Musings on Simon Fischer's Mind Map

Simon Fischer's Mind Map - Click to Enlarge

I just came off a three week musical sprint (is such a thing possible?) that included a recital with the 5 Ensemble at Point Loma Nazarene University, two performances with Camarada, a performance and recording session with the Palimpsest Ensemble at UCSD, and wedged in between that, an Art of Elan performance in Breckenridge, Colorado! 

Throughout these three weeks I've been thinking a lot about practicing, and this picture of Simon Fischer's mind map on practicing has been circulating among my Facebook friends.

I love this because it's rare that you get to see inside the brain of such an amazing teacher! Many of these ideas, like building time/interpreting time/performing time, are things I incorporated into my own practicing and teaching a long time ago. 

Others are improvements or reminders of things I SHOULD be doing.  For example, I consistently rotate the technical material I practice (scales, double-stops, shifting, bow strokes etc.), but I'm not so great about tracking it (which would be an interesting thing to do). 

Additionally, there is one aspect of technique I haven't rotated in a long time, my scales fingering!  I've been in a practice rut of Flesch scales for the past couple years, and I've never tried rotating in other fingering systems.  I tried this out this week, working on Galamian scales, and it's been great! The new fingering forces me out of my muscle memory crutch, making me feel like I am filling in little holes in my mental map of the fingerboard.  This is hard, but great!

Some suggestions in this map, like Mental Rehearsal, are things that I've only begun to explore, but have already seen great benefit in.  With all the music that I had to play these past three weeks, I didn't have nearly enough time or physical energy to practice everything to the level I wanted to.  One piece in particular, the Beethoven Serenade for Flute, Violin and Viola, felt especially neglected, with very little time actually practicing the piece on the instrument. However, I spent a good amount of time listening to and studying the piece, and shortly before the performance I silently fingered and internally sang the whole piece from start to finish and I'm happy to say it went very well!    

Another excellent reminder in this mind-map: choosing etudes and techinical studies suited to your current repertoire.  This is something we should all be doing, simply for effeciency.  It stands to reason that each of us has technical weaknesses that are not limited to the problems in our current music, but there's no way we can address all these problems at once!  Therefore, we should choose etudes, technical studies and scale variations designed to tackle these problems away from their musical context. 

An example from my current practicing: the Fugue from Bach's Sonata #1 for Solo Violin (transcribed for Viola) has tons of thorny double, triple and quadruple stops, which present many problems for me, mostly related to intonation.  To speed up my learning of these tricky passages, in my building time I've been practicing lots of double and triple stops (thirds, fourth, sixths and octaves) in different positions and different strings in the keys of the Fugue.  

  1. How could you incorporate this idea into your current practicing? 
  2. What specific technical problems do you have in your current repertoire? 
  3. What etudes, technical exercises, scale variations, or other practice methods could you use to address these problems in your Building Time?