Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Practice Really Does Make a Difference

On July 13th, I did my three test pieces from Suzuki Book 3 for my teacher, Strings, and passed, making me, according to Strings, an "intermediate" Suzuki student.  In old D&D terms, I'm level 4!

Before that, for about a month, I was totally focused on memorizing and working on those 3 pieces, getting them to the point where I could play them as well as possible, from memory.  It was hard.  Most days, I was practicing about an hour and a half to two hours because I really wanted to pass into the next Suzuki book before I left.

Part of the issue is that Strings was leaving for a music camp thing, and won't be back here until after I've gone.  And then I'll be birding in Scotland, and won't be practicing then.  And then I'll have to get a violin at the Abbey (they said they probably have one I can use, and if not will help me find a student rental).  But, in terms of memorizing, it would be hard to be away for two or three weeks and then go back to trying to play those pieces from memory.

But it worked out!  And I've started into Book 4.  I've also started back working on the technique books I have.  There are 4 of them.

1.  Ševčík bowing
2.  Ševčík technique (more fingering than bowing) (first position)
3.  Whistler's Intro to 3rd and 5th positions (hand and finger, mostly)
4.  Trott's Melodious Double Stops

Each of these helps me focus on a specific area where I need to focus (and really, pretty much everyone at my level needs to focus on bowing, fingering, positions, and double stops, I guess).  But for the past couple of months, I haven't practiced these as much because of focusing on the three test pieces.

I posted before about working on the Ševčík books, and how hard they are.  That was back in January, and from what it says, I got the Ševčík books last summer, and started working on them.

I've been better about the bowing book than the fingering book.  Today in my practice session, I couldn't even remember where I'd left off with the fingering book, so I decided to start at the beginning, since they're so hard.

As you can see from that previous post, the first set of exercises starts with slurred quarter notes.  Last summer and into winter, it took ten minutes or so to be able to slur the notes in a single measure more or less okay.  So on a given day, I might make it through one new measure, and one old, and then eventually, a whole line of old, and so on.  (Because I did improve.)  And then I'd start the next set, and basically the same slow process.

Today, I started and played the whole first set pretty much straight through, with a few mistakes, but mostly way, way better than I remembered.  It was pretty amazing to me, because I go along practicing, and often don't realize that I've improved, but then I go back, and something that was really hard is not nearly as hard.  And then it's obvious that I actually have improved.  And that makes me feel good!

So I remember for the future:

1.  Ševčík bowing - exercise 4, #30 (page 9)  (Basically, each exercise is a few lines of music, and then the page and next page are full of bowing variations for those few lines).
2.  Ševčík technique (more fingering than bowing) (first position) - back to the first exercise on the A string
3.  Whistler's Intro to 3rd and 5th positions (hand and finger, mostly) - G major, #62 (page 10)
4.  Trott's Melodious Double Stops - played through #1-3, worked on #4.

A Little Adventure before I Go

I have 8 days before I need to be on a plane to London!  I'm excited, overwhelmed, and more overwhelmed.

I've now finished all the big projects that absolutely have to be finished before I go except the whole class prep project.  There are two other projects I should also get further on.  But at least I've taken steps on one of them.

My friend, K, who's going to house sit has moved in.  So far, this arrangement is working out really well.  I hope he enjoys living in the house!  (He's a really good guy, and easy to get along with.)

I started riding my bike again this past weekend, just on a local trail.  And on Sunday, I was thinking about cutting my ride short to work on something else, so I turned off the trail onto a road in order to be able to turn around more easily, and saw a sign that pointed to a landing and said something about the joys of taking your kid fishing.  But I'd never heard of this landing, and it's only about a mile off the bike trail.  I rode up the road, which I'd thought ended at the gravel mine (visible from the trail crossing) and realized that it turned and went on from there.  What I found was a little park area, with a gravel/packed dirt and pothole parking area, a few picnic tables, and a little paved boat ramp with a sign saying that it was four something miles up river to the landing near campus, and 5 something miles down river to a landing further down.

I had a plan.  It wasn't a particularly cunning plan, but a plan.  I could put the kayak on the car with the bike inside, and drop the kayak at the landing near campus along with my life vest, paddles, and so on.  Then take the car (with the bike) to the new landing, leave the car there, and ride the bike up to the landing near campus, lock it there, get in the kayak, and go down river.  So I could do my own drop off and pick up because it's fairly close.

And that's what I did yesterday.  I was a little anxious about it, especially worried about what if I missed the landing somehow?

The thing is, right across from the landing is a ski jump, and that's visible from pretty far away, and not easy to miss, so the chances of my missing the landing and having to go another five miles were low.

The weather was good, and I told a couple friends what I was up to, and texted them before I got on the water with my eta (and then when I got out again).  But still, doing things all alone makes me a bit apprehensive.  It doesn't usually stop me doing them, but it makes me worry a bit along the way.

Here are some pictures from the adventure:


My kayak at the first landing.  (There's an ice rink right near, owned by the city and university jointly, and the city rec people were kind enough to let me leave my life vest and paddles and such there.  I used my bike lock to lock the kayak to the sign, probably illegally.  But it was out of the way at least.)

At the second landing, ready to get on the bike!

Bike parked at the ice rink, and locked up!

Kayak loaded and ready to go!

Gorgeous day on the river, mostly very quiet and calm.

Ski jump in the distance!  (Why was I worried I'd miss that?  I blame my recent reading of The Mill on the Floss, where Maggie becomes a "fallen woman" because Stephen purposefully "misses" landing at the town where they were supposed to land, and ends up going so far that they have to be sort of rescued by a ship and spend the night on it.)

A much closer view of the ski jump.  I really don't know how anyone has the courage to slide down that and fly through the air.  But they have big competitions here during winter.

The landing (with my car parked up the hill).

Pulled out!
Packed and ready to go back and pick up my bike!

All in all, it was a really lovely adventure, and I'm glad I went.  I'd like to try the next leg, too, maybe next summer!