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May 2009

What Takes 60 Years

May 28, 2009 12:08

When asked how long he thought it took to master the violin, Milstein replied, "about 60 years."

Wow, that’s a pronouncement if ever there was one.

And for those of you who love the violin and don’t have those 60 sixty years of study behind you I think it should take some of the pressure off.  After all, if the master says we have sixty years, we’ve got sixty years.

I figure if I can learn something new on the violin each day, and I’ve got another 15,333 days, who knows I just might prove him right.

But seriously, was he serious in saying that?  After all, he could physically play anything written for the violin at that time by the age of 12.

So this is my feeling about his comment.

The great challenge to us all is to progress with the violin such that every intelligence – and there are 7 – we possess is represented in our playing to the furthest extent we are capable.

Mastery, therefore, is actually going to be different for every one of us.  We each own part of the gene pool; we’re not the whole pond.

That being said, there is much for us to learn in the world, too. 

Nurture provides the means for us to shape our talents around common themes; one’s ear must be adjusted to classical music, for instance.

So the trick is to find the balance between being utterly unique, and therefore unapproachable, or a slave to conformity.

And as I said, there are 7 intelligences, and getting the balance right in all seven can take awhile.

The other thing that occurs to me, is that it really doesn’t matter what age you are or in what shape you are in, as long as you are conscious.  The question still remains, "How am I choosing to stand at this moment?"

All the Best,

Clayton Haslop

1 reply | Archive link

How I Solved the Memory Problem

May 19, 2009 20:22

When I was young I had several traumatic experiences
with memory.  On one occasion I stood up to play and
couldn’t remember the first note of the piece.

Not a very good thing for one’s confidence.

In fact it took many years before I felt at all ‘right,’
when performing, without a music stand in front of me.
Sure glad I got over it.

And here’s what I did.

I FORCED myself – and at first my little gray cells
strained with the effort – to ‘see’ the music in my
mind’s eye while playing.  And I didn’t only do it with
the violin under my chin.  At night I would visualize
myself playing through my newly memorized repertoire in
my head as I lay in bed.

Yes, it did tend to wake me up a bit. 

Yet once I relaxed and fell asleep I slept great,
knowing there was something in my head I could recall at
will rather than only when the stars were aligned in my

I still do this today.

Over the years I’ve created new challenges to my memory.
 I will count out loud while I visualize and play.  I
will even dance hip-hop steps around the living room while

In recent days I’ve begun incorporating something new
into my arsenal of memory.  Now I’m memorizing ‘the
changes,’ as jazz players refer to the flow of harmonies
that make up a piece. 

If I know on which beat or subdivision of a beat each
chord changes, and can improvise on them without getting
hopelessly lost, then it really doesn’t matter if I
momentarily forget Mr. Beethoven’s notes or not - with
all due respect.

The show will still go on.

All the best,

Clayton Haslop

5 replies | Archive link

The Five Parts to My Practice

May 13, 2009 18:40

We’re having some unusual weather here in Sedona.  Haze.  Normally the air here is razor sharp.  Your vision extends to 80 miles or more. 

But hey, when you’re living in paradise there’s so much beauty within a heartbeat who needs the other 79.9999 miles anyway, right?

This morning I came to another sharp realization.  That my practice sessions fall into 5 parts.  I begin with a segment on form.  I play slowly, looking at every component of moment and position on the violin and verify that it is what it is.  Perfection.

Next I focus on knitting every molecule of my being together; that is, making my timing as faultless as an atomic clock.  These days I use my counting technique as well as something secret I’ve come to only recently – master class attendees will be the first to see it in action.

Number 3 is conditioning.  Some violinists can provide the illusion of competence without doing much of this. 

Kreisler was famous for his pretense, ‘I hypnotized myself to the belief that I can perform without practice, therefore I do.’ – not exactly right, but you get the picture.  Most informed people knew Kreisler to be ‘posturing for the public’ and not the truth in any strict sense when he said this.  The more he had the violin in his hands, the better he sounded, through his entire career.

Now comes a part I wish I’d practiced early in my life.  Improvisation.  The important thing to remember, at first, is; visualize every note you play.  You must strive to SEE it and HEAR it before your play it. 

Now, I like to think in terms of chords and harmonies when I do this.  It’s not necessary.  Ultimately it is a matter of just choosing notes that sound good after one another.  Let your ear take you on a journey.

Mozart said, ‘anything in music may be ventured providing it is beautiful and inherently musical.’

And number 5, repertoire.  Naturally any performer must not only keep in touch with their core repertoire but also continue to challenge themselves with new things.

These days I spend 2 hours a day or less in practice.  I don’t have a second to waste in that short amount of time so I get my focus together in a hurry.

Now, I know there is a lot of detail missing from what I just gave you.  I could write pages and pages on each.  And fortunately, if you really want to get the fully flushed out and detailed picture of these things, there is a place you can go.

From June 12 through June 14 I will be sequestered here in the beauty of Sedona with several other ‘doers’ taking care of business.  Every phase of what I just mentioned here will be on the table for in depth discussion and demonstration.

I’ll see you in paradise.

All the best,

Clayton Haslop

2 replies | Archive link

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