August 2008: It’s time for a private teacher. I’m improving very slowly on my own but I need guidance and goals. I also need to make sure I’m not practicing and therefore learning bad habits. Fortunately for me, my daughter has a good friend, Lynn, who is a doctoral candidate in horn performance. Lynn lives about 5 minutes from my house and will come to me for my lessons. This is fantastic. I don’t have to go through the find a teacher routine. We talk on the phone and I make sure she knows what she’s in for. I tell her I was competent once but now I’m probably playing like a good 6th grader. Or maybe a not so good 6th grader.
My first lesson is okay. We start with doing a simple warm-up routine that I will continue to use. I play stuff from the Rubank Soloist Folio. I’m really nervous and I clam more than my usual number of notes. We talk about my embouchure and Lynn thinks it’s good. Phew. So what’s with the lack of endurance I ask. I’m still at the twenty minute mark. After that my tone, such as it is, gets fuzzy and I miss more and more notes. Patience! More patience. We talk about maximizing the value of practice within the time frame my chops are giving me. Don’t just play through things. Work on the problem spots by slowing them down. Slowing them down means go as slowly as necessary to play the passage correctly. Play it correctly for at least three times and then pick up the speed just a bit. Repeat this again and again slowly getting faster. If you start making mistakes at the new tempo slow it back down again. If you don’t do this all you do is learn your mistakes.
Lynn asks me if I know how to count beats in 6/8 time. Of course I say. Ha. Turns out my counting isn’t so great. I don’t hold notes long enough. I rush 8th notes and I slow down 16th notes. I guess my mother, my accompanist, is adapting to my bad rhythm. How nice of her. LOL. I don’t remember having trouble with this when I used to play. Lynn says I need to use a metronome so I go buy one. She also asks me to buy Preparatory Melodies for Solo Work for Horn by Pottag which is the etude book we will start working with.
Second lesson: I have the book and the metronome. The metronome arrived in the middle of the week and I start to use it and it drives me crazy. I discover that I have a new skill. I can completely ignore it. It goes tick, tick, tick…. and I play tock, tock, tock so to speak. In fact, it takes an amazing amount of concentration for me to play in time with the metronome. I have to really force myself to practice with the metronome and for the most part I don’t use it. (Sorry Lynn.)
I play a few notes before Lynn arrives. Then we do warm-ups together. I don’t have the chops yet to do significant warming up before a lesson. After the warm-ups we take out the Pottag book and start on the first etude. At first glance it looks easy. Then I try to play it. It isn’t that easy. I miss a bunch of notes. Some of this is nervousness about playing for Lynn. We work on the etude for a bit and then move on to a piece in the Rubank book called The Victor. In my case we should call it The Clam. I don’t think I have to say anymore.