Lesson Report 02

Two weeks ago I had my first lesson with Brian. During that week I was very busy at work preparing for our monthly management review meeting and our annual ISO 9001 audit and came home every night completely wiped out, and then getting up earlier than I wanted to each day to get to work – and Thursday we went and saw the opening night performance of "Romeo & Juliet" at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. Then that weekend was Groovefest and a dinner up on the mountain on the last day of science camp for my daughter Annie. The next week was spent preparing for management review *during* the annual ISO audit, so my mornings and nights were just as hectic as the previous week’s, except for Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday was the meeting, so the report had to be finished before the meeting started. I didn’t go home until 3:30 Thursday morning and had to get up at 7:30 to go back to work and be ready for the meeting on time. Last weekend Lisa and I had tickets to see a matinee performance of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" and an evening performance of "Camelot" on Saturday, and on Sunday we drove over the mountain to check on my mother’s house while she is in SLC caring for her older sister and came back through Zion Canyon National Park. If you ever get a chance to experience Zion Canyon first hand, you should take it. Pictures don’t do it justice and words always fail me. We stopped at the visitor’s center for a bathroom break just before sunset and the kids were happily laying a warped version of follow-the-leader until Olivia got a little too much of a shove from Charlie and face planted off a retaining wall. She turned out to be ok aside from some nasty scrapes on her face and nose, but nobody was happy any more.

Monday was a fourth of July that started out ok, but ended badly when Lisa and I had reached the limit of our tolerance for the older two children’s constant fighting.

So I dragged my emotionally exhausted butt to work Tuesday thinking, "Geez, I’ve only practice three times since my last lesson, and the bulk of that was on foundation exercises and not on what Brian assigned to me. Maybe I should ask if I can push it back a week."

I decided to keep the lesson and just leave work an hour early to see if I could get a little practice in before the lesson and I’m glad I did.

At my practice, I was able to work at very slow tempos (40 bpm, doubling the note values) on the first three exercises in the book that Brian had assigned. I made it to the lesson on time this time. 😀 We sat down and I gave my confession of not practicing very much. He said it was alright, ‘let’s see what you did work on and hear how it sounds’.

I stumbled through the first three, feeling very ashamed. He didn’t say anything in particular about them and had me continue through the next few. At one point he explained that he was pushing me through the exercises so quickly in the lessons for the sight-reading practice. Each one was an exercise in embarrassment for me as I stumbled over the notes, trying desperately to keep the correct right hand fingerings while sight reading the music (which is something I haven’t done since 8th grade). I pointed out that I was having trouble keeping the two hands correct and he said not to worry about the right hand fingers just yet for this little sight reading stuff, just get the right notes and we’ll work on the right hand later. That helped a bit. I kept playing the thumb part without thinking about which string my finger was on before doing the stroke, so I played a lot of A’s that should have been D’s. :-\

When we came to page 30, there is a little 16 bar "Waltz In A Minor" that I played. The only notes it uses that aren’t open strings are on the E and B strings and it is all quarter notes until it ends on a dotted half, but it still gave me quite a challenge. I’m guessing the tempo he counted out for me was about 50 bpm. He didn’t use a metronome and let me stumble through it, waiting if I stopped to find the right note.

We went through the next piece, "Air" by J. Haydn, and then another exercise, then came introduction of the notes on the G string. "Spanish Melody" and "Prelude In C Major" my sight reading skills were starting to gel a little bit and those two went pretty quickly.

Then the book introduced rests with a piece called "Study In Two Voices". In this the melody is played in whole and half notes, while the bass is all in quarter notes. Each measure has the bass resting on the first beat, and some of the measures have a rest on the third beat as well. This threw a bit of a challenge at me, but I stumbled through it on the third try.

This was followed by the piece that Brian wanted to get to in this lesson. It is simply credited as an "Old French Song" but the title is "Au Claire De La Lune". It is quite syncopated, but the melody was much easier for me for some reason and I was able to fumble through it on the first try. It uses rests and ties in the bass and is only 16 bars long, so I’m really looking forward to being able to work this one up. It has a nice sounding familiar melody, but it doesn’t sound like the "Claire De Lune" piano piece that I’m familiar with. I’m going to have to check my sheet music or a recording and see if I can find where this might fit in, or if it is even part of the same piece of music I’m thinking of.

On page 47 there is a piece called "Variation On A Spanish Theme" that Brian feels I’m able to work on as I see fit if I need more than what he has assigned. It incorporates notes on the low E string, but the bass are all quarters and carry the melody and the upper notes are all eighth notes. This is another piece I’d like to get to, if only to see what it sounds like.

I mentioned to him that I often have trouble separating my second and third fingers on my left hand, but when I attempted to demonstrate my fingers behaved the way the should and the separation was actually very good. He gave me an exercise to warm up with to help this out anyway. It’s just a simple chromatic pattern. Starting in the first fret on the sixth string, just play 1 2 3 4 on each string, then after playing the pattern on the high E, shift up one fret and go back down the strings, still playing in the same order: 1 2 3 4. Then when you get up around the ninth fret (I don’t have a cutaway body on my guitar), come back down playing 4 3 2 1. He also showed another exercise for me to try once I get comfortable with that one in which you play 1 and 3 on the sixth string, then 2 and 4 on the fifth string, 1 and 3 on the fourth string, 2 and 4 on the third string, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing what these might do for me. 😀 Then he demonstrated an exercise he uses to warm up for string skipping with a pick, but I couldn’t follow it well enough to give any detail here.

I have a strange problem that kept plaguing me during the lesson. I’m still trying to find a good length for my nails, but my middle was just a tad too long and kept getting hung up on the strings, causing delayed notes. I have a strange nail shape. When they grow out, the middle of the nail goes kind of flat. I’m going to try and post some pictures so you can see what I mean, but it makes it kind of weird to try and play with them.

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