January 2007

Shifting Exercises and Bach's 6th

January 31, 2007 23:33

This blog is like how my orchestra sometimes rehearses pieces: do the ending first, then the beginning then middle sections:

Lesson number 3 with Joel was completed today with a recital start to end with minimal interuptions (of my own doing) of Bach's 6th Cello Suite - Prelude for viola from start to finish. There were a few minor hiccoughs in intonation, a bit of a shaky bow and major slowing down in the one nose bleed section. I managed the the section where there is a drone for a few lines without a major hitch. I was so amazed that I accomplished this feat that I stopped and gave myself a "wooowhoo!". In the last three years of working on this piece, this is the first time I've ever played it in front of someone else without stopping or having a major problem somewhere. HUGE accomplishment.

For the first time ever playing this piece, I had a "page turner" which threw me off since I got used to stopping at the end of the first page, flipping it over, then beginning again. He suggested that I teach one of my cats to turn the page for me. Talk about teaching an old cat new tricks! I think I will just make a copy of page 1 so I don't have to worry about page turnings. In the end I was rewarded with a "that was really good"! To my ears, it wasn't as good as what I did at home alone. But isn't that always the case? :) Then was the inevitable "next time we will work on the stylistic aspect of the 6th". My good echo technique at home didn't come through tonight.

We started with an interesting (to me at least) ear training of perfect octaves and 5ths while tuning. (Dad - you are going to love this - physics was involved.) I had a hard time hearing the perfect 5th tonight, so he took my viola and started de-tuning (him moving the pegs while I held the viola and bowed it) it until he saw my face crunch up in distaste, then re-tuned until I gave him a thumbs up with my now-free left hand. All the while describing how the waves would appear if you were to see them on an oscilloscope. I'm a geek at heart so I could actually see in my mind what he was describing. (Dad - thanks for introducing me to the oscilloscope when I was a kid!)

After the lesson in practical phycics, the next 30 minutes or so of the lesson was working on orchestral pieces that my orchestra is playing right now. Sooooo much easier than Bach's 6th! Then onto the shifting exercises. At one point when we were discussing the form of the hand he showed me his fingers. There were permanent callused grooves from a life-time of playing on the spot every time! I looked at my fingers - I don't have grooves, I have small dots of calluses (lightening never strikes twice?!?).

Note to self - new goal is to transform the small dots into grooves.

Back to shifting exercises :::sigh:::

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Adventures in sheet music shopping

January 25, 2007 21:46

I’ve begun viola lessons again after a summer break with a new teacher. It took almost a year to get into his schedule, and well worth the wait! During my first lesson I was nervous (funny how that always happens!) and my intonation, bowing, etc was absolutely pathetic. He commented something to effect during that first lesson “You must have played better when you were practicing alone” in which I commented back “Isn’t that ALWAYS the case? J” So, we finished off that day’s lessons with a “book list” (shifting studies and scales). Ahhhh – technical work (yuck!) but necessary.

My father came out for a visit the week after that lesson and we went shopping for the prescribed technical study books. Boy what an adventure! My NAV system in my car took us on a wild goose chase through downtown Portland and gave instructions to drive off the bridge to turn right. We did NOT follow those directions. After detouring for about 20 minutes we finally found the music store and found just one of the books on my list. We checked out 2 other sheet music shops and had no luck. So, the other book I ended up ordering from Shar, along with a new music stand.

My second scheduled lesson was canceled due to snow closing the University (as well as most of the city). Luckily, the weather improved, the snow melted and I had my second lesson with Joel. I unpack the viola and sheet music; Joel spots the studies and gets excited (I know I’m in trouble now). So we begin with the 3-octave C Major scale. It immediately becomes apparent (to him, ok to me too) that the shifting studies book deserves its 15 minutes of attention. My homework is to eliminate the “death grip” by next week.

Finally, we got into the Bach’s 6th Cello Suite (transcribed of course). This is a piece that I’ve been studying now for 3 years. We worked through the dynamics of the piece, and a few measures of increasing shifts that, for a viola player at least, brings me up into the “nose bleed” section of the fingerboard. I’m now wondering if I should also be taking yoga lessons to be able to move my hand around the shoulders of the viola. I make it up to 6th position without doing damage to myself or our ears. Then I got to pop back down to 3rd, then 1st position (whew!). At this time I mentioned that I only began shifting in the past 3 years to apologize for any pain caused by my playing in the higher positions. He gives me that look like I must be lying to him. I re-asserted that in fact this was very true, and added that I had only started to attempt vibrato in the last year. He turns to me with a look of disbelief and says, “you learn quickly”. Happy happy joy joy!

When I was packing up we chatted for a bit. He said “If I’m pushing you too hard into areas you aren’t ready for let me know” to which I replied, “I’m a sucker for punishment and self torture!” This will be the first time in N years that I’ve really taken to studying technical work and I’m interested to see how this will help my playing. I’m happy that I found a good teacher/student relations match. In all the years I’ve been playing, I’ve never had a bad experience with a teacher and each new one has taught me something new and has nudged me up a notch in my skills.

Now, back to practice – scales….. :::sigh:::

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