Three notes at a time. I thought I had it. I had played it flawlessly at home, with and without the metronome, as well as with and without the soundtrack. The timing was spot on, the intonation was perfect, and both slow and fast practice went without a hitch. All told, a series of successful practice runs.
When I walked into the lesson, I was confident that I would play well. What I had forgotten was that those flawless at-home performances followed an extensive warm up, and weren’t attended by an expert with an ear for finding weaknesses. Don’t get me wrong, that’s his job. It’s just that I had conveniently forgotten those particular data points at the beginning of the lesson.
Prepared to dazzle, I began the etude and made a mistake in the first measure. Rather than letting me keep going, I was stopped to work on those first three notes until they were right. Then we played the next three notes until they were right. After two pages of frequent stops to work on three notes at a time I was so flustered I could barely play at all. Then the metronome came out and we repeated the whole process again. Painfully slowly, and embarrassing as all get out, we ground through the first piece of the night, only to repeat the exercise on the next piece.
We have arrived at the point in time where the real work starts. Up until recently, it has been easy to master a week’s worth of assignments (master being a relative term). However, now all that technique needs to be polished, and lazy practice habits need to be replaced with better ones. I either need to figure out how to accomplish what needs doing in an hour and a half a night, figure out a way to get in more practice time, or resign myself to much slower improvement than I have enjoyed to date.
Today I decided to see how long it would take to run through the lesson material, minimal review, and do the detailed study of the items that need work. It took nearly three hours. That means I’ve been putting in roughly half the practice that improvement requires. No wonder I feel stuck. It appears that I need to either find more time, or streamline my practice. Time to get to work.