Friday, September 17, 2010


Had a lesson yesterday. It sucked. I mean, I guess I wasn't expecting much, coming just a few days after having a week off, and I also missed practicing Wed evening entirely (though I had gotten a few minutes in the morning), but still, it sucked. Lack of confidence didn't help, so I experienced the "I played this better when I was practicing" sensation, but that's connected to practice, too. There's a confidence that comes from preparation, you know more or less how it will go. Knowing that you're badly prepared, on the other hand, can wreck your ability to even fake your way through something even to the level that you're at. Better to be well prepared, or to at least feel like you're as prepared as you can be, given your constraints. All psychology I guess, beyond the obvious (more practicing).

That, and the recording I tried to make cut out after the first few minutes.

So, what'd we do. Spent time on tone, playing just C3, the C in the staff. He took my reed, G11 I think?, and opened it up, to brighten the sound, then shaved lots off sides and tip to reduce the strength. An improvement, but then it felt sufficiently different when playing to be yet another distraction. Part of the process, though: gotta be able to play a forte, gotta be bright enough to be heard, and have to do whatever it takes to make that possible.

Scales. I currently play my set of scales as 16ths, quarter note a little under 60 bpm. I'd calculated how fast I'd need to move this up to play at say 120 in a year, improving on a log scale, and it starts about 1 bpm per week. So I'd moved up to 60, since the schedule says I need to be at 61 by the end of September. Whether 120 is a reasonable goal is totally debatable: the ABRSM starts at quarter-note=50 at Grade 1, and goes to 132 at Grade 8, but doesn't seem to specify whether the scale is 16ths, 8ths, or what. I'm guessing 8ths. Range is up to D5, slurred, legato tongued and staccato, major, melodic and harmonic minor, plus thirds (F, G only), chromatic and whole tone, and triad, dominant seventh, and diminished seventh arpeggios. I could do all that slowly now, I think. Barrick Stees does specify speeds, and starts at 60, ends at 120, over the whole range of the instrument up to about a high E (E5). That's college-level, for performance majors who presumably have more time to practice than I do, and four years to get through it anyway. Still, 120 is maybe a reasonable ultimate goal, even if the time frame is unreasonable. That said, M listened to my scales (done worse in lesson than at home), and suggested: 1) dropping the speed by a factor of two or so; eights or quarters and 2) focusing on how far my fingers move. So explicitly practicing the range of finger motion. He hasn't complained about that in awhile, but he definitely complained at my first lesson, when again I think I was nervous. I seem to recall my old teacher advocating that fingers would naturally come closer to the instrument as speeds increased, but maybe the direction of causality is reversed. So now, when I practice, I just need to think about 1) new fingerings 2) totally unfamiliar embouchure 3) very different air support 4) exactly how far I'm moving my fingers, while of course 5) relaxing completely at all times. Easy, huh.

We spent some time on the etude (Milde scale study 4, which I tried to take slowly, but played terribly anyway) and Mozart, but I've mostly forgotten what was said. And I have no recording.

I did practice this morning, since I probably won't get to tonight. Spent it all playing a C major scale. *sigh*

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