I am a voracious reader, even as a small kid. I remember in elementary school coming across a biography of Pyotr Ilyich Tchiakovsky in the school library. I soon read through their entire biography collection before moving onto books about auto racing or something. But that first biography stuck with me, and I've been a fan of his works ever since. I still stop and listen whenever a melody from "Nutcracker" is used in a commercial - even for the thousandth time. Although I've never had the pleasure to see the entire performance live, I know most of it by heart.
So, I was quite pleased this past week at my lesson when my teacher suggested I begin working on the final piece in Suzuki Book 4, Tchaikovsky's "Chanson Triste"! Since I'd spent quite a bit of time this fall on Bizet's "L'Arlesienne", I was already familiar with tenor clef, and we were able to spend the last part of the lesson playing through the first three lines. Suzuki calls this a tonalization piece. [Suzuki's concept of "tonalization" is 'the student's ability to produce and recognize a beautiful, ringing tone quality on their instrument.'] My teacher suggested I should start out playing this with the bow - not too fast, but not that slow. Wherever I encountered something "tricky" I should go ahead and slow that part down and use pizzicato, if needed. I've been surprised [so far] to find that not only have I not needed to slow down or use pizzicato, but I've managed to produce a satisfying "tone" on those first three lines - even where it goes up to that Bb in 6th position. The second part isn't quite as straightforward as the first part, but I've made reasonable progress here too.
I've been working for a few minutes each day on my erhu [pronounced "ahr-hoo"], mainly on tuning and some basic scales - also "Twinkle". The hardest part is getting comfortable holding it in my lap and getting the bowing technique right. It's not easy, but I'm seeing some progress. It's interesting, too, playing primarily with my first three fingers, instead of using my pinkie.