Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Another lesson (#29)

I arrived eager to show how much I'd improved - it had been a month since the last lesson that had focused on the newest pieces (the most recent lesson had focused on reviewing the recital pieces). So, a month had passed since we'd worked through these three or four most-recent pieces. And for three of the last four weeks I'd worked on them diligently. Well, of course it didn't quite work out that way.

At first my left thumb cramped up - I'd never had this happen before. It massaged out pretty quickly while we talked about string choices and bow holds. My G-string, in particular has been acting up, squeaking on the open G. She tried several approaches and recommended using a lighter touch on the bow, since the Dominant string seems to be so responsive. Even though the C-string is also a Dominant, it doesn't act that way at all.

We worked through the Bourree. I started playing too quickly and messed up right away. But I restarted at a slower pace and did fairly well. I've not had much problem playing this one. I started learning it the right way - pizzicato for the first two weeks, and gradually coming up to speed. My main issue on this one is accurate rhythm and counting, and of course playing it over and over. I've already got it memorized, but I've been forcing myself to play it from the score anyway. On The Two Grenadiers, I again fumbled once or twice on the start, but eventually I did fairly well. There's still one particular measure that is giving me problems, but otherwise the only issue is accurate rhythm and counting. The Gavotte has a longer way to go. I've memorized it and can play it without the score, but since it is such a fast tempo I've been trying to push it too soon. The string crossings are pretty sloppy and we talked a lot about how to practice these. Also, I need to work on stopping those staccato notes cleanly, and abruptly.

The main theme from the lesson - a familiar theme - is that I have to pay much more attention to rhythm. Counting aloud while playing - slowly... The metronome has helped considerably, but I find I often just ignore it - especially when I'm still not comfortable yet with all the notes and the flow of the piece.

Finally, we turned to Rick Mooney's "Position Pieces" and played a few there. I've worked on these for the last two weeks. But, as before, my starts were rotten and I'd have to restart more than once before being able to play them through. Still, I thought I did pretty good, considering these were quite new. Finally, we turned to a new one and talked over how to analyze a new piece, how to break it down into small sections and find the rhythms and consider the bowings and then the fingerings; to analyze and review the shifts, to review any string changes, to identify chord progressions, and so on. A good discussion for me; helps me to think about he music in a different way.

Then, she showed me a few pieces that are played totally with harmonics. That was fun.

This morning I removed the wolf eliminator that the luthier in Anchorage had put on in February. It was his own design, a Sacagewa dollar with clips soldered to the back so it could be fitted over both the D and G-strings. Although it was an improvement over the single Bice eliminator I'd previously used on my G-string, I started to suspect it wasn't doing enough to tame both the wolf at the E, and it was somehow just transferring the problems onto the G-string somehow. I replaced it with two Bice eliminators,a 7 gram on the G-string and a 5-gram on the D-string. It sounds pretty good! Most (but maybe not all) of the G-string issues seemed to have gone away for now.

A new cellist showed up a Monday's orchestra rehearsal. She's an adult late starter, with only a few months experience. There's a chance another beginner will show up next week...

I have a suggestion on the rhythm thing, but maybe you're doing it already. Once you decide on a tempo and set the metronome, sing the piece first rather than play it. Any doo-doo, laa-laa, pom-pom sort of syllables will do. After singing it to the metronome once or twice, then play it. It helps me.
Hi Terry

My teacher suggested exactly the same thing several times. But I sing so badly that even I can't stand to hear it.

Finally, she suggested I at least start counting the rhythms aloud to the metronome. We'll see.
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