Practice Focus

April 20, 2010

Eyjafjallajökull is having an impact on my practicing. My teacher is trapped in England following the completion of his sabbatical recital tour there. He and his wife were due to return to the States on Monday but the ash cloud that has disrupted flights all over Europe has delayed their return.

It isn't that I don't have plenty to practice, it is that I, perhaps, have too much to practice. If I had one or two practice goals I think I would be better off, as it is I have eight items on my practice list. And I am starting my fourth week without a lesson now. Without some structure I could start to develop poor habits. Starting today I am going to lump them together into four groups of related tasks and focus each day's practice on just a single group.

Hooked Bowing

I've got three hooked bowing exercises to work on. I'm working on a two octave C-Major scale using hooked bowing. I'm also working on a variation to the Etude on page 19 of Suzuki book 1 that uses hooked bowing. And finally I am rounding out my hooked bowing group with Happy Farmer on page 20.

Minuet in C

This piece just needs time to mature. I can play it fluently once in a while. The string change slur from the open A-string to G on the D-string still squawks at me. I've figured out that I need to change strings faster so that the bow doesn't drag across the A-string and the D-string at the same time. Playing it slowly works, speeding up at all results in a drop in intonation quality. I think a couple night's focus just on this piece will have it sounding much better.

Minuet Nº 2

The final piece of book 1 is also coming along nicely. I still tend to shorten the quarter notes, especially the hooked ones in the second second going from E on the D-string to the open A-string. Something about changing strings makes me feel pressured and therefore (perversely) I want to play faster. I also tend to speed up during the slurred open D-string to open G-string section. After so many shorter notes having six quarter notes in a row seems to take forever to play and I speed up.

Long, Long Ago (in C) and Variation

I can play Long, Long Ago (in C) reasonably well; the only real mistakes are caused by lack of attentiveness. I know the pattern of the melody from the earlier version in G, but I am only now starting to see that pattern in terms of intervals. I can't yet name the intervals without thinking about it, but I recognize that they are there.

The variation is starting to come together as well. I think I've now got it memorized. If my past performance is any indicator at all the overall intonation of the piece will improve dramatically now. Once I stop worrying about the next note to play, I can shift my attention to how things sound.

Flash Cards

Added to each of these practice groupings is work with my note flash cards. I am slowly starting to recognize actual notes instead of finger numbers. Five or ten minutes with the flash cards each night should get me over the note reading hump soon.

Author's profile picture

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.