Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Practice Log #11: Allegretto (after 38 lessons)

I'm still having lots of difficulty with this bowing!
Working on this piece I realized that my angle for the G string was incorrect which is one of the reasons I wasn't getting a very good sound. I'm still getting a lot of scratching sounds, although I think I've improved a bit, but no where as consistent as I want to be. I still have lots to work on!

I can do this type of bowing better on the D string (probably because I'm more comfortable bowing on D), but not so much on the G string.

I thought it would be best just to record this where I am but keep working on it on the side, and move on to the next piece. I think I'll be working on this type of bowing for a really long time anyways.

Hopefully I'll have Andantino done in the next couple of days. It seems it takes about a month or so for me to learn a piece, although not as polished as I would like, but I'm too impatient to stay on the same piece for very long!

A quick warmup in the beginning of the video. I've been applying this to my scales so I could practice scales and the different bowing at the same time.

A bad recording with the first video again, which is way out of focus. I recorded this on both of my cellos. The lighter colored cello is the Jonathan Li cello and the second cello is the Pietro Lombardi cello. The Lombardi cello definitely has more overtones, and has a "muddy" sound, but I like its unique sound especially for blues.

This type of bowing is hard! Fun though - getting different types of sounds!

Happy with my two cellos!

As I was practicing this week, I came to the realization that I am glad that I purchased two cellos! I was uncertain for awhile if I had made a mistake and felt like I was making up excuses for purchasing two cellos, but I finally came to the conclusion that I'm really happy that I did!

I've been YouTubing cellists playing blues, jazz, alternative rock and bluegrass (did you know Yo-Yo Ma along with some other musicians just released a bluegrass album? Awesome-ness!), and as I watched some of random cello videos I thought, "wow, that sounds great but something doesn't sound quite right..." I couldn't put my finger on it until I started practicing jazz pizzicato.

Here's a YouTube of Jazz Pizz:

I can think of soooo many things to do with this type of pizz!! 

I was practicing it on my more expensive Li cello which is focused, brighter, cleaner and open. The cello that both my cello teachers prefer. However, as I was practicing it just sounded too clean and I was looking for a nice MEATY sound! I switched over to my other cello which is darker, less focused and with more overtones. And, voila! The sound I was looking for!

It then dawned on me that the reason I didn't like how some of the blues and jazz cellists sounded was because the sound (the "meaty-ness") just wasn't there, although the technique was.

I totally understand having a clean, focused sound is what is preferred in classical music and in fast tempo-ed genres like fiddling and some bluegrass where faster notes means more articulation, and therefore, a more focused sound is needed. But in other genres I think that isn't necessarily true - for me at least.

For example, when I think of Chicago Blues with its amplified distorted sounds, I don't want a clean focused sound from the cello. I want a sound that can get "down and dirty." Or when I think of hip hop or alternative rock, when there's a break in the rap or vocals, and the cellist comes in and plays a beautifully soulful tune, I don't want it to be clear and piercing, I want it to be warm, gooey, mellow...!

Therefore, I think depending on what sounds I want, it's important to have a couple of cellos, and its nice that I have two cellos that are on the opposite side of the spectrum. Since being warm or bright, or clean and focused is a characteristic of a cello and changing strings, bridge and even the soundpost can only do so much.

I'm hoping in a few years, I'll have the facility and technique to play whatever genre I want and to be able to pull off the sound that I hear in my head. I know, reaching for the stars there - but how awesome would it be to be able to play whatever musical thought I have rolling around in my head and have it come out in a wonderful cello tune! *sigh* ...years away...

I have an eclectic taste in music! Some examples of how wonderfully versatile the cello is.

From my new favorite cello album Learning to Bend by Ben Sollee:

Vocals with beatbox and cello! What else can you ask for? 

One of my favorite "alternative rock" songs & cello group:

Two Cellos' Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal:

The Cello Guys' Star Wars spoof:

Yo-Yo Ma playing Dvorjak Concerto (one of my favorite pieces):

Gotta love the cello!! I wish I would have started playing this when I was younger! Although I think adult beginners are the ones that can truly appreciate the cello learning experience. Youth is wasted on the young...LOL! I know I'm starting to get "old" when I start thinking that way!! ..ugh.. :).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lesson #38 (Jazz #4 12/16/11): More bowing

We went over some bowing technique during this lesson as well. We didn't really go over jazz stuff, just bowing technique, but I'm going to label these blogs "Jazz" so I can keep track of who I took the lessons with.

I implemented some corrections from Adam's lessons and wanted to make sure I was doing them correctly, and since Adam was going on vacation I reviewed my changes with Clayton instead.

I feel kind of bad asking them the same questions some times, but I really don't want to waste time practicing something that's incorrect. There's nothing I hate more, than practicing something that is incorrect and then having to correct it later!

Lesson notes:

  • I explained to Clayton that Adam wanted me to produce a "lighter" sound because I was getting a fairly bad crunching sound
    • My sound definitely wasn't as harsh as my previous lesson with Adam, but Clayton did notice that I was still pushing down on the string instead of moving the bow horizontally which Adam had also suggested 
    • I'm afraid of losing contact with the string and getting that horrible skating sound, so I tend to be heavier with my bow than what is needed 
      • Clayton recommended that I work on and get used to making a sound using as little weight and effort as possible
      • Also, that I shouldn't worry about "losing control" of the bow. Apparently it's causing unnecessary tension
  • As far as working on my harsh sounding bow strokes, Clayton recommended:
    • Working on grabbing and releasing the string horizontally to avoid pushing down
      • He had me try it a few times, and I came to the realization that I didn't have to do much to grab the string. Even just laying the bow lightly on top of the string still grabs the strings a little bit! 
      • Before coming to this realization, I thought moving the string entailed making a sizable "dent"  in the string to move it, but I can actually wiggle the string sideways without creating a big "dent"
    • Working closer to the fingerboard
      • He went over how to produce different sounds by playing close to the bridge or fingerboard, which I knew, but let him explain it anyway. Hopefully, I didn't have a bored expression on my face! :). Although I'm glad I held my tongue and let him explain it again because I came to another realization: 
        • I can produce the same volume as when I bow in the "middle of the highway" as when I'm bowing closer to the fingerboard, it just sounds different! 
        • This has been explained to me before, but it finally clicked! I had thought that bowing close to the fingerboard ALWAYS equals LESS volume, which is not necessarily true! Since I've been working on getting more volume I tended to avoid that area
    • Moving the bow closer to the fingerboard definitely helped, I was able to have a cleaner, more open sound and was able to move my bow more quickly for the quarter notes, and it got rid of most the harsh sounding quality

Bow hand flexibility 
Clayton also noticed that my hand was fairly tense and not that flexible - guilty as charged! :). Something I'm quite aware of! I have the same issue in dancing as well.

So he assigned some "finger games" to do while I watched t.v., which is driving my husband nuts! He hates it when I do stuff while we're watching t.v. because it distracts him. :).

The exercises are supposed to help with the flexibility of my hand and also help me gain more control over the bow. I've been doing them fairly frequently since this lesson and my pinky and the side of my palm get fairly sore! I didn't realize my pinky was so weak and that I wasn't using my pinky when I should have been, and that my fingers are NOT very coordinated!! :). 
  • Finger games
    • Flexible knuckles
    • Rotation of the stick
    • Flexible fingers (?) - can't read my bad handwriting...
    • Finger lifts 

  • My wrist tends to break when bowing, which I was told should stay aligned with my lower arm. The wrist is always stronger when its aligned, e.g. in martial arts when punching you always want to have the wrist aligned or when doing lifts in dancing - makes sense!
  • He recommended imagining two levers that go through the middle of the forearm and through to my shoulder. By thinking it of levers, my wrist can stay in alignment. 
    • I kind of sort of have it...I understand what he's saying, but it's difficult to implement

Some other exercises that he recommended:

I felt kind of bad for working on Suzuki repertoire since I was supposed to be working on Jazz stuff. I know Clayton has to prepare the material before each lesson since he's never taught jazz cello before.
It's weird - I feel like I'm "cheating" on the other teacher if I ask for help on something I'm working on with the other teacher! I'm sure both of them don't mind and just want me to get better, but still... Is that weird? ;).

