I usually try to write a blog that is somehow useful or insightful. However, I’m afraid this blog only raises more questions than provides answers, and I’m hoping someone will be able to offer some help. The most difficult part of this is to admit a piece of my musical immaturity.
I answered a call on my cell phone on December 23rd from a friend who was frantically looking for a violinist to play for a Christmas Eve midnight mass. Always willing to help a friend in need, I eagerly agreed to play, although explained to her that I wouldn’t have time to pick up music or even practice before the 10:00 PM rehearsal on Christmas Eve. We did meet a little early so she could talk me through a few of the transitions, and I felt comfortable with the music. I had played much of it before for other church performances over the years.
Typically, for string quartet performances, I prefer to play second violin. Playing in upper positions (the nosebleed zone) is not all that appealing. But, most of all, I like the challenge of offering harmonious support, and I can count pretty well. I rampantly subdivide the beat in my head and am easily annoyed with sloppy players who play dotted eighth-sixteenth figures almost as triplets or showy players who rush running staccato figures because the shorter length of a note means they should play the next note even sooner.
Now, here’s where I run into my problem, and it happened more than once during the holiday musical season. I occasionally get lost during rests. Not for one or two beats worth of rests, but several beats in succession. It’s almost like my brain shuts off momentarily. “Oh, good. A rest; now, I can rest.” Actually, I need to do the opposite. I need to let the music continue in my head and be prepared for the next entrance. This isn’t quite as easy when I’m sight reading during a performance.
So, what is the answer here? Maybe someday in the future we will all be reading our music on electronic devices, and there will be a little red bouncing ball showing where we are in the music. If that’s the case, then I maybe worried for no reason.
In the meantime, I will continue to practice with my metronome and quietly tap my fingers as I count measures of rests. If you haven’t started practicing with a metronome, it is time to invest in one and become a rhythmic genius. It does pay off!