Friday, September 25, 2009
I've been practicing about three hours a day, focusing on the nine concert pieces. Every third or fourth day, I try to run through my lesson pieces a few times to keep from getting too rusty.
I've scheduled a few extra extended lessons over the next month along with my stand-partner. This past week, we played through several pieces together, each of us taking a different part where needed. It's always an 'ear'-opener for me the first time I hear all the cello parts together, and for whatever reason my own playing seems to stumble a bit until I get used to my part in the bigger picture. The first full rehearsal with all the other strings, and the horns, etc. will probably be a lot worse.
This has been quite a change for me. Normally, I practice every day with no particular goal in front of me. This is not to say that I don't have my practice goals, but these are usually internal to whatever piece I'm learning - this rhythm, that fingering combination, those shifts, etc., and I work on them until they're good enough to move on. Progress is usually hard to measure.
But now, I have a distinct deadline: October 30 and October 31, along with three full rehearsals before then. I want to be able to hold my own, to be a smooth part of the group. I want to not screw up, to not play that awkward loud note when everyone else is holding a rest, to not be the one who makes it all muddy by playing off tempo or out of rhythm, to not lose my place and fumble for a re-entry in a panic. [I've done all these, BTW, at one time or another in my beginners' string orchestra, so I know what to expect.]
I've taken a different approach to learning these. Since a lot of what I'll be playing doesn't really sound like what I'm used to, I searched YouTube for videos of other orchestras playing these songs, and downloaded them to my iPod. I spent quite a bit of time listening to them and then started trying to follow along in my score. Also, I concentrated on counting the rhythms to myself [this is another area I need to work on.] It took a while, but I finally began to place the cello parts, and started to hear how my parts fit in with the whole.
As I tentatively and slowly played through each piece for the first few times, I flagged the trouble spots for separate study. I spent a lot of time on these (playing pizzicato, slowly). Each day I picked out a different area for extra attention as well as playing through the entire set - still slowly. As I got more comfortable, I started varying the tempos - trying to move ahead in any areas that weren't too hard. Some days I work on playing through at a more rapid tempo with less attention on accuracy; other days I attend to fingering and intonation - usually at slower tempos.
The challenge is to put this all together...
It is written for 4 cellos, but could also work with any instrumentalist or vocalist on melody, and 3 cellos.
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