I’m going to try to summarize Dan’s advice as best I can. When you haven’t been playing for a while, you need to adapt a certain mode of practice.
The main points in this practice are to focus on feeling secure in arriving at notes, and focus on tone and body balance, and final intonation. Of course, these are not new themes, and you will hear them echoed around the cello blogosphere. But they should get the emphasis rather than on trying to “get through” a piece.
According to Dan, There are two basic types of practice – meditative practice where are you are just paying attention, and job related practice where you need to get a piece of music in shape.
Some sessions may be a combination of both types of practice, but we will focus on the first type, with specific mentions about my own body style in playing the cello.
When playing scales, really sink in and challenge the bridge. Try to get good tone out of each note. Focus on long bows and getting the elbow-hand mechanism working smoothly.
If after scales, we decide to work on the piece, we’re studying, that’s great. But the emphasis should be on the elements. In this particular session we were talking about the Humoresque in Suzuki Book 3, using the D minor section. Each thing you do in should be refined until it feels like the easiest thing in the world – going from O to 1, for instance. Then move on. For me, going from 1 to 4 needed to be performed with a relaxed hand so that I’m balanced and my hand doesn’t tighten up worrying about intonation- even if I wind up a little flat, at first.
[During the lesson, I’m thinking “Oh – 1 to 4 in first position – didn’t we cover this in the very first month?]
This type of practice is about unwinding your anxiety, and tricking your mind into thinking something is easier than it really is. So, this means that we may do the 1-4 exercise a few times counting it good if the hand feels right. Then, make the minor adjustments needed. Or not worrying about metronomic rhythmic accuracy.
Of course, your issues may differ. But the approach is to practice the elements such as hearing a major third, goin back and forth between the higher and lower note, or getting the shift to 7th position feeling natural.
The main points of “rusty practice” are, as I best understood them.
- relax, and focus on the body
- don’t rush the notes, for the sake of keeping perfect rhythm. Get good tone and intonation.
- Give yourself time to get to the new positions. Arrive Alive, as the Florida License Plates used to say. In this case, just arrive securely.
- Give your notes time to speak.
- Don’t try to measure progress by how far you got in terms of measures of music. Get into the detail of small passages.
Some people may say “but this is how you should always practice”, true. The point here is to be compassionate with onesself while still holding onesself to high standards. Don’t just catch up; invest in your technique.