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April 2012

The A String

April 21, 2012 12:02

And this week that challenge is…? Remarkably, Sevcik went well this week. It is not the most inspiring thing to play but certainly the various patterns are helping me with intonation, intervals, even bowing. Advice from what I read—both in books and on violinist.com—suggests that you try to make music every time you pick up the violin. So, even when I do my Sevcik I work at making it sound better than last time, more in tune, smoother, more rhythmic, whatever strikes me.

Last week I struggled with the Brahms Waltz from Suzuki 2. In particular I had trouble getting the E to sound in tune and not too course or raspy. It also seemed that whenever I moved the bow from string to string it would bounce. I tried more pressure but to my beginner’s touch that messed up my dynamics. It seemed I had to trade off between hoping to play smoothly and hoping to play with some dynamics. So my teacher says to use more bow! I can’t say problem solved but it helped quite a bit. I was using more bow as the melody crescendoed but whatever she showed me helped with my problems.

This week we are continuing with Kayser #3, but all staccato and accenting the first and third beats of each measure. I pause as I write this to think if the piece is written in 4/4. I think it is. Note to self: Pay more attention to the structure of the music before playing. Well, as the discussion boards here show, getting a clean staccato is a challenge. Stopping the bow is the hardest part for me. It tends to squeak as I trail off. I plan to spend several minute (five?) each day just doing staccato on open strings so I can concentrate on that and not get confused about fingering. This is a really fun piece to play. The accidentals are getting more familiar and more accurate. I have been told to raise my elbow more to get the double stops at the end. Ironic how hard it is to play double stops when you want to, but easy when you don’t.

I also started Schumann Two Grenadiers. Another relatively simple piece that I hope will allow me to play more musically and dynamically. The same goes for the Handel Bourree, which is quite beautiful and not too hard. For the Handel, after playing it with what I thought were reasonable dynamics, I was instructed to “play with dynamics this time.” Perhaps recording myself will help me hear what is really coming out of those little f-holes. Oh, so many things to work on tomorrow. Can’t wait!

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The A String

April 11, 2012 19:12

I have not decided if there is a correlation between how well I practice on the morning of my lesson and how well my lesson goes. It seems that if I have trouble during practice, if my fingers are slow, my intonation is off, my bow is moving around and striking two strings, then my lesson is good. That is what happened today. I have been struggling daily with Sevcic. Each measure presents new challenges. I try to keep the bow moving at a constant speed and start with one note per bow, then two, then four, eight and sixteen. I am supposed to divide the bow evenly so I put a little sticker in the middle of the bow so I can see were half-way is. But often I run out of bow, or I just can’t get the 16th notes to come out even. Then I play at my lesson and with a pointer or two my teacher has me playing better. Usually it has to do with relaxing my left hand or relaxing my right shoulder. I try to remember these points and apply them when I practice, but I am only partially successful.

Then there is the Brahms Waltz, Suzuki book 2. I can hear it in my head, the even, flowing, danceable waltz, notes swelling here, a gentle crescendo here, pianissimo at then end. But when I try to play, it sounds out of tune (because it is) and the dynamics are hard. It seems like a simple piece and I have broken it down into measures, phrases, and practiced them. But I still find something difficult to grasp about playing it correctly, let alone playing it well. Again, a couple pointers from my teacher and things sound a little better, I feel that I am on my way. I guess that’s why she gets paid the big bucks!

This week, actually last week, I started a new Kayser etude, number 3. I said that I was getting burned out on the first one. I like it but it was getting to be too much to play over and over, even with different bowings. We agreed to return to it in the future. So we moved on to the challenge of #3. Lots of accidentals, slides from C to C# and F to F#. Reach from F# to E-flat. Lots of fun! And I can see the improvement when I just play a measure or two several times. I can improve the slide and improve the intonation.

So I think there is hope for the over-fifty group. I am benefiting from a teacher who is not too perfectionistic. I am not planning on being a concert violinist. I want to play for fun and I am happy to improve at whatever pace works. I figure that if I can enjoy practicing then everything is good. I enjoy practicing!

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