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Clayton Haslop

The Five Parts to My Practice

May 14, 2009 at 1:40 AM

We’re having some unusual weather here in Sedona.  Haze.  Normally the air here is razor sharp.  Your vision extends to 80 miles or more. 

But hey, when you’re living in paradise there’s so much beauty within a heartbeat who needs the other 79.9999 miles anyway, right?

This morning I came to another sharp realization.  That my practice sessions fall into 5 parts.  I begin with a segment on form.  I play slowly, looking at every component of moment and position on the violin and verify that it is what it is.  Perfection.

Next I focus on knitting every molecule of my being together; that is, making my timing as faultless as an atomic clock.  These days I use my counting technique as well as something secret I’ve come to only recently – master class attendees will be the first to see it in action.

Number 3 is conditioning.  Some violinists can provide the illusion of competence without doing much of this. 

Kreisler was famous for his pretense, ‘I hypnotized myself to the belief that I can perform without practice, therefore I do.’ – not exactly right, but you get the picture.  Most informed people knew Kreisler to be ‘posturing for the public’ and not the truth in any strict sense when he said this.  The more he had the violin in his hands, the better he sounded, through his entire career.

Now comes a part I wish I’d practiced early in my life.  Improvisation.  The important thing to remember, at first, is; visualize every note you play.  You must strive to SEE it and HEAR it before your play it. 

Now, I like to think in terms of chords and harmonies when I do this.  It’s not necessary.  Ultimately it is a matter of just choosing notes that sound good after one another.  Let your ear take you on a journey.

Mozart said, ‘anything in music may be ventured providing it is beautiful and inherently musical.’

And number 5, repertoire.  Naturally any performer must not only keep in touch with their core repertoire but also continue to challenge themselves with new things.

These days I spend 2 hours a day or less in practice.  I don’t have a second to waste in that short amount of time so I get my focus together in a hurry.

Now, I know there is a lot of detail missing from what I just gave you.  I could write pages and pages on each.  And fortunately, if you really want to get the fully flushed out and detailed picture of these things, there is a place you can go.

From June 12 through June 14 I will be sequestered here in the beauty of Sedona with several other ‘doers’ taking care of business.  Every phase of what I just mentioned here will be on the table for in depth discussion and demonstration.

I’ll see you in paradise.

All the best,

Clayton Haslop


From Bruce Berg
Posted on May 14, 2009 at 11:58 PM

It seems as if your division into 5 parts works well for you. However, for many students it is better to use the more simplistic Galamian view that work is divided into 3 parts: builiding time (working on basic technique), interpreting time (working on the technical aspects of performance), and performance time (playing through). The time devoted to each of these three parts varies as a student gets closer to performing. Obviously, the 2nd and 3rd will occupy more of a student's time as they approach a performance. As professionals we tend to forget how we got there. I for instance spend 80% of my time on on aspect 2. I imagine I spend only 5% , if that playing through. However, I am 60 years old and know how best to use my time.


From Bill Busen
Posted on May 15, 2009 at 3:40 AM

I think that the time given to explicit focus on form at an advanced level of playing is interesting and corresponds to what one of the advanced players I know does.

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