Monday, December 25, 2006

With More Technique Comes More Responsibility

Yesterday I listened to a recording of run through of a recital that I am playing next month (actually in four weeks) and, though I was expecting to hear a great deal of improvement in my playing as a result of practicing Dounis every day, I found that I still have many of the same old problems, only on a larger scale. They are on a larger scale because I am making a bigger sound and playing more in tune. I have the capacity to play a whole lot better than I did yesterday, but the only way I can is if I remember the things I always tell my students and should remember to tell myself. I making a relatively public list here as a way of remind myself that these things matter. Maybe they might matter to some other people.

1. Every note has an end as well as a beginning. The way a note begins is extremely important (I have gotten better at this thanks to Dounis and Sevicik), but the way a note ends is just as important. The vibrato needs to continue all the way until the end of every note, and it needs to be on every note. Playing without vibrato on an instrument designed to make a big sound ends up sounding like the aural equivalent of ugly blobs of watery brownish paint.

2. Don't try to be fancy and "musical." The music takes care of itself when the notes behave the way they should. Something that might seem to be clever (a little slide for no good reason, a little freedom with rhythm when it disrupts the flow of the music, a whimsical harmonic) at the moment is an expressive crap shoot. It can do more harm than good.

3. Every note is important. Don't hide behind the piano part.

4. Practice the difficult passages slowly with a metronome. The notes will not take care of themselves.

5. Everything I play is my responsibility. The music may seem to "play itself," but that only happens when it has been practiced so carefully that it becomes second nature. If the music "plays itself" it means that I am not completely present, and if I am not completely present I will lose the attention of anyone who is listening.

6. As Stevens Hewitt says "every day you must raise the price of your notes."

7. Building technique is like building and taking care of a house. Having a little technique is like having a little house. You still have to clean it, but it can be managed and kind of "kept up" without expending that much energy. Having more technique is like having a bigger house. It takes longer to clean, is more expensive to furnish, and requires more energy to heat.

No comments: