Day 7, Objective listening

I’m slowly recuperating from three hour jet-lag.  Today I was able to do 3.75 without any inkling of soreness / aches, just general fatigue.  A definite improvement over yesterday.  So is the fact that it’s not yet 11pm and I’m still awake!  Yay for adjusting back to pacific time.

I’m getting pretty comfortable with all the excerpts I’m working on.  All of them are now at the point where I feel like the next challenge is to begin practice on each excerpt by performing them for my recording device and then seeing how it went as I played it “cold”.

Voice Memos for the iPhone. Free, extremely portable, and with headphones, pretty high quality playback. I use this app to record myself every day.

If you don’t record yourself very often, the first few minutes of listening to a recording might be the most enlightening (and humbling) moments of your music life in a long, long time.  But if this is something you do on a regular basis, you might listen back with extremely charitable ears.  You might think about what you were trying to do and ignore the reality coming through your headphones.  There are two ways I deal with this:

  1. Label the recording (“Mendelssohn”) and listen to it later when you’re not practicing the same excerpt.  Fresh ears and a clean slate of short term memory will help you listen to what’s there, not what you expect to be there.
  2. Pretend you’re listening to a recording of someone else, preferably someone you aren’t fond of.  This will help draw out extra criticism that you may have been too forgiving to apply to yourself.  After all, it’s much easier to criticize others. :)

Miscellaneous thoughts today:

  • On technical passages that have random high notes in the middle of them, aka anything by Carl Nielsen:  I remembered when I took Tae Kwon Do as a kid and was doing a belt test.  I need to break a board with a flying sidekick and my first attempt failed.  The owner of the school told me not to think of aiming for the surface of the board, but several inches beyond the board.  Replace ‘board’ with those random high notes and voila.  Smooth technical result.  Aim beyond the hard stuff.
  • In articulated passages, particularly fast ones, the tongue is always faster than the fingers.  The tongue is always faster than the fingers.  The tongue is ALWAYS faster than the fingers!  This is a revelation I’ve had at least a dozen times, maybe this time it’ll stick.  The answer to cleaning up fast articulated stuff is to think of slowing my tongue down.  Ironically it paves the way for me to increase the overall speed of the excerpt.  Analogy:  Fast articulation is like a Chinese finger trap.

The “harder” you work, the more stuck you become.  And as the Princeton Review tells its students:  Work smarter, not harder.

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2 thoughts on “Day 7, Objective listening

  1. In cello playing there is the same question: Which one should lead – left hand which stops the notes or the bow hand which creates the sound. The solution at least for most people is, that left hand which is responsible for creating the pitches has to lead. I would imagine it could be the same when a wind player coordinates tongue and fingering.

    P.S. Three hour time difference does not really count as jet lag.

    • Thanks for this Sasha! The comparison is a good one- I would think (as someone who’s never played the cello) that the pitch originates in the left hand therefore it must lead. In reed instruments the sound occurs when the reed vibrates, making the air the natural leader before the tongue. Thinking of this comparison helped me today with some articulation work.

      P.S. Not all of us can be international jet-setters. :)

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