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Here is an article I thought I would share with beginners (and all). I came across it in The International Native American Flute Association's "voice of the Wind" newsletter, Volume 2, 2006. It was originally written for stringed instruments and then reworked for flute players. The INAFA does not have a copy on their website but here is the original.
The advice on not practicing mistakes was hammered into me by my classical recorder teacher years ago. The advice on metronomes is more suited for gaikyoku, sankyoku, etc.
I like the notion of "headroom". I had not heard of that before. It also makes me think of David Sawyer's comments on "reserve of power" in his advice here: http://www.japanshakuhachi.com/gettingstarted.html
Great article, thanks! I also appreciated this line: Donít "do it Ďtil you get it right." Do it until you canít get it wrong. If you play it incorrectly once, fine, then play it five times correctly.
I've been practicing the same few parts of the same song for almost a year now. I will be so happy when I can finally play kurokami, in tune, in time, from start to finish. At this rate, I'll be 160 years old.
My favorite excerpt from this page (bolding is mine):
Charlie Hall Musical Development 301 - How to Practice wrote:
In the non-classical world, thereís rarely such a thing as a "fundamentally proper" hand position. Often we see these famous musicians who have no clue of fundamentals, yet theyíre incredible players. If they donít need fundamentals, we donít either, right? Donít kid yourself. These great players are, by and large, mutants who not only can operate a touch-tone phone with their elbows, but they generally have some debilitating character flaw which renders them the social equivalent of okra. You and I more normal types will generally find that the more effectively we incorporate the classical fundamentals into our playing habits, the easier lots of things will be.
Yes, good article in many ways. I totally agree with the necessity of getting the fundamentals solid -- in the case of shakuhachi, that's posture, breathing, etc.
Of course since the article is about fretted instruments it leaves out the whole issue of intonation while emphasizing precision of attack on a rhythmic level.
As for metronomes, I understand his point, but I personally have a slightly different take on that. See http://nyokai.com/tips/index.php?n=Tips … sAndTuners . Just my opinion, perhaps colored by all those years of classical piano lessons.
And philosophically, I don't 100% agree with the concept of practicing in order to be able to play, or with making such a strong distinction between practicing and playing. The one thing that I think is most often missing from students' practice is not isolation of difficult passages or repeated work on a specific technique, but an in-depth investigation of THE MUSIC ITSELF. Even a beginner playing Choshi can spend some time feeling out things like "How long should this pause be? How should this note trail off? What kind of force on this next note? What is the shape of this phrase?" A lot of this can be done intuitively rather than intellectually, of course. In the so-called Eastern approach, these things are learned by immersion in your teacher's playing, and by imitation. Immersion and imitation hopefully lead to intuition. In the Western approach, we all too often think that it's a matter of learning the techniques first, and then the musicality can be added, the secret ingredient that turns you from a student into a musician. But I believe musicality happens by making a point of listening deeply into the music from the beginning. You have to remind yourself to do this, I think, in the heat of the struggle with getting a particular kan note or new technique. One of the great things about shakuhachi is that you're playing some of the greatest music in the world very early on. You're playing Choshi, or Kyorei, not Twinkle Twinkle, and you have the opportunity to really PLAY with it fully and musically, to explore its profound nature in depth, whatever your technical ability. If you make that at least as much a part of the practice as running drills with the metronome, in other words if you don't WAIT to be a musician, you can be like Emily Dickinson: "Instead of getting to Heaven at last, I'm going all along."
Nyokai, great comments. To me the notion of "headspace" means that I can mentally look up from the technical work and consider the music itself, listen to the other musicians, and the audience. I think one reason that I am drawn to honkyoku is that I can focus more on the music than the technical side, and let the technical side come with time. With gaikyoku/sankyoku I find that the technical side is highly demanding right from the start. Ha, least the other musicians shut me in the bathroom.
I use the "isolate and improve" method for challenging passages. Right now my bane of existence is a deceptively simply downward run in the piece Haru no Umi. (As you may know) it has to be played very fast and I always trip up on the octave change or on the last quadruple. So here is where lots of just stripped-down practice comes in.
Hi I Chi Hi, Re Chi Tsu Re, Ro Tsu Ri Ro, Chi Ri Re Chi
Yes, Haru no Umi is quite different from traditional shakuhachi music, both honkyoku and sankyoku. It is very "riffy," so before you can get too deeply into it you have to practice and nail the riffs. The "isolate and improve" method becomes more important with this early-20th century style which is, I think, aesthetically closer to the West than the East in spite of the textures and tonalities.
I've gotten into the habit of making a "poster" of note combinatioins to practice each day throughout the week, making a new one on Thursdays after meeting with my teacher. It usually consists of new combinations or challenging combinations from the pieces I am working on at the time. I pin it to a bulletin board in my practice space and go over it daily like callestenics; 10 of these, 15 of those. It helps a great deal, especially when you only count the correct manifestions of the fragments, and you get to practice a little caligraphy. If it is a difficult combination, as oppoised to a totally new one, I try to find another song that I have played with a similar string of notes and/or ataris and practice that song as well. I usually end up with a few trips through the piece originally in question, playing each phrase through a couple of times if not more. I can usually keep it up for about 45 minutes before I have to take a break and play something I have an easier time with, if not take a break altogether and have some water or go back to work.
The "isolate and improve" method
Master saxophonist Ernie Watts gives this advice. Work on your basics. The difficult stuff is just combinations of basics.
hej Jim, I totally agree with that. The more stuff I do (record play etc) thats conclusion I get. Good Tone/Good Intonation/Good Time & Sharp ear;-)
Last edited by geni (2009-06-25 14:23:20)