Measure by Measure

April 02, 2010

I've spent the last week working on Minuet in C, the second to last piece in volume 1 of the Suzuki book. This is the first piece in the book that makes use of slurs and so much of my focus has been on getting those to sound right. I'm happy to say that all of the single-string slurs are sounding pretty good now, and are starting to feel almost natural as I play them. The brief hesitation in my bowing motion, where I originally wanted to reverse directions, is now all but gone.

The string-change slur, from the open A-string to G on the D-string, still requires some attention, but it too is starting to sound better. In my practicing I have been approaching the piece a line at a time, playing each line repeatedly until it feels smooth and fluent. The third line, which contains the string-change slur required more focus than the others, so I've been doing that line measure-by-measure, starting with the measure containing the troublesome slur and adding measures to either side as I feel more comfortable.

I've also been playing the piece very slowly, perhaps 72 or even 69 on my metronome. Slow enough to have time to think about each note, its fingering and its bowing. I've been careful to not alter the rhythm just because I'm playing the piece slowly. On previous pieces I would play the difficult section slowly and then resume a normal tempo for the easier parts. Since practice makes permanent (and only perfect practice makes perfect), allowing myself to play slowly for one section and a tempo for the next, cemented an incorrect rendition of the piece into my memory. It took lots and lots of work to correct my rhythmic errors in Rigadoon as a result.

Minuet in C still needs some polish, but I am pleased to be able to play it through (both repeats!) and have it sound good. This weekend I'll start Minuet No. 2, which is the last piece in my book.

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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.