Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More practice experiments: Woodshedding

Image from Wikimedia Commons
The term woodshedding came from the practice of taking children out back to administer some primitive discipline on them (try not to think about it too much, please). Musicians use it to describe giving the same treatment to recalcitrant notes. Faced with a page or two of 32nd notes in a sprightly tempo, woodshedding is what one inevitably must do.

The Tchaikovsky "Pezzo Capriccioso" is receiving some of this. I keep trying to come up with creative ways to train my hands to do what they need to do. I've done all of these:
  • started very, very slowly with the metronome and moved it up a notch or two at a time, then moved it back down;
  • played rhythms (dotted, triplets);
  • emphasized a different note in each group; for example, I play the passage once with an accent on the first note in each group of four, then the second note, and so on; and
  • played without any rhythm, just listening to tone and intonation.

The past couple of days, I've tried something else: I play a small group of notes up to tempo, then stop, repeat as needed (playing slower, with rhythms, etc.) until that group is clean, and then move to the next group. Then join two groups together. This is really effective, I'm finding. It forces me to listen to each note but also gives practice in playing up to tempo. It also pinpoints exactly which groups are most problematic.

As for the lyrical sections, I am working on being more elegant. What helps me with this kind of thing is imagining I'm playing the passage in a string quartet. Somehow, this grounds me in a way other ideas do not. Maybe it's because I've spent so many years of my life playing chamber music and living for those moments when the cello must shine -- instead of being frightened, I anticipate them eagerly.

So -- just some notes from the woodshed. Hope I don't end up with a bunch of sawdust at the end.

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