's a welcome first.

We talked at length about our wolves, she tried one from the set of Bice eliminators (she'd given her wolf suppressor to someone a while ago), and really liked it. I told her I'd pay Ellen for it and she could reimburse me. Then I asked her to critique my practice routine. I've been wondering if it is appropriately "directed" (thanks for the link, Jessica). I explained my normal morning routine, lasting 2 to 2-1/2 hours:

Tuneup and warmup (30 minutes) - I start with open bowing; then I play the scales (starting slowly and increasing speed and varying rhythms); then I drill second position on each string (shifting up and down using all the variations). The second position drills sometimes include the Suzuki second position "etudes".

Old pieces (30 minutes) - I play through the Suzuki 1 pieces (odds or evens depending on the date). I'm increasing the metronome rate - up to about 100 now. I try to pay a lot of attention to bowing - using the whole bow, appropriate bow pressure, etc. Since all these are memorized, and I've gotten past the tempo/rhythm issues on most of these, I am able to start watching dynamics and sound quality.

Recent pieces (30 minutes) - These are the ones that I don't have fully sorted out yet. I start by playing the "tricky" segments several times - slowly then faster. Then I play the pieces through several times. The metronome helps a lot, I vary the settings from piece to piece.

New pieces (30 minutes) - These are the most recent 4 or 5 pieces. I haven't yet memorized them completely, and I do slow detailed work on several passages - playing small parts over and over, slowly, building some muscle memories. I still use the metronome, but a lot slower, sometimes using 1 beat per eighth note.

Additional work (?) - Orchestra pieces, some of the fiddle tunes, Mooney's position pieces, etc. I try to work on all the orchestra pieces every day, but sometimes I don't get to them.

I explained that I often don't have enough time to get to everything, and I wanted to make sure that I was properly focusing my time and attention for the best gain. She commented that it appears that I do have a good practice structure, and that she thought it was well focused. As for the warmup, while the more repetitions the better - especially for drilling second position shifts, etc. - I might reduce my warmup time and incorporate the old Suzuki pieces into it - they can be considered technique drills. She said she first warms up with long slow bowing on open strings, then a few scales, and then intervals - fifths, fourths, thirds, sixths, octaves, etc. - listening to the sounds. On the new pieces, especially, I shouldn't try to play through the entire piece until I've identified and learned all the tricky passages. Then I can start adding measures. Don't expect to get everything right the first time. Don't try to go past 10 or 15 repeats on these newer parts. Each day, come back to these parts, and start them over slowly picking up the tempos a little more each time.

We talked about the orchestra pieces and went over the questions I had set aside for her. On one piece she recommended I use third position (first finger on the "target" note), to play the first two or three measures. Another new technique to work on!

Then we played through the three most recent pieces, and did some focused work on the difficult passages. She offered lots of tips and practice techniques to use while playing these. She commented that I was doing quite well on these. Then we walked through the next three pieces in the Suzuki Vol 2: #9 "Theme from Witches's Dance" by Paganini, "The Moon over the Ruined Castle" by R.Taki, and #10 "The Two Grenadiers" by Schumann. These last two pieces introduce the G-minor scale (as well as the B-flat scale) and some first finger extensions; also some interesting rhythms and position shifts.

I can't wait to get started in the morning.

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