September 2007

The Seven Stages of Learning a Concerto (Will apply to sonatas and other works as well)

September 18, 2007 13:21

1. First, the violinist is thrilled because *insert concerto here* is one of his/her favorites.

2. Then, as the violinist flips through the pages, he/she groans at the more awkward and difficult passages. The player will also hum/pluck/play-on-the-piano his/her favorite sections. This may include singing and/or dancing.

3. Later, after reading through the score/listening to a recording of the piece, the one will either a) feel a growing excitement in one’s stomach, or b) go into severe shock. Both these options will lead to drooling and nausea (and saint-shouting in the more serious cases of some).

4. Though the violinist knows that slow practice is important, he/she will tell himself/herself that it can't hurt to just play the whole concerto through at concert speed. Most will only make it through some pages, though some will make it through the whole concerto by skipping the most brain-damaging areas. In both cases, the playing will sound undoubtedly scary, but one will figure that it will get better with time (and the falling of sweat).

5.When that time comes when the piece sounds ‘good’, one will not be able to stand hearing his/herself play the concerto. Every little mistake will stand out. It may be a heck of a lot better than the first time the violinist read it, but it will not be good enough. This is the time to go crazy. Symptoms include foot-stomping, yelling/screaming, growling, the sudden metamorphous of claws, and the urge to throw the instrument against a wall.

6. He/she passes stage five. One goes back down to business in ultra-super-slow mode, and voilà—All/most technical difficulties will be gone (by now muscle memory is kicking in) but there are only the musical ones to worry about. This may be combined with symptoms from stage five.

7. One may or may not go back to step three (reading the score), but one will definitely find new shadings (etc) to add to one’s playing. Performances may or may not take place during this step.*

*Depending on how long the above takes, it is possible that by that time, the music is engraved into the violinist’s head and he/she never wants to hear it again. In that case, the idea of a break seems wonderful. One may take one and during this time, the violinist does not touch the concerto. **

**Please refer back to stage one when picking up the concerto again.

***Being politically correct is exhausting.

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