Sunday, May 29, 2011

A New Fingering

I will be performing at the International Double Reed Society Conference in Tempe on Wednesday. It's been more of a challenge than I expected to bring my Pasculli and Silvestrini pieces back to performance level. Largely because I've been performing and traveling a ton lately, and struggling to find practice time. Also because I am frankly tired of working on the same 15 pages of material that I've been playing for a year. I thought there was probably nothing new to discover this month and so my practice has been pretty mechanical and not too inspiring.

I was working through Pasculli this evening, and buried deep on page 4 I discovered a fingering I could improve. A better option, in other words, for one note in a 15-minute piece that has more notes in it than some of my students have played in their whole lives.

I jumped all over that opportunity. I was delighted to find something interesting to work on. The change is ONE fingering on ONE thirty-second note, and of course there are two intervals that are affected - the one getting to my new fingering, and the one that follows it.

I played it slow. I played it fast. I played it in context, with the bars that come before and after it. I used my metronome and went faster, slower, faster, slower, FASTER. I focused on those three notes. Then worked on the surrounding 5. Then 13. I ran right up to the new fingering and froze on it. I froze on the note before it. I froze on the note after it. I started from the new fingering and worked backwards.

In other words, without ever getting bored I spent 35 minutes on one nanosecond of music. It might have been longer, too, but Zoe woke up from her nap and it became dinnertime.

I think my new fingering is great. I hope that it will be integrated and internalized enough by Wednesday to work even when I am on the spot and my brain is oxygen starved from 2 pages of circular breathing.

It's a little shocking that I've just had this idea now - I've had this piece on my stand for a year, and I have performed it 3 times, and rehearsed and practiced it so much that it's almost memorized. It's hard enough that I've spent hours on every page and section. And somehow I am still finding ways to improve. On the one hand I love that this is still possible. The piece still holds some surprises for me. On the other hand, I am kicking myself for not thinking of every option in the first place. Why didn't I come up with this months ago?

The lesson for me is to never consider a piece closed. I am never Finished with preparation - there is always something to improve, or reconsider, or rework. It's never too late to have a better idea.

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