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Mendy Smith

Lesson Blog Number .... I lost count

January 16, 2009 at 6:42 AM

Another lesson, another blog...

Warm-up scales...  last week Joel introduced me to the F-minor scale.  On viola this starts in 3rd position on the C string, then up to 6th on the D, and finally up to 9th on the A string.  Last week, I was struggling with intonation starting in 6th position, especially on the descending scale at one note per bow.  This week, we made it up to 6 notes per bow before my intonation and shifts seriously suffered.  Fixing that will be for next week.  That last shift really needs preparation!

Onto Bloch...  This week, my teacher allowed me to play it through without interruption from beginning to end.  About mid-way through the first page I stopped to switched bows.  I had switched to my older bow (a little shorter and weighted differently) for the past few weeks and re-discovered how this balance change effected my playing - part of.  My newer bow just isn't as stable.  This is part of my bow-hunt plan, evaluate the bows I have now and notice the differences before any serious shopping.

So, after swapping out bows (the shorter one, and I think he has a *thing* about shorter bows), I continued through the Bloch with a more stable right arm.  We corrected a few wrong notes (flat vs. sharp), and spent a considerable time on the two lines that are played in 5th+ position on the A string for intonation and shifts.  The next focus was on a section where a chord is followed by two 32nd notes for rhythm.  And finally on the ending sections where the whole piece diminishes in tempo - counting the half notes to make sure that they were played at their full duration and not skimped on. 

Much to my surprise, I was corrected to NOT use ANY vibrato on the notes leading up to the harmonic notes.  The surprise was due to the fact that it used to be a struggle to vibrate at all not long ago, and now vibrato had become automatic enough that I had to be reminded when it is NOT to be used.  That was actually harder to do than I would have expected. 

During the lesson, we had two discussions.  First was the fact that I was NOT his oldest amateur student that he ever had.  There have been at least two others, both of whom took up a music major in their 40's-50's and landed careers in the music field (I see a glimmer of hope for me!!!).  The second discussion was that my next step would be to memorize the Bloch.  I *thought* I would show off what I had memorized so far, then he burst my bubble...  BOWINGS need to be memorized as well.  I countered that after a month I was at least half way there with the notes!  :)

From Jodi Bernard
Posted on January 16, 2009 at 5:32 PM

If my memory serves me, isn't the Fminor scale one of THE hardest scales for string players?

From what I have read in your previous blogs, you have learned quite a lot over these last few months... sounds like you are doing great. Never give up.


From Mendy Smith
Posted on January 17, 2009 at 4:34 AM


I'm not certain.  However for viola, it is one of the highest starting positions on the C string ( F# is only one step higher).  There are still the Ging scales that go even higher once you reach the top of the stratosphere on the A string.  On viola at least, getting a clear tone in 3rd + position on the C string is a challenge.   It is quite a reach over the upper bouts!

Yes, you are correct.  I have learned much over the past several months, but still have a long way to go.  However, when my current and previous teacher said that I was up to collegiate level, I was thrilled.  It wasn't since I was a youngster that I even had dreams of getting to this point.

There may be hope for me yet!  ;)

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