Tips for Classical Musicians

Tag: Technique

The Ignorant Musician (ME)

I was confused. Musicians were using the word “technique” in seminars and master classes and I felt they were speaking Mongunese. To me, it sounded like I needed tools from the Home Depot and work on my technique.

Yeah, laugh all you want. But that was a tough year. I had been playing my instrument for 3 years and was recently accepted to major in violin performance.

The term “colors” was another confusing one. How do you explain colors in music to a guy who is lost in a conservatory?

I was lost—and the worst violinist there. I felt bad. Who likes to be the least awesome? No body. And if you are last chair of the second violins (me), it’s pretty obvious.

I had to do something about it immediately. I studied my options but had no clue how to come out of that last chair. The only thing I knew was that my life was about to change…

I didn’t appreciate being the sucky violinist and I should’ve.

The first year as a conservatory student was the best for my development. I was lost and my skills sucked. But when you are the worst musician you can learn from everybody, not only the star players but from the average as well.

They are still better than you.

No matter what you hear or see or experience inside the conservatory, everything will affect you directly. You will level up rapidly because you’ve never seen or heard that before.

If you are passionate you’ll catch up quickly and I promise you’ll leave them behind. At least those who don’t commit the same way you do. Get rid of those first, then follow the star players.

Listen to their performances and don’t envy their playing. Admire them and know they’ve been doing it longer and working harder.

Awesomeness doesn’t come from drinking natural water,

it’s grown.

When you find yourself in the last position, analyze your options and learn from the guys on top. Your goal should be to be like them, no less.

You’ll be up for a long and difficult ride. Welcome to the path of the erudite.

For the empire!

Carol

July 14, 2013     0 Comments   , , , , , , ,

Musician’s Guide to “Playing Fast”

 

It has always been the ultimate goal of many musicians. Sometimes, it’s even the reason young students sign up for music lessons; and definitely the “why” you and me spent so many hours locked up in a practice room.

 

 

We want to play it “A tempo”

From day 1 you imagined yourself on stage playing your solo with a great orchestra. That’s the goal. It’s hard to realize we must go through certain stages; an inevitable process. Playing fast is more than just being awesome, it’s actually knowing what it takes to earn that awesomeness. It is also being able to notice every single detail going on while you are performing.

Are you in tune? Is your performance clean at this tempo? Is my hand(s) working to facilitate movement? Play fast is one thing. Playing fast with all of the above completely mastered it’s another thing. After listening to a live performance of all the Paganini caprices, I personally get really excited. I feel the need to be able to execute/have the technique to play these caprices. I believe it’s vital to watch the pros in action. Get pumped up and find the motivation to start taking small steps in the right direction.

All the Elements Together

Playing Fast Requires Time. How much? It depends.

1. On the difficulty of the piece—

2. How many time you’ve done it, and

3. How bad you want it.

If you want it badly you are half way there, said someone I can’t remember right now. Every time you do something, anything, your brain carves some tunnels. These tunnels can brume away easily if they are not deepen enough. How?

Repetition and Time

At some point after hundreds of repetitions you won’t need to do it anymore (don’t worry it will take years so don’t even think about it). For now keep repeating smartly and you’ll be on the right track.

1. Think you are a turtle. It helped me. Move from one note to the other and feel everything; your finger playing that note, intonation, the distance between the new note and the old one and so on.

2. Understand the learning process. It’s not 3 days of slow boring practice. You need a plan.

3. As a rule, practice what you learned the day before (so it can be carved deeply) but still move on to new things.

Patience

…it’s also a big ingredient. Knowing that it won’t be “a tempo” tomorrow morning is a big realization. I understand, your eager to play it the way you would at Carnegie Hall. Yeah, that’s the goal but not now. The soonest you get to really understand that, the better and more efficient will your sessions be.

Believe in your abilities and wait.

1. Follow a working plan. Spend at least a month to see bigger improvements.

2. Don’t get frustrated. Big things are not accomplished overnight. Baby steps are essential.

3. Look forward to the end but don’t rush it. Try enjoying the process of building your different techniques and applying musicality.

