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Mendy Smith

Lesson in "V" - The Magic Word

February 20, 2011 at 2:32 AM

I've been studying Viuextemp's Elegy for several months now in my Z-A composer goal.  It is a particularly difficult piece with some difficult to execute shifts and large swaths of running 16th notes - 6 per beat. 

Those runs are starting become much more comfortable under my hand with repeated slow practice, with and without rhythms, and notching up the tempo bit by bit over time.  There is one particular set of those notes in the beginning of the piece that I stumble over time and time again, even while playing slowly.

During lessons today, I started playing through the piece, got to that first run of 6 notes per beat, stumbled, stopped and told my teacher that no matter what I tried I have yet to feel comfortable with those 6 notes.  The next 30 minutes of my lesson was spent on those 6 notes.  After much experimentation with several 'tricks of the trade', it was a single word that my teacher said that worked magic... "phrasing".   

OK, it was more than one word.  However, when he suggested that I emphasize the 3rd note of the group with the barest break in the grouping of notes, everything started to fall into place where it should.  By simply thinking of that 3rd note in a different way, the shift from 1st finger 7th position to 3rd finger 3rd position became clean and clear - no more sloppy slides nor left hand scrambling to find it's new home position.  From there on, things went much better.  The little cadenza part finally sounded clear and I was able to make it through most of the end of the piece without stumbling at tempo. 

I still have much work to do on this piece before even considering moving on to a "T" composer.  After a run of particularly difficult pieces from Z to V thus far, I think I may revisit the Telemann Concerto when the time comes to move to "T".  Though it is considered a 'student' concerto, I haven't touched it in 30 years.  It will be interesting to see what the years have brought me, musically speaking.

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