Chinese Proverb

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

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cello Lesson #12 (6/8/11): Intonation, Bowing & Two New Pieces

Another fun and interesting lesson! Adam is really on a roll as far as putting lesson plans together! :)

I’ve finally made some progress during the last couple of weeks! Maybe it’s my attitude shift or maybe it’s the two weeks of intense practice using the practice log and technique/method books that’s helping to implement and support what he’s teaching. Or maybe it’s a combination of them all!

Anyway, this is what we worked on:

Intonation work:
We did some fun exercises in the beginning to work on my intonation:

Exercise #1: Adam had me tune his instrument to his, which was the first time we've done this. I was to listen to the pitch and determine if I was off. When the note matched, all I heard was my cello, but louder, which makes sense because his cello’s sound was adding to my sound. What was interesting was I couldn't hear his cello at all when our notes matched, just mine!

However, if I was out of tune, than I could hear a "beating" sound. The more out of tune it was the more  "beats" (not sure if that is the correct word) I could hear. I was pleasantly surprised that I could hear the difference and it sounded pretty freakin AWESOME! :) hmmm... actually when the notes matched, it reminded me of a cloudless, bright blue sky on a day that wasn't too hot or cold. Maybe its because its a nice clear sound with no complications, like the day I described.

Exercise #2: After tuning, we did some Double Stops. I’m still having issues as far as grabbing both strings with the bow at the same time (my bow angle is incorrect), but I haven’t practiced Double Stops at all. He mentioned Double Stops during our previous lesson, so I purchased some books on Double Stops (I guess, my buying frenzy isn’t over yet), which I received yesterday and will add them to my practice schedule. For the C & G string, I have to think of being on G and landing on the C, not vice versa. I’ll go over this in more detail during my next practice log post.

Exercise #3: We played the D Major scale in a Round. I started playing the D Major scale (only scale I know so far) and he played the scale after I played two notes. This sounds really cool when the notes were right on, but I could also definitely tell when I was off! During my last lesson my fourth finger was off, which has been fixed, but now my first finger is off, which was causing some intonation issues.

Lefthand work:
I wonder if the correction of the pinky caused the pointer finger to be off. If so, than I wonder if it’s a hand position problem. I mentioned that I tend to pull the string to the side instead of straight down, so he gave me an exercise to work on my left hand:

Exercise: Move the cello farther down than usual and hold it/steady it between my legs. Take the thumb off and practice moving the arm as a unit (elbow, wrist, hand) off the string and pulling down and towards the body. The cello should move downwards.

The fingerpads should feel like they're “rolling.” Not sure what this feels like, so I’ll have to experiment.

It should feel like the same muscles I use when doing bowing. Since everything comes from the back right? So lats should be activated. Hhhmmm... I think this is what’s going to make things click for me because I know exactly how those muscles feel like!

  • Idea: In dancing, I sometimes purposely overwork certain muscles so they “tire” before I use them. This enables me to know when I use specific muscles and to know I’m using them correctly. That specific muscle will automatically give me feedback because when the muscle is tired it will attempt to perform an action as efficiently as possible, so doing the action the body naturally wants to perform is most likely what its supposed to be doing. I’ll have to think about this some more and think of something to ‘exhaust’ those specific muscles that are used for my left-hand fingering.

Also, bowing on the A string there is some contra-body movement where the left side of the body will turn to allow the fingers to rest more fully on the strings and allow the bowing hand to gain access to the A string easier.

Bowing work:
Apparently practice pays off!! :) Just kidding, I knew that!
He was full of compliments with  my bowing yesterday, which was very nice! My bowing has much improved: my hand is nice and relaxed and the angle of my bow is fine. I guess what I did to correct the bow angle was the right.

My YouTube video is a bad example of a relaxed bow hold. I've changed it, I swear! I've also noticed that when I work on things that are too difficult for me, my hand turns into "the claw." Very tense and not very flexible!

Adam said he didn’t want to change too much because my bowing looked good, but there was one more thing I had to work on: making my sound louder. Which means making sure the weight of my arm is what is creating the sound; and not me pushing weight on top of the bow. 

I think most my issue is psychological and stems from the fact that when I feel unsure of my bowing or fingering I lighten up on my bowing because I’m afraid of making a horribly loud yucky sound! Which makes the sound worse because than my bow skates creating a high pitch squealing note. I’m going to have to train myself to counter those thoughts – so instead of lightening up when I feel unsure, I need to drop the weight of my arm and relax into it.

