October 2006

Back to basics

October 16, 2006 17:03

Some of you may recall me posting about a month or so ago on wanting more direction from my teacher. I did have a talk with her, and things are going well. I've now got a pretty good regimen of scale work, left and right hand exercises (vibrato, bowing, etc.), etudes, and pieces. Not only am I more satisfied that I'm "covering all the bases", but practicing is a lot more interesting since I have many different things to work on. It's a bit like doing circuit training at the gym.

Although I gave my teacher a long list of pieces I want to play, most of which are currently way beyond my level, I decided for now to back up a bit and revisit some of the works I played as a child, to give me a chance to work on musicality without as many technical distractions. And I've come to realize that there is such a huge difference between playing a piece and making music with it. With my childhood teacher, we'd consider a piece finished if I could play most of the notes mostly in tune. But now I'm going back and examining each phrase in loving detail: how do I want to bow this and why? How much vibrato should I use? Is this better on the A string or D string? Does this dynamic marking make sense? It's both humbling and appalling to realize how little I thought about these things before.

There's a temptation, particularly among young people, to zip through repertoire and get to the advanced stuff as quickly as possible. I certainly suffered from that attitude in the past; I was desperate to play a "real work" like the Mozart G Major concerto, even though it was really too hard for me at the time. I was fiercely jealous of people who were working on more advanced works...never mind whether they could play them well.

This time around, I'm not in a hurry. I'm too old to enter any competitions, and I'm not considering music as a career. My objective is to play the violin well and to enjoy it, nothing more. Sure, I'm eager to get to the point where I can play the Tchaikovsky or the Brahms, but those are lifetime goals. I can afford to take the time to really learn all the notes of the Bach Double or debate the chanterelle marking in the Meditation from Thaïs. :) For once, it really is about the journey.

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