November 14, 2012
My lesson yesterday was a very good one. With less than a week to go before the orchestra performances, we have shifted our attention back to solo work in book 4 of Suzuki, the Lee Études, and the 170 Foundation Études in Schröder.
This is a lovely piece and one I am very much enjoying learning to play. David picked up on the fact that I like it and consequently is upping the ante a bit. He wants me to reach performance tempo with this piece - no excuses. He set the goal tempo at quarter equals 104. Toward that end he has forbidden me from "playing" the piece until Friday this week. In other words I am to practice short phrases and windows rather than attempt to play the entire piece.
The piece is Baroque and therefore there are assumed staccato dots on the eighth notes, while the sixteenth notes are played legato. We worked on the opening measures together last night with the aim of getting a nice martele bow stroke on the shorter notes. It adds a certain bounce to the piece that wasn't there before when I played all the notes legato.
I have been ignoring this piece to play the E Minor Allegro. With two weeks now until my next lesson (and with quite a bit of practice time freed up by the end of the orchestra season) I hope to focus more on this piece.
David has me working through these études again, this time with a focus on velocity. In demonstrating the speed improvement I have on No. 2, he noticed that my left hand shape is not what it should be. I've gotten into the habit of collapsing my thumb so that the pad rests on the neck of the cello, and I am using hand strength (grip) to stop the strings rather than pulling with my upper back muscles. Both of these factors are contributing to tension in my left arm and hand which is slowing me down.
David suggested putting a throw pillow under my left arm when I play to force my elbow up and out. This will help to drag my thumb over to the left side of the neck. Which in turn will prevent me from gripping with my thumb. Or at least from gripping as much. Unlearning a bad habit is hard. My hope is to use scales and other rote exercises to focus on left arm and hand positioning.
I had started the Schröder book last winter but it was set aside for orchestra in June. With a return to solo work I pulled it back out and have been using some of the early études for speed practice. David likes that idea and has assigned #20 to me for now. It has several patterns that I recognize from some of the orchestra music. I always understood the value of études, but seeing patterns in those short pieces that mirror patterns in orchestra compositions really drives home the value of these pieces.