May 2008

prunes in the dark

May 27, 2008 00:12

Yay, my first blog.

Okay, so a recent discussion about playing bach in the dark inspired me a little. Let me explain. I was practicing in the bathroom (because I am so cool), when I started wondering what open string exercises would be like in the dark. The very first thing you'd think would obviously be that it's a hindrance. After all, if you can't see your sounding point etc, you'd expect the sound to suffer. Here's what to do.

1. Go into a room with no light. None, whatsoever. A bathroom with no windows and no lights works wonderfully.

2. Start whole bowing two open strings at the same time (A and E are most useful because it's easiest to hear inconsistencies in your tone...but then, you might want to use some other strings if you're not a sadist (read: violist)), trying to make as loud, beautiful, and consistent sound as possible.

3. Start slowing the bow down while keeping the sound just as loud, beautiful and consistent. Obviously the tone changes, but the most important part is the loudness (the consistency comes quickly after and the beauty comes as soon as your ears start to hurt). You also want to keep your bow arm as fluid as possible. (btw if you turn on the lights at this point you'll find as expected that the bow is quite close if not practically on the bridge, depending on how slow you're moving the bow). Make sure that no unnecessary tension wanted. This is essentially son file in the dark, and without a clock/metronome.

4. Do this as long as you can stand. Ironically, the longer you do this, the less boring it gets. For variation, change strings, and/or start playing only one string at a time. The latter isn't as effective as two strings at a time, but if you intersperse it among the two string playing it frees up tension which you don't realize is there.

5. Turn the lights on, and start playing your favorite piece.

Now, the reason this is nice is because it divorces completely the sound from thinking about the sound. Normally when you bow open strings you find yourself thinking "okay, let's try that closer to the bridge...we'll need more pressure, slower bow, blah blah blah," and you both see where the bow is and you also feel where it is and how it's moving. Doing these open strings in the dark makes you feel the SOUND coming right out of your hand; it's much more effective than actually moving around muscles in response to stimuli from your eyes and ears and hands - instead, your whole body starts responding to changes in sound and vibration. Don't know how much sense that makes, but it's something like you and the sound become one entity. Maybe I'm just a little behind the curve and am just figuring out what people have been telling me for awhile now :).

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