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Ruth Kuefler

Mind Over Matter

June 25, 2008 at 3:27 AM

Though I'm itching for lessons and miss having a regular schedule I must say that the freedom of summer has its pluses. As my time is more free, it seems as though my mind is more free as well. Free to daydream, wonder, muse, experiment. Not having a teacher at the moment is really forcing me to constantly make musical decisions on my own. It is frustrating sometimes, but also very liberating and exciting.

Bruch. Sarasate. Bach. Prokofiev. Excerpts. With Aspen fast approaching, my repertoire load was starting to worry me, so I was wondering how to increase my efficiency. I ran across a pretty fascinating thread where Buri advised running through a piece mentally right before going to bed. I've only tried it a couple times so far, but I'm sure it can only help. The more angles I approach the the music from, the better I'll know it. Listening, score study, and mental practice, in addition to standard practice, converge to form a solid, living foundation for my musical study. Each method enhances the others. Score study away from the instrument reveals overlooked details and helps me look at the structure of a piece. Listening to a variety of artists gives musical inspiration and helps my aural memory of the music. Mental practice increases concentration and reveals where the 'blank spots' are in my knowledge of a piece.

I've been reading Galamian's Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching this week, and one thing that has struck me (among the wealth of information here) was the importance of what he called "correlation". According to Galamian,

The foundation upon which the building of technique rests lies in the correct relationship of the mind to the muscles, the smooth, quick, and accurate functioning of the sequence in which the mental command elicits the desired muscular response. It is the improvement of this correlation which provides the key to technical mastery and technical control and not, as apparently is commonly believed and taught, the training and building of the muscles. What counts is not the strength of the muscles, but their responsiveness to the mental directive," (excerpts, pp. 5-6).

Then Galamian goes on to describe the practical application of this concept:

"All practice concerned with the building of technique or the overcoming of particular difficulties has to center on the development and improvement of this correlation. The basic procedure is to present to the mind, for transition to the muscles, problems that progress from the simple to the ever more complicated. These are problems of timing and coordination in the form of various patterns of rhythm, of bowing, of accentuation, and of the combination of all three of these factors," (excerpts, p. 95).

He then gives an extensive list of musical 'puzzles' for scale practice, with the charge that a good violinist will take this concept and continually invent new challenges, not merely for their own sake, but again, to develop that 'correlation'. These correlation exercises apply not only to scales, but also arpeggios, double stops, etudes, and challenging passages in repertoire. So far I'm trying to use this concept scales and a little Kreutzer. Also, his point that you must always be mentally anticipating yourself helps SO much when I'm practicing my repertoire.

Basically, the more you use your head, the better. Just try to avoid learning your Bach by Harold Hill's "think system." ;)

From William Wolcott
Posted on June 25, 2008 at 3:35 AM

Right on! Absolutely right on!

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