Practice Small

Vivaldi remains my challenge; I confessed to Teacher last week that I feel a bit bogged down.  My complaint is that I haven’t been making as much progress on the piece as I think I should.  I’ve been playing it for months, and the things that were originally challenging feel only more so as time goes by.

One of the main issues I’m dealing with is being in tune while shifting back and forth from first to third positions – I feel like it’s past time for me to level up on shifting.  As a training aid, I have long had a little piece of tape on the neck of my violin that signals “STOP” when my thumb runs into it.  With Teacher’s encouragement, I took the tape off in last week’s lesson, thinking that it would help me gain confidence as I slide up and down.

I’ve also been working a new exercise in my position shifting book more than I have any of the ones that came before.  The exercises are all short – they’re supposed to help me read and be in tune and hear the notes as they should be.  Maybe this one’s resonating because it’s the first one in the book I have found to be pretty.

If I now seem to be progressing a bit, it could also be that my boredom with playing small sections of music is starting to abate.  Teacher has long encouraged me to focus on tiny chunks of music in my practice, but until recently I’ve been slow to do it; I’ve been too hopelessly bored with my attempts.  But a couple of weeks ago she forwarded me a list of practice tips published by the Chicago Youth Symphony.  One of them is a link to the Instagram of Hilary Hahn’s violin case.  On the day I clicked through, the entire two-minute video the case recorded is of the superstar playing four notes over and over again in front of a pathetically bland door in some hotel room.  It helped inspire me.

I’m coming to the realization that practicing small it’s the only way I’m going to get over this hump.  I’m finally discovering the motivation to play these several measures, from several different spots in my Vivaldi piece, on repeat.  Over and over, bar by bar, digging in, I’m conjuring Hilary.  Small sections – backwards, forwards, and sideways.  A great play-through of a big piece of music is made up of great play-throughs of many small bits.

Thanks for reading.

Ryan

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