After Two Weeks Away

February 23, 2010

The past month has been difficult. A death in the family has upset our lives and we are both slowly, tentatively dipping our toes into the apparently calm water following a rough set of rapids.

One of the consequences of the travel involved was that I haven't been able to practice. In the past four weeks I've only had one week of practice, and last night and tonight were the first practice sessions in 15 days. As a beginner  my playing skills are fragile; things sound rough after not playing for two weeks.

Last night I decided that I would play through the Suzuki book from Twinkle, Twinkle right up to the newest pieces I'm learning. At first everything felt awkward and sounded worse. Sibylle assured me that it sounded effortless. It certainly didn't feel that way at first. By the end of my practice session things were starting to feel better again.

Tonight I wanted to focus on hooked bowing, and slurs, which are the latest two techniques in my bag of tricks. I can play using hooked bowing, haltingly and without an attention to the piece's rhythm. My teacher told me I'd need to play the piece, especially the hooked portions about a thousand times to really commit it to muscle memory. After tonight I only need about 975 more iterations.

Being tired from our trip isn't helping either. Building off something Sibylle said, I recognize that I have a certain playing capacity, an upper limit to my ability. Playing something like Twinkle, Twinkle is relatively easy. I pick a key and set off through the piece with no trouble. Even the rhythm variations come easily. Twinkle is well within my playing capacity. The newest pieces (even some of the previously down pat older pieces) approach my upper capacity, and therefore are harder to play. Toss in some jet lag and a lack of practice over the past couple of weeks and you get some rough sounding music.

Still, it feels good to be playing again. And I know that within a few days my roughness will fade and I'll be progressing once more.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.