We revisited the weight versus pressure at this week’s lesson.
On one hand, it’s really nice to be moving past the basic mechanics (aka making sound) and into the finer points (aka making music). On the other hand, it’s just another reminder that I’m in for a looong haul…
But I hit one of those high points that may not be a summit but encourages me to keep climbing: I played Schroeder #7 all the way through DURING MY LESSON (hell yesh!) Which felt like an awesome accomplishment considering my struggles not to fall apart mid-piece during lesson. What changed? Practicing the piece from the end to the beginning (a couple of measures at a time – not actually playing the notes backwards) so that I was playing INTO the music I knew the best. It was a pretty huge confidence booster, because the end was what I had practiced most, so I actually felt surer the farther I got into the piece.
Since we didn’t have to waste any time going over the falling apart ending of another piece, we had a lot of time to talk about other things.
Like, weight and pressure. Redux.
One exercise we practiced was essentially “bear hugging” Cecelia – crossing my wrists over the cello fingerboard above the body in a way that let the weight of my arms move into my wrists from my shoulders. I then moved back into bow strokes on the open strings, letting the weight continue down my right arm into my wrists and fingers. We also worked on my left hand – same concept – so that my finger pressure came from my wrist and arm instead of my knuckle joints by way of clamping the neck with my thumb.
What an amazing feeling. I could only keep it up for a few measures before the weight crept back up in to my shoulders and my bow hand started to get less stable and I could feel pressure building up in my left thumb against the neck but for those few measures, I the notes came so lightly – so easily that it felt like the music was moving through me and into the cello and out into the world.
I found two different definition of the word “Play” as it applies to music:
- 1. to perform on (a musical instrument).
- 2. to perform (music) on an instrument.
I’ve been doing number one, which I think is totally normal for a beginning musician. I’ve been playing the cello – this external thing that I sit down and pick up and produce music from. When I think about musicians of all types that I really admire for being at the top of their craft – the second definition applies. The instruments are part of the music they make not something that the music is made on.
Don’t get me wrong; the technique is very much a part of it. There is a certain level of mastery of the instrument technique that allows these musicians to transcend simply “playing” the instrument.
As a student, this is the summit I’m climbing toward. Only now, I feel like I’ve made one of those awesome peaks on a trail that gives me a glimpse of the vista that will greet me when I get where I’m headed. And every time I sit down to practice this week I’ve held that feeling in my mind.
What are the moments that keep you on the trail of whatever passion you’re pursuing?