Counting Stick

counting stick

COUNTING STICK – or repetition as a practice tool

The counting stick is a wonderful aid for those of us who start to get confused around the 5th repetition.   We are not sure if it is the 3rd repetition or the 8th, so we either stop entirely or start over. Both are a waste of time.  This is a home-made counting stick. I went to the craft store to find the right size of wooden dole, wooden beads for the ends and number beads.

1.    First day – 10 times in a row with no particular goal – just get familiar with the passage and let your mind/body/imagination be aware of what you are doing.
2.    Another day – do 10 times and aim to get one repetition exactly the way you intend.  You may want to keep the tempo down.
3.    Another day – try getting it the way you want it 3 times!  This may take a lot of repetition. Don’t go too fast.
4.    Another day – now get 3 times in a ROW the way you want it.
5.    Finally – see if you can get the passage correct 10 times in a row. (Slow is not only OK – it is recommended.)

II.   3X1 – short form – Now try 3 times in a row with a different focus each time.  (This works well when you have a piece or passage memorized so that you can look in a mirror.)
1.    Watch your LEFT hand
2.    Watch your RIGHT hand
3.    Watch you BODY movement and think about the music.

III.    3X3 – for TECHNICAL ACCURACY.  If that went well, you might do the expanded version where you really examine your technique:

First three times for the LEFT hand:
1.    Hand/arm position – ELEGANT  – keep the curl in the fingers, stay on the fingertips, rounded hand position.  Wrist should be neither too high nor too low, elbow up and forward, shoulder down.
2.    Hand action – POUND AND PLUCK – make each finger action a definite strike –it is as if your hand is doing a dance.  Thumb should be loose, hand/arm relaxed.  Be aware of L/R hand coordination: the left hand should be plopped on its note before the right hand draws the bow sound.
3.    Arm action, shifting – USE YOUR BACK – shift from back and arm, let the hand follow.  Keep your head back while shifting.  If standing use your hip when shifting, not your shoulder. Shift up with bow first, shift down with head first.

Next three times for RIGHT hand:
1.    Hand/arm position – CRADLE -keep the curl in the fingers, stay on fingertips with the hand relaxed and flexible (so you can feel the vibrations.)  Arm is long, elbow tip pointed slightly out.  Shoulder behind the plane of the bass.  Flat hair, tip up.
2.    Arm/back action – USE YOUR BACK – Let the stroke come from your back through the relaxed weight of your extended arm. .  Be aware of L/R hand coordination: the left hand should move hungrily to the note before the bow gets there. What motion/articulation belongs to back action, arm action or finger action?  Relax, feel the weight, don’t use anything that you don’t have to use.
3.    Control the contact point. – CONTROL – What quadrant are you playing in? Let the bow arc through the contact point so that the arc follows the natural arc of your arm motion.

Last three times for POSTURE:
1.    CENTER OF GRAVITY – feel the floor with your feet.  Knees relaxed and slightly bent (if standing).  Relax your center of gravity downward.
2.    MOVE FROM CENTER – if sitting, sit forward on the stool and keep a concave curve in your lower back.
3.    HEAD BACK, BASS FORWARD – Stand or sit up straight as possibleONE more last time – FREEDOM – don’t think, just play


IV.  3X3 for SPEED – This starts slow enough that you’ll have plenty of time to synthesize all the good stuff you know about relaxed technique and musical line.
1.-3.  First three times at 1/2 tempo
4.-6.  Next three times at 3/4 tempo
7.-9.  Last three times at full tempo
ONE more time without the metronome!