Friday, November 17, 2006

Bug hunt

Those long music days are killers: piano lesson followed by cello lesson followed by orchestra rehearsal. Consistently, though, that hour of practice in the rented practice room between lessons is my best of the week. Is it because I focus best in the slightly terrified state of knowing I am about to display my weekly progress (or lack thereof) to my cello teacher? Or because I can concentrate better without the multitude of potential distractions at home? The worst of which is the computer, I might add.

This week's lesson focused on my scale and the Bach prelude (2nd Suite). Last week I convinced my teacher that Bach wasn't ready for a semi-private airing yet (phew) and I am so glad I found a way to get past the PAS and work on it a little this week. Not a bad technique, really, especially because it doesn't feel like practicing. Exactly. In his most recent book Philip Johnston calls it a Bug Hunt, but he used to call it The Spot Method. I like the new moniker. After my bug hunt I had widely-spaced groups of red dots in the middle section, and had given up and drawn a red line over the dozen bars after the cadence 2/3 of the way through.

The dots are only part of the process, of course. For the rest of the week (what little remained) I limited my practice to only measures that had red dots (or bars) above them. I need to get over the fear that if I don't continually practice what I can already play I will forget it. It's so inefficient. But so much more fun than struggling with the hard stuff.

I got my reward. I was able to play through the entire movement when directed to do so. Not without error yet, but it was great progress. I did laughingly warn my teacher that I was sure I could play it through as long as he didn't care what notes I played, and of course his first comment was on my shaky intonation in a couple of sections. Picky, picky. But then we got on to the cool technical moment and I learned how to do something he called up-bow continuation. It's a way of leaving the bow distribution uneven when you play more notes in one direction than the other. Not exactly a new concept, but it seemed very illuminating in that context. A good day. As soon as the glow of accomplishment wears off I'll go practice again.


cellodonna said...

Somewhere I have a book by Philip Johnston called The Practice Revolution. I'm glad I read your blog entry to remind me of that. But now I dread the search because it's most definitely someplace in the attic. Hopefully I'll have more luck with that than my unsuccessful search last weekend: ironically, the box of magic tricks that had belonged to my father has now mysteriously disappeared!

Anonymous said...

I like the spot method article.