Friday, June 26, 2009

I need someone to push me

Band practice tonight was a good kick in the ass (a little bit for all of us, but particularly for me) ... my tone has really improved lately, and my ease of motion & vibrato, but my intonation and bow control are pretty horrible right now & my intonation was getting to be spot on for a bit ... anyway, I didn't do as well in band practice as I felt I needed to, and it was a good kick in the ass, and it occurred to me that I really need someone to be tough on me right now & I really need to be tough on myself - In 2 ways.

First of all, I need to practice more every day. This has been really hard because I've been driving taxis & doing a lot of rehearsals/shows, so I'm generally not getting enough sleep & also having about 3 hours between work & getting on the train to go to the city. The solution is simply that I need to pull out my internet & get off the computer until I've practiced for the day & if that means I don't get to use it that day or I don't get to use it until 12:30 at night, then I need to do that.

Second, I need to practice better ... by this I mean I need to hold myself to a much higher standard of playing - one that involves having perfect intonation & getting everything very precise and controlled. I've been getting there more & more in my playing, but I need to really do it in my practicing too ... I just need to push myself more.

It would be so helpful if I had someone else to push me - a teacher or another musician who actually practiced for 3+ hours a day (why don't I know any of these people/why don't the live near me?) ... I really wish I was taking lessons right now ... I don't have the time or the money (money has been unbelievably scarce lately). The next 2-5 years are so important in terms of the progress I need to make ... I need to do a lot better than I am now ... all it takes is for me to stop being lazy about it ...

Besides that, there's been some really cool stuff going on in my life lately including playing in a huge cello ensemble as part of "Make Music NY" ... I wish I had more time to write about it ... I will soon...

Marty Steinberg recommended I take lessons w/ Irene Sharp after the summer ... this sounds like exactly what I need and want to do ... just again, run into the money thing ...

Anyway, tomorrow's my first show w/ Soapbox Army at the Bitter End & I have to work in the morning, so sleep now...


Emily said...

What tends to push people in a more sustained, long burn is usually between their own ears. Relying on one person or a group can be fickle. I remember winning a competition and then stalling out afterward...before the performance, because I had reached my internal goal of winning and then didn't have any more steam left to keep going. Of course it wasn't apparent to me then, but now: crystal clear. Instead, I like to keep the genesis of this stuff inner. You should be the guy that pushes everyone else. One thing that might not appeal to you but is a fine source of accountability (which is what you're looking for, and hard to find as a solitary practitioner of a largely classical instrument) is auditioning for an orchestra. It's an artificial construct, but tends to make you more honest in the moment about what needs to get done. I only learned to nail Don Juan when I knew I was going to play it, by myself, in front of a couple of scowling people. :)

As for your intonation and bow: it's your bow. You've been playing a long time. You know where the notes are. I'd bet you a taxi ride from Los Angeles that your bow has taken up some habits that pressure your left hand into moving too soon or in a panicked way. What's the answer? Slow down. (Yes, I am a broken record) Move your bow like a pendulum, so that it keeps rhythm just like your left hand does. As an experiment, take an offending passage and do just the bow strokes without the left hand input, complete with slurs, etc. How is your right arm moving? Do that a few times until it makes sense. Then add the left hand.

I feel you on the money issue, man. Our lives revolve around two of the most expensive places to make the ends meet!

Mike Lunapiena said...

Emily, I agree that the drive has to come from within, and I'm working on increasing that. However, being surrounded by people who are better than you is such a key part of being able to improve, because it raises your conception of what's even possible & imminently achievable.

So, I think there needs to be a good balance between both. I'll keep the orchestra audition idea in mind ... sounds like it would be good for my playing.

Regarding the intonation and bow, I'm gonna disagree with you in this case ... my left hand's motion has actually gotten a lot smoother lately ... the intonation issues are just from only practicing 5 hours in 2 weeks.

That being said, you've got a very good general point, and your advice to slow down has been very helpful ... it's one of those things I know but sometimes forget to apply. I also like your idea about doing hands separate & ghost-bowing ... they both do wonders & I sometimes have my students just bow.

Thanks so much for your advice! Good luck with all the financial stuff ... I very luckily just had a graduation party, so I'm a little bit more on my feet about that for right now ... I just finally printed up flyers for cello lessons ... time to start getting some more students!