In partner dancing, it's important to get as many lessons from different instructors because each instructor has a different way of explaining things and have different step variations they teach, but I'm not sure if that is the case with taking instruction for instruments. From what I've read, most cellists have the same teacher for a really long time.

Yaay - I'm finally caught up with my lesson notes! :).

I have 5 days to post Allegretto and Andantino. I've been slacking on my cello practice and have been watching Season 8's SYTYCD instead! I'll have to put that on hold until I get caught up with my cello practice.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lesson #37 (12/12/11): Bowing & review of rep (Allegretto and Andantino) and intro to Rigadoon

My lesson notes are so out of order and late! I'll have to fix the order of the posts later. I have one more lesson blog to post from last week and then I'll be caught up with posts. Slacking big time!

I've been on vacation (Yaay!!), so I have some time off from BOTH work and classes since the semester is finally over, so lots of cello time for me! :). But both my cello teachers are also on vacation as well...darn...

Fortunately, Adam won't be gone as long as I thought he would be, although Clayton is going going to be gone longer than I expected. :(.
I was expecting Adam to be gone for 4 weeks so I took some videos of him playing Rigadoon and Etude so I'd have stuff to work on for the next 4 weeks, but I think he'll be back in a two weeks or so. Therefore, I won't start Etude just yet, although he said to have Rigadoon ready to review by the next lesson. Piece of cake - I really like that song! :).

Different bowing
I was curious how the different bowing techniques felt for Suzuki songs from 11 - 14 (Allegretto, Andantino, Rigadoon & Etude).
Trying to feel the difference in each type of bowing is helpful for me because right now they all feel about the same, so we went over the different bowing for the pieces below to distinguish the differences between them.

Difference in bowing: 
  • Allegretto 
    • I actually don't know if this is supposed to be martele or spicatto, but I guess it just depends on what sound I want, which I can't really tell right now. Both my martele and spicatto sound fairly similar! 
    • Things to work on: 
      • My bow shouldn't come off the strings and should feel similar to the bowing in Perpetual Motion
        • I was coming off the string too much, but this should feel like a heavier type of bowing with a stop and start 
      • I should try to use at least half the bow for the quarter notes - I'm using way too little bow again
        • Hmmm... I guess my default / instinct is to use as little bow as possible when I'm learning a new song. I wonder why that is...
  • Andantino 
    • "Brush stroke"
    • Should feel like a 'U' shape and very light 
      • Feels like a very shallow rainbow 
    • The bow should come off the string, but should still remain fairly close to the string
      • I was coming waaaay off of the string 
      • I should try not to go past the balance point otherwise it will bounce more and it will be harder to control 
    • For the middle section measure 9 through 12, I need to use lots more bow and be more smooth to be more obvious. This should not have any apparent stops or sounds changes with bow directional changes 
    • Slow down - I didn't pause enough to give myself enough time to reset between measure 12 and 13. I should take a breath to reset 
  • Rigadoon 
    • The bowing should feel like Allegretto(?) but not as heavy for measures 1 through 8
    • The middle section has a different bowing technique 
  • Etude
    • The front finger is much more active and "picks" the strings more
    • Shouldn't come off the string that much

Going over Repertoire: 
  • Allegretto 
    • During this lesson, my bow stroke was still way too heavy and sounded very closed and harsh
  • Andantino 
    • This one was better and the bowing was easier to do 
    • Adam moved the bow while I had my hand positioned over the frog so I was able to feel how the bow was supposed to move which helped a lot! It's probably why I got the bowing on this so easily
  • Recordings
    • Since I've had a few weeks to work on these two pieces I'm going to try and record Andantino by tomorrow and Allegretto by next week
      • Andantino is easier for some reason - I always have issues with short fast bow strokes!
    • I definitely don't have these pieces ready to go and my bowing still needs LOTS of work, but I think learning the different bowing will be something I'll be working on for a long time and isn't something I can learn very well at my level right now. 
      • I think if I don't move on, I'll get stuck on these pieces which will get frustrating - so better to do the recording, move on and then come back to it later 

More bad intonation:
  • Very bad intonation during this lesson again! :(
    • I've been working on extensions, which has really affected my first finger and has moved my whole hand so I'm flat most of the time
    • For me, extensions are so much more difficult than shifting to second - probably because I don't understand the mechanics of it yet
  • I had also skipped my usual scale warmups prior to this lesson and boy did it show! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lesson #35 (Jazz #3 12/4/2011): Intonation

We went over intonation during this entire lesson. Adam also went over these helpful tips with me, but I think this time it clicked for me. A lot of times I have to hear (and do) it more than a few times to get something. Clayton went over the same concepts that Adam did, and also demonstrated it and then had me find the correct pitch for each exercise.

Clayton also does not recommend using the tuner and says that using a tuner is useful if I want to play in tune with a piano, but being "in tune" really depends on the context. Adam also recommended against using a tuner, but after removing my tape on the fretboard I needed some kind of guidance because I had absolutely no clue how to tell whether I was in tune! Both of them seem to be on the same page, so I guess I'll try to use my tuner less, except to tune my A. This is going to be hard...

So I went from a visual aid to hearing aid, and now I guess the next step is a feeling-watching aid! Lol! :). That is, feeling and watching when my cello and strings resonant to tell me whether I'm in tune.

Helpful tools for intonation:

1) Being in tune depends on context
  • If I'm in C major, than my F# will be a lot flatter than if I was playing in another key and depends on what key I am playing in. 
    • To check this I would play the arpeggio - another reason why we went over arpeggios for 5 or 6 keys, which I'm still trying to remember and study... lots to do! 
    • If I were to play the chord and play the same F# in a D major than it would sound out of tune compared to when I play it it the C Major scale
  • It also depends on what instruments I'm playing with and how they are tuned, so using a tuner isn't helpful in these situations. Therefore, I must have "flexible intonation."
    • So intonation isn't a rigid as I thought it was and getting the tuner to stay green isn't that helpful if I am playing out of context
      • Clayton mentioned that he used to use the tuner for his intonation and would do the same thing I did, i.e. to make sure that I hit the note so the needle on my tuner sticks straight up and so the light would stay green, but when he started playing in a chamber group and listened to himself play with the group he was always out of tune, despite the fact that he was in tune with his tuner!  
      • Adam tried to explain this to me once, but I think I wasn't ready for the information yet and it kind of went over my head. I do remember him explaining it to me though, I just didn't quite understand it then...I have a thick skull and apparently it takes awhile to start training and hearing the difference! :).
    • Practicing the arpeggios with the specific keys should also help me start training my ear to hear the chords which especially helpful in jazz
  • Adam had me tune my tuner at 142 and Clayton uses 141, but said that over the years the pitch has been getting higher and higher, so again it really depends on the context of who I'm playing with and what piece is being played 

