The threat of raspberries

Great lesson today. Only one aspect of M’s behavior was even a small problem: her tendency to dawdle when asked to begin any activity. It’s a habit of hers, and sometimes (especially in her private lessons) I find it very annoying, but I got her moving quickly (and smilingly) when I threatened to give her a raspberry if she didn’t get moving. (It beats threatening to give away her toys.)

Today we did:

  1. Note reading. M read some sheet music to herself while I tuned, then we sight read one of the two songs (Cuckoo, in Read This First.)
  2. Steady Hands.
  3. Free stroke and Book 2 Twinkle.
  4. Wish I Had a Little Pony Twinkle.

During the sight reading, I again had M play the last measure of each line and the first measure of the next, to help her practice looking forward. She got a little frustrated when she felt we were playing too fast, but she stayed with it.

As for Steady Hands, she seems to have the structure down now. She remembered to play the 3rd and 4th A1 sections tosto, and she also knew exactly where she was through the whole song. She made a few note mistakes (C for C#), but she knew exactly what they had been when I asked her. The listening is paying off, and her attention is improving.

She also did much better free strokes today, and we got through all of Book 2 Twinkle twice.

In working on Book 2 Twinkle, I returned to a technical right-hand point that I haven’t emphasized for a while: the need to shift the arm and hand toward the higher strings as you move up, rather than just reaching with the fingers. It is simply impossible to play a clean free stroke if you reach with your fingers — the tips get out in front of your knuckles, and you lose the “swing space” your fingertips need.

Her Twinkles are coming along great. Now if only my Sony PCM-M10 would get her so I can start recording!

Watch where you’re going!

At group class yesterday, the teacher discussed the key to shifting one’s left hand around the neck: looking at the fret you are aiming for, not the fret you are coming from (nor at the moving hand). It struck me that this is the concrete manifestation of the importance, as you’re playing, of keeping in mind what’s coming next, or “imaging ahead.”

“Eyes on the target” is a universal principle, governing not just sports and pastimes (golf, basketball, tennis, pool, archery, fencing) but even something as simple as driving, as I explained to M as we were driving around yesterday afternoon.

So today in our home lesson, when M was playing wrong notes and shifting her right hand toward tosto at the wrong time in Huckleberry Apple Twinkle, I paused to do a fret-jumping exercise in which we broke down every step:

  • fret and play a note at the 5th fret;
  • look at the 12th fret;
  • pause;
  • fret and play a note at the 12th fret;
  • look at the 5th fret;
  • pause;
  • fret and play a note at the 5th fret; etc.

It took several repetitions to get her to look at the target fret before moving her hand — she naturally wanted to watch her hand as it moved, rather than looking ahead. But she did get the hang of it.

I then tried to explain that just as she looked ahead to see where she was going physically, she needed, when playing a song, to look ahead mentally and know what was coming next.  Continue reading Watch where you’re going!