Monday, January 02, 2012

The Gift to see Ourselves as we see Others

I have been using video as a teaching tool since 1968. For many years I have listened to my students as they view their video playback ...

"Hm, I looked better than I thought."
"Oh, I see what you are talking about"
"Interesting!  Can I try it again?"  
"I felt like I was looking at someone else." 
 "It's a new, more objective awareness of myself."

Have you ever heard anyone describe a photograph of themselves in those terms?  Interesting ...
Video is not static, it is dynamic ...
it is very different from a frozen photograph.

A major difficulty in learning the violin or viola is that we cannot see what we are doing.  Both arms are outside our field of vision and moving in completely different directions.  There might be pictures in our books which demonstrate the correct positions but most of these cannot show us what we will see as we play our own instrument.

There is a desperate need for visual information at the beginning of any complex learning process. The student can only attempt to imitate the teacher, dependent on teacher feedback as to whether the imitation has been successful. Usually there are subtle corrections made by the teacher, the pupil then adapts and tries to remember what changes should be made.  Perceptual agreement between the teacher and student is the goal.
Of course, when the student returns home to practice, there is no teacher present and it is quite probable that many of the movements will be practiced incorrectly until the following lesson.

The next lesson will repeat the same process.  There seem to be many corrections that have caused confusion and student confidence may begin to fall.  The teacher will then probably suggest the use of a mirror. That certainly could help but unfortunately the mirror image is perceived as the self image.  Every time the student looks in a mirror there is an awareness of 'me' and all that is associated with that image.  Also, using a mirror is very distracting while playing unless the music is memorized. Even then, both tactile and auditory information suffer as one turns one's attention to the mirror.

Video has the potential to completely circumvent these problems. Through the consistent monitoring of our recordings we are able to directly influence our thinking and psychological make-up, greatly accelerate our learning, and perform with much greater confidence.

Video has the ability to give us the distance that we need to objectify our perspective of our playing.  We can imitate our teachers using video, and, if we save our recordings, check our development in practice.
We can use slow and quick motion to see what is really happening.  
We can magnify any movements of our hands that we want to see.  
We can keep our eyes on our music, our ears on our tone, 
and record ... and record again.  

What a gift to finally see ourselves as we see others.  Maybe we can even say, 'Hm, not bad!'

Finally, we can just play without any recording and just listen and feel. We will have all of the visual information we need and can turn our attention elsewhere.

For more practice tips and personal video lessons, 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Max Aronoff's 'Diet' for the Left Hand ...

When I was a student in Philadelphia, Pa., I was a member of Max Aronoff's Technique Class. The class met weekly in the Concert Hall and consisted of advanced string students and a few professional orchestra musicians who were Max's ex- students (and whom the rest of us students idolized).

Whatever our status, Max's penetrating analysis of our individual playing was a given.  He was great at remembering, organizing and confronting any technical difficulties with the greatest patience and persistence.  Because his teachings were structured and often repeated in the same form, his students could not help but remember them. Besides, there was always the thought that one might suddenly be called to demonstrate an exercise to the rest of the class ...

Max had a number of 'diets' that were not at all related to food.  These diets were special courses of action which one diligently applied to gain mastery over a technical challenge.

One of the first 'diets' that I learned was for left hand agility and 4th finger mastery.  Once learned, the 3 patterns are to be combined and repeated up the C/G (G/D) strings in ascending positions until one reaches the octave of the first note.
Pattern 1

              Pattern 2 ... all of the above rhythms are repeated with this pattern.
          Pattern 3... again, repeat all of the above rhythms with this pattern.

Now try linking the patterns together .........
Linked ... first position
Linked ... 2nd position
Linked ... 3rd Position

Not only are these exercises great for the left hand but the bow is practicing smooth string crossing. 

This is a demanding 'diet' but the results are well worth the discipline.

For more practice tips,