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Mendy Smith

The Buzz About Metronomes

October 24, 2008 at 3:19 AM

Lesson night again. It's been awhile. We started on the requisite scales, with a twist - or should I say buzz. As I had promised, I brought the Body Beat with me. I warned him to make sure he had a very firm grip on his viola, held it to his arm, then turned it on. He made a jump of surprise and still had a good hold on his viola.

Question number one from my teacher was where do you put the little buzzing part. After settling on the waistband, and the tempo we started scale warm ups. He wore it during my scale warm-up(not me). By the time scales were over, it was starting to become annoying to him. YIPEE! Revenge! His bleepy time metronome does the same thing to me. :)

We worked through some parts of the 5th Symphony at tempo. There are some "really cool" viola parts, especially in the 2nd movement. There is one towards the end of the movement where the violas play divisi the most beautiful little melody. Let me tell you, playing divisi with a professional can get the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up and your heart move up to your throat a little. And as usual, I got a few new bowings.

Moving on to Bach's 3rd Suite Prelude. I was scolded slightly for playing it at the same tempo as one of his other students (the one I was "audience" for a few weeks ago). I slowed it down a several notches. However, when I got to this one part in the second half, I couldn't resist. I sped it up considerably and did the "fiddle" thing ;-) OK, NOT in the style of Bach, but still fun anyway. I was gently reminded that while may be OK to practice that way to keep things fun, that is NOT the way to perform Bach (I kept my rejoinder about the Rock Bach styles to myself). So back to the "traditional" Bach style.

We finished up working on how to play the chords at the end, with emphasis on the lower two notes, and rubato. The way he explained it made a light-bulb turn on in my mind. He explained that a good rubato in Bach (maybe others, I didn't ask) is to think of the tempo like a rubber band, slowly stretching and relaxing. Not the stretch and fling (release).

By that time, lessons were over, but there was still one thing left to do. Scare the living daylights out of his next student with the Body Beat. The first reaction to feeling this thing buzz on you is quite predictable, and quite funny. After his next student recovered, I checked out his gizmo - a Sony digial recorder. Much fancier than the one I have. I've been out-geeked by a teenager!

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