2) Ringing tones
  • Listen for ringing tones and watch the other strings vibrate 
  • For now, he wants me to work on getting the open strings to vibrate and to move my finger up and down very slightly to test to see where the strings vibrate the most and to also listen to the overtones, i.e. there should be a higher pitch that plays after the string is released 
    • I can only hear the higher pitch overtones some of the time because my ears aren't trained that well yet 
  • Assignment: 
    • Listen for the ringing tones / resonance 
      • D (4th on A)
      • G (4th on D)
      • C (4th on G)
      • A (1st on G)
      • D (1st on C)
    • Play short and long bows 
      • Short bows - listen for ringing / resonance
      • Long bows - watch for string vibrations

3) Chords
  • Check against open strings or against the fourth or fifth notes which are the more consonant chords 
  • I should listen for the beats to see whether I am in tune or not
    • I still can't tell whether I'm hearing beats or not, I can only tell when its really obvious and way out of tune. It's also easier to hear the beats when I listen to someone else play as opposed to me playing and trying to hear it at the same time

4) Harmonics 
  • Clayton also had me find the harmonics. I was able to find and hear the difference, which I wasn't able to do very well because I kept pressing my finger down to hard. I also have to remember to bow closer to the bridge and move my bow more quickly on the string
    • I think harmonics kind of sound pretty when I run my finger up and down the string - it's what I'd imagine a rainbow would sound like! :). Or maybe a colorful sparkler during the Fourth of July... depends on how fast I run my finger up and down the strings! LOL!
Yep -  I'm still trying to associate sounds with images, emotions, feelings, etc! :).
  • He recommended feeling how the strings react. If I've found the harmonic, than the bow will slide across the string smoothly, but if I'm not quite on the harmonic, than I should be able to feel some resistance in the string  
  • To find if I am in tune (in general) for my third finger in first position, I can lightly press down my third finger to find the harmonic

5) Drones
  • I seem to be okay as long as I have a reference point, i.e. if a drone is on or if I'm playing with someone, and my main issue is when I'm playing solo 
  • Instead of using the tuner, Clayton recommends using the drone instead because the notes will be different in each key so my fingers should adjust unconsciously to match the correct pitch 

6) Transcribe songs
  • Clayton recommended transcribing songs, that is, listening to a song and then trying to recreate it without looking at music sheets. This will help train my ears and to associate notes with sounds
  • I told him that this would be very difficult for me and that I don't think I'll be able to do this because I can't even tell what notes are being played. However, I think he just wants me to at least try... ugh!...a train wreck waiting to happen...
    • I have to admit I am a little resistant to this idea because I really don't think I'd be able to this...I'll give it a go, maybe in a couple of weeks or so...this is going to be tough...*sigh* 

This was basically a reiteration of one on my lessons with Adam, and Clayton covered the exact same points, but I think my lesson with Adam was only a few months into my playing so it didn't really sink in. It's actually comforting to know that both teachers are teaching the same thing, just explained differently! Although I haven't heard Clayton play in a concert or in a solo yet (I should ask him to play a piece for me! :D), they definitely produce a completely different sound!

However, I think re-visiting intonation exercises every few months will be very helpful for me since it takes a while to train a person's ear to hear certain pitches and/or recognize relationships between notes.

I still can't seem to hear whether some of the pitches are in tune or hear the beating between some notes yet! Although it has gotten better. :)

Jazz Book
I also brought in a few books I purchased for him to review. He decided on Mello Cello for our method book.

Jazz Method Books:

General Jazz Instructional: 

It seems the musical theory is starting to sink in as my technique seems to be weakening. Maybe because I'm focusing more on music theory more than on my technique. I guess I'd better start focusing on my scales again! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lesson #36 (12/05/2011): Bowing on G & C, new bowing technique, Allegretto & Andantino

My cello learning progression:
  • I think I've learned something! Yaaay!! 
  • Nevermind - not quite right
  • I try to fix it, but make it worse (break it) 
  • I fix it
  • I think I've fixed/learned something!! Yaaay!!
  • Nevermind - not quite right
  • Repeat...

Anyway, I think I've fixed my bowing on my G string... LOL! :).

Lesson Notes

1) Bowing 
  • I've gotten my bow position back and it's a little better than before because I'm getting a much better sound (louder, more effortless and open), but still not quite right. I'm finding that my hand is moving forward on the frog so at the end of each piece I have to move my hand back. Also, when it moves forward, my thumb straightens and I end up tensing up my thumb which is tiring it out
  • I've started moving my bow more from my pinky but my pointer finger is coming off the bow so I think I have to remember to pronate to prevent this from happening. 
    • Adam recommended putting the rubber tubing back on the bow, as this is what helped him when this was happening to him. I'll try this in a couple of weeks after I get this new bowing position more into muscle memory before I completely lose it again 

2) Bowing on G
  • The change in my bow grip has resulted in a better sound on my G string and my angles seem to be correct! Whew... 
  • Now I can concentrate on getting my left hand position correct on the G string 

3) Bowing on C
  • My bowing on G has improved and is close, but my C still needed work
    • I need to remember the correct angle - I keep pointing it too far forward 
  • If the bow is pointed forward and out, than the only way to get a sound is to push down or push it on to the side of the string. The bow should still be on top like the other strings! 
    • I have found myself pushing against the side of the string or pushing down onto the string which seems to be fairly easy to get the string to speak. However, the quality of sound is quite different. Pushing against the side or pushing down definitely sounds more forced and grating to me
    • Now that I know when I'm doing those two incorrect things, and can now hear and feel the difference, I can catch myself when I'm doing this and correct myself! A very good place to start!

4) Allegretto 
  • I'm having difficulty on this piece - I tend to have issues when notes are short and fast!
  • Bowing technique for Allegretto 
    • The bow should feel heavy and stay mostly on the string
    • It should feel like a "fast, fast, slooow" motion 
  • I'm using too much weight for all of the notes, especially for the quarter notes, I should release the tension on the quarter notes
    • I should take my time on the quarter notes and not use the same bowing as the eighth notes. 
      • Using the same type of bowing for the eighth and quarter notes was making the entire piece sound very harsh and forced, when the quarter notes should be a little more "legato-like"
    • Adam recommended, sectioning off my bow and using about an inch or two for the eight notes and than half of the bow for the quarter notes. I just have to be careful not to bow too fast for the quarter notes to make it sound better and for some bowing contrast 
  • I had him play this piece with me so I can try and match what he was doing and could hear that I was cutting the notes off too quickly and that I was more harsh sounding than him, but I was able to match his rhythm better and my intonation wasn't as bad as the last lesson. Yaay - improvement! :).
  • Measure 9: bowing on C
    • I was also having trouble with the bowing in measure 9 because it felt like I was loosing control of my bow with the quick change to the C string so my sound was really quiet when it should be louder 
    • Adam reasoned that my lose of bow control and volume was because when I bow on the C string, I'm not physically or mentally ready to play the notes and am just rushing through it, which is true! So I have to be ready with my finger and bow before I start playing these notes
    • Adam recommended in measure 9 to do the following exercise:
      • Take this measure really slow first
      • I'll have to cut off the A (quarter note) a little short at first to make a purposeful prep by moving my left hand to the C string and the bow to the C string, then "dig into" the string, know what I'm going to play, take a breathe, and then play D on the C string 
    • It's going to feel like a really long pause to prep and then play that section, but after awhile I should be able to play it more quickly with the goal to shorten the prep time so it's no longer noticeable 

5) Andantino
  • Learning a new type of bowing for this piece, which is more of a "controlled spicatto" 
  • I should feel:
    • A u-shape in the bowing, not a horizontal/linear-like the other bowing so far 
    • Unlike the bowing in Allegretto, the bow should come off the string
    • It should feel and sound lighter and more effortless 
    • I should be aware of my pinky as it will be assisting in "lifting" the bow
  • Exercise:
    • I should first try this on open strings and get that down and then start adding notes
    • Also, allow my bow to "bounce" and it may be a little uncontrolled and may not stay in one place, but it should calm down after some practice 
  • Ritardando 
    • The rit. in measure 12 should start on the third note of the measure. I was starting the slow down at the beginning of the measure 12. However, the beginning of the measure should be the decrease in volume first and then the slow down. I was doing it at the same time - talk about really knowing what your bow is doing! I'll need some practice on this! 
    • The rit. is important because it adds an audible pause and provides a contrast to the beginning of the section. My teacher said that his teacher tells him that pauses are the most important parts of the pieces, but unfortunately a lot of cellists run right over them. He mentioned that this was something he had to work on as well

This was a fun lesson and I feel like a lot of the information is starting to sink in and the pieces are sounding better. Also, these pieces are more complicated and provide different bowing technique, which I'm liking!

