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Intonation is a Wish the Heart Makes

Karen Allendoerfer

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Published: May 11, 2009 at 10:03 PM [UTC]

I have a 4-measure solo in this year's POPS! concert.  The piece is called "Disney Magic," and the section is from the song "A Dream is a Wish the Heart Makes."  The piece overall is actually kind of nice, and fun to play, at least if you like that sort of music (which I do).  And, it's an honor and a privilege to play a solo, however small.


The two times I have played it in rehearsal so far, I have blown it.  The first time was sight-reading, so I cut myself a little slack.  The second time was not technically sight-reading, since I'd seen it once before (the week before), but it might as well have been.  It might have even been worse the second time around.  A Dream is a Wish the Heart Makes?  How about a Nightmare?

So, I got out that old can of Practice! (TM) and sprayed some on my violin.  Then I played the passage at my lesson today.  

I think it's time for a new can.  Or something.  In a way, it's the same old story:  F-major, my least favorite key.  Not hearing the pitch of high F's on the E string.  Going sharp.  Screeching.  I wanted to talk at least a little about tone (nice new E string--does it sound better?) and bowing (should I start up-bow?  won't that help me with the crescendo in the fourth measure?) and vibrato (it's less tense now--really).  But, as my teacher pointed out, if the intonation isn't under better control, I won't be able to implement those other things as successfully.

Practicing slowly is always a good idea, but my problem with that has been, historically, that I can't tell if it's helping.  So, in the absence of feedback that made any sense to me, I would usually get discouraged and give up because it just didn't seem to matter.  But my teacher has had me practice in front of her for a few minutes; she did this today.  I played the 4 measures slowly and she told me when it was in tune and when it was out of tune.  I did this for many more repeats than I can usually stomach when left to my own devices.  But surprisingly, I didn't get that frustrated.  She said, "you're making the right adjustments.  You may not really be conscious all the time of what you're doing, but when you play it slowly you are doing the right thing.  You may just have to trust it for a while, that the slow practicing is helping."

It was very insightful of her to have pointed out the unconscious nature of the improvements.  I started to think about the title of the song itself.  This is where I'm hoping to be able to turn the nightmare back into a dream, and to do that, I have to trust my unconscious mind to do the right thing.

From Graham Clark
Posted on May 12, 2009 at 7:36 AM

"I have to trust my unconscious mind to do the right thing."

I think this is so important that I cut and pasted it again.


From Tom Holzman
Posted on May 12, 2009 at 1:09 PM

When you have a solo, or even a very exposed part, you can overworry it.  Going with your instinct can help.  You will certainly get it soon.  May the force be with you.  Good luck!

Posted on May 12, 2009 at 1:58 PM

Intonation is  a wish  the EAR Makes

From Manuel Tabora
Posted on May 13, 2009 at 5:27 PM

Personally, I often find that very, VERY slow practice is quite helpful. When you practice very slow, you can listen for a lot of things. Obviously, the notes being in tune is one thing to listen for, but also you need to listen for clean string crossings, correct shifting, bow changes, etc. And then, once you're comfortable at a very slow tempo, bring it up to tempo GRADUALLY, don't just play slow once and then back a tempo.

Exercises with dotted rhythms are very helpful to me, in terms of rhythmic organization and coordination between the two hands. You may want to try some of that.

Best wishes to you! I'm sure you will eventually nail that solo!

From Ray Randall
Posted on May 13, 2009 at 8:50 PM

See Practicing for Artistic Success."  By Burton Kaplan. Do it!

From Allan Chu
Posted on May 14, 2009 at 2:21 PM

Good luck Karen! keep at it. There are a number of spots in the upcoming concert where I'll be carrying my section. It's up to me to put the time in to practice. Otherwise, we'll fall apart. Our teachers are the ones who can help us spend our time wisely. You'll get there!

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