In Praise of 5 Notes
I hadn’t realised that the routine of videoing a bit of practice would have an impact on my own study these last few weeks. It’s been quite a journey, and I highly recommend the challenge: it’s something I had to do every day, it makes me play (although I think I’d go crazy if I didn’t), and I now have a catalogue of 90 different things to practise if I ever loose inspiration or imagination. I think I’ve enjoyed having variations on 5- note scales the most because there are SO MANY permutations and combinations to make the fingers work and challenge them to become independent and more dextrous. The exercises are based on the first five notes of a scale…for my purposes, in major and minor. I love asking my students in class to make a variation up on the spot, and I believe that I’ve never heard the same one twice in the 15 years I’ve been asking them! Of course the first reaction from them is to get shy and back off…and say it’s too difficult. After a couple of tries and a few weeks of listening to everyone else, they step up very quickly. The second reaction is to create an exercise that’s elaborate and full of fast combinations…but when they have to demonstrate it, the realisation sets in quickly that ‘simple’ and ‘rhythmic’ gets the job done well…and because the keys change, the exercise covers all kinds of finger combinations. Even simple repetition of two notes can solve many tricky fingerings, and bring tension to our attention in areas that we don’t focus on while practising pieces and studies. And so I challenge you to try this for 7 days…have a little look at my Instagram page @latheduck…and make lots of mistakes! Simple, rhythmic, and as tidy as possible…not too fast to begin with. After a while, it’s quite fun to challenge yourself to start on different degrees of the key (I like trying the 5th note as an upbeat). I think I’ll be blogging here a bit this month. I’ve just finished an online chamber music course (Yup! With cello and piano) and will be writing down some of the best and trickiest moments of the weekend.