I'll try to record Allegretto in two weeks. It's definitely taking a lot longer to learn these pieces!

Although during my previous lesson, Adam mentioned the reason Long Long Ago was "easy" and didn't have very many notes was because the underlying tools that needed to be learned were more complicated! Tricky-tricky!

Now I'm thinking I don't want to rush through this, even if it means NOT meeting my goal of getting through Suzuki Book 1 in one year! I feel like if I don't have a solid foundation, than it'll be harder to build upon my technique and either everything will fall apart or stay together depending on how well I learn these basics.

I now realize why he wanted me to go more slowly through the repertoire... huh...I guess there is a method to his madness! :).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lesson #33 (Jazz #2 11/20/11): Finding the Key and Shifting to Second

I'm way behind on my lesson notes so this is a bit out of order, but I should have my notes caught up by next week after finals are over.

This was a pretty fun and complicated lesson. Lots of music theory again. Clayton recommended that I take a Music Theory class for non-majors, but unfortunately its only offered in the afternoon and I don't have time during work to leave and take the class. Darn...

Lesson Notes:

1) Determining the key of a note
  • We reviewed the piano accompaniment for Suzuki Book 1 to determine how to find the key for Twinkle and Go Tell Aunt Rhody 
  • Basically, look at the chords that are being played and see what three notes create the arpeggio in the major key. This was one of the reasons why we went over a bunch of different scales (Ionian, Dorian, & Mixolydian) and their arpeggios during my last Jazz lesson. I have yet to have them all memorized.  Example:
    • Measure 1: the notes in the chord are D, F# and A which make up the arpeggio for the D Major scale
    • Measure 2: my memory is failing me, but I think he said that the notes had to be 3 whole steps away to create a chord. The notes in the staff below are D, G and B, but aren't right next to each other. However, I could move the D one octave up so they are next to each other to form the chord, which results in G, B, D anyway! Those notes are the arpeggio for G Major and so on and so forth...

  • So the key and chord progressions for Twinkle are: 
  • Chord progressions
    • There are 7 Major Scales from A through G, so we just number them accordingly:
      • A = I
      • B = II
      • C = III
      • D = IV
      • E = V
      • F = VI
      • G = VII
      • Therefore, each key has a number, see Twinkle above. So when musicians are talking about chord progressions, and say that they're doing a I, IV, I, V progression, it just means they are playing in the key of D Major, then G Major, then D Major and finally A Major (which is the first 4 keys of Twinkle)
  • Go Tell Aunt Rhody key and chord progression
    • We also looked at the piano accompaniment to figure out the chords
    • The chord progression for the first line would therefore be: IV, I, IV, IV, I, IV
  • Importance?
    • To learn how to jam with other people! If I ever decide to jam with a group and they call out a I, IV, I, V progression, I know I have to play in the keys of D Major, then G Major, than D Major and then finally A Major! 
    • To start training my ear to hear what key a song or piece is being played
    • And, it also teaches me to read music to determine what key is being play, i.e. if I happen to be jamming in a group (which I'm not...yet) and I don't know what song they are playing, but they happen to have the music sheet, I can look at the chords to determine what keys I need to play! Pretty nifty! :).

2) Assignment for Twinkle & Go Tell Aunt Rhody 
  • In each Major Key, play the following: 
    • Roots (first key of the major key only)
    • 1st & 2nd notes of each key
    • 1st through 3rd notes
    • 1st through 5th notes
    • Triads  - play the 3 note arpeggio for each key
  • This is the beginning of learning how to play variations, next is to add rhythm to these keys
    • It definitely doesn't sound like Twinkle any more! But its supposed to teach me what notes I can play within the key 

3) Shifting to Second Position
  • Since we're doing a lot of scales and only knowing first position without extensions or shifts is limiting which scales I can play, Clayton decided to teach me how to shift to second position
  • I tend to panic when I get introduced to new concepts, and I think he sensed that because he was very  nonchalant about it! 
    • I think that's how he approaches new technique when he's teaching his kids (I think he mostly teaches little children). It's an interesting approach, and I think one that worked well on me! I think if a teacher acts like its not a big deal, than it kind of drains my apprehension a bit
      • I was really worried about shifts (and also vibrato!) and didn't even want to try shifts because I've heard and read that its very difficult. But the way he approached it was like, "yeah, its not a big deal... you can do it - just do this..." and then voila I was doing shifts! Not great, but not bad either! :).
      • I've got to remember that the next time I have to teach a dance move or something - its all in the presentation and approach! 
        • I swear, it's like he tricked me or something! I was thinking, "OMG this is going to be AWFUL - a complete disaster! Why am I trying this?! I'm not ready for this!! What in the world is he thinking?!" Then a few minutes later, "....huh...okay...that wasn't so bad...I guess he was right..." LOL! :). Yes, I am a pessimist ...or realist! 
  • My shifting assignment
    • Play:  A B C# B C# D E
      •  0  1  3  1  1  2  4
      • Shift occurs on the B and C#
    • Try it on other strings
    • Visualize where my third finger is and replace with the first finger
      • It's easier if I close my eyes to visualize where my third finger is than to look at it and get the shift right because what I feel in the movement feels different from what I see! Returning to first position feels a lot wider than shifting from first position to second position, which always feels like I didn't move my hand enough

Interesting lesson, but LOT of information....its a bit overwhelming...I have to admit I was avoiding these assignments because they seemed pretty tough so I wasn't prepared for my next lesson. Next time, I won't be so unprepared...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lesson #34: Long Long Ago & Bowing

I recorded Long Long Ago yesterday.  I'm not happy with it, but it's getting there.... I was really procrastinating yesterday and didn't want to record it. So much so, that I cleaned, did the laundry & dishes, and finished up some sewing projects before I couldn't avoid recording this any more!

I'm using my new cello in the recording!

Lesson notes:
Focused on bowing technique again during this lesson, but I think it finally clicked! Although I still need to practice it a little bit more, but I think I should be able to finish up the two pieces left (Andantino and Allegrehtto) by my next lesson in two weeks.

