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Mendy Smith

2009 Musical Resolutions

December 18, 2008 at 2:11 AM

It is a little early, but it is time for a review of last year's musical (and a few non-musical) goals and a preview of next years musical goals:

2008 Review:

1.  Learn vibrato on the C string; & with my 1st finger on the G & D strings  - Check!  The 1st finger on G is still tenacious, but it is happening.  The D is becoming comfortable.  So I'll count it as done for this goal.   C string vibrato is happening now but not with my 1st finger, but 1st finger on C wasn't the original goal.
2.  Practice my technical studies at least 2 times per week. - Check! I now cannot even start a lesson sans scale without disaster.
3.  Have dinner BEFORE rehearsals & lessons.  - Check!
4.  Learn 6 more movements from the Suites. I think I got this one...  Did a few movements from #5, and a few in #3, and the Sarabande in #2.
5.  Eat all the vegetables that I grow in the garden. - Check!
6.  Exercise more than my right arm and left fingers. - Failed, miserably.  Unless you count the treks from Hong Kong into China with viola & luggage in tow.  In that case, I met the goal.
7.  Do something on my vacation days other than practice.  - Failed Miserably!  Summer vacation was all about music (Interlochen).  But I still have X-mas vacation to make up for that.  So this might be a check!
8.  Learn Hummel's Fantasy for Viola & Orchestra - Check!!!  But never performed it in public.
10.  Figure out what shoulder-rest/chinrest combo to use once and for all. - FINALLY!!! Check!
11.  Spend more time in the great outdoors in the summer rather than the practice room.  - Failed miserably.

Goal-wise, I did well! So here are my 2009 Musical Resolutions:

1.  C String 1st finger vibrato, and G string 1st finger “natural” vibrato.
2.  7th + position comfort, even on strings other than the A
3.  Observe dynamics regularly and often (without reminders)
4.  Produce the “Big Viola Sound” regularly and often
5.  Play any 3-octave scale in ONE bow at mm 60-ish.
6.  Learn how to count with multiple rhythms and tempos.  Consistently!
7.  Memorize Bloch’s Suite Hebraigue
8.  Achieve “Bach by 40” by Dec. ’09 (10 months early).
9.  Perform with my quartet publicly – with NO fear!
10. Teacher's Choice

Tomorrow I'll be finding out what "Teacher's Choice" will be.

From Paul G.
Posted on December 18, 2008 at 5:34 AM

What interesting lists! I think I'll have to one like it for myself. Thanks for the inspiration! Lets just hope I don't get too ambitious...

And btw, do you believe in the measure-a-day technique of learning a piece? Like taking just a few measures a day and perfecting them, and then you'll have a big piece learned in maybe a years time? i'm trying to do this when learning the Mendelssohn. I don't want to get crazy with it and I truly want to keep things under control.  So far I just barely started on the beginning of the first movement... I've been working on the Cadenza for a few days and it progressed really nicely. I've just got to get down techniques.

I just ask because it seems like your a player who is very open to trying different things and it's maybe something you've done before.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on December 18, 2008 at 6:04 AM

Paul -

I do a different take in learning new pieces.  First I order the sheet music and then download a recording off the net.  Then read along.  After I've listened and read through with the recording so I can sing it (somewhat) do I pick up my viola.  I then just play it through a few times.  I then mark the measures that I think cause me the most problems and take the whole thing to lessons with me with marked trouble spots.  Very rarely do I take a new piece to lessons without going through this routine.  

When I have a few measures that are especially troublesome, I play them note by note...  At first at such a slow tempo that it is agonizing, then re-take them at tempo, adding one note at a time. 

For me, the key is bungling my way through a new piece to get the "gist" of it, then identifying what needs work, then working though it.  I tried the "don't go any further until you perfect it" approach and never proceeded.  If I do a measure-by-measure approach I lose sight of the larger musical picture.

From Jim Glasson
Posted on December 18, 2008 at 12:24 PM

An excellent list!!!!
Actually there are quite a few points on your list that I need to adopt as my own as resolutions.



From Paul G.
Posted on December 18, 2008 at 4:32 PM


Thanks for answering. That way of learning that you do at first is what I've done before. I'll take the violin part and listen to the recording. Then I'll take the orchetstra/piano score and focus on that part in the recording.

I also do that "note by note"  but I've done it in a different way. Though I think I'll modify it and try to use the policy you do.

Thank you for your help, Mendy.

P.S.- Sorry. It seems like I keep leaving way off topic comments on your blog... I'll try to stop!

From Bill Busen
Posted on December 18, 2008 at 6:11 PM

Haha!  I like the way all the balanced life goals are off the new list in favor of the important stuff.  :-)

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on December 18, 2008 at 6:54 PM

Yes, but sometimes the teacher gives you some things to read with her or him at the course.I hate this but when my teacher can, she really wants to do the first "sighreading" with me (you have to be very humble because you sound like the worst beginner of the world in front of your teacher! lol) But I love her point that after, I know exactly how to practice, in which bow part, with the right fingerirng etc. i have often struggled to learn things ahead and had to redo all over the fingerings, the bowings etc. It was worst to undo the bad habits that if I had never really tried to play it. But, hearing the piece on a recording, sing it, count, absoluntly. Playing it is good but just to have a little idea because if it is done very seriously and repetivly before having my teacher's advice, I often do too much work for nothing and have to relearn everything anyway! 

Very good idea Mendy! I'm sure it is very helpful. Yes, us, violinists of all kinds, we always neglect our health to practice. We will all make heart attacks at 50! (I hope not!) I would have to put in mine, quit school, in order to succed in doing all the points but I can't!  But, I want to be positive and the most important thing is the great example you give us!



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