I started my practice this morning with a 20-30 minute session of AT work, in which I transitioned from laying, to sitting, to standing, then walking around the house. My focus, which I intended to bring to my practice, was very much on keeping my neck, spine, and shoulders free.

Surface Drifts/4-mallets (first session)

With the above in mind, and in muscle memory, I began my warmup with one single note, which I maintained until I felt I had at least 30-60 seconds of comfortable, free motion. I then added a second note, and third, and fourth, when I felt ready. After this, I gradually changed pitches on each of the four-mallets, until I was shifting pitches/chords, and ultimately body position, AND feeling free in the neck, spine, and shoulder area. I improvised this way a bit, with awareness on the notes, as well as my shoulders in particular. Then, I decided that I needed to try this while reading music, to see if I could maintain the freedom with the added mental exercise of reading, so I read through a Bach Sonata, elongating each note with several DV repetitions, until I could sense freeness in shoulders. After a while, I was able to read through the whole piece, reading notes and maintaining awareness on shoulder area.

THEN, I decided that I wanted to try this awareness activity while playing the notes of one f the pieces I am working on right now… but not Surface Drifts. So, I read through several pages of Rip Tide (with four-mallets in hand, playing with the inside two mallets, even though I am actually playing the piece with just two-mallets). I did this because I have felt (in past practices) that it is getting easier to maintain shoulder awareness with two-mallets, mostly because I get in to less precarious physical positions with my arms. I need to work on myself playing four-mallets with the same awareness and freeness. Working through Rip Tide this way was good for several reasons: it helped me see the piece from a different physical and mental perspective, and it showed me how much more quickly I feel tension in my shoulders and neck with four-mallets. I went back and forth between playing one particular page with two-mallets, and then with four-mallets, and the resulting tension difference was very clear. HOWEVER, when returning to four-mallets after playing with just two-mallets, it was clear that I was able to retain some of the feeling of freeness. Luckily, it was not the other way around – carrying over tension from the four-mallets into the two-mallet playing. I am not sure what all this means yet, but I definitely sense there is something useful for me here.

And, I have been doing this for 60-minutes, so break time…

Surface Drifts (second session)

I started this session with a short version of what I did earlier, starting with one note, then two, then three, etc., through to improvising chord progressions.

Mm. 40 – end – Since most of this is rolled chords, I figured doing this first would keep me most physically consistent. I read through these measures, staying on each chord until I felt settled. I noticed that the weird numb, tingly spot in my right should several times throughout this exercise. Perhaps I should have stopped playing, but I didn’t. It wasn’t constant, but when it was happening, I also sensed that I was forcing my shoulders down and back, rather than just letting them be.

Mm. 40-92 – worked on this section, actually tying phrases together (including all 5s, but not the grace notes); worked on arm/foot choreography.

A word on practicing in shorter timed sessions… these practice sessions seem to go so quickly (ranging anywhere from 45-90 minutes), and I almost always want to keep going. However, I do feel that I am accomplishing a lot, and when I look back at the end of the day, I find that I feel good about what I have completed (practice and otherwise) AND I do not feel exhausted by having given all my energy at one time to one thing.

I am also noticing that I am tending to work hard on Surface Drifts and Rip Tide in alternating weeks, though I do touch on them both throughout each week. I am ALWAYS afraid when I come back after some time off being totally immersed that I will have lost something. But that has consistently NOT been the case; I am actually coming back with better physical and mental memory than I left with. I think the lag in time forces me to rely more on my memories, which, in turn, is making them stronger.  This is definitely something to continue.

A word on my progress with the actual piece… it is high time that I start trying to memorize these notes. ;-(

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