1) Bow hold
  • Just a few more minor tweaking on my bow hold and afterwards my teacher said to let my hand do what it wants to do naturally because I'm over-thinking it (again) 
    • I think there's a point in the beginning that it's important to break everything down to try to understand why muscles work the way they do, what affects what, and so forth.... I think I'm still at that stage where its important to explore this a little bit further, but then again, I do tend to over analyze things so maybe I should stop focusing on this for a little while and revisit it in a couple of months 
    • I guess if I'm so focused on the minute aspects that I completely loose how to do something than that may be over doing it some... :).
  • My teacher recommends that I think of what is trying to be achieved overall, instead of specifics
    • Until the next lesson, think more about the body's overall movement, e.g. rotating at the hips and leading with the back 
  • Bowing 
    • My bow is also angled too much - Adam said on upbows the bow has more hair on the string and on the downbow the hair should be at an angle, but I was overdoing the angle so that the top of my bow was hitting the strings
      • Exercise: He recommended watching the bow hair as I do the up and down bow to make sure the right amount is connecting with the string and then watch it in the mirror.
      • This way, I can start associating how the bow looks from behind the cello to how it looks like to someone watching me in the front 
    • Also, during upbows, the bow hair should NOT be caused because I am consciously making my hand do it, but because motion of the arms and back is affecting how it lays on the string. So if I'm purposely turning the bow so it lays flat on the string on upbows than I'm not getting what is supposed to be going on 
      • I think I figured this out! :). Although I can't consistently do right now, I keep wanting my hand to do it for me
  • My teacher recommended that I stop concentrating on my bow hand and and instead focus on feeling the string more 
    • Instead of focusing on the hand, I should focus on my body movement and how much the bow tugs or pulls the string and making the contact point consistent throughout. 
    • I remember this from my very first lessons, but now this has a whole new meaning! And, it feels different! 
  • Corrections summary:
    • 1) Think "overall" body movement - rotate at hips and move the bow with the back
    • 2) Revisit contact point - consistency and more weight 
    • 3) Focus on pulling the string 
    • 4) Don't angle the bow so much 

2) Long Long Ago
  • Cutting notes short 
    • I was rushing through the piece... my hand was shaking a lot during this lesson so I was rushing so my hand would stop shaking! Pretty embarrassing! :(
    • My teacher mentioned that great cellist have the ability to play the notes fully (and with great intonation) so that the listener doesn't feel like their being rushed through the piece
      • He also mentioned when he plays along with great cellists to learn new pieces, he sometimes feels like (and is) rushing through the notes, but the cellist in the recording still manages to sound effortless and un-rushed 
      • I guess the point of the story: always strive for good intonation and give the notes' their full time/beat  
  • Legato 
    • Think about not taking the bow off the strings and keeping the hair's contact point consistent throughout 
      • My teacher said this is really good practice for legato and it may seem really slow to me, but it sounds great to the listener
    • I need to relax more into the bow to add more weight and volume

3) Intonation
  • My intonation was horrendous during this lesson! Absolutely horrendous... :(
  • A few tips that my teacher gave me: 
    • 1) Don't allow myself to play with bad intonation
      • If I play a piece and hit an incorrect tone, start over!  Otherwise I'm enforcing bad habits
    • 2) With tuner, take my hand completely off the string and then put back on and try it with the 1st, 3rd and 4th finger for now. I should do this 15 minutes daily for now
      • Fortunately, he said with consistent practice it really shouldn't take that long...although he didn't give me a time period...
  • Thumb placement 
    • During the last lesson he had me move my thumb more to the right towards the C-String side. However, I over-did it again, which was also causing more intonation problems. I think this was the primary culprit with regards to my bad intonation for the past couple of weeks because I had better intonation until I did this
      • Moving my thumb too much to the right was causing my fingers to slide forward and making my notes out of tune (higher) 
  • Think hand positions in sections 
    • When playing pieces, I should think about hand position "sections." This will help when I start shifting

Overall, really good recommendations, but I played really poorly during this lesson which was pretty disappointing... 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I've forgotten how to hold my bow...

I've managed to change my bow hold so I don't know how to hold my bow any more! Seriously...!

No exaggeration - I've even managed to drop my bow 4 times in the past week, which I've never done before! Luckily I didn't damage my cello or bow...although for a brief millisecond, I had the thought of snapping my bow into two or throwing it across the room in frustration...

I've been working on focusing on my thumb and ring finger on my downbows (while pronating) and creating a circle with my thumb and ring finger. For my upbows, I've been focusing on my thumb and pointer finger, and keeping the bow on a straighter path. It's a completely different feeling than my previous bow hold, but one that makes me feel that I have less control of my bow so far.

I've had to rely on the bow actually resting completely on the strings, hence the few times I've dropped my bow... I have quite the precarious balance between my bow and strings right now.

It's the strangest feeling to go from thinking that I know how to do something to not being able to do it AT ALL!!! Argh!!! I feel like I'm losing my mind...

I just don't get it.... I wish I could remember my old bow hold because my current bow hold feels really weird and I don't know whether what I've done is correct - but I can't seem to remember how to get my old bow hold back! Very discouraging...

Well, regardless if I get my bowing straightened out, I need to post my next video update since my last YouTube video was October 10th!! Wow, I can't believe it's taking me this long to learn how to bow on the darn G&C string.

Ok, so Long Long Ago...posting tomorrow...a day and a half to get my bowing in better shape... *sigh*

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lesson #32 (11/14/11): Bowing on G & C String

Okay, so I'm a bit behind on my lesson notes, this was from Monday's lesson.

This was a good technique lesson, which I really enjoyed! I love going over technique! :).

Lesson notes:

G string bowing
  • From my previous lesson, I had been working on my hand position on my bow, so playing Long Long Ago didn't go as well as when I was using my bad hand position because I was trying to implement the new technique I learned from my previous lesson.
  • Unfortunately, changing my hand position and angle to bow on the G string is also throwing off my bowing for the A&D string! Not sure why, since I'm not trying to actively change it since my teacher said it looked good and the angles were correct. 
    • Maybe my muscle memory had connected the relationships between my previous incorrect bow angles and is trying to adjust accordingly to the new angle? 
    • Now that I fixed my wrist so it doesn't bend downward (the opposite of what its supposed to be doing), I'm over-compensating by creating a sharper angle for my upbow and downbow when it should be more horizontal than what I'm currently doing.
  • Also, I'm making my wrist come up before the frog reaches the string (again). During my upbows I should think about not popping my wrist up until I absolutely have too. Or, just not popping it up AT ALL and it will occur on its own. 
    • It definitely feels more horizontal rather than vertical, i.e. since my pointer finger, wrist and elbow is aligned it feels like if someone were to push my elbow in, than it would come in on a straight line, almost like my pointer finger is leading the way, but being pushed by the elbow... I don't know...It's definitely a different feeling than what I was doing before!

C string bowing
  • My C string bowing is also off, but I knew this since I couldn't really get a nice clean sound from my C string and my bow was skating all over the place!
  • My teacher suggested that I move my first finger forward on the grip and to have the stick touch below my first knuckle to give the bow even more weight, and spread my fingers more to have more contact points on the bow.
  • Also, I was forgetting to rotate my body to my right to allow more access to the bow.
  • My angle on the C string is also incorrect and over exaggerated. I have to remember: conservative angles and body movement, since I tend to exaggerate everything - economy of motion is my friend! 
  • All cellos will have different angles to bow on the C string, therefore he said I could tell if was bowing correctly on C was if: 
    • The bow doesn't skate all of the place and remains in one place without too much effort, 
    • I'm NOT using a relatively large amount of weight to make a sound, and I'm not "pressing down" on the string; and,  
    • I can feel my back working to pull the string, which is especially true for the C string.

Thumb position on G & C Left-Hand
  • My thumb position needs to be closer to right side of the neck, so more of the neck is in my hand. 
    • I was keeping my thumb in the same place for fingering on the A & D strings, but my thumb should be moving towards the right as I use the G & C string accordingly. 
      • If I don't move my thumb, than I won't be able to get the weight into my fingers and the fingers' angles will also be incorrect.
    • This feels very weird too me because I feel like I have less control over the fingerboard since the strings aren't hitting my fingertips where it used to be - I'll just have to keep working on it and am sure I'll eventually get used to it.

