Minuet in C

March 29, 2010

I spent the majority of practice both Saturday and Sunday on Minuet in C, the second to last piece in volume one of the Suzuki book. I had originally started this piece several weeks ago but had largely set it aside while I worked on Rigadoon and the Etude that precede it in the book.

Minuet in C was the first piece that I started from a rhythm standpoint rather than from a note or musical standpoint. It is far too easy to memorize the wrong rhythm and, once that "variation" of the piece is learned it is very difficult to play the piece correctly.

Initially I worked on the first two lines, up to the initial repeat by saying the rhythm out loud ("cat cat cat cat kitty cat ...") and then by clapping the rhythm. Next I played the piece pizzicato using the metronome to pace me. Once I was able to play the two lines pizzicato I started using the bow. When I set the piece aside a couple of weeks ago I had the bowing down fairly smoothly and moreover, rhythmically correct.

This weekend I started working on the whole piece in earnest and immediately ran into trouble. The rhythmic pattern changes a bit in the second section of the piece and I wanted to play the same pattern. After not making much progress on Saturday bowing the piece, Sibylle suggested that I try pizzicato again for the second section. Perhaps followed by air bowing to properly involve my right hand. Playing pizzicato allowed me to work through the entire piece in time with the metronome. It was an immediate difference. Eliminating the right hand simplifies the process enough that I can focus on the metronome and the fingerings simultaneously.

After several pizzicato run throughs I started with the bow and playing arco. Initially there were mis-fingerings and lots of poor intonation, but I was playing the piece rhythmically correct. After a few attempts the bowed version started to sound better as well.

The take away from this experience for me is understanding that my skills are still in their infancy. Just because I can play a piece correctly once doesn't mean I can repeat that performance. I need to repeat again and again phrases or sections of pieces, focusing on the details they contain, in order to play the entire piece correctly. And I need to be willing to retreat to the very basics in order to achieve a performance that is correct musically, rhythmically, and technically.

Now that I have (an admittedly tenuous) grasp of Minuet in C, I can start to tease apart the technical challenges it presents. Slurring from the open A-string to G on the D-string, for example. And making the hooked note pairs each sound the same instead of strangling the first in an effort to reach the second.

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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.