Wow. What a breakthrough.

If you play the scale to the key that the music is in a whole lot, the weird little tics in the music get easier. Wow. Whodathunk.

I’ve now been positively convinced that I need to play a slow, easy Gm scale for about a half hour tomorrow before starting in on Melody V. This will conclude the first pass through the Fitzpatricks. Then, it’s back to the start for the second coat.

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Melody III — a relatively easy fix

Just had a stint with the microphone, and I’m pretty uniformly flat. Annoying, but an easy fix. Move my hand up. If I had been all over the map, flat sometimes and sharp others, that would have been a more formidable problem. Fixing scattered aim is much worse than merely moving around a tight grouping. I need to move my hand up, do more scales to fix the proper position for my hand before diving into a piece, and be a little more aggressive when it comes to reaching for a given note. This is a 16″-er, so I need to get used to stretching a bit more.

Overall though, a really good weekend for the viola. I can feel myself solving problems one by one and retaining them, which is nice. I need to make sure to do a little of this tomorrow night as well, just to cement the improvements so I’m not bailing a leaking lifeboat on Thursday (short week this week) to recover gains made this weekend and lost through indolence. I still remain amazed at the continued realization that I might actually play this thing someday.

I’m also pleased that I’m gaining more dynamic range as I go. While I still can’t manage a pp, I’m getting there and not at all minding playing without the mute anymore. (Whether my neighbors mind is another matter.)

Still curious about a 15″ viola, but I will remain on this one for the moment and get some geared pegs and an extended nut on him. Might as well — no sense making things harder than they are. Yuri Bashmet, from what I’ve heard, has a 16″ viola with a 14.1″ string length, probably not a coincidence.

Okay, let’s just step through this sensibly: Issues with Melody III

First Theme:
Don’t be hesitant with the bow on the first A on the D string, and keep your hand relaxed for the reach down for the A on the G. Don’t go flat on that A, either. Don’t crawl toward the bridge with the bow; just because the scroll hand is moving toward the bridge doesn’t mean the bow arm has to tense up, too. Make sure you don’t hit the G string too early.

Don’t hit the C string on the next measure in that C#-B-A part. Be careful with your intonation; don’t go sharp on the C# and the B!

Second Theme:
For that little thingie at the start of the second theme, think of each repeat separately: D-E-F#–A, then D-E-F#–D. Don’t go sharp on the E the second time, and don’t crawl toward the bridge with the bow. Anticipate that A at the end of the phrase better, or at least try to. Stop being surprised by it.

For the next C#-B-A, same as before — don’t go sharp on the C# and the B.

Same as the first D-E-F#–A etc., but it’s more important not to get surprised by the A since it’s followed by an identical A on the open string one up, so problems with intonation will stand out.

At the end of this theme, don’t crawl toward the bridge with the bow!

Reprise and Coda:
Anticipate the two fp‘s on the last bit.

I’ll be done with it at the end of the day, but it’s not the end of the day yet, is it? 🙂 And to be honest, I might stick with it until next weekend just for fun because I’m getting a kick out of being able to do it. Besides, I have a 4-day weekend coming up and can swap over to a new piece fairly painlessly then.

I think the next thing I’m going to get done on him is going to be geared pegs and the extended nut, just to make my life a bit easier. I’m managing with the reach now — or at least working up to it — but if I can make things a bit less stressful, I might as well.

Better on the Fitzpatrick Melody III

There’s some some issues I have with making that A on the D string not sound half-assed and inconclusive, but otherwise things are doing okay. There are some problems that I’m managing to make headway on, and after a week without the pochette (I’m sorry to say), the weight of the damned thing isn’t so awful anymore just because I’ve lost that effortless point of comparison. I’m still considering a 15″ viola, though — possibly not all the way down to a 14″, which might be a bit much. The longer I manage to chew on this question, the more money I can set aside when I finally make up my mind, so being indecisive in this case is a positive thing, and I’m happy to take my time to reach a decision.

At any rate, I’m happy to have my brain released from the clenched fist it’s been for the past two months or so.

Update: Much better on Fitzpatrick III. Still some problems, but others are really being solved nicely. I seem to have some problems latching onto a middle B — not finger problems so much as ear problems, which are worse. I just don’t seem to latch onto that note very well. It’s probably a combination of fingering and the ear, but I’m having trouble snapping to grid on that one.

I also have to move my hand fairly far forward to manage this particular piece. It’s not a problem, but it’s hard to understand what is “bad technique” and what is “what’s needed to play this particular piece.” I’m having a tough time teasing those two apart on the viola. It’s probably an artifact of my having started piano so young, but I can’t recall doing this on the piano. It seems that there is simply one uniform way of playing that works for that instrument, and once you figure something out for a given piece, it works globally. The viola seems more … present-tense. You just do what works for each note at a time. It’s less generalized.

Again, I’m a fairly early starter on the piano and an adult beginner on the viola, so I’m probably seeing this incorrectly. But it does seem that the tricks and tips needed to make a decent sound on this thing are very often individual, where you need to figure out each particular piece pretty independently of every other one. And of course, I’m talking overwhelmingly about fingering, the low-hanging fruit of any stringed instrument.

I have to just keep going and see how this works out the more I learn. Let’s face it, I haven’t learned enough to generalize; I’m still seeing each part of the elephant instead of how they come together to create a whole.

Adding a little coda to Melody III

It needs one. Well okay, I didn’t write it and the guy who did was a Delay student, so who am I to mess with it … but still. I like putting a little cute thing at the end. I think I’m managing the mystifying bowing a little better, though — granted this was on the pochette last night and not the full-size, but I think it’s coming along better. I need a little more lightness and flexibility in the hand in certain parts; instead of using my arm to zip over to the A string for one 16th note, it seems to work better if I use my fingers to dip the bow down. I also need to make sure that the E on the D doesn’t go sharp for some reason that escapes me, but it does.

And there are still some places where I need to go from an F# on the D to an A on the D without having any unwanted bits of G showing up between them. A limber, relaxed scroll hand is the important part of that; I think I got that from the Gavotte. After I was able to concentrate on more things at once, I could sort of prepare my hand ahead of time to anticipate the whole phrase instead of fingering as if I had no idea that the A was coming until it was right upon me. This will probably be the same, which means I have to treat it the same way and just do that one part over and over a thousand times until something clicks.

Onward to the Fitzpatrick melodies

So I got through the first one in about six seconds, skipped the second since I simply refuse to make noises that ugly, and am doing the third. I think I may end up back at the first at some point, though. I’ve got to be missing something; there is a bowing in the second measure that really makes no sense to me at all, unless he was trying to work in an upbow staccato in there. And I also tended to ignore some of the staccato markings. Not all — some made sense to me. But others were just ugly. I’m getting too opinionated for a beginner. I wish I knew why he had put that strange bowing in. It really is extremely counterintuitive.

But at any rate, I’m working on the first theme of the third piece now. A few more oddball bowings where in I suspect him of the same sort of unstated purpose, but it’s not bad. A few difficult uses of the pinky, but not too many. They at least make sense to me, unlike the strange bowings.

I think I’m getting used to DM as well; the high 3 on the first two strings doesn’t seem as high as I thought it would be. It’s a bit of a stretch, especially on the C string, but it’s not really that bad. It’s more a matter of thinking of what part of the fingertip (up the fleshier bit more) I should contact the string with than a stretch, per se.

BTW, I just ran into this pianist. I like her. Why did this come to my attention too late to do anything about it?