  • We played Long Long Ago and Andantino together and I thought it didn't go as well as the previous pieces we've played together. My teacher was definitely more positive than I was, maybe he sensed I was disappointed in my playing!
  • He mentioned that every time he's played with me my timing and sound always got better. I explained its easier for me to play with other people because I like to listen to what the other person is playing to find cues on what to play and to also blend in. 
    • I'm much more comfortable doing that because I know my mistakes won't be so obvious and I never know how loud I should be. I always think I'm too loud, but I'm always too quiet. For me, playing with someone else is always easier because I can just match their volume or whatever else they're doing. Easier to mimic, then lead I guess... 
  • My teacher commented that this was a good skill to have because it's important to know how to follow and blend, but on the flip side, I should be able to lead if I ever want to do solos. 

  • Adam suggested that I should set a goal to play in a community orchestra in 2-3 years, which I thought was an interesting idea!
    • Although, I think I'd much rather play in a chamber group or small ensemble - much more intimate. However, I'd still try out for community orchestra, but that's a few years down the road anyway.
  • We also set a goal of playing Saint Saens' The Swan (among my favorite pieces and one that is on my To-Do List) in the next 2-3 years! 
    • It's in Suzuki Book 5 and I told him I'd be really sad if it took 5 years to get to this piece since I thought it typically takes a year to go through a Suzuki book. He said after the first couple of books, learning the pieces goes by faster so we should shoot for 2-3 years as well! YAAY! :)

Lesson #31 (Jazz #1 11/13/11): Intro to Jazz

I had my first jazz instruction in cello a few days ago, and it was a lot of music theory, scales and arpeggios. Which was what I expected so I practiced even more on my scales before this lesson.

I highly recommend Wendy Bissinger's Sequenced Scale Studies for the Cello. The workbook provides areas where I have to write in notes and fingerings which is helping me maneuver and learn the fingerboard more thoroughly. I didn't realize how poorly I knew the fingerboard until I had to write it out on paper or search out specific notes.

  • Example: I could easily play my assigned scales, but as soon as I had to find all the F's or E flats in first position, etc., I was stumped and it took me awhile to go through and find them all!

I took this lesson from a different cello teacher, Clayton.
Jazz was out of Adam's area of expertise, so I asked another graduate student (which my co-worker's cello teacher had also recommended) because he had studied jazz and played the double bass, but is now playing the cello. He's also pursing his doctorate degree in music performance with cello. I have to say I was really impressed with him, he came well prepared to our first lesson and he was super nice and knowledgeable!

We're using Jamey Aebersold's Jazz Handbook and went through the three most commonly used scales: the Ionian Scale (a.k.a. your normal Major scale), the Dorian Scale and the Mixolydian Scale along with their corresponding arpeggios.

Major Scales (Ionian - denoted by a triangle)
  • We went over C, G. D, A, F & B flat Ionian scales
    • I already knew C, G and D, but started learning F and B flat before the lesson to try and get as many scales under my belt 
  • Extensions
    • Clayton also taught me how to do forward and backward extensions since I hadn't learned how to do that yet
  • Technique: finger slant
    • We went over how my fingers should be more slanted. I guess, my hand position was fine for the most part, but as soon as I started doing extensions I lost the slant in my fingers which was making it more difficult do forward and back extensions
    • He said I could either think of it as my hand facing the floor or my fingers going down a flight of stairs down the fretboard
    • Experiment: 
      • Put hands on a table or flat surface and spread my fingers as wide as possible. Notice how limited my fingers are able to spread. 
      • Now, tilt it and open my fingers up like a fan instead. 
        • Having the fingers slanted provides an easier, more comfortable and longer reach. 

Major Arpeggios
  • We then went over arpeggios, I only knew the arpeggio for D, so I had a lot to practice this week! Although I haven't memorized them all yet. :(
    • C (C,E,G): 0,3,0,4,1,4,2
    • G (G,B,D): 0,3,0,4
    • D (D, F#,A): 0,3,0,4
    • F(F,A,C): 4,1,4,2
    • B Flat (B flat,D,F): 2,0,2,x1

Dorian Scales (denoted by the key and then a -7)
  • Minor 7th chord
  • Starts on the 2nd note of the Major Key - I kept doing this wrong because I always forget to count the root key (or first note played as #1)
  • The 3rd and 7th notes are flattened
Dorian Arpeggios
  • C (C,Eflat,G): 0,2,0,4,x1,4,2
  • G (G,Bflat,D): 0,2,0,4
  • D (D,F,A): 0,2,0,4
  • A (A,C,E): 1,4,1,0
  • E (E,G,B): 1,4,1

Mixolydian Scales (denoted by the key then 7)
  • Starts on the 5th note of the major key
  • The 7th note is flattened
Mixolydian Arpeggio
  • Clayton only gave me the fingering for the key of A and said I should be able to figure out the rest
    • They're the same as the Ionian Major scales! 
  • A (A,C#,E): 1,x4,1

My Assignment: 
  • Pick 1 Major Key per session and practice: Scale + Arpeggio for Major, Dorian and Mixolydian 
  • Extension practice fingering: 2, 1; 2, x1; then repeat 
  • Start improvising! Take 2-3 minutes with each scale and just mess around  
    • Harder than it seems!! 

Next week we'll be working on rhythm... uh-oh... I'm REALLY bad at that!

Circle of Fifths:
I found going over the Circle of Fifths to be helpful as well. I'm going to try and memorize this. So far, it seems to be fairly easy since the cello is tuned in Fifths - it starts with the same notes as the cello strings: C, G, D, A => so I just have to memorize the remaining E, B, F#, C# and then go backwards!

...then there's memorizing how many sharps and flats are in each key, but I already know C, G and D so I have 12 keys to go! I have my work cut out for me! Lol! :)

Thoughts on Improvisation/Jazz:
IMHO - I think one should strive for the highest form of expression (whether it be in music or dance); and to me, being able to improvise is the highest form of expression.

It's like in Lindy Hop or Blues dancing, once I got the technique down (i.e. technique was internalized so it became secondary, and expression became the primary focus), I was able to improvise within my partner's lead and within the music. Hopefully, I will be able to get to that level where I am able to do that with my cello playing...

I think Jazz is a great avenue to understand and learn about music theory and use expression to the fullest capacity! I'm not sure why Jazz hasn't really taken off with regards to playing the cello (maybe because it can be difficult, or its the genre, or its uncommon, or not a lot of cello teachers teach jazz), but I think it's a great learning tool!

I still very much want to explore and learn "classical" music and have a list of pieces that I want to be able to play. But there is something to be said about being able to improvise. All the great composers, (e.g. Bach, Mozart, Handel, Schubert, Chopin, etc) were known to be the best improvisers of their time.

Even if one isn't particularly fond of Jazz music (which I don't like a lot of jazz music - probably because I don't have a very good understanding of it), I think Jazz can enhance our interpretation, expression and how we hear music in general... I don't know, just a thought...we'll see if my opinion changes as I progress through these studies.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why in the world do cello pieces have such weird obscure titles?

The other day while I was driving to work listening to one of Bach's cello suites, and I glanced down to look at my player to see which piece was being played. Unfortunately, only the first portion of the title was displayed (not helpful at all), and I thought, "Why in the world do pieces have such weird obscure titles, and why can't this darn player show me the entire title?!" So frustrating!

I had plugged in my iphone to listen to my music, so the display wasn't scrolling through the entire title. I'm sure there's a way to change the setting to scroll through, but my un-savvy tech self hasn't set that up yet, which I'm sure I'll mess up somehow...

Coincidentally, a few weeks later in my Music Appreciation class we went over why classical compositions had such "weird" titles. It was just so freakin cool and fun to learn about it I thought I'd post some of the information. The textbook we are using is Perspectives on Music by David C. Meyer. I'm not a music major, I'm just taking this class to fulfill my Language & Arts requirement and thought it would be a fun easy course. So far, its been very fun and informative, but surprisingly a LOT of work!

