Sunday, April 6, 2008

Practising while fully present

I've had an exceptionally good evening this Saturday, putting in two solid music sessions.

First up, clarinet. After working with the F# minor study being prepared for this June's Grade 4 practical exam, I brought out Ye Olde Digitalle Chromaticke Tunerre. The problem: How to correct a somewhat flatter-than-it-oughta-be B flat at the high end of the chalumeau register. After some trial and error (tempered by the satisfaction of seeing that most of the lower notes were right on the mark), I found that I could get a cleaner, truer tone by creating a thin and more centered air stream.

Then, while singing the F# minor study, I also tested My vocal pitch with the tuner. I discovered that the pitch varied considerably depending on the syllable I was singing. "Aaaa", with the mouth wider, didn't have the same accuracy as "Oooo".

But I can fix that.

And, by Euterpe, I shall do just that.

(Still on my clarinet to-do list: Unlock several double-jointed phalanges on left hand, improve articulation, cleanly speed up a fairly complex G minor study, relax the upper lip.)

Then I got out the violin. As this was clearly a day for technical breakthroughs, I started with the Dancla School of Mechanism (Op. 74) book and worked on exercise #1 till I actually started to get it. Nice, clean strikes of all four fingers onto the fingerboard, in rhythm and with good intonation. Rockin'!

Finally, I spent about half an hour cleaning up a gavotte by J.B. Lully (from the Suzuki Grade 2 book)... It's a wonderful 17th century piece that needs a light touch and graceful baroque bow gestures, but oh! those string crossings. *squeak*

So I decided to fix one particular part of the B section, a quick jaunt from the D string to the G and back again. Slowed it right down and worked on getting the bow angle just right, aaaand going in the correct direction at the correct moment.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I also discovered that I could cure the "whistling" sound just by keeping the bow at a strict right angle to the strings. As it turned out, that irritating high, thin sound was actually the bow hairs sliding up or down the string.

Oh, and I think I know how rosin actually works, too. I've started to feel it as I play.

Now if I could only be as present for my meditation...

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