Bowing lesson notes:
  • Fingers 
    • My fingers are finally in a relaxed state!! You go fingers!!  :)
  • Weight of my arm - needs work
    • Make sure that I'm  not pushing down from the top, so my fingers should feel like there "hanging" while still remaining relaxed
    • Exercise: 
      • Hold bow with my left hand, make a good relaxed bow hold and allow gravity to pull the weight of my arm towards the floor 
      • I'll know if I'm doing this correctly, if my back muscles (lats) are slightly activated
  • Elbow - helps with weight of the arm
    • The elbow should feel like its opening up, not being lifted, which will make my bow skate across the strings
    • Something I should focus on: make sure my elbow is not higher than my hand
    • Allow gravity to take the elbow downwards especially when I'm at the frog - I tend to hold my elbow up!

Two New Pieces!
Adam finally said we could move on from Twinkle - thank goodness!!! :)
He assigned two pieces: French Folk Song and Lightly Row.

Although we had not discussed this previously (I think), Adam had voiced the same reasons that I had thought and discussed with my husband a few weeks ago regarding the song progressions in the book. He totally read my mind!! I'm glad Adam had the same thoughts/ideas, which was why he wanted to come back and do the Twinkle variations later.

Anyway, I was going to go over those reasons in this blog, but that would make this blog too long again, so I’ll post it on the next blog.

Markings to the book:
During previous week I had written in the lyrics to the song. My thought was that it would be easier to learn the song if I knew the words. It’s much easier to remember a song when I know the words and can sing it to get the rhythm in my head. My goal is to memorize all of the pieces in the Suzuki Book and have it stored in long term memory, so in a few years I can play it without looking at a book. Learning the lyrics will help me do this. A link to Suzuki lyrics: Words to Suzuki Pieces

I also blacked out the numbers for fingerings because I wanted to learn them as notes, not numbers. Adam advised that if this helped me learn the notes, that was fine, but I should probably learn how to read numbers in the future because they will help during more complicated songs. I don’t exactly see eye to eye on this subject with him because I believe that learning notes in the beginning is the way to do it. But my opinnion will probably change, we shall see…

French Folk Song:
We started off with French Folk Song.

This was in my Essential Elements method book (#106), so I was able to play it well enough that he assigned the next song, Lightly Row.

Another reason to learn the lyrics because it gives added meaning to the song. I always thought the French Folk Song sounded sad, but reading the lyrics, I think its supposed to be more whimsical than anything else. The lyrics are a bit silly!

Laugh with me, play with me,
Sing me a song. Sing me a song about fairies and elves.

Fairies have wings and they really can fly.
Elves have tools, and make bright yellow shoes.
I want some yellow shoes made by an elf.

My imagery:
When I read this, I imagined a girl and a boy (her younger brother) in an open field dancing and playing. The younger brother asks his older sister, “Laugh with me, play with me!” as they run around crazily in the field. They finally get tired from chasing each other, so they slow to a walk and the brother asks, “Sing me a song. Sing me a song about fairies and elves.”  Coincidentally, they stumble across tall reeds or bushes nearby, and they peek through the foliage and see fairies and elves.  The girl points to the fairies and whispers in amazement to the boy, “Fairies have wings and they really can fly.” While the boy, points to the elves and says, “Elves have tools, and make bright yellow shoes.” And of course, the girl excitedly replies, “I want some yellow shoes made by an elf.”  What girl doesn't, right?

I know, I have an active imagination! But imagery is also a great tool to remember things!

To practice this, he recommended:
  • Playing through the song a few times through to get the general geography
  • Playing each section until I had it memorized and sounded good
  • Then adding the next section onto the last section

Lightly Row:
This was a little more difficult since I hadn’t played this before, but I'm fairly confident that I can have this memorized by the next lesson. The lyrics are below:

Lightly row, lightly row,
Floating down the river's way.
Geese and swans are swimming past us,
calling to their little ones.

See the waves dash on the boat,
Feel the water with your hand.
Geese and swans are swimming past us,
calling to their little ones.

I haven't had time to really think about this piece yet, or practice it, but I'll do that later this evening.

Another GREAT  lesson! :)

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