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Mendy Smith

Concerto Journey - 2nd Chapter, Page 3

January 7, 2009 at 4:30 AM

I had several days between the New Year and Monday all to myself (no family, no "day job") and got some serious practice time in on the Bloch.  I managed to memorize the first several lines completely, and being able to play the rest of the piece without my eyes glued to the sheet music. 

One shift in particular gave me troubles - from 1st to 4th position in a run of notes (8 to a single beat, with the first being a rest).  So, I spent several hours practicing the shift itself, and the notes before & after.  There is also a cadenza-like passage that is almost entirely in 5th position or higher where I was having intonation issues.  I started by playing that passage extremely slowly, note by note, until I could hear & play them correctly, then began the process of working up the tempo.  I'm no-where close to having this passage at full tempo, but the notes are now more in-tune than what I began this process with.

Then I began working on some of the dynamics.  This area I definitely need to work on more.  Playing piano is difficult for me to do while still keeping a clear tone, as well as taking full advantage of all the dynamic ranges in this piece.  I'm now pondering whether or not I should get a decibel meter to gage my dynamic changes more precisely until I can train my ear to pick them up.  Besides, as an engineer, electronic gadgets can be fun! (but don't tell Joel, I still HATE that electronic bleeping metronome of his!!!)

After working through these points, I made my first practice recording.  Let me tell you - this is a wonderful method for self-evaluation!  First thing I noted was lack of dynamic ranges (is it my recording device or me???  Lessons this week will tell the truth).  Then I noted that my rhythm was off.  There is a double-dotted 8th note followed by a 32nd note that is a repeating rhythm through the piece.  I was playing them as a dotted 8th & 16th!  Ooooops!  After listening to that first recording, I worked that rhythm, then recorded again...  much better!  There are also several sections that call for accelerando, and my accelerando was more like going from 20 - 30 mph in 60 seconds rather than from 10- 60 mph in 60 seconds.  After some work, I got it to 20-40 mph....  Humph!!!!

I made my 3rd and final weekend recording Sunday and sent it to some musical & non-musical friends for critical commentary.  Three comments were common to all:  MORE dynamic changes, MORE vibrato, and questing if several slides in the shift where intonation corrections or "style".  (I was going for style, but guess I over-did it!!!)  The lady I play with in the orchestra also had a suggestion on the use of rhythm as a statement to emphasize what Bloch is expressing.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around that comment and what it really means.  I think she may be eluding to those tempo changes and that troublesome rhythm I was working on. 

Overall, I got a thumbs up.  Not so bad after only really working on this piece seriously for a few days!  With this initial run-through and review under my belt, I have a much better idea on what I need to practice and get "professional help" on over the next several months. 

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