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Mendy Smith

Lessons Re-Learned

February 16, 2010 at 4:34 AM

For the past several weeks, the pieces that my teacher and I have been working on has been stopped early into lessons to address basic bowing or intonation issues. Issues that should never happen several minutes into lessons.

Years ago I learned that starting lessons (or practice for that matter) with a 3-octave scale, any scale, makes a difference in how productive the next hour would be. I think of scales as a musical-meditative technique to begin my musical "day". The few moments that it takes to play a scale gets me literally in-tune with my musical mind.

The first pass at one beat per bow sets my hand so that the notes begin to ring and I feel the vibrations in my hand and body. Any tension begins to fade away and my hand "remembers" where it should be to play in tune. By three beats per bow, my shifts smoothe out. By six beats per bow my left and right hands have become syncronized. By eight or more beats per bow, I consider myself sufficiently warmed up to tackle any piece that I'm working on at the moment.

This lesson was a very painful one to learn that I had vowed not to forget. But somehow I did in all the excitement of moving across country, completing my Bach by 40 goal, starting a new by 50 goal, and starting with a new teacher. I broke cardinal lesson rule #1: always begin lessons with a scale. How could I have forgotten such a difficult lesson learned? I hold to that rule during practice at home, but somehow have forgotten to apply it at the start of lessons.

Like re-visiting my viola and bow hold, warm-up routines need to be revisited from time to time.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 16, 2010 at 6:09 AM

I still do the three-octaves scales, every time I play. I agree that it is like a meditation, it synchronizes my breathing with my playing, it reminds my fingers where to go, it gets the vibrations going through my body. I love a good scale!

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