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Some Practice Ideas

February 5, 2008 at 11:11 PM

Greetings,
An old friend dropped by at Christmas. He’s not a musician but loves music (?). When he was a student at UCLA he became curious about what it took to play the piano so he wandered into a master class by one of the most famous piano teachers around who happened to teach there quite regularly. This teacher was very impressed by my friend’s non musician genuine interest and spent some time talking to him and then took him on as a student for free because of his attitude. He only studied for about a year but this teacher had as her central approach to practicing =counting aloud while playing.=
The only violinist I have seen advocating this technique is Clayton Haslop in his Kreutzer series. I believe it is a very powerful technique and that it is often a far superior alternative to using a metronome. Part of the reasoning behind this is drawing a perhaps spurious connection between much of today’s rather strict (dare one say boring?) adherence to one rigid tempo and less than interesting use of rubato. When one begins this kind of practice it can be rather frustrating. It needs a lot of concentration to begin with until the action of speaking becomes automatic. Then distortion occurs as the tension we were perhaps unaware of in our playing distorts the ability to speak freely with a pulse. Then things settle down and the voice begins to reflect the ebb and flow of the music more. I suppose from an Alexander Technique point of view it might be understood as inhibiting the customary thought patterns that trigger our playing. The value of this is simply that one then by passes the stress and tension one has learnt over the years form faulty practice and well meaning teachers relentlessly criticizing what one does in an earnest desire to see one improve.
Another aspect of practicing I talk about a lot with my students is `discordination.` The difficulty of the violin is primarily due to the problem of disassociating the actions of right and left hand. We often hear a player bemoaning the lack of coordination in their playing when the actual problem is lack of discordination or `over-coordination.` In order to develop this underdevelopment there is an excellent three pronged attack which I think can be found in one of Fischer’s books if one wishes for a more detailed commentary.
First play whole bows on an open string with no musical intent. Just play a free smooth stroke to remember what that feels like. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose this simple thing when practicing complex concertos. Then play the bowing as though one was bowing the passage you are practicing with all the changes in sp, speed and weight you wish. At the same time imagine the music in your head.
Finally bow the single string (perhaps the g) while finger the passage with the left and of course, singing the music in your head just before you play each note.
I have actually added an intermediate stage between two and three in which one counts, bows and imagines the music before adding the left hand. One could then finish off the whole thing by playing the passage as normal but counting aloud. By this approach one has integrated the two methods I have discussed in this blog. That would definitely call for some prunes.
Cheers,
Buri

From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 6, 2008 at 1:49 AM
I hadn't thought of bowing on a single string while playing a passage. What a nice extra little challenge! And talking while practicing and playing is no secret; talking, writing, demonstrating, and counting are all great multitasking opportunities that come from teaching. Large portions of my teaching involve practicing alongside my student and explaining the practice process. And counting. And singing, and... I'm really tired right now.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 6, 2008 at 2:25 AM
Greetings,
never claimed anythign to do with secrets.
>And talking while practicing and playing is no secret; talking, writing, demonstrating, and counting are all great multitasking opportunities that come from teaching. Large portions of my teaching involve practicing alongside my student

That`s what you do with a student. Not my point at all;)
Cheers,
Buri

From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 6, 2008 at 3:01 AM
Yeah, I was just rambling.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 6, 2008 at 4:39 AM
Greetings,
gte some rest. YTou are overworking. Strive to be an underachiever such as myself.
Cheers,
Buri
From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 6, 2008 at 6:15 AM
But I reread what you wrote, and I'm left wondering what it is that one is supposed to be talking about when practicing. You didn't go into specifics.

I think I'm a little run down, actually. All I want to do is hide under a blanket. And maybe knit.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 6, 2008 at 6:27 AM
Greetings,
one can eitehr count aloud or say `knit one, perle one,` according to taste.
Cheers,
Buri
From Peter Kent
Posted on February 9, 2008 at 3:57 PM
Perhaps avoiding ovine related numerics whilst counting would be adviseable lest one nod off during the session.

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