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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Pernicious Recital Weeds

Recital Weeds?
We have all suffered our share of pernicious recital weeds. You know the ones. Within a month of the recital, some new finger tangle rears its ugly head, and then it seems to derail every single practice thereafter. Or perhaps we start to forget a fingering or bowing that before now has been an easy thing to play.

The problem with these "recital weeds" as I like to call them is that they do not go away. They keep showing up. Now we can analyze why this is the case, but frankly I do not really care. I just want them to go away and stop marring my practices and performances.

So here is the plan that I use for myself and what I teach my students. And as always, I am hopeful that my example of "how to practice correctly" will stick with the student long enough to affect future practices as well.

First, I isolate the area. This does not mean that I start on the mistake itself, as I know my students prefer to do. It means, that I will back up perhaps a measure or two and start directly on that phrase. I will play the phrase through slowly enough to play it correctly, with the correct fingering and bowing or whatever else I am trying to fix. Then I play through that isolated passage a minimum of five times correctly. If I make any mistakes while I do those five repetitions, then I must add an extra correct repetition for each additional mistake. This will curb any enthusiasm I might have for racing through this weed eradication program too quickly. It stops my students from rushing through the 5 repetitions with inattention too. After all, if they know I will make them repeat the passage until I get 5 good repetitions, then my students tend to pay attention, take care, and pick reasonable and playable speeds (maybe the same thing?).

After correctly repeating the passage, I then back up and place it into context. I may start a line before that in the music and see if the weed program has worked for the moment. If I get to that spot and stumble again, I stop and do my five-repetitions routine once again. Then I back up again a line or so and try another run through. I repeat this process until I can pass through my trouble spot with no errors.

If the problem occurs the next day, I apply my weed eradication program again. I repeat this program everyday until the weeds are completely gone.

Now normally when I am practicing and learning a passage in my regular practices, I do not need to follow this special program. I can rely on one, maybe two days of an efficient practice style. However, in the case of these recital weeds that pop up within a month of a recital performance, I cannot afford that luxury of efficient practicing, and I must stamp out and eradicate these issues immediately with the full force of tools and techniques available to me.

What are your experiences with this sort of problem? Please be sure to comment and leave me your ideas. We are coming up on a recital in another month, and already I have had to pull out all the stops to get rid of the weeds.

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird