Sunday, October 22, 2017

It's chaos; be kind.

The title: a friend just vagueposted it on Facebook, attributed to Patton Oswalt. I should know who Patton Oswalt is, but I don't, actually. I don't know precisely why my friend posted it but I have an idea. The idea below is not it.

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The difference between "you couldn't manage to do the assigned etude" and "you're having trouble with the assigned etude; let's figure it out and fix it": this is the difference between a good lesson and a bad one, a good attitude about lessons or a bad one. How I would love to walk into a lesson and feel like I deserved to be there, like I could really play my instrument (or was well on the way, anyhow). What makes a good student? The ability to listen, to differentiate between what you hear and what you want to hear? I have that, to some extent. And then you try different things until you get the sound you want to hear? That, I don't have - not nearly often enough, anyhow. Some (most? all?) kids just do stuff without thinking; they "get it", they are the talented ones, they don't need to read extra books and do extra drills and walk around the neighborhood flexing their wrists or waving a stick like moving a bow. They don't sweat about walking into yet another lesson unable to perform a little children's etude. They just Get It.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Two obsessions

Yeah, I'm back. Miss me?

Lately I am obsessed with two things. One is hand frame. This comes from the Sevcik shifting exercises My teacher's been giving me. I've been shifting for years but not (apparently) with any idea of what my hand needed to look like once I got where I was going. The teacher has always said shift to a position, not to a note. I can mostly shift to a position (or up/down some number of steps, if I'm not thinking of the position), but the hand frame is only a guess, and I just throw the other fingers down and pray. The Sevcik is all in one key, so I have started thinking about how my hand can be prepared for all the notes. For example, if I am in 2nd position on the D string, what are the notes (in F major) and how must my hand be? When I take walks in the evenings I turn these etudes over and over in my head. And over and over.

The other obsession is connectedness, and for the second time in this entry I have initially spelled it "connected ness" (i.e., disconnectedly), which is a Freudian slip if I ever heard one. In most of what I'm working on at the moment, I want all the notes to be connected. Especially when going from up-bow to down-bow. It has to sound like the same note, or slurred notes; the dynamic has to match; vibrato cannot stop. I can't do these things. I often forget to make my bow hand loose and supple at the transition, so I get a small (or big) hole in the sound. For some reason I cannot fathom, I often stop my vibrato as I get close to the frog; this is a doubly bad habit because a slight increase in vibrato might help smooth out a bow change, so here I am shooting myself in the foot. (My vibrato is currently not controllable enough to increase at will, but that's another story). My left-hand technique is so sloppy that I can hear consonants in the notes I play. Even slurs have internal notes that begin with Ls, Ds, Bs (or BLs). Or maybe it's the right hand; maybe I am unconsciously changing the bow speed just enough to make it bumpy. It's driving me nuts.

I have been spending a lot of practice time lately on these two obsessions, trying to figure out what's happening, experimenting with fixing it, sometimes just noting that it seems really important and I am spending a lot of time on it. Am I mis-spending the time? I haven't fixed the problems yet, so maybe. It takes away from other things I "should" be practicing, so maybe. But then again, this might be something I live with for a while without fixing, but still something good can come of it.