January 12, 2009 at 6:30 AM
Moderate tempos, yes, dead slow, rarely—and then, only with extremely specific purpose and goals to be achieved.
The simplest way to achieve this:
Think rhythmically with direction of musical motion. Have a goal for the next note’s arrival and the way in which you want to play and exit from the previous note. Then determine what to do with that second note and how to connect it into the subsequent note, etc., etc.
Create a musical phrase or line of thought similar to a sentence; then a paragraph; then a chapter; then a book—the composition.
Initially do not use vibrato during the following examples. Apply the concepts to the repertoire and/or studies you are working on—even scales, arpeggios, etc.
When desiring an extremely level and still or motionless character the bow must remain very steady in speed, point of contact and weight of touch.
The sound will modify as you sculpt the note when seeking another effect.
Now put the frosting on the cake—VIBRATO. This must work in concert with the bow and musical concept thereby completing the desired character. As we modify the phrase giving shape and direction, the vibrato must complement every aspect of the tone.
Develop interpretive skills by hearing the passages in new and different rhythmic sequences—we should appropriately inflect the notes’ character according to the pattern being played as leading tones and other intervals take on varied rolls when using different rhythms. Experiment, adding variety of dynamics and musical direction, i.e., moving ahead/remaining stable/pulling back with the notes.
Combine memorization and bowing variables and you have an unbeatable combination, not to mention keeping the mind and reflexes totally alert and keenly coordinated.
Be very careful with dead slow practice. It can be truly dead and zombie-like. The player enters a dazed and dull mental state along with the reflexes of nerves and muscles becoming lethargic, heavy, tiresome, and wearisome. This, of course, must not be permitted.
I have literally listened to students play in such a way that I could not focus on them as their sound was so lifeless and without purpose. Usually I will imitate to the student what they sounded like and we both have a hearty laugh. Then I show them how to bring the notes to life per above and all is well in the world.
The player is to constantly guide the tonal proportions and balance with easy, continuous fluid motions.
Most, if not all, of our tension is due to imbalance and incorrect use of the fingers, hands, arms and whole body. Focus, focus, focus. Be the ballerina, dancer, gymnast or Olympic figure skater with all your moves—light, agile, strong, powerful, flexible, delicate as the music requires, and maintain focus.
Develop a slow passage substantially slower then it will be performed. Work varied rhythms, especially for shifts and string crossings, and begin the climb upward toward the desired tempo. You will then gain a wonderful feeling of movement and direction with even the slowest of the slow tempos.
Never fight and add undue tension in trying to achieve the desired outcome. Approach it with determination, patience and persistence. Do not struggle to go further than can be achieved in any given day. Allow for the fact that we at times achieve a great deal, but have to rework it again during the ensuing days in order to attain what was reached that one time.
Think before playing, while playing and after playing. Is that what I wanted? Sometimes a little renovation is required.
All must be balanced and fluid. Breathe and enjoy the challenge noting the slightest improvement. All advancements enter into other areas of our playing.
Technique is the tool by which we accomplish the artistic.
We are contributing to our technique, equipping us better for future repertoire.
Sculpt the sound, shape the music.
Hope this helps —
"enjoy the challenge noting the slightest improvement"
I really like that statement. I think it is much more far reaching. It describes an approach if not a philosophy which can and should be applied universally to no matter what it is we want to achieve.
From reading posts on this forum, I often get the impression that many people could benefit if only they knew how to notice and appreciate small incremental advancements. It seems more often than not, people burden themselves with the weight of all that which they have not accomplished yet and in doing so they fail to see that which they have already accomplished.
looks like daddy and the kid need to sit down and read together and think!
great stuff as usual! thanks!
Ben—that is so true.
Al—the Mozart was for you and your daughter. Have her explain and demonstrate it to you after one reading……or two at the most. That is the challenge:-)
Ray—is that why I keep forgetting what I write after writing it…………wha t wa s tha t ?
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