The Suzuki Strokes – a rhythmic challenge
In the Suzuki Method, the strokes in the Twinkles Theme and Variations are essential; these bowing patterns when put together make up whole pieces! Without these building blocks, we will even have difficulty playing Song of the Wind or Go Tell Aunt Rhody.
To Twinkle well, we must not only learn tonalisation and the movements of stopped bows, busy bows, legato bows and pizzicatos, but also learn to make these sounds at just the right time. Only by doing so we can work to a good group sound and impress with our top notch solo playing.
Playing a note on the cello or violin in perfect time is hard to start with. This is because we need time to start each note. Think about it; you need to put the bow on the string, move your upper arm and then wait while the energy travels down through your elbow, through your wrist, through your fingers, to the hair onto the strings. That can take nearly a half a second! if you aren’t ready, the note will be early or late or may be in rhythm but squeaky. After a bit of practice, you don’t even notice this pick up time because you’ve made it automatic. A good way to practice all this is by using a metronome.
Metronomes: not a buzzkill!
People think that metronomes are boring and uncreative. People sometimes think that time could be spent far more creatively if the metronome is left in the shop. This is sad because creativity is only as good as the quality of the playing. We need to learn to play in time and in tune to be creative on any instrument. Even punk rock musicians can play in time.
When a note truly starts at the instant the metronome sounds, we are often tricked into not hearing the metronome. That’s because it is covered by the beat. The sound of the cello attacks at exactly the same time as the metronome click, creating one sound rather than 2 rapid sounds. A metronome tells us whether we are in time or not. The more often you cover the beat, the more you are playing in time. The more you play in time, the more awesome you have just become as a player.
Like all practice, repeating will only help if you are listening and making each rep better than the last. Work through Figure 1, covering the beat as much as possible. When you are done, Pp. 6 of Book 1 (cello) is a good place to continue practicing rhythmic accuracy. Work up to playing all Twinkles Variations with a metronome. How many beats can you cover?
Covering the beats is a form of tonalisation, to be practiced after other tonalisations such as Twinkle Theme, French Folk Song and the G major arpeggio. It sounds a lot better when the beat is covered than when you get a series of sounds so work towards what sounds best. Having all of these rests in your practice also gives you time to bring focus to your hand shape, posture and foot placement. Have fun!