July 2008


July 20, 2008 20:01

What has this got to do with violin playing? I don't know maybe something. I started to play Sudoku about a year ago. At first I solved puzzles in books I bought. Then I started playing it on-line. On-line I can compare my time with averages for various levels of difficulty. I am not fast. I am not even average. But I have improved over time. I now can look at a row or column or sub-square (I can't explain, you'll just have to try it) and almost instantaneously pick out the missing numbers. It takes a lot more than that to get fast. I am not even sure what it really takes to get a lot faster. When I play difficult puzzles I find myself notating the little squares with all the possible entries. On easier puzzles I try to avoid any notations. Writing everything down takes times and it can actually cause you to miss seeing important patterns that help solve the puzzle.

I have been practicing some chamber music lately. Its about two notches more difficult than anything I have played previously. I have noticed that I have developed a bad habit. In the past I notated fingerings very thoroughly. The parts I have for this piece only notate fingerings (just one) at a change of position or an extension. Nothing more. Rarely less. The fingerings are very playable but I find myself shifting when no shift is indicated. This is an indication of my lack of discipline in reading notations and following them scrupulously. I also find myself frequently getting backwards on a bowing. The up and down bow symbols are very sparingly used in these parts but if you follow all the slurs, the bowings work out perfectly. There should be no need for extra markings.

I have posted several blogs on finger patterns and notating finger patterns. I have decided that notating finger patterns should be done on a couple of etudes but after that one must learn to mentally grasp the pattern without a notation.

So what is my point? Like Sudoku one can mark up a piece and "solve" it. But you'll always be a slow solver. There are many intermediate skills that must be mastered to become a fast solver of music (and Sudoku). These intermediate skills don't show up in treatises on violin playing. Teachers teach them casually or as an aside.

The chamber music repertory is huge. When you look in the catalogs you can see all the same groups playing almost all of it. They didn't get there by re-marking every fingering and every bowing. Something got internalized.

They learned how to learn.

So I am teaching myself how to learn.

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