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Karen Allendoerfer

The Hard Stuff

September 30, 2008 at 10:59 AM

As principal of the 1st violin section I've been feeling much responsibility for learning orchestra music this fall, and so my viola has spent the month of September in its case while I get to know my violin again.

For the most part, switching back has not been a big deal, except for something my teacher pointed out, which is that I'm tending to play too heavily and lean too much on string crossings. Sometimes I'm trying to pull sound out of the instrument as if it were a viola, when a lighter touch is really what's called for.

What this observation has done, moreover, is gotten me to focus more on the bow arm and hand than I have in the past. And I don't always like what I hear: in fact, these days it seems like I'm always ending up in the wrong part of the bow for doing what I wanted to do. And then a frantic journey from, say, the frog back to the tip ensues, with accents in all the wrong places. I don't think that this is evidence of halcyon days of pre-viola bowing bliss, from which I've sadly fallen. Rather, I think it's evidence of having moved from ignorance into experience.

Right now I seem to have two kinds of problems on string instruments: things I can't do, and things I forget to do. Most of my playing life I've concentrated on the things I can't do, like octave leaps from G to GGGG! on the Eing. I'll work this shift over and over, I'll do repetitions, I'll discuss Brian's blog with my teacher. Sometimes I nail the shift, sometimes I don't. The percentage varies, and (hopefully) increases over time. But there's never a question of forgetting to do it.

Whereas getting in the right place in the bow is different. It's something that, if I pay attention and plan ahead, I can do correctly on the first or second try. But the trick is remembering to pay attention and plan ahead, and not move on, thinking "oh, that's easy, I can do thaaaat, let's get to the hard stuff" too soon.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on September 30, 2008 at 5:26 PM
I love your description of the two kinds of problems. Sounds very familiar. Keep at it and see if you can decrease the former so that those problems go into the latter category where they are easier to deal with.
From Terez Mertes
Posted on September 30, 2008 at 6:00 PM
>Rather, I think it's evidence of having moved from ignorance into experience.

Ah, yes, well put. Funny how uncomfortable this kind of enlightenment can feel. I'm experiencing it in a great variety of levels/settings these days. And it's not getting more comfortable. : (

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 1, 2008 at 10:42 AM
That's funny, I don't find the latter category that easy to deal with. It's a lot harder for me to motivate myself to practice when the goal is remembering something that I already know. I find it much more satisfying and fun to learn to do something new.

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