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Getting together

December 25, 2006 at 4:29 AM

if one is havng trouble with getting things together with the piano the first thing I think one has to do is make sure one`s own house is in order. Practicing with a mm is a fundametal part of a musician`s practice. But, it is also a very double edged sword and if we don`t recognize that this machine should not be dictating the ebb and flow of music that we feel we can get into real difficulties. It is also very common to have people practice so that they land on the beat at the right time, but the notes in between are not at all rythmical in relation to the whole. In this case the mm is actually reinforcing poor rythm!
One way round this problem is to use a very slow mm beat and practice to a beat that covers, for exmaple a whole bar (yu need a DRBeat mm). If you are getting ther e too early or too late then you can go back and find out where the irregularity is in the larger chunk.That is a completely differnet kind of mm practice.
The question of rhythm and tempo has been on my mind a great deal recently because of two very closely occuring experiences I had. I was acting as cocnertmaster for an amateur orchestra last Saturday and they began rehearsing with the Andante Cantabile from the Tchaik string quartet. From the beginning it felt rocky and it was clear that the of breathing and moving as one (entraining) was not well known, but also evey time the strings came to a 16th note chunk in both this and the subsequent work (1812 overture)the notes were somehow not together. The cause wa s clear enough: the players had not had drilled into them the necessity of subdividing and counting 16th notes like crazy during all the long notes.
The day after a student came to me with the first movement of the Handel f major sonata. It was sort of okay but lacked a basic sense of pulse in the opening bars. I asked her to establish the tempo she wants to play by looking at the faster passages. Then establish a beat by letting the 16th notes creating the pulse. Then count herself in and breath on the up beat while mental subdividing. As she played she wa s to continue subdividing in her head. I also asked her to work on it by playing the long notes divided into 16th notes .
It really is important to try and practice pieces with this work on mental (and physical) subdivision going on. The opneing of the Handle d major sonata is also often weak because there is no clear pulse from the up beast before the first bar and during the 8th note rest. Many students don`t start thinking about the 8th note pulse until the have started palying and they stop during the tied half notes. As a result the music dies. Somehow the tension is lost.
When you are wortking with a pianist your first responsibilty is to make sure -you- know the piano part.You must have a very clear concept in your head of what the piano is actually doing in your own private practice time. Then as you play together you are lsitening really closely and just trying to feel the music with the pianist. If you cannot get things together then pracitc eslower but with greta precision and speed things up, using a metronome if necessary until you both have a sense of -what the music should sopund like- in perfect ensemble. Another thing to work on is identifyying -exactly - where the problem is. It is not helpful and can be very frustrating if you rehearse using comments like `we are not together between x and y.` Keep working at it until you have identifed on exactly which notes the problem is occuring. If you follow this procedure then the act of focusing may well be enough to resolve the problem.
From Charlie Caldwell
Posted on December 26, 2006 at 1:30 AM
Thank you, for once again, stating a common problem and suggesting solutions.

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