Monday, May 6, 2013

Out of the Way

The more I practice these days the more I find myself getting out of the way. I find that I am not practicing to attain a skill necessarily but rather, I already have the skill and just need to let the skill do it's job. There is so much that can get in the way with our psychology and musical baggage. We can believe so truly, so deeply in our hearts that we sincerely want to and are motivated by desire to play the right notes. Unfortunately too often we are not motivated, we are having to much catharsis over our musical past to move forward. This is where music can help. The music of what we are doing can give us another destination away from our ego's. Nervousness, tension playing out of tune, it's all because we are too wrapped up in something else beside doing the task at hand regardless of how much we think we are focused. Some pedagogues refer to this as "Thinking too much". The actuality is that we are thinking about the wrong thing, we have our thinking focused in the wrong direction. The only thing needed to correct it is a goal, a musical goal, an aural goal. When posed this question "Do you have a goal? Do know for certain what you are wanting to do?" People will exclaim "Oh of course don't be silly, I know I want to play it well, that is certain" But, there is no detail behind that, there is no actual sincerity of desire or grounded-ness of an aural outcome present in the mind. Whenever you actually decide to get focused and know what you want, that is when you will actually get out of the way and play it well. This is a good thing by the way, to know that you get in the way. It means you care, it means that you want to be involved and be connected to what you are doing. That is great! Perfect in fact! But, you have to make sure that the love you have for the music is manifesting itself in a way that produces something which is of artistic merit. That can mean a lot of different things of course. As soon as you can focus your love in that direction though, you will begin to accomplish amazing and wonderful things.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tchaikovsky Serenade Final Movement


This recording is a little slower but still very high quality playing.

Tchaikovsky Serenade Final (4th) Movement Baltimore Chamber Orchestra


This recording offers a good shot of the cellos especially near the beginning where the cellos have the big them and are very exposed. You can get some ideas for bowings and fingerings.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Amazing Slow Downer, App for iPhone


This Video teaches about using the Amazing Slow Downer App of iPhone and how it can help teachers teach their students.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Am I really playing in the Style?

I have had the good fortune these past few weeks to play and hear quite a bit of Mozart. I performed with Yulia (http://www.juliasakharova.com) The Mozart Duets originally for Violin and Viola,

Mozart K. 423 I. Allegro - Violin & Viola

Mozart K. 423 III. Rondo


Heard the Mozart Alleluia from Exsultate Jubilate and played in another aria last night, Tu Virginum corona, also from Exsultate Jubilate (http://imslp.org/wiki/Exsultate,_jubilate,_K.165/158a_%28Mozart,_Wolfgang_Amadeus%29)

Mozart Exsultate Jubilate (Portion)

What I realized last night is that for all these years and playing I don't think I have ever really imagined what Mozart was suppose to sound like. It felt as though I had never really played Mozart before. It was that "Aha!" moment I love to see in students so often. Why is that that I never had and why did it feel so new last night?

I think this is more proof that there are infinite levels to our ability to focus and listen to what we are doing. I think it is also proof that we can "Pretend" to play something. The question to ask yourself is this - Is this music a truth for me? or is it just a nice idea? What I have been discovering lately about  my own playing is that I pretend to play quite a bit, music half the time seems to be just a nice idea and I don't even realize it. When it becomes a truth, something real and concrete, I begin to play better. When I add a greater and deeper imagination to the style I am playing I play more accurately and contribute more to the ensemble.

The answer going forward is to be more proactive about style, to always ask the question up front at the beginning, What is the Style? Am I deeply actively imagining it in my mind?

The deeper use of this aspect of music is sure to improve my accuracy as well as musicianship.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Phrasing and Intonation go Hand in Hand

Why do human beings use different intonation when they speak? Without the pauses, the commas and the periods, humans would venture toward a mode of speech devoid of varying intonation. Intonation in speech is how we show emotion and intent and many other things. The pauses, the stops, the breathes and the breaks are what help us know what to expect, so we know where to do with the intonation. As a matter of fact, where we are in the sentence or phrase of speaking often determines the exact intonation we will use. The breaks and pauses and the expectation they create also make the pitches that we do end up creating, more comfortable.

There is always the question though of how to teach phrasing, especially to small children or beginning music students. I have written lyrics to the folk song Go Tell Aunt Rhody that may help in the learning of phrasing. Please feel free to download it and please let me know how it goes!

Go Tell Aunt Rhody, Learning to Phrase
 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hello!!

Welcome to my Blog! I am so glad you are here. This blog is going to be about music and learning to play music. There is so much exciting new information out there about how we learn. I know that all of us musicians are still students and still learning no matter how advanced we are. My hope is that we can spark a conversation and learn from one another.

A little about me, I am Choral Director and a Cellist. I grew up in Montgomery AL and began playing the cello at age 11 while in the 6th grade. The next year I began singing in my youth choir and the rest is history. I graduated from the University of Alabama in 2003 with a Bachelor of Music degree in cello performance. I am a certified k-12 instrumental teacher in the state of Missouri and Alabama and am currently working on my Master's in Music education from Auburn University in Auburn Alabama. I am also currently working at St. Martin's Episcopal Church as the Music Director their for the Adult Choir and Handbell Choir. You can Check out some of the stuff I have done with Blue Galaxy String Project in Birmingham AL and a recording I made, Amazing Grace with the Cathedral church of the Advent 5 O'clock Band also in Birmingham AL.

I live in St. Louis MO now and Love it! I am here with my fiance Julia Sakharova, who is a violinist. She plays with the Arianna String Quartet.

So that's a bit about me. There will be more to come about about playing and practicing. That is where I would like the conversation to go in this first installment of the Blog. So introduce yourself and tell us what you do to practice and prepare a piece.

Thanks for Visiting!! I am excited about this and what we will learn from one another.

Clay