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Monday, May 7, 2012

New Day, Same Old Right Hand

The student recital was yesterday. Unfortunately no video is forthcoming—the sound on the recording I made is virtually inaudible. On the bright side, my students played well. I was particularly pleased that the two students who had pieces with right hand alternation had little trouble pulling it off in front of an audience.

My right hand, however, didn’t do so well. Clearly it’s not ready for prime time. While I’m disappointed, I’m not surprised. All along I’ve tinkered with turning the modest improvement in the practice room into a performance ready technique. It hasn’t happened yet. So I need to focus more on getting my right hand off the lift and onto the road. A technique that works only when there’s no pressure is no technique at all.

During my practice sessions, I’ll concentrate more on recreating the pressure of a performance. One way to do this is something I (and other teachers) do with students. I often have students repeat a difficult passage ten times. On the tenth time, there’s a rule: if you make a mistake, you have to repeat the passage ten more times. The idea here is to become accustomed to the “one and done” pressure of playing for an audience. It also has the side benefit of putting extra repetitions where they’re most needed.

I’ll also start playing more for my students—briefly, of course, as I don’t want to cut into their lesson time for my own benefit. Actually, a little of this is good for students. When they see their teacher working to improve, they tend to take their own practice more seriously.

Most important is that I need to pin down and consistently recreate the mindset that improves my right hand. I’m struggling with a mind and body that’s deeply accustomed to doing things a certain way. If I’m extremely careful in the practice room, I can just barely spark a flicker of a new way of thinking and doing. But this new way is incredibly tenuous. Any little thing can snuff it out. The pressure of playing before an audience can destroy it, leaving me to the same old mindset and reflexes that get me nowhere.

Teaching an old dog new tricks: it’s funny how an old clichĂ© takes on deeper resonance when one lives it oneself.

——[My next update will be May 13, 2012]——

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