Narrative Titles versus Generic Titles

A narrative title (a.k.a. Program Music) is used for pieces that are connected to a story. The title prepares the listener what to expect and if a story will unfold, e.g. The Swan. 
The example in the textbook used Vivaldi's The Four Season, which represents one of the earliest example of program music. He published a set of four concertos around 1725 with one concerto for each season. Ahead of his time, he also provided a sonnet to accompany each of the concertos. The sonnet was meant to be read while listening to the music and he even placed them in the musician's parts to help with musical interpretation! Too bad a lot more composers didn't do this, I think it opens up a lot more doors for interpretations and provides a clearer picture of what the composer was trying to accomplish.

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Spring I: Op 8/1, RV 269, "Spring" - I. Allegro

Spring has arrived, and festively
The birds greet it with cheerful song
And the brooks, caressed by soft breezes,
Murmur sweetly as they flo.

They sky is covered with a black mantle, 
Lightening and thunder announce a storm.
When the storm dies away to silence, the birds
Return with their melodious songs.

After learning about this, every time I hear this piece it totally makes me smile! Imagining the chirping birds and impending thunderstorms with the birds flapping around seeking shelter. I always imagine little baby birds poking their heads out after the storm to check to see if the coast is clear - it's just SO CUTE!!



A generic title informs the listener the genre of the music and provides the composition's information. So the example of the Bach piece, where my in-dash player was only showing "6 Suites Son..." instead of showing the full title:

6 Suites Sonatas for cello BWV 1007-12: Suite No 1. in G Major, BWV 1007 Prelude 

The breakdown of the title:
  • Form: Tells us what form the composition will follow. In this case it's in Sonata Form so it will have an Exposition, Development, Recapitulation and Coda. Other forms include concerto, symphony, etc. Also, it tells us there are 6 movements in this composition
  • Catalog System: Titles using the number from the catalog of the complete works instead of an opus number means that composer didn't publish a lot of works during their lifetimes. Many composers have between 100 to 200 opus numbers, but some have more than a thousand! For Bach, BWV stands for Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis' catalog system which is then followed by the catalog number. Mozart's work are assembled by Ludwig Kochel and is appended in the title as "K," for Schubert the catalog is by Otto Erich Deutsch which is listed as "D" 
  • Musical Key: provides the key the piece will be played
  • Movement/Tempo: Indicates which movement out of the six suites will be played: Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Galanteries & Gigue. Typically it will provide the movement number which is usually given in Roman numerals and the tempo marking of the movement. If all of the movements are being performed in a concert, than the movement is usually listed beneath the main title 

Other Examples:
Mozart, Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550, I, Molto Allegro
Handel, Concerto Grosso in G Major, Op. 3 No. 3

  • Opus Number: Opus means "work," abbreviated "Op." This number is assigned by the composer to the pieces as their work gets published. Therefore, the first work is always Op. 1, and then Op. 2 and so on. This tell us whether the work was written earlier in the composer's career
  • Composition Number: The composition number is included within the opus number. In Baroque and Classical periods, publishers sometimes bundled together works in groups of six or twelve. So for Handel's Op. 3 Concertos, you have to indicate which concerto you are referring to in the set of six, in the example it's number three out of the six
  • Type of Piece: the number (usually in the order the composition is written) regarding that kind of piece, e.g. Symphony, Concerto, etc.  
  • Composer's Name: provides composer's last name

Anyway, I thought it was fun learning about that, so I thought I'd share!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lesson #30 (11/07/11): Selecting my bow (finally!), C&G bow angles and hand position

During this lesson we tested a couple of bows, went over bowing G & C string, bow angles and briefly went over some new repertoire.

  • We tried out two more bows. The Paesold bow that came with the cello I purchased wasn't to my satisfaction. It was a good bow, but the Paesold wasn't stiff enough for me. However, I did like how it felt in my hand
  • I requested the shop send me two more bows that were stiffer and had a balance point closer to the tip for me to try out. Linda is super nice and has the patience of a nun, especially dealing with my crazy picky self! 
  • Before sending me additional bows the shop owner informed me: 
    • 1) Balance is more critical than weight and stronger bows typically have an effort tone and less rich
    • 2) The best, most sought after French bows are light and springy
    • 3) In general 9" to 9.5" for the balance point is preferred for the cello bow with 9.5" being the target. Anything above 9.5" is considered to be tip heavy for cello bows and can cause injury
    • 4) Cellists tend to play with their bows over tightened 
      • ummm...that would be me.... 
  • She than had me find the balance point of a cheap bow I purchased on eBay that felt good in my hand but didn't sound very good
    • To find the balance point measurement: measure from the end of the wood (not including the tightening screw) behind the frog to the balance point
  • After I sent her the balance point and weight, she sent me the two bows at the top:
      • D. Caravalho Brasil - I selected this one
        • Weight 82.5, balance 9.87"
          • It doesn't feel as good in my hand as the Paesold bow, but it worked best with the Li cello, that is, it drew the sound out a lot easier and better than the other bows and it had a good stiffness 
      • Schaeffer Brasil 
        • Weight 83.5, balance 9.75"
      • Roderich Paesold
        • Weight 82, balance 9.55"
    • Okay, I don't fit into the "in general" category... or its probably because I'm a beginner and don't realize what is supposed to be good. I'm sure I'll be changing my mind in the future, but in the mean time, my preference is light weight (less than 80), stiff and a balance point closer to the frog
    • We tested out the bows during the lesson and my teacher and I agreed on the same bow. Before telling his opinion, my teacher always asks, "so what do you think?" I can tell when he doesn't completely agree and sometimes changes what he says because what I say, but I think in this case he really agreed with me
    • My teacher mentioned that:
      • 1) Each bow will sound different on a different cello, so pairing a cello and bow is often times difficult which is why its a good idea to try out a lot of different bows 
      • 2) In this price range, it's normal to have some inconsistencies. When I get to the $1,500+ range than the bows should be of good quality, i.e. straight strick, good hair, etc. 
      • 3) The pictures below are of a couple of bows I bought on eBay. (Yeah - I know, I'm not supposed to buy bows from eBay, but I couldn't resist! Although I didn't realize how good bows are supposed to look and feel like until I got some really crappy ones for comparison!) Some inconsistencies in beginner/intermediate bows:
        • a) Straight Stick - look down the end of the stick and see if it curves to one side by lining up the tip to the screw. Or I can look at the hair and try to line up the stick directly above the hair so the same amount of white is showing on both sides. The bow below is extremely crooked! It's even more crooked and obvious in person...
        • b) The frog is not coming off the stick. I can also line up the frog against the octagonal edge to see if it is attached straight  
        • c) The hair at the tip is straight and hair is not bunched on one side. Sometimes bowmakers will put more hair on one side to straighten a crooked bow. The first bow has more hair on the right and the other one has more hair on the left. This is fairly common on intermediate bows 
        • d) Scorch marks indicate the bowmaker was drying the wood instead of using naturally dried wood. 
          • My teacher also mentioned in general bowmakers look for dense wood and in the past they wood drop a bunch of wood on the floor and listen to the sound to determine which piece of wood would make a good bow  

    G String
    • Hand position
      • My hand position was completely wrong! ugh... my elbow was too high which was making my wrist go concave (like when I'm doing pushups) and I need to make sure my wrist is up
    • Bow angle
      • Also, my bow angle was completely wrong too. I was taking the bow straight across instead of putting it at an angle. My teacher explained that it should be the opposite angle of the D string and the mechanics of the G string should also be the opposite of the D string. 
      • Sounds simple, but it's kind of difficult for me. Although he said once feel the correct motion a few times, I'll understand it immediately and be able to do it correctly 

    C String
    • My shoulder should open and the movement of the bow is circular, but the bow stays on the correct path because the wrist and fingers adjust so that it remains on the correct path 
    • Normally when we go over important aspects of technique I'll record my teacher summarizing the information so I can go over it again later and also try to mimic the movement. I don't get a lot of time to practice technique during the lesson so have to try and get all the important information to work on later
    • Another reason why I record lesson that go over technique is because what I think I understood and what he really said sometimes don't correspond correctly! 

