April 17, 2012
Another week, and another good lesson. We played scales, worked on my audition piece, and set next week as the goal to finish La Cinquataine.
One of the audition requirements is playing scales. I'm to be prepared to play 2-octave versions of C:, F:, and d: Melodic. Yesterday at my lesson, while David was out of the room, I warmed up by playing those scales. I use scales to warm up at home as it helps me to get my intonation centered again. When David returned to the room he questioned my Melodic minor scale and so I played it for him again. Turns out I've been playing it wrong. I had it in my head that it was a combination of the natural minor (ascending) and harmonic minor (descending). It's not. We corrected my errors. Both the C: and F: scales are sounding good.
I actually think my practice is better when I start with a scale. Hearing the notes in order and with (hopefully) proper tone improves all of my playing. I've even started playing the scale for the key a piece is in just before practicing that piece. If the key can be thought of as the color palette available for a piece, then playing the scale is testing all the colors on a scrap of paper before starting just to see what they are.
I explained to David that I have been practicing Allegro Moderato with the metronome this week. For the audition I need to be able to play it faster. The piece is in 2/2 time but I've been setting the metronome to count 4 beats per measure as it is easier to count the eighth notes that way. I started at 69 and when I could play the entire piece I sped things up to 72.
Yesterday in my lesson I was able to play the entire piece, keeping the correct tempo throughout, without a metronome beeping in the background. Very satisfying. The next goal is to speed things up. I was able in the lesson to play about a 1/3rd of the piece is what we determined was 108! Faster is possible, it just takes slow practice. As we used to say in the dojo, what you want learn fast you practice slow.
We also focused on a couple of the trickier measures - those with shifts in them. David's practice technique for a shift is to play just the two notes comprising the shift. First the high note, then the low one, then the low one again, and then the high one. And repeat. After 5 repetitions of high-low-low-high, then you play the entire measure. It made a noticeable difference in just a few minutes.
This piece has been languishing on my weekly practice sheet for a long time now. I play through it but I don't really practice it. Consequently my playing it in a lesson is erratic. Sometimes good, often times not so good. I need to set aside time in each practice this week to really focus on this piece. Lots of low-high-high-low or high-low-low-high work as the piece is full of shifts. I also need to work on relaxing my right shoulder and arm as a play through this piece. It's long enough that I begin to feel a slight lactic acid burn by the end of the last repeat. When I started cello if you had told me that I would find it physically demanding to play for several minutes nonstop I'm not sure I would have believed you. It is demanding and anything you can do to relax and save energy during a performance is important.
David had asked me to start working on the first 2 or 3 lines of the Bréval Sonata which starts book 4 a couple of weeks ago. We took some time to review what I had done yesterday. At his instruction I am ignoring all trills and grace notes to start. I'm able to play through about the first 3 or 3 1/2 lines of the piece fairly smoothly now. He was pleased that I was able to play the Scottish Snaps midway through the second line correctly. I told him that Sibylle helped me sort out the rhythm there and that her help really paid off. He wants me to continue on with the next few lines of the piece now.
We didn't get to my new Schröder piece (#31) this week. Which is just as well. I'm able to fumble through the whole thing, but it is still very mechanical and rough. Hopefully another week will start to smooth it out some.