Blazing, and the Imagery of Shapes

As we worked through my new Bach Gavotte in my lesson yesterday I kept thinking, “Really, all of this!?”  We began with the piece last week, working up the first three lines slowly in that lesson.  Teacher told me, as she often does, that I could go further during the week on my own if I wished.  While I did fumble through to the end of the first Gavotte (of two) a couple of times, I didn’t focus on it at all.

So in our half-hour yesterday, we went from the first three lines of the music all the way to the twelfth, smashing through the first Gavotte and doing 2/3 of the second as well.  It’s not as if this piece is easy – the technical challenges are myriad.  There are some excruciatingly huge octaves and other intervals which are tough to find and hear. There’s a fingering cluster that’s both new and challenging and fast.  There are a number of trills, some leading to a lovely flourish of an ending for a musical phrase.

And there are double stops.  Double stops are yet another getting real moment for me in learning technique – I certainly never played double stops as a child on the instrument, and I’ve long anticipated the challenge.  To my mind, making this instrument polyphonic feels wonderfully advanced.  This Bach piece has three double stops in two measures; they also repeat.  The chords occur to herald the final section of the second Gavotte.

Teacher provided a mental image, “Make a tunnel with your fingers for the e-string to go through.”  I understood her to mean that the train – the e-string – cannot scrape the side of the tunnel!  It will take a long time to make bowing across two strings at once sound lovely, but I’m very excited about the challenge.

I was tickled when she trotted out the image of a tunnel shape, because at the very beginning of the lesson, when I first picked up my bow and put it to the strings, Teacher said, “Think about making an oval with your index finger and thumb.”  Truly, the project of the bow hold will be a never-ending study in appreciating details over time.

I can definitely get my head around tunnels and ovals.

Thanks for reading.


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