Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Friday, May 2, 2014

More practice on Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5

I wrote this two weeks ago, and forgot to post it! ...oops... so here's an entry from a couple of weeks ago. I had my first concert today and have a video! I'll post that tomorrow. ;)


I met with Adam to go over the Villa Lobos piece. Two more weeks until concert time! I'm definitely going to record this and post it too - even if I do terribly!

We worked on a few spots that was causing me issues while Adam played Part 1 so I could become more comfortable with how my part fit in with others since I tend to freak out when I hear someone else playing something different. Normally, when that happens I freeze up and get lost because my brain assumes I've played something incorrectly so I quickly try to scan where everyone else is and get lost in the process. I've got to stop doing that! :(  In this piece, there are so many interesting rhythms that I have to almost ignore what is going on around me.

I'm also not very strong at reading and playing rhythm (yet) so I've been having some issues playing the measure below because of triplets. I haven't quite figured out triplets yet... darn you triplets!

I've been counting "1 &, tri - ple it, tri - ple it, tri - ple it. Hold..." but my beats are still not quite matching up. I'm either too slow or too fast. I've even tried "1 &, two-oo-oo, three-ee-ee, four-or-or, five (hold and look up!)" for the passage below, but no luck. ..and yes, I had to highlight that fermata because I kept running over it! LOL! ...I'm sure the conductor probably didn't find that too funny. ;)

Anyway, we practiced this for a bit and Adam mentioned that I may just have to start "feeling the beat" and saying it aloud for a while until I can verbalize it. Obviously I'm not doing myself any good practicing it incorrectly numerous times without being able to verbalize it correctly since I'm just ingraining bad muscle memory in the process. So first things first - be able to verbalize the rhythm. I'll be working on that for awhile...

That measure is also a very powerful part in the piece so I need to use a lot more bow... not to mention work on my intonation, but I'll be happy just to get the rhythm for now. ;)

I'm also learning a lot while I work through this piece, like how to play harmonics in a song. I thought I knew how to play harmonics until I actually had to play it in music! Lol! I'm playing the top of the divisi below and those notes are mostly harmonics. I know that probably looks easy, but those rests are killing me! Again, I'm not very good reading rhythm (yet).

I like to darken the part I'm not playing and/or highlight the part I am playing because I have weak eyes and tend to jump to the wrong line. My music sheets tend to look really crazy, but it works for me. ;)

There are some fast runs (for me), which reminded me of something I learned a few months ago with Dr. G; that is, there is a "hierarchy of beats." Notes that are on a beat should be played more "convincingly" than those that are not.

So "convincingly" does NOT mean playing notes that fall on a beat more loudly, but that is what I am doing right now until I get that figured out. :)

Dr. G had explained knowing where the beat is located at all times is extremely important in ensemble playing, phrasing, staying together, etc. He also explained that is also one of the reasons why electronically generated music sometimes sound "weird" because the notes aren't played with varying importance.

Anyway, I was constantly getting lost until remembered this and then consciously started playing the note that fell on a beat much louder. I even circled and drew a line through the note to remind myself to play the note more convincingly. This has helped me with regards to being able to stay with the music and not get lost - although I do still get lost, but not as much as before!

I've also discovered that I'm much slower playing with extensions than I am shifting to another position. I'm not that familiar with 3rd position so I've really had to work on getting my intonation and geography, which is still a work in progress.

Wow, lots to work on... I'm really curious how this concert is going to turn out for me!
I mentioned to my husband that I would be happy not being the weakest link and being able to perform without people being able to tell that I am messing up. He jokingly replied, "glad you're setting such lofty goals for yourself!" ..hhmm.. I guess I should rethink my goals!


  1. Forget the triplets... Octave double stops starting on a G# in extended 4th position? Wow, those are some pro-level thumb-in-neck-position maneuvers required in this piece! I assume with that fingering that you are playing the top note only, which is an entirely sane course of action at our level! As for rhythm, I'm pretty terrible at it myself, and I can't remember if I mentioned it before, but the ipad app Rhythm Sightreading Trainer has helped me improve dramatically, particularly with oddball asymmetric downbeat rests like the ones in this piece, but also on duplet-tuplet layering.

    The fingering in that last pic is seriously deep into intermediate level material. About the same difficulty as the 1st bach cello prelude!! And 3rd position... it is truly a pita in the beginning, because there are seemingly no physical landmarks to use other than "feel". But really it's no worse than first position when you think about it, and essentially it's just a matter of remembering where your pinky goes and putting your index finger there instead - which takes a lot more time to accomplish than it sounds like I know. There are also the 1st and 3rd finger harmonics, and open upper and lower string comparisons to both 1st and 3rd fingers which makes it relatively easy to check to if you're in the ballpark even without a tuner. So when you think about it, 3rd position is technically easier than 1st position! It's just that we were "born" in first position, so we can trust that eventually 3rd will feel as familiar :)

    1. yeah, I'm only playing the top notes! ;)

      I did start using the Rhythm Sightreading Trainer last month or so and I think I'm exercise 50 or something.
      I'm SLOWLY going through it... I'm finding I have to slow each exercise waaaaay down first to be able to count with the beat and then I'm slowly speeding it up (sometimes spending 2-3 days on an exercise!). ...slow poke here... Then I go back a couple exercise every so often to make sure that I'm truly counting and not memorizing the rhythm in my head. Anyway, so far so good!!! :D Thank you for the recommendation! :)

      I'm working on Cassia Harvey's 4th position book right now on my own, and I think I'll probably get her 3rd Position book(s) once I get comfortable with her 4th position books. ...muscle memory... gotta love/hate it! ;)

    2. That is awesome! It was a while before I realized how many different features that app has. For me, the most useful parts of RST are the randomized exercises, This way you can stick to whatever level you feel comfortable with indefinitely without having to worry about memorizing an exercise or advancing too fast to a ridiculously tough level (like 50!).

      Cassia Harvey is a genius as far as I'm concerned. I mostly use her 2 octave scale book since it includes crazy fingerings and rhythms that involve every position from half to 4th, and a bunch of variations on 3rd. For example: the F minor melodic is a bit of a nightmare for shifting and fingering, but it's really helped to finally begin to get the G#/Ab into my ear, as well getting a handle on some of the toughest extended/neck positions on each string . I have quite a few position books (both Rick Mooney and Cassia Harvey) which are gathering dust because I already spend about 1/3 of my practice time making up my own relevant exercises based on melodies that I grew up with that are already well established in my ear: eg the Cardigans, Star Wars music, Superman, the original Dune, etc. ...basically whatever pops into my head out of some combination of the notes in a tough phrase. This a fun way to feel like I'm goofing off while actually doing "serious" work getting comfortable with fingerboard geography.