    • I also recorded my teacher doing Long, Long Ago, Allegretto and Andantino. My goal was to have these done by the end of this month, but that was when I thought I had the correct bow hold and bow angle, so now I"m not so sure that I'll get that goal completed by the end of the month, but we'll see... I'll still try to push it to get it done. I have the fingering down for the most part, its just the bowing that needs work so perhaps I'll get it done in time...hopefully...

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Cello Review, Part 3: Pietro Lombardi cello

    I thought I'd better finish up my reviews on the cellos now that I'm done looking for a cello. My intent is not to encourage people to buy these specific cello makers (although I do think they're good), but to know that looking for a cello is a process.

    During my cello search, I wish I had come across a blog that described other people's experiences in buying a cello, the processes they used and what they looked at specifically to determine why they chose their cello.
    Although I have to admit...I am a bit picky and tend to over-analyze things...

    Part three is my review of my Eastman Pietro Lombardi cello:

    I knew right away I wanted to purchase the Jonathan Li cello, but choosing between the two remaining cellos (Wultur and Lombardi) was really, really difficult and confusing!!

    A quick note: ALL cellos are different, so if you're looking at the same maker and model, the cello will most certainly have different characteristics, so none of this applies except to these specific cellos.

    The contenders were:

    2011 Eastman Jonathan Li 503 (left with the lightest color)
    2011 Calin Wultur Student (middle)
    2010 Eastman Pietro Lombardi 502 (right in case)

    2010 Eastman Pietro Lombardi, Model 502, Stradivarius, Beijing, China

    Evaluation/Misc Info.:
    • This cello's price was discounted because it had some varnish issues, i.e. streaking or crackling. However, when it was selected by the dealer at the Eastman warehouse, she compared it side by side to German Wilhelm Kliers, Rudolph Doetsch, and many others in the same price range and found that this cello was by far the most open and even.
      • I've discovered that this cello has been pretty consistent in beating out cellos in the same (and some above) price range as well - you rock cello! :).

    1) Sound quality
    • This has a very smooth warm quality, albeit fairly quiet. However, this cello has settled and opened up quite a bit; i.e. its volume has gotten louder and the sound has become more focused, which is what new cellos are supposed to do. This cello was shipped from California to Colorado and still has some settling to do, but I think when it finally does settle this will really sound very sweet and resonant
    • I was informed that cellos that have just recently been set up and shipped, especially new cellos that have never been played before have a lot of complex things happening with regards to age, settling and opening up. I've discovered the cellos' sound is different 3 days later, 1 week later, two weeks later, and a month later and so on! Shops should really make their trial periods longer! Although the shop I purchased this cello from was extremely generous in allowing me to have a fairly long extended trial period
      • My teacher also warned me that getting a new cellos can cause some headaches. The reason experienced cellists pick used cellos is because the sound has already settled and they know how it will sound and do not need to wait for the sound to develop
        • The novelty of getting a "new" cello has definitely worn off on me (I'm definitely buying a used cello the next time around!), as I've discovered waiting for the sound to develop is frustrating and settling issues can cause some additional unexpected costs, especially for my Li cello where I had to open up the seams and let it sit for a few weeks to allow the wood to settle and shrink
    • Type of varnish: This cello has an oil varnish which takes some time to fully cure (if I remember correctly 2-5 years). Oil varnishes are soft and take some time to harden, which makes the tone rich and lush, but not as loud. As the varnish hardens it becomes more focused and rings more. The wood itself is also changing and contributes even more to the maturity of the cello's voice as it ages
      • Spirit varnishes come from the other spectrum - spirit varnishes are pretty much at full cure from the beginning and are hard. What is desirable in these spirit varnishes is for the cellos to mellow and round out a bit, as they tend to have more volume and can be more strident
      • And of course, not all varnishes are oil or spirit varnishes - there are a plethora of varnish mixtures and combination between the oil and spirit varnishes, plus various secret "ingredients" that will also affect the cure and sound as well

    2) Response & Comfort
    • The volume of this cello in the beginning was fairly quiet, but now its become louder and the sound more refined! I received this a few months ago so I can't wait to hear it after a year
    • The Lombardi is also more particular with my bowing and won't produce a nice sound unless I use the proper technique! It's great feedback - I'm learning from my cello! :). Although it has been frustrating, I've noticed that playing any other cello has become a piece of cake! 
    • Dynamics - this cello is learning dynamics! At first its sound was very closed, but it's coming around and is now able to sustain softer notes longer, not as well as the other two cellos I'm reviewing, but its getting there. It works much better with Evah A & D strings (instead of Larsen A&D), but Evahs are a little too bright for my taste for this specific cello. I tried Kaplan A & D strings next, which worked better but it brought out a wolf tone on F# so I'm still experimenting with strings on this cello
    • Comfort - the string length for this cello is 26 3/4 inches which is fairly comfortable for me, but on the small side because I find my fingers get lazy and collapse going from one string to another 
    • Volume - this particular cello is on the quiet side, although I often times practice well into the night (sometimes past midnight) because I don't have time during the day because of school and work. So I'm able to use the cello without a mute - I'm sure my neighbors appreciate that! :).

    3) Maintenance & Health
    • This cello hasn't had as much settling issues like the other two cellos. One of the reasons is because it was made in 2010 and the other two cellos were made in 2011 (and yes, I was told that a cello sitting around in a warehouse or shop for a year makes a HUGE difference)
    • I want to take this cello to the shop after a year to make sure it doesn't have any settling issues, i.e. the neck or fingerboard may start to bow and the top and bottom ribs may start to bulge from shrinkage from this climate, like the other two cellos have done already
    • Adjustments - I also need to make adjustments on this cello which I will have to wait on because I've exceeded my cello budget already. The bridge needs to be adjusted (the feet so it's more flush with the body and the bridge thinned a bit so it's more straight) and the soundpost needs to be worked on as well

    4) Resale Value/Trade-In Value
    • I can get 100% trade-in for this cello, so I'm not worried about this, and I don't think I'd ever want to sell it either, but you never know and this is backed by the best cello warranty in the industry: 
      • Eastman Strings warrants its instruments and bows to be free of defect in material and construction for the lifetime of the product.
    • Always a good idea to buy from a shop that you can trade-in the cello for a more expensive cello. Otherwise there is a reduction in resale value, especially for intermediate cellos like this one

    5) Appearance 
    • This cello has streaking, which was driving me a little nuts, but now I kind of like it! I also like the varnish color on this cello
    • The streaking on this particular cello was caused by putting the varnish on too quickly and thickly, so the under layer dried faster than the top which caused the top layer to open up causing lines across the varnish
    • The luthier said that a lot of older instruments have crackling and it just adds to the cello's character. He had an expensive 300 year old violin in the safe which has streaking and crackling throughout its varnish 
      • I think there's a difference between "crackling" and "streaking" in varnishes, but I don't remember specifically what the difference was, so forgive me if I use those terms improperly

    Next up: the Calin Wultur Student cello