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A prunistic approach to not getting bored.

May 14, 2008 at 3:20 AM

in his book `Practicing for Artistic Success` (or something like that) Burton Kaplan makes a telling point about the factors we need to pay attention to when we practice. Very simple they are: intonation, rhythm, tone and expression. That’s it. There is no more. He then points out that typically violinists focus on intonation because it is such a tough issue for us. This one sided focus not only has us neglecting the other factors but also highlighting their paucity by such an increased excellence in just one area.
I am very much in agreement with this position and have come to believe that this issue is also central to a nagging issue that crops up now and again in the discussions. That is, younger players in particular write in asking about how to cope with being `fed up` or demotivated to the point they no longer wish to practice. The excellent advice given invariably concerns taking a break, trying a new piece and the like. Non of it, including my own, ever seems to address the issue too much at the level of what is actually being worked on in practice.
The reason I have recently felt this is important is because I have a great deal of rather orchestral material to work on these days. Typically, the passages that need work are either extremely high or in themselves rather uninteresting motifs that most be played with precision and flair to contribute to an overall satisfying orchestral tapestry of sound. This kind of work simply does not grab me in the same way a cool concerto or chamber work does. Practicing orchestral stuff can be real scut work if one is not careful. Typically I have done technique in the morning and again when back form work and picked up the orchestral stuff last thing. Lo and behold, I find myself working on mostly intonation and getting, fed up! So I switched things round.
The orchestral work is started after five minutes of Drew`s stuff. I’m still kind of groggy at five o’clock so I go for the rhythm first. I’ll think a passage though while conducting or saying the rhythm and tapping the music a few times. Then I’ll play it through while counting aloud. Then I’ll go back and work on the dynamics. This forces me to pay real attention to the position of the bow and speed. By focusing on musical elements I find myself deeply and immediately involved in any passage of any kind and improving rapidly. Orchestra stuff is as much fun as anything else.

From Drew Lecher
Posted on May 14, 2008 at 5:31 AM

You mean we have to be consummate artists with the orch rep and we will enjoy practicing it to boot?

That will add character:-)

Great blog,

From Terez Mertes
Posted on May 14, 2008 at 12:52 PM
Well put, Buri. As always.
From Ray Randall
Posted on May 14, 2008 at 2:13 PM
Very well said.
I have heard from reputable sources that it takes a heap of concentrated technique practice to make up for each hour of playing in a symphony, even at a world class orchestra level. That sounds like working on the four basics all the time, as Burton Kaplan suggests, is very worthwhile.
Burton Kaplan's book and Drew Lescher's book should be required reading.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 15, 2008 at 1:49 PM
I have some orchestra music to practice that's almost exactly as you describe: very high and/or part of a tapestry of sound but not necessarily very important in and of itself (unless it's very out of tune, then it will become important in a bad way). And I was getting fed up with it. So thanks, this was really timely and useful!

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