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sub division is good for everything except cream cakes

March 8, 2007 at 11:56 PM

one of the things I really don`t enjoy is sitting in with a bunch of nervous musicians when there is not much chance of things changing for the better. Convincing a whole group of people en masse that music is , at the end of the day, supposed to be a profoundly pleasurable experience for audience and performer alike; that in the general scheme of things, screwing up is not the end of the world, is not easy.
One of the worst examples I have recently experienced was an amateur orchestra that decided to include a load of Italian arias in a program. They started off with that one from Verdi (?) about father (??- I hate this stuff;)) which is just 8 first violins and 8 seconds playing different note s of a chord and moving exactly together in a rather slow tempo. The orchestra cut the numbers down to four 1st and 4 seconds which mad e things palbably worse. Menawhile, the conducter wa s launching into long winded explanations of Verdi, Puccini, Bellini style in the hope that that would get the teririfed group to play and breathe together. In the end, I suggested we had a coffee break and thought a bit more about the problem. I was too polite to point out to the conducter that the choral/opera style (just what I call it) in which the click occurs at the top of the swing of the stick is rather hard for less experience d players to follow. However, I did manage to persude people to stop thinking about operatic upeats and the like and just sub-divide the beat. Thankfully this solved the problem. Alas, it did nothing for the semitone width , one cycle persecond vibrato of the soprano. She didn`t even have nice buns.
The point however is crucial to playing in orchestra and in general. I don`t think humans are that good at holding a slow pulse except through subdivision so that a faster beat is constantly being felt throughout the body and I believe this should be taught right from the beginning so that it beocmes a habit. I get so tired of new students coming to me to be repaired who have done four or five Suzuki books but just throw up the violin without thought and play the opening of for example, the Handel f major sonata without any rythm at all. Four bars later a kind of pseudo puls e is established by default as they beign to play 8th and 16th notes.
One example of where it can be introduced first externally and then internally is in the sevcik bowing system . Consider opus 2 part one. The exercises are generlaly marked witha mm tempo. This tends to encourage a method of practice that may be counter productive in the long run. That is, the student practices with the mm running constantly. The own internal sense of rythm becomes weakened, rather like continually taking anti biotics. One way round this I us e is to have a studnet pace the room, danc e or whatever at the metronome setting until the speed is internalized. They then say the beat, often sub divide dinto a smaller unit during the rests typically found in no3 for example. But this can be taken further. Instea d of keeping the exericses simple one can practice the simple techniques while introduing complex rythms. Thus in the long rests there is nothing to stop a beginner actually counting triplets aloud or triplets followed by 8th notes or whatever. The teaccher might even add these as an acommpaniament to make these kinds of works more interesting.
The true bonus of subdivision counting is that by utilizing it, especially in long notes, we lose our stage fright. You cannot do two things at once. You simply cannot be afraid and count at the same time.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 9, 2007 at 3:59 AM
unless you are bungee jumping...


From jennifer steinfeldt warren
Posted on March 9, 2007 at 2:36 PM
I live in a region that is very pro-suzuki. I believe that Suzuki's theory is valid and can be beneficial if not used as the entire learning process. It is hard not to get myself into conversational knots, though, trying to state and defend that well....

I don't know about not being able to count and be afraid at the same time. Depends on which "kind" of fear, I suppose :).

As always, interesting read. I do agree that maintaining a slow pulse in a steady and consistant manner is difficult for us. Just take away the conductor for something yawningly slow, and all of a sudden we all have a different idea of where the beats fall. To give us credit, we may be together for a few bars.
Not a concentration issue. Maybe concentrating too hard on things that cause anxiety?


From Anne Horvath
Posted on March 9, 2007 at 3:41 PM
This is interesting. Recently I have gotten a bunch of pre/young teens that went through 3-4 Suzuki books without any scales, etudes, or technical work. Not only do they have no internal rhythm, but they have no clear idea of the mechanics behind shifting or vibrato. Most of them can read music, but they can't sight read. They are having a very hard time in their Youth Orchestra. We are going through a lot of Hrimaly, Whistler, and Kayser...

I am a Kum-Bah-Yah type, but fortunately I can take out my own frustrations by hurling Bernice Ruben's "Spring Sonata" off the deck.

When I start a beginner, I have them sing the counting numbers. That seems to set the internal clock nicely. I don't use the metrenome until later (usually Mazas etude level) because then The Infernal Ticker becomes a reinforcer, not an excuse not to count.

Also, you don't like Verdi?

From LisaJo Borchers
Posted on March 9, 2007 at 7:57 PM
I am so glad you said what you did about the subdivision of the beat! My students all must do this. I teach this as soon as possible. We speak the subdivisions and bow the subdivisions. It does make an enormous difference in performance.


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 9, 2007 at 8:32 PM
the point about Suzuki is not that it is no good. If a good teacher takes a student up to those books the student should be good. It was simply a benchmark to give people a sens eof the level I wa sreferring to. I could have said 'having studied three or four early cocnertos and a few sonatas' or similar i suppose
Mostly Suzuki is not taught here alhtough just about eveyrone use steh study m,aterial. Travesty upon travesty.
And yes I do like Verdi excpet when I am in a bad mood and can't remeber what its called.
From Anne Horvath
Posted on March 9, 2007 at 9:42 PM
I am sorry, I didn't mean to imply that Suzuki is bad. I know some very fine Suzuki teachers here, and I refer students to them. Actually, the students I have that went through three or four Suzuki books were not taught Suzuki method at all. And American Suzuki seems to be a mixed bag these days anyway.
From Corwin Slack
Posted on March 10, 2007 at 3:34 AM
But some caution is in order. Mozart wrote to his sister: "Clementi is a charlatan, like all Italians. He writes 'Presto' over a sonata or even 'Prestissimo' and 'Alla breve' and plays it himself allegro in 4/4 time ..."

We can't let our subdividing lead us to errors in pulse or tempo.

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 10, 2007 at 5:56 AM
yep, nothing worse than the g durian fruit adagio counted in 32nds....
From Patricia Baser
Posted on March 10, 2007 at 12:07 PM
At CIM, we were required to take 2 years of Eurhythmics to help develop a strong internal pulse. It was like gym class for musicians.

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