Monday, December 20, 2010

Lessons Learned

This blog is not defunct. Perhaps a step beyond sporadical, but I'll never say never again. I have closure issues, you see. And I note that this appears to be my 600th post.

It's a rather lengthy post, as I've taken videos that in the past I would have strung out over a week, and instead posted them all together. I expect only the cello-hardy to remain until the end.

This experiment was inspired by Owldaughter's serendipitous discovery that playing her recital piece over and over, instead of concentrating on the tricky bits, resulted in marvelous improvement. I wish I could remember who next mentioned Burton Kaplan's Technique of the First Try, (if it was you, speak up and I'll edit in an attribution), but that inspired me to use that technique to prepare for my recent recital, on which I performed the D MAJ Mendelssohn "Song Without Words."

Parenthetically, my preparation of this piece was hampered by a semester of pain in my bow arm generated by a neck condition, and on which I had a surgical procedure done at the beginning of the month. Let's just say I haven't been practicing very well this semester.

So here's the gist of the technique. Each day I warmed up for 10 minutes with a martele rendition of Long Long Ago (may have to make a post about that as well - it's a great warm up). I then set up the camera and the music and recorded my first play through of the day - no prior preparation. I played through a couple of more times while the recording uploaded, reviewed it, and played through 4-6 more times with attention to a trouble spot or two between. That's it. About an hour of practice each day.

Three days before recital...

The biggest changes were after this recording. I changed many bowings, and really started working on getting my elbow down (releasing tension) on my up bows. I'm listening to the accompaniment on my iPod, BTW, which leaves little room for tempo manipulation.

Two days before recital...

Still need to get those facial tics under control!

One day before recital...

This was the day after my dress rehearsal, which went very well. It was suggested I focus on how I wanted to shape the music. The problem I began having at this point was that the music was nearly memorized after so many repetitions (much to my surprise) and I was beginning to have difficulty following it on the page without getting lost.

Day of recital...

I didn't bother with the accompaniment for this run-through, partly because I was short of time, and partly because I wanted to play a little more freely.


The problems with "near memorization" really came home to roost. In addition to being cold and playing cold, I kept losing my place. The worst problems were in the B section, where my accompanist did a wonderful job of helping me when I entered a loop, and with many places where my bowings were simply, shall we say, unplanned.

On the other hand, I think you can see how much improved this was over my 1st recording only three days before, as well as how I lost that predicted 20% from the "best" I'd done so far, under the stress of performance.

I think my primary take-away is that this is an effective technique, but should be started well before recital, not just three days. Ideally, this would be the prelude to a studio class or mock recital for friends, and the recital would be performed from memory. In fact, that's what I plan to do. I am so inspired by my imperfect success that I plan to do exactly that at an upcoming all adult recital in a month or two. Then I'll really feel like I've done the best I can with this piece.