Last Sunday I had a lesson and took two reeds in for inspection. Guess what? One of them was actually good! I've had nearly good ones before where my teacher would fix just a few things on them, particularly on the tip. But this reed's tip needed NO adjustment at all. When I looked at it under her light I almost got goosebumps. It looked how it was supposed to look! WOOHOO! She made a few scrapes in the back and that was it. The sound is not amazing but it plays comfortably and acceptably. I have been struggling so much with knife sharpening of all things and it was really hampering my progress in the reed making front. I knew that the knives felt better this weekend and that must be why the tip came out well. Let's hope that I don't have to make another 100 reeds before I get the next decent one.
That was the good news. The bad news is that E-flat minor kicked my butt. And the other bad news it that my embouchure still needs some work. It's improved, but as I tire I struggle to keep my corners and chin in the right place and sometimes I bite too. Is it normal to still be dealing with this? When do the child students rid themselves of these habits?
I guess I'm paranoid because I didn't get to play the Marcello at my last lesson. After celebrating the reed success (my other reed was a complete dud by the way) we did long tones and ended up staying there for the remainder of the lesson. So I left wondering if she noticed something really wrong with my tone production or she just happened to want to return to basics on that particular day. I know that we moved very fast at the beginning so maybe she just wants to backtrack a little bit for thoroughness's sake. She said that I am focusing way too much on intonation and that my sound has suffered somewhat because of it. Apparently I've started to overcompensate with my embouchure to ensure the proper intonation. She'd rather me not play perfectly in tune but focus more on getting a stronger sound. I'm been dampering my sound too much in trying to sound beautiful and in tune. At one point she told me I was trying to skip a year to which I replied that I have a lot of years to make up for. I think she really feels my pain for wanting this really badly but having a complicated life now.
My first few days of practice after the lesson felt weird. I spend the majority of my practice session doing long tones and slow scales. I do think I really needed it though. Today I finally felt better with the exercises she gave me. I think I am starting to understand where she's going with the sound thing. I don't have to damper the sound in order for it to sound pretty. Quite the contrary. When I am not biting and my chin and corners are correct, the sound that comes out is a lot more vibrant and "singing". It's a little harder to control the volume but I wasn't doing that well with the before anyway so now I am following her suggestions about air speed and support. Let's see what happens this coming Sunday.
In terms of the Marcello, I've been focusing on the 2nd movement ever since I switched to the C minor version. It's VERY hard on my chops to get through the whole thing. In fact, my embouchure tends to die out somewhere halfway and I need to take a few bars of rest before continuing. The good thing is that the soreness I feel is at the corners of my lips so hopefully that means that I am working that area and that it will get stronger soon, enabling me to keep the correct embouchure for longer and longer periods of time.
Sometimes I wish we were also working out of a method book too. Maybe it's because I'm a nerd or because I am so frustrated at not having start young and want to make up for that, but there's something satisfying about being able to say "I finished xyz book". *sigh* I just feel a constant need to be evaluated and to know how I'm progressing in all areas. Why is it that method books are not normally used with adult students?
And with that question, I am off to bed. Tomorrow will be another long day at work and I have to come home and practice AND start another reed before we go out to the movies. :-D Happy playing everyone!