Saturday, December 17, 2011

The microphone doesn't lie

A couple of funny things happened recently. I'm hoping they'll lead to improvements, in the end, but it sure doesn't feel like that in the moment. One was getting spanked about intonation in the university orchestra. It caused me to spend a fair bit of practice time, with a loud drone from my ipod, doing slow bends above and below the note, listening for beats and learning to tune perfect intervals. I'd kind of thought that I already knew how to play more or less in tune, but apparently not. The interesting part is that I started listening a little more critically in my usual orchestra. What I discovered is that, yes, I was often pretty badly out of tune there too. I'm not the only offender, and yeah, sometimes it was hard to find a pitch centre because of disagreements in the group, but most of the time, there was a pitch and I wasn't on it. Painful for the self-esteem, but recognizing that I have a problem, even if I'm not able to fix it instantly, is the first step on the path to improvement. Hence the tuning practice. It's kind of funny, how different the pitch adjustments can be for even very close notes. I like Betsy's admonition that this is training the bassoon to play in tune, rather than the player; this is much easier on the ego.

The other funny thing came from doing some recordings. I'm getting tired of hearing the same thing at my lessons constantly: go across the bar line, crescendo the last sixteenth, make it sound like a pickup, that kind of thing. It's the kind of thing that Once I had the first couple of bars of a study ready, really doing that kind of phrasing, I recorded it on my ipod, so I could enjoy the pleasure of listening to how wonderfully I was doing it. Didn't work out that way. It was terrible! I wasn't doing it at all. Apparently my teacher has been going on about the same thing for years, like a broken record, because I've been consistently making the same mistakes, like a broken record. So that's kind of interesting. It's also interesting how much of this phrasing you can see in the sound contour on the recorder. The note that's smaller than the rest is actually  quieter, and breaks the phrase. If you want the downbeat to sound like a downbeat, it has to be louder than the pickup, which means the wave has to be bigger. With much struggle, and many recordings, on extremely simple music (I'm working on the first movement of the Telemann sonata), I've been able to make a bit of progress. Sometimes it's really hard: it's like there's something wrong with my brain, and it's afraid of playing certain notes. And I've discovered that some notes are much louder or softer than even very close notes, so in order to make the wave look pretty, I've got to blast out certain notes in what feels like a very unnatural manner. But the recording doesn't lie, and I had to admit, when I got it right, it sounded better. So again, just recognizing that I have a problem is hard. I can't hear it when I'm playing, I've got to be told. Or listen to a recording.

Here's Telemann, my first attempt to overdub to do the bassline too. Sorry about the metronome, but it seemed like the easiest way to sync on a one-track recorder. And of course, I was so distracted by dealing with the technology, that I wasn't able to do any of the things I'd been practicing. Ah well.
  telemann by TFox17

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