In-Depth Week #7: Continued Mentorship

Last week, I couldn’t attend class due to the heavy snowfall, but I had a meeting with my mentor this week. However, even so, I was assigned a harder song to play than anything I have seen before this week. It touched on a few new techniques, such as playing octaves in a way that you need to press to get the correct tone. As well, the rhythms were significantly harder, with more dotted eighth notes and sixteenth notes.

My biggest struggle has been with rhythm, as it always has been throughout my endeavours in music. This acts as an inhibitor to my learning. It’s often harder for me to grasp concepts without seeing and hearing my mentor play it first, and this was the challenge I had it last week when I didn’t meet with my teacher. As a result, I ended up playing a lot of the song incorrectly and had to relearn it this week. Rhythm is often what gives a piece flow and joins together the melody in a musical way.

The thing that I’ve actually gotten a lot better at is tuning the guzheng. I think that the more I play and learn about the guzheng, the more my ears become attuned to the tones. I remember that last year Mr. Jackson mentioned that when he tunes his guitar, he imagines what the wavelengths look like in his mind. After that, I tried visualizing it myself and coupled it with what I already know about music and found that I could discover out-of-tune notes much easier. I have also been watching how my teacher tunes and found that very fine adjustments are good enough. Tightening the strings too much creates a very off pitch sound. It might not be a strategy that works for everybody, but it works very well for me.

Communication is a key factor in a mentoring relationship, and recently I’ve noticed that it’s been weakening between my mentor and me. Though there is a language barrier, my mentor teaches younger children than me who are less skilled in Mandarin, so this is not a factor limiting communication. But my mentor often leaves the room to check on other students for prolonged periods of time. As it is a group lesson, it is understandable, however I feel that she is not giving me sufficient guidance. For the next few weeks, I will try to ensure that there is stronger communication between us, and that more trust is built. Specifically, I’ll do this by asking more in-depth questions, and asking for clarification when I know I need it.

All in all, I’m well on my way to the final performance and I am looking forward to it! If everything continues in this fashion, Yuwen’s and my performance will be very successful.


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