Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Strings Adjudicator Words of Wisdom part 3

About time I got back to this... 2014 music festival is next week!!

Back to 2013 and William van der Sloot's words of wisdom... Continued from Part 2 HERE.

On understanding your music:
The middle class developed in the Romantic Period, and the idea of working hard to  make something - a painful process. Understand the music you are learning, LIVE the history.

On playing by memory:
The music needs to be not "memorized", but KNOWN. We must play by ear.
Getting your eyes off the page helps to communicate and share with the audience.  Our natural musical instincts come out better when playing by memory. Play by ear from the start.  Play what we hear, not what we see (see- hear- play).  Develop a trust in the ear.  If we KNOW the piece we don't need the music.
It's harder to be musical when reading the music.  It's better to have memory slips and have fun than to play with music and be boring.  The performers whose music sends tingles up your back or make you weep also have memory slips.

More on practice: 
Use a metronome for practice.
Listen to intonation.

The right (bow) hand is BOSS!  Practice fortissimo, and don't make concessions for the left hand.

Practice rhythm patterns of a piece fortissimo on open strings, with a careful bow (slurs, separates).
Practice dotted scales to  speed up reflexes and impulses.
To develop concentration practice repeating a rhythmic matrix or 9 random numbers.

On cello posture and technique (and violin technique):
Technique is the body's work.
To break a bad habit, experiment.  Why is it better the other way?  Try it with a relaxed hand to see if your body likes it.  We need to hear how it sounds, feel it - our body needs to like it.

The bow hangs better from a violin which is held up.  The canvas is bigger when the violin is held up.

Playing the cello with a twisted back makes the hand tight and is hard on the back.

Don't twist the cello too much as it makes playing on the C awkward. (Might I add? ... let it twist slightly as you play the A and flatten a bit as you play the C)

The thumb moves with the hand to balance it.

A supinated bow hold puts pressure on the thumb and can lead to tendinitis. (Supinated = opposite of pronated.)

Use forearm instead of wrist for sautille.  A wrist stroke works better with heavier hands.

On expectations:
There is a certain level expected from teacher, self, the class...  The environment gives the initial motion, then the students can play off each other and get things to "spin well."  In some of his master lessons, nothing was ever played for the teacher twice, and the music (paper copy) was never taken to the lesson.  Over the summer the students were expected to LEARN the repertoire by memory including the orchestra/piano parts.  The EXPECTATION was there, so that's what students could do!

There are no straight lines in our learning, so don't compare yourself to others the same age, etc.
On expression:
Espressivo does not mean dolce.
Playing closer to bridge with a slower bow is louder, but the strings do not spin faster.
A fast narrow vibrato with a light touch near fingerboard might be dolce.
A slow wide vibrato with a heavier bow near the bridge might be espressivo.
Support a soft sound with a faster bow or playing nearer the bridge, not just a lighter bow in the middle.
Experiment with colour - bow, vibrato, releases... the bow leads, not the vibrato.

Don't be too NICE with the music (Bach Arioso) - add more physical and emotional energy.  Take something brutal like Shostakovich, then refine that and take it back to Bach.
Don't just get louder - add energy, articulation, clarity.

On performing:
Be discreet when checking your first note.  The performance begins when you enter the stage.

We can't participate in our own performance as the audience does, just listening and depending on motor memory - need to learn to think and prepare ahead.

Let the character of the music out - don't be too controlled.

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