Concert Performance Reflection

On March 11, we had the Hougaku Concert and the 9th graders played a minimalist piece called ‘Cloud for Alma (アルマの雲)’ by Hiroshi Yoshimura(吉村弘). This was our first piece that consisted of only using our fingers instead of using picks. Here is a video of our performance:

My areas of focus were tempo, synchronization, and listening to others. Firstly, I think I improved on tempo quite a lot because although I played in an inconsistent tempo since I found some parts easier or harder than some parts at the beginning when we started to play the piece, I think was able to play at a steady tempo for most of the parts when I looked at the video. I think practicing with the metronome and recording for preparation was helpful because I was able to tell whether if I was rushing or not which helped me reflect where I should be careful at. Playing in a steady tempo also helped me synchronize with my peers. When we started working on this piece, our group was not able to synchronize especially when transitioning from a pattern/movement to another. However, as we practiced as a group for the past few months, we were able to synchronize with each other since we had gotten used to the patterns and also because we were able to listen to each other which allowed us to make small changes when we were slightly out of sync. Using the metronome and recording also helped me listen to others because whenever I used them, I had to listen to them carefully to hear where I had the most improvements to make. However, it took me some time to be able to listen while playing since I got confused at the beginning. I think listening to each other helped us during the performance because at one time when we were out of sync, we were able to sync with each other quickly by listening to each other and everyone finished at the exact same time.

Next time, I would work on memorizing the piece at an earlier time because this time, I completely remembered it around a week before the performance. This will give me more time to focus on dynamics so that the piece will sound more interesting and pleasing and additionally, it can help me and my peers to clarify where we are playing when we get confused or unsure which is especially helpful in minimalist pieces since it includes a lot of repetition of patterns which are hard to keep track of. Memorizing the piece earlier will also lead me to have more confidence especially with the transitions because I will feel more ease and be sure of playing the correct strings at the correct timing. This will make the piece sound better because I will be able to play the strings clearly without any hesitation especially when I am supposed to play the strings loudly.

I think our group performance was successful since we hardly made mistakes and were quite synchronized. Although we rushed sometimes and were slightly out of sync sometimes, we were able to listen to each other to check if we were in sync or not, and make changes such as adjusting our tempo to get back in sync with each other. Additionally, I think we did well on dynamics especially in the second movement because when I looked at the video, it was clear and easy to identify where it was supposed to be played loudly or quietly. I think that the areas of improvement are wrong notes and unnecessary sounds caused by grazing strings unintentionally. Since the piece is quite fast, I sometimes found it a little hard to play the correct strings. As an example, when we played ‘八斗’ repeatedly, I heard some wrong notes a few times. Overall, I am very happy about how our performance turned out and I am proud of the fact that everyone did not lose concentration throughout the performance.

Individually, I think I did quite well in the performance and met my expectations since I hardly made mistakes and did not lose concentration throughout the performance. Additionally, although I sped up sometimes, I was able to adjust the timing quickly and get back in sync by listening to others. I think this skill will be very helpful for me in the future such as when I play a different piece because it is essential to synchronize or harmonize in group performances to sound beautiful and pleasing. For next time, I will work on playing strings accurately with clear dynamics without having to look at music. I will do this by using time efficiently during class and memorizing the piece earlier so that I will have time to remember and focus on the dynamics. I will also like to focus on playing the piece at a steady tempo by using a metronome.

Clouds for Alma – Process/Practice Journal (After break)

Before winter break, I chose 3 sections to focus on during the break and filmed myself playing those sections. After the break, I took another video filming myself playing the same sections to see the improvements I have made.

Improvements I made in my three areas of focus

Section 1: My goal for section 1 (3rd movement line 8~ line 13) was to be able to play the correct strings in a steady rhythm. I worked on this by looking ahead so that I can be ready to play the next note which will help me play the correct strings since I won’t have to rush to find the next strings. I think I was able to play the beginning and middle part in a steady pace but I rushed at the end where I was playing ‘十’. Also, I think I was able to increase the tempo like the recording compared to when I played this section before the break. I played along with the recording for practice which helped me get used to the speed and also remember some sections which made it easier for me to pay attention to the tempo and strings. Additionally, I think my transitions have gotten smoother since I don’t have hesitation when I move to a different pattern and also because I made less accidental sounds which are created when I touch the unused strings.

