Practicing in the Dark

by Linda Ratcliff

I'm spending the winter in sunny California, but I know many of you have been getting hit with some pretty cold weather. Brrrr. That reminds me of the way I used to practice piano. I usually arrived at school, during both my high school and college years, at about 6:30 in the morning, and I always went straight to the practice rooms. Now the school didn't turn on the heaters full blast until about 7:30 a.m., so to challenge myself (and because no one was looking), I would start with my finger exercises - in the dark and wearing gloves. That style of practice actually greatly increased my accuracy. After all, by the time you can play arpeggios correctly with gloves on - you've pretty well mastered that skill. I applied the same system to my hammered dulcimer practicing - by working in the dark in the evenings. When I do this, I am working on muscle memory. I want my hands and arms to know the distance from one string to the next, one bridge to another, without looking. I don't know if Steve has this problem, but when I set up in a new location to perform - the lighting always bothers me. I simply can't see my strings the way I do at home. So learning to play in the dark has enabled me to not be so dependent on visual clues. And it has increased my confidence in playing for others. What do you think? Could mountain dulcimer players also benefit from muscle memory practice in the dark? Have you ever tried it? Tell Steve or myself what you think, and we'll let everyone else know in the next newsletter. (This post was originally an article in the DulcimerCrossing Subscriber Newsletter)



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