Last weekend we were treated to a fantastic four day long weekend with the Easter break – yes!
This meant plenty of available practice time and plenty of unadulterated, non-tired-from-10-hours-at-work type practice too! It also meant I could get stuck into two practice sessions in the one day a couple of times too. I find this a particularly effective way of practicing as it means your concentration remains focussed across a shorter time period (you’re not trying to concentrate for 3 or 4 hours straight), which tends to mean the practice is of higher quality. It also means that it gives the brain a chance to rest, digest and assimilate the new information coming in. A bit like an athlete, I understand that it’s when you’re at rest that changes occur, when your muscles and neural pathways repair, rebuild, adapt and grow (so long as you’ve put in the right kind of high quality training prior to taking that rest).
Last Friday was such an example of a double header practice day. A great 1.5 hour session in the morning concentrating on reading through and getting under the fingers for the first time the second section of La Maja de Goya. This didn’t involve just reading from the start of that section through to the end though. I initially focussed on the first 10 bars of that section, understanding the musical shapes, direction and the mechanics of the music – where the right hand needed to be (which strings and initial thoughts on tone colour) and where the left hand needed to be too, examining fingering choices – and scribbling notes furiously into the score. I then did this with the following 18 bars of the section, really focussed in on deliberate, slow movements, concentrating on accurate placement of left and right hand fingers to start building the muscle memory in the way I intend from the get go. Going back to fix up a bad habit that you’ve played over and over or a niggling little knot that you’ve ignored can be a real pain in the backside, so I think it’s worth taking the time at the start of a piece. Even if you’re playing it ridiculously slowly it will pay dividends as you become more familiar and comfortable with the piece.
And then in the afternoon, coming back to the guitar for another hour or so, I honed straight in on the most tricky elements of the material I had been working on in the morning, before then working on stitching that together to the first section that I’d been working on in the week prior. That probably took me around 45 minutes all up (not that time is really of significance, I believe – these things take as long as they need to). I then spent some time on the second section of the Fuga from J.S. Bach’s Lute Suite BWV 997 (a favourite of mine to play and a constant on my music stand in recent months), pulling out specific bars and phrases and treating them as left hand accuracy exercises (Bach’s great for that!).
And continuing on with the Bach theme I then did around 5 minutes sight reading with the Fuga from BWV 998 (the first 28 bars to be precise). This piece is on the repertoire list for the LMusA diploma, so was keen to start exploring it and definitely keen to get working on it as a possible part of the program for the exam.
So, yes, two practice sessions in a day, where I can fit it in, I find really helpful and my progress shoots along, even if the practice periods themselves are on the shorter side. The upshot of a total of five days of practice in a similar manner to this across the last week (including a three day trip to outback Queensland!) means that I now have the entirety of La Maja de Goya underway, it starting to really come together, a great foundation to get stuck into the details of the material and sound like the semblances of a fantastic piece of music.