Musician’s Best Friend; Mr. Beat

Or any other kind of metronome. He is your best companion. He will help you play accurate and evolve with conscience. Mr, metronome will treat you like if you were a baby. And that’s a good thing ;) .

Things to consider:

1. He is your best friend only if you follow him. Don’t lose him. To be efficient is to follow your best friend.

2. Work strategically. Select some excerpts of the pieces you are working on and perform them really slow simulating the conditions you will be executing when you play fast. (e.g. Same part of the bow).

3. When you are satisfied move up. Perhaps 5 points up and try to stay on top of your technique as well as the musical understanding.

Slow Practice

Separating all the technical difficulties and practicing them one at a time can very much helps the final result. It will allow your brain to cook things better.

As you work your way up, individual technique practice will enhance each area so that the entire technical aspect works towards one another.

1. Remember the tunnel carving. Repetition makes these tunnels deepen to the point that the info stays forever.

2. Slow practice is crucial for coordination of both hands.

3. To have a smart practice session, you must analyze from different points of view at all times.

Final Thoughts

As you continue to grow as a musician, you will find that organization is probably the number one thing to focus in order to have a satisfactory performance. You want to play fast? Great! Now, let’s see how we can do that with a good level of musical and technical understanding. You must know your music, the orchestra parts, accompaniment, main lines, how your part develops and where to, and how your line fits among the rest.

When the fast part arrives, controlling your emotions will play a big role. Staying steady and being a good musician should be the priority at all times. Have fun, show off what you have practiced and keep growing as a musician. If you did your homework, you will be growing as a person as well.

Carol

November 16, 2012     0 Comments   , , , , , , , , , , ,

What About Technique?

As a classically trained musician, you know that the most important thing you can do is work on and solidify your technique. No matter how talented or expressive you are in your musical skills, it`s technique that gets you through.

 

Without having a strong technique to support you, you`re not treading a path to success; you`re treading quick sand. On the flip side, however, some musicians rely so heavily on technique that they`re virtually swamped by it. They`re so wrapped up in practicing scales, arpeggios and other exercises that they neglect to work on their repertoire.

 

When this happens, it`s important to prioritize how much of your practice time should go to technical warm-ups and exercises and how much should go toward practicing your musical pieces. It`s important first to remember what technique is for. You use these strengthening skills to fine-tune and hone your skills as a musician.

 

Once you`ve got a firm grip on your technique, you can put it firmly in its place as a background to your performance.

 

If you`re a singer, particularly an opera or concert singer, you have to be especially careful about not over-practicing. Many experienced professional singers are content with 20 minutes a day of warm-up scales and arpeggios before jumping right into repertoire.

If you practice your vocalizes and exercises too long, you`ll tire out your voice. As to how much you should practice your technique during a single session, here are some thoughts to consider:

 

  • Mindless practicing is a waste of time.Most musicians agree that endlessly playing scales and arpeggios by rote over and over again without thinking isn`t a particularly valuable way to spend your practice time. If your head space isn`t in what you`re doing, your muscle memory won`t develop and muscle memory is the backbone of technique.
  • Mindless practicing causes sloppinessand soon you`ll find yourself falling into bad habits that will make your practicing destructive rather than beneficial. Neglecting your repertoire leads to a lack of confidence. After all, you`re going to be performing your pieces, not your scales, in front of an audience.

 

If you concentrate on technique at the expense of your repertoire, your repertoire will surely suffer.

If you have extra practice time, devote it to your musical repertoire, not to your technical exercises, especially if you`re preparing for a performance. Set aside a time for scales, arpeggios and technical exercises and don`t go beyond it. Unless there`s something you specifically want to work on, such as a helpful exercise, keep your technical practicing in its place. It`s valuable, but you don`t want to practice scales at the expense of your repertoire.

Just remember, technique is vitally important, but it`s a means to an end and this end result is the skill with which you play your musical repertoire.

Carol

October 16, 2012     0 Comments   , , , , , , ,

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