She’s a multi-instrumentalist!

Sunday: Today we made a soda-straw oboe. Hilarity ensued, and we joked about how M can now play yet another instrument (on top of the guitar and penny whistle).

On a more-serious note, M’s been making offhand remarks lately referring to “when I start playing a different instrument.” This is a reference to a talk I had with her in April, when I told her that she could switch to a different instrument once she can  play all Book 1 songs with no mistakes, musically, at speed. (This day is still at least 6 months off, maybe more, even though she’s working on Allegro in Book 2 now.)

This has troubled me a little, particularly because our guitar practices have gotten a lot better overall. She’s fighting me less, and we’re getting more done, so I’ve been hoping that she was starting to buy into the guitar. And her remarks about switching instruments made me think that she’s still not buying in.

So today, after a pretty good practice, I asked her: “You’ve talked about playing something else lately. You’re getting so good on the guitar, I was hoping you’d stick with it.” Her response was perfectly calibrated to delight me:

M: Well, when I was talking about playing something else, I wasn’t talking about quitting the guitar. I was talking about learning another instrument.

On a nuts-and-bolts level, M’s studio teacher told M to practice Allegro and see how far she can get without making a single mistake, and to try to get farther and farther with practice.

The point of the exercise is to increase M’s attention and her conscious control of her playing. Right now, her fingers are leading, and her brain is following, so M makes a lot of mistakes because her fingers get into a pattern found in some other song (or in a scale) rather than the pattern of the song she is playing. To play without errors, M must slow herself down, bring her attention to her left hand, and make sure that she is looking ahead and planning mentally before her fingers need to move. Put simply, M needs to keep practicing: “Stop. Prepare. Play.” And she needs to practice this within songs as well as when starting a song.

Today, we worked on the Bach Tanz, 1st section, because she usually makes two mistakes in it: (1) playing a C# instead of a D for the last note, and (2) skipping the repeat. We also worked on the B section of Allegro.

With one of these (I forget which), M asked me to give her a score of from 1 to 5 on each repetition, and she was excited to build a phone number out of her scores. She just loves getting scores! (I let her assign her own score on some of them, but she seemed to prefer getting a score from me.)

Apart from the scores, we didn’t really do any games/gimmicks at all. She just cooperated nicely. (Actually, we had a rough patch to start when we were just doing some singing, to learn the dynamics for a new piece for a guitar ensemble. M was fidgeting around and not really reading the music. But we got past it.)

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