Section 2: My goal for section 2 (4th movement column 2) was to be able to play ‘八斗’ clearly in a steady pace and get the timing right for the other notes because I easily get faster or slower. One of my strategies was to listen to my peers during class. Since I have started to get used to the piece and remembered some sections, listening to my peers was easier than before and helpful especially when I felt that I was off tempo. I also used the metronome, which I set it to 80, at home while making sure that I am not rushing or being too slow. This proved me that I was rushing too much so I played along with the metronome until I felt comfortable about the rhythm. Another strategy was to practice playing ‘八斗’  to get used to the pattern. By doing this, I think I was able to play ‘八斗’ more smoothly without getting stuck and making less mistakes. Although I am still rushing overall especially at the end, I think my timing has gotten better and the pace is quite steady as well.

Section 3: My goal for section 3 (4th movementcolumn 2) was to play all the strings clearly and correctly, and to move to different patterns in a good flow without taking time between each patterns. The most effective strategy for me was learning the patterns carefully and then practicing them many times until I got the hang of it. This helped me understand the timing needed for transitions and look ahead which helped me get ready for the next pattern so that I did not have to stop to check the music and find the strings. I think my transitions went smoothly in a good flow since I did not stop between the change of patterns. I found the patterns from line 8 a little challenging than the others but understanding the patterns solved this problem. Another strategy I used was listening to the recording because it helped me clarify if I was playing each patterns correctly in the correct timing. I think I was able to play this section in an appropriate steady pace and play the strings in a good timing, making less accidental sounds by touching the unused strings. I was able to speed up the tempo after a couple of practices as well.

 

Clouds for Alma – Process/Practice Journal (Before break)

Goals for my three areas of focus

Section 1: My goal for section 1 (3rd movement line 8~ line 13) is to be able to play the correct strings in a steady rhythm, since I sometimes play the wrong strings especially when we change to a different pattern, and rush or play strings a little too late especially when I play ‘十’ repeatedly. I will work on them by being prepared for the next note by looking ahead or keeping in mind about the next note, and practice playing in a steady tempo throughout the section by playing along with the recording.

Section 2: My goal for section 2 (4th movement column 2) is to be able to play ‘八斗’ clearly in a steady pace and get the timing right for the other notes because I easily get faster or slower. This will help me play well as a group since we can synchronize which will make the piece sound nicely. I will work on them by listening to my peers, using the metronome while making sure that I am not rushing or being too slow, and also by practicing ‘八斗’ regularly.

Section 3: My goal for section 3 (4th movementcolumn 2) is to play all the strings clearly and correctly and to move to different patterns in a good flow without taking time between each patterns, since I often play ‘八斗’ in an inconsistent rhythm and stop between each patterns for preparation. I will work on them by practicing ‘八斗’ regularly like section 2, learning the patterns carefully, and making sure to play the strings clearly by not touching the unused strings.

Warabe Uta Reflection

Last month, we had the 2015 NYC Tour benefit Concert at the Bankart Studio NYK. The 9th graders played a piece called “Warabe Uta” by Yuize Shinichi.
YIS HS Koto Ensemble at BankART Studio 2015

We practiced this piece for 2 months during class, at home, and before school. I think I practiced more frequently and was ready for the concert than last year since I was able to memorize the piece earlier before the concert and spend more time focusing on the details such as dynamics. When we practiced in class, we especially focused on the dynamics and tempo. One of my challenges was keeping in mind about the dynamics because sometimes I forgot about it and played the strings too strong or too weak. Another challenge was playing in a good tempo because I sometimes rushed and played in a faster tempo than others. It was hard to synchronize with my peers as well because some people including myself rushed sometimes, or played strongly when it was supposed to be soft. Listening to others helped me overcome this challenge.

I think the concert went well since we hardly made any mistakes and listened to each other. This helped us play in a good tempo in the correct dynamics. Although some of us were nervous, we all had a lot of fun during the rehearsal and the concert.

Overall, I enjoyed playing this piece, especially ‘Ainu no ko no odori’, the second movement. I am looking forward to play this piece at the food fair! 🙂