Students, your Homework when I am away

Dear Students,

You all know I will be away for the next two weeks. So, please, work hard on your own.

During this period, revise a few things as I have been telling you these couple weeks:

1. Focus

Focus on what you are doing, how you are doing, what the problem is, and how to make it better and solve it without any judgmental thinking.

Focus on the music, the problem and solution, rather than yourselves and your own feelings. Practice non-judgmental observation and thoughts.

Do not criticize yourself and give yourself negative feedback and feeling when you cannot get through a spot (“why do I always mess up here…I am so bad at this…I can never get better…”). Instead, feel and think neutral, focus on the problem. “What did I do wrong? Was it my finger stand? Were my upper arms not engaged? Did I not understand that voice leading or the chord progression?” Do not feel anything negative and blame yourself for not getting it, and even when you get the solution (which is a huge breakthrough), you are not done yet. That is the beginning of your problem solving process. You have to drill it until it becomes an autopilot motion to you.

Therefore, the process is:

1. Identify the problem
-“what went wrong”

2. Find the solution
-“how do make it better”

3. Drill that solution
-until you do not have to think about how to do it at all, that it simply becomes natural to you

Usually, getting to step 1 is easy. If you get to step 2 quickly, I congratulate you. It’s not easy at all to find that perfect solution to your problem. So this is the beginning of your successful attempt to get that perfect playing. The most difficult part would then be getting to the autopilot mode, that you can do it instantly and naturally without even thinking about it. This takes a lot of time, effort, patience and perseverance. You have to keep trying, work continuously. It might take 100 times or 10000 times, but if you stop right at 99th or 9999th times, then you would not get it.
Therefore, do not give up when there is a little setback along the way, and keep trying with faith.

*Main point: 3 steps: identify the problem, find the solution, drill that solution.

2. Body awareness: bodily involvement, shoulder sockets and upper arms

I always stress the importance of activating your upper arms to your playing. And these couple weeks I have been reminding you specifically about the involvement of your shoulder sockets. Feel your shoulder joints, the circular movement of them when you bring awareness to your upper arms and engage them to move your whole arms to transfer the weight/energy down all the way under your fingertips (that one focused ballpoint tip) and bring your fingers into action.

*Main point: feel your upper arms that you are engaging them at all times during your playing, until it has become an autopilot motion to you.

3. Wrist motion

Remember what I told you about the function of the wrists?

1. Stop the sound after the attack

2. Separate a note / slur (e.g. two-note slur) from the next one

3. Emphasize a note /give an abrupt accent on a note

Therefore, if you want to maintain a long legato smooth phrase, do not use your wrists. The motion stops the sound of a note, the connection to the next note and the flow of the line/music.

Certainly there are times that we use the wrists (as in the occasions above). But these couple weeks, try not using the wrists so much and instead, focus on using the whole arms with attention on your upper arms.

*Main point: focus on your upper arm movement and keep your wrists parallel at most times, maintaining one straight line from your wrist to your elbow. When you have to use the wrists, think bringing them UP instead of moving them down.

4. Breathing

Breathe deeply. Breathe in and out continuously and smoothly. Breathe like you are doing sports. Breathe more and deeper especially when you are nervous and the music grows more dramatic.

*Main point: keep practicing your breathing.

Okay, that’s the time I have before I board for my flight. See you all again soon. Hopefully I see and hear something new in your playing when I get back.

Your Teacher,

Teresa Wong

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