June 25, 2013 at 2:38 AMThe last few weeks have found me not double, but triple booked. Between my day job, a week long show and a home remodel there has been precious little time to practice. Like sleep, I snatched it where I could.
During the week of the show, I did scales during sound checks, worked on vibrato on the few numbers with whole notes, and practiced shifting when playing the 1st violin part (same one with whole notes). The music was easy enough that I was able to focus on tone production. I figured that if I could hear myself over the drums, guitars and brass section then I was doing a good job. I even was able to sneak in a little bit of sight reading and chamber music between numbers. After the show was over I carved out a few minutes to work on those same techniques and try to get my intonation back. Playing in a pit orchestra does horrible things to intonation!
Luckily my teacher is understanding and knew what my schedule was like. We built on what I was able to manage. Verdict? Vibrato was much better, shifting to the end of the fingerboard much improved, and tone production was noticeably better.
"No problem," I said to everyone, "I'll just use my backup instrument." And out came the viola, which I played all night. First lemon squeezed.
But the real benefit was playing our typical bluegrass (etc.) material - all of which is improvised - on my viola, which I normally only use in orchestra, reading from sheet music. I've been playing viola for about six months, and I'm starting to get to know my way around, but by the end of last night's session, I felt much more comfortable finding things - and thinking in alto clef all the while.
Sometimes these little accidents and misfortunes are blessings in disguise. If you find yourself in my neck of the woods, stop by for a lemonade.
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