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Mendy Smith

Adventures in sheet music shopping

January 26, 2007 at 4:46 AM

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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