Earlier this week I spent a concentrated period of time practising ten or so bars of a middle passage of Bach’s third Suite for Unaccompanied Cello which I am currently learning ; this involves lots of string changing, tricky positions and repeated sequences.
Three observations. 1) When I first played it, as if sight reading, a few weeks ago, I gained most of the notes immediately, bowed fairly well and grasped its musicality. 2) After an intense period of practice, it was beginning to flow if not sounding quite as good as that first run through 3) After a break of a couple of days, when I played it for my teacher, it sounded execrable; my fingers seems to hold no memory of the sequence of notes or my arm of the pattern of bowing, it took me several attempts to find the underlying pattern/tune to the passage.
In other words, practice makes imperfect.
I have been here before. Many times. I know – or hope – this is a stage in mastering the passage in question. But what’s the logic of the brain, the hand, the self? I can only compare it to certain kinds of writing, where the first draft might flow, but when the hard work of re-writing/editing starts, the entire story, much of the characterisation etc, seems to break down. It is only later, that the tough middle part, the actual hard graft of writing,eventually reveals itself in a much better piece of work.
Of course, the other possible explanations are 1) I had a rotten cold and just wasn’t playing very well 2) I hadn’t practised enough 3) My younger daughter was doing her homework at a computer behind me during the lesson and I was distracted by her.