What is music?

Saturday: We begin with group class, then skip swimming for a birthday party, then have our private lesson. In the afternoon, M plays the Bach Tanz for her former nanny.

Group class

Group class starts with rest position, and M volunteers the answer to Alan’s question, “Why is rest position important?” (Because you need to wait while someone else is playing.”). But when they play 2 G scales, M is not ready either time. As they play several scales, Alan asks the kids (while they are playing) to ask themselves:

  • Am I comfortable?
  • Are my feet flat?
  • Are my shoulders square?
  • Are my fingers hanging from the neck.

They do a G scale with knocking. Next, Alan points out a left-hand technical issue: kids are waggling their hands as they play, in and out. The left hand needs to be steady.

Alan points out that sound and touch are more important senses than vision because you can’t really see what your hand is doing from “the back of the auditorium.”

They play Rigadoon plunky and play a plunky D scale. He’s giving the kids less to think about, and forcing them to relax their hands, so they can improve their fingering.

Next, he takes a break to talk about musicality. I don’t much care for the opening bid — he talks about “appreciating” playing as meaning “putting a price on it.”

Then he does a demonstration with a necklace that works better. First he has a solid-colored necklace with beads that ascend and descend in size. Next, he has a bowl of beads, and a set of the same beads arranged in a necklace. He invites the kids to discuss what makes them pleasing: color (related to tone color), size (related to volume), closeness (related to articulation). I’m not sure how much gets through, but I liked the idea.

Then the kids played hide and seek with an Easter egg and were supposed to direct the seeker by playing staccato (far) and legato (close). The kids couldn’t do it, possibly because they didn’t understand what they were supposed to do. (M volunteered and pretty much played everything legato.)

Private lesson

M’s studio teacher spent most of her time on Suzuki material, only working on the Canon (which we practiced all week) at the end.

My notes about M’s playing:

  • May Song was freakishly rusty. M didn’t watch her hand at all.
  • With Steady Hands was as bad as I would have expected. She played E in the bass a lot and it wasn’t even clear she knew it was a mistake.

M’s behavior left a lot to be desired. She was so sloppy with the guitar when she wasn’t playing that, once, I gestured to her teacher to deal with it, and a second time, I interrupted to tell M to please hold the guitar more carefully.  M also was extremely slow to follow her teacher’s directions. They played a game of rolling dice and moving a game piece, and the teacher regularly said, “If you don’t get ready, I’ll get double rolls” (or something similar). It drove me nuts.

Technically, M needs to work on her right thumb stroke. Assignment:

  • Play 2 bars of With Steady Hands 10 times, doing a crescendo/decrescendo.
  • Practice thumb strokes only, with no buzz (i.e., using flesh just before nail).

On the way out, we took a look at a plaque for the 10-performance club. Suzuki students who play a piece 10 times get their names on the plaque. I’m trying to get M excited about doing this with the Bach Tanz.

Recital for nanny

M agreed to play the Bach Tanz for her former nanny who came over for a visit.

I was glad that she played, but she made a hash of it. Her eyes and her mind were wandering all over the place. I wonder if I’ll be able to productively review a video of it with her.

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