Chinese Proverb

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Practice makes perfect, but there's gotta be more...

I keep telling my co-worker Mike, that there's got to be an easier way. He's adamant that their isn't and it's boils down to practicing.

I think he's right about the practicing part. However, because Mike was so generous in imparting some of his knowledge to me about his progressions and tips in cello playing, its made it much easier for me to learn and progress! So what else am I missing that can make this more efficient and easier?

Mike's recommendations that have made noticeable and quick improvements in my playing:
  1. Playing drones while practicing scales or repertoire 
  2. Use a practice log/schedule 
    • It's so much more efficient! I don't feel like I'm spinning my wheels and I can look back and see what I've done, which is very satisfying 
    • The logs in the book help me focus and set goals. Also, by using a timer with the practice log, I actually feel like I want to practice more! I set my iPhone timer to 5 minute intervals and as the timer counts down, I find myself thinking, "Five more minutes, just five more minutes and then I'll have it!" 
  3. Practice scales
    • I didn't start practicing scales until I asked my teacher if I should be practicing scales and if so, which one(s) should I be practicing
    • I'm only on the D Major scale, but I'm going to ask if my teacher can give me the next scale to practice during my next lesson - probably C Major and G Major and am also adding a new book to my practice log: First Position Scale Studies for the Cello Book One by Cassia Harvey
What I've found helpful:
    • Use a Method Book
      • Without this I would have probably quit early on because practicing Twinkle for most of the semester completely bored me to death! Not until I started the Essential Elements 2000 For Strings Plus DVD method book did a fire light up inside me! Hearing and playing actual music was very motivating!
      • The method book also helped me start reading notes, which was was one of the reasons I took up cello playing - to learn how to read notes and understand how music is structure. And as I've mentioned before - I completely disagree with the Suzuki Method in postponing reading notes for adult learners
    • Use a Technique Book
      • Practicing the first exercise from  Finger Exercises for the Cello by Cassia Harvey has made remarkable and noticeable differences in my playing! Schroeder's 170 Foundational Studies was too hard for me! Don't forget I'm a complete newb and this is my first instrument! =p
        • I'm much more sure with my fingering and my intonation has also improved. It's probably because doing the exercises gets the hand placement and fingers into muscle memory faster. I'm also looking less at my left hand! 
        • I'm going to incorporate another technique book this week as well: Beginning Technique for Cello by Cassia Harvey. This one is broken down into 5 weeks and goes over rhythm patterns, double stops and string crossings for the beginner! So far the progression is perfect for me
      • I read on a forum where a cellist recommended that they ask their teachers to incorporate technique books into their lesson plans, and if they don't agree, buy one to use on your own because it's that helpful! And I agree wholeheartedly - 110%! I asked my teacher to pick out technique and method books I purchased and brought to my lesson one day; and I wish I would have done this sooner!
      Doing these 5 things have helped me immensely, so what other tidbits of information am I missing for faster improvement?  There's got to be more!

      I put the links in for the books above because when I was given these recommendations, I immediately read through a lot of forums, websites, etc. and got stuck in a Google-hole for a few hours trying to determine which book was better, cheaper, etc. and also have a stack of books to prove it! I definitely am NOT getting paid to mention these books.

      Don't get me wrong - I absolutely LOVE to practice!
      But nothing frustrates me more than discovering that there is an an easier and better way, which should have been shown to me in the very beginning, instead of haphazardly stumbling across it!

      I'm also of the mindset of: "if it's not broken, BREAK IT!"

      I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but if you think of it - everything can be made better by "breaking" it.

      I'm not talking about grabbing a sledge hammer and completely obliterating something to unrecognizable pieces! If you "break" something you have to put it back together, right? And in the process of putting something back together, you gain a better understanding of the pieces and therefore, something as a whole. If you understand something as a whole, than you're more likely to understand it enough to improve upon it. Which is why I'm always trying to pull things apart to find a different fit and question why methods are used.

      Random thought: when I play a song correctly, I seriously surprise myself when I hear it coming from MY cello. I find myself thinking, "WOW, did I (little 'ol me) just play that?" I know the repertoire I am working on is extremely easy, but still - I'm amazed! When this happens I get a glimpse of myself playing something remarkable in the future! I know that sounds egotistical, but it's the truth. It completely motivates me and makes me want to practice even more!

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