Monday, December 6, 2010

Accept What I Play

While resting after dinner, I thought about how to structure my practice tonight. I will be performing three pieces this Thursday evening as part of The Fieldwork process. Two of the pieces continue to offer me difficulties with playing them. One of these Broken Wing is only a month old, while Beneath Dark Images began a long time ago and was only recently completed.

On my commute this morning I was working with visualizing BDI. I have worked with visualizing parts of this piece previously, but today I took on the entire piece. I found out that I am uncertain of the form. Reflecting on this after dinner I saw how this is true when I have played the piece. Though simple, the form has subtle changes that trip my up when I am not paying attention. There is also a tricky section with the left hand fingering where I frequently play it less than beautifully.

Knowing where I would begin my practice, I moved to the basement. I wanted to practice while suspending judgement of my playing, an idea I took from Pedro de Alcantara's excellent book on the Alexander Technique Indirect Procedures. My intention is to play beautifully and I wrote this down prior to picking up my guitar. I began to write an intention to play without judgement, when I realized that I wanted to frame this positively. My intention is to accept what I play, is where I arrived.

I began reviewing the form of BDI by simply playing the chords. Letting go of the arpeggios, and the difficult fingering, I focused on the form. Almost immediately I was pleasantly surprised with what I learned. I continued to move through the piece by section and now have a greater understanding of how the piece moves. I also clarified a choice I have been making in the bass line which may lead to improved performance and musicality.

After a short break to take in this information I went to work on the section with the difficult fingering. The second and fourth fingers of my left hand are anchored on the first and second strings while a four note bass figure is repeated twice. The difficulty arises. when I use my third finger to stretch to its' limit and play the final note on the sixth string. I was playing with just playing the bass note and the top two notes that are anchored as a chord to see where I could relax my hand. Then the Guitar Craft aphorism to "Establish the possible, while gradually moving towards the impossible," came to mind.

Allowing the second and fourth fingers to remain anchored I only played the fourth final note of the bass line with my third finger. Gently exploring how it is possible for this finger to move to the desired note. With this established I then added in the third note which is played with the first finger. Slowly working backwards through the bass line, and most importantly, I was not reinforcing the habit of use that had already been established in this section. Then I played the bass line from the beginning with the arpeggios. While I then wanted to fold this part into the entire piece and see "my improvement," I resisted this urge and began to write instead. Allowing the body time to take in this new information and for me to capture this process.

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