Cementing is the process of making something so
Cementing is a process that is probably very familiar to many students. It involved repetition, sometimes lots of repetition, so that you develop the muscle memory that will mean that it never goes wrong. However, it is something that needs to be practiced with care, because once you've cemented it, it's very difficult to go back and change it. As I talked about in yesterdays post, my student had learnt F#-E-D instead of G-E-D. If she had cemented this without realising, it would be very difficult to go back and change it. Therefore, there's a few things we need to do before we start the process of cementing.
Check, Double Check, Triple Check
There's an old carpentry adage which says 'Measure Twice, Cut once' - You want to be extra certain that you're not cutting off too much wood, because once it's gone, it's gone. Sure, you can reattach it, but it's never quite as strong. It's the same deal here - before we start cementing, we want to check quite a few things.
First of all, are we playing all the right notes. Before we cement, now is a good time to go through it at an extra slow speed, and make sure that the notes we're playing are actually the ones that are on the page. Secondly, you'll want to make sure that the rhythms are all correct. Try clapping the rhythms, and really think about what they are and whether you're getting the right ones. Thirdly, look for any extra details that are necessary - fingerings, bowing, articulations, phrase markings, pedal markings, dynamics, tempo changes. These all need to be cemented at the same time as the notes. Then you want to stop, and consider whether all these details, and what you're doing about them is the way that you want to keep doing it. If there's even the slightest bit of doubt in your mind about wanting to change, then it's not time to cement yet. You need to go back and work out what it is that you want to create.
If after all that checking, you're sure that it's ready for cementing, you then need to plot out your blueprint. This is what you'll be working from, to make sure that what you're cementing is what you actually want. It's like building a house with no plans - if you just start building, there's no guarantee that what you end up with is what you actually wanted. Once you've got a complete picture of what it is that you want, and you're certain that that's how you want it delivered every single time, it's time to start up the cement mixer.
Once you're dead certain about how you want the passage to be played, it's time to cement it. This is where the repetition comes into effect. You'll repeat it over and over again, so many times, until you can't play it any other way. And because you've checked and triple checked that what you're playing is the right way, this is a good thing. No matter what happens after that cement has set, you'll be able to play it the way you wanted to.
Now, how many repetitions are enough? Some people say 10 correct ones, that is, you start repeating you get it right, that's one. If you make a mistake, you go back to zero. Even if you reached 9, and then the 10th one was wrong, then you start again at zero. That's one method, however the only real way to know if the cement has set is to put it through a brutal test, a form of pressure test, and I'll talk about this tomorrow.