Chinese Proverb

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lesson #25 (09/26/11): More Perpetual Motion and Variations

We spent the entire time on Perpetual Motion, but I really like working on technique anyway and he finally went into a lot more detail with regards to different bowing which I really enjoyed.
I get bored fairly easily so I love it when we go into the minutiae of cello technique. Otherwise, I feel like I'm just repeating the songs over and over without really getting anything out of it. However, when I have technique to work on, I feel like the songs just blossom because I have a whole new way to approach it so its no longer dull or boring!

When I attempted the new bowing (ack, I forgot to ask what the bowing is called again!) during this lesson, the sound was really, really UGLY and I was afraid to try it in front of my teacher because it was kind of embarrassing how awful it was! He pretty much said I shouldn't be afraid of trying new things - but it was more that I wanted to try it in the privacy of my living room first so I didn't have any witnesses during my EPIC FAIL in trying the new bowing~! :).

Actually, once I got home and tried it, it was much better and easier to do. I think when I get embarrassed I just tense up and over-think things so nothing seems to work. I've got to get over that somehow - otherwise, I won't be able to get feedback while I'm working on new things!

I also need to stop jumping in with what I think is wrong when he starts to give feedback. I always feel like my playing is never to my satisfaction and I can pick out a hundred different things wrong with the way I played it. ...Well, I take that back - it seems when I'm NOT trying that it just flows and sounds good; and I'm always surprised when that happens!
Most the time, he points out things that I'm not aware of or worried about, so my goal for my next lesson is to keep my big mouth shut and just wait for him to point out specifics!

1) Perpetual Motion in D Major
  • Some improvements from last week
    • My notes on the A string were weaker last week, and are better this week
    • The notes are more articulated this week than last week - this is still a work in progress though, my teacher definitely has more "bite" in his bowing
  • Need to work on:
    • The D notes on the A string are to sharp - during my string crossing to A, I drop my elbow which causes my pinky to also drop and make the D sharp 
      • The Fix: when moving the elbow back, think about lifting up my elbow and pulling back so the pinky goes straight back. This may feel like it will make the D flat, but it won't
        • Feels like drawing a bowstring
    • Going from open D to another note is typically hard because there aren't any other fingers down for a reference point. Therefore, in measure 4 during the open D notes, use this as an opportunity to put the first finger down
    • Exercise: 
      • In measure 4 for D4, D1, D0, D0
        • Play D4 and D1 normally
        • First D0 = play open D string, but at the same time put down first finger on A1 
        • Second D0 = play open D string, but at the same time put down fourth finger on A4 (then my finger is ready to play A4)
    • This is to help getting the correct intonation easier- as always, use any available fingers to help out
  • I'm rushing through some notes 
    • To slow down a bit, I should think about accentuating the second note every time a note is repeated
      • I'm not supposed to do this all the time, only when I am rushing through notes or increasing the tempo. 
      • This way, I can get used to paying attention to the second note and not rush through it. This will serve as a trigger/reminder to slow down when I see repeated notes
    • My teacher mentioned this was technique called "bracketing", overdoing something too much or too little so I can get used to the difference and settle on doing something in the middle which is typically the correct way to do it, e.g. overdoing some notes so I have to slow down and get the correct tempo 
    • Start using the metronome
      • This is going to be a tough one for me, I just recently learned how to use a metronome with my scales and have yet to figure out how to use it with songs. 
      • Adam recommended tapping my foot out to the metronome to get the beat, internalize it, and then try it with the song without the metronome first
      • During the lesson he observed correctly that when I tap my foot sometimes I'm tapping the beat (and my bow is following), but sometimes my foot tapping is following my bowing! It was amazing he could tell that, but he said it was because he used to do that all the time too

2) Variation B (Doubles)
  • I’m bowing too close to the bridge, and should be closer to fingerboard which is why I was getting the horrible scratching sound
  • For the doubles, I should start with the bow closer to the frog otherwise it'll be a lot of effort and my arm will be tired by the time I get to the end 
    • Make sure I start and stop at the same place - I was traveling to the middle of the bow
  • Use the whole arm, not the wrist 
    • For now, lock my wrist because my hand is getting too loose (bracketing again)
    • Also, my arm and body should jiggle with this bow technique if I'm doing it correctly!
      • hhmmm...what were the lyrics to that song..."jiggle it, just a little bit"
  • How the bow should feel
    • The bow pressure should be consistent through out and the sound continuous 
    • This does feel like a consistent scrubbing motion
  • The rhythm
    • The rhythm on this is a bit difficult for me. Adam thinks I'm over-thinking it (which I agree), so I'll have to listen to the recording in a loop for awhile to figure out the timing so I don't have to think about it and just do it
    • I think I'll also memorize the notes first so I can really focus on the rhythm and bowing and not have to worry about the reading the notes


3) Preparation for Doubles
  • This is a different bow stroke 
  • Bounce off the down bow, which will make the up bow lighter. The sound should be: STRONG-weak, STRONG-weak
  • Make sure I start and end at the same place on the bow

Some other exercises:
  • Play against open A string when playing notes on the D string to help with intonation

Weekend pictures: I took these pictures with my hubby on Sunday on my iphone. I happened to be listening to some cello adagios during our little hike/walk and the scenery and everything (the smell of fresh air and fragrant flowers and leaves, and the sonata playing in my earbuds) was just simply AMAZING!

    Practice Log #9: Perpetual Motion in D Major

    Why did I stop doing these logs?
    I started them again last week and I forgot how MUCH more I can accomplish in a shorter time frame. And I always get great epiphanies! Probably because I have to really focus on a specific technique.

    Last week I discovered I could finally move my pointer finger to help control my bowing. My teacher had said that was what the pointer finger is supposed to do during one of my early lessons, but it finally clicked and I was able to do it! Yaay!! :). I think my right hand finally discovered how to use my thumb as a fulcrum point so that my pointer finger is able to move around a bit.

    In retrospect, if I hadn't taken a break from my logs I could have finished two of my method books I was doing on the side! ...darn... Well, I guess, I won't be skipping practice logs for a long period of time any more!

    I've also had to cut back on my practice time so I've had to be more efficient in my practice. I work full time and was going to take a full class load (4 classes), and play the cello for fun, but that didn't work out ...totally burning the candle at both ends! :(. So I decided to take 2 classes and practice cello instead while working full time.

    Perpetual Motion in D Major:
    My attempt of more articulation in bowing. I recorded this after my lesson so I didn't get to work on the things we went over during the lesson.

    I'm not ready yet to try double bowing, but I think I figured out how to do the single "preparation bowing" before the double bowing for this piece. I'll record the double bowing and Perpetual Motion in G Major next week or the following week.

    I watched a video of my teacher when he was 5 years old playing Perpetual Motion with doubles during his first recital and it was so freakin' ADORABLE!
    I'm really tempted to post his video...

    My Practice Log:

    6 Keys to Achieving Excellence from the blog: Excerpt below:
    1. Pursue what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance.
    2. Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That's when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.
    3. Practice intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break. Ninety minutes appears to be the maximum amount of time that we can bring the highest level of focus to any given activity. The evidence is equally strong that great performers practice no more than 4 ½ hours a day.
    4. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments. Too much feedback, too continuously can create cognitive overload, increase anxiety, and interfere with learning.
    5. Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense effort not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also to metabolize and embed learning. It's also during rest that the right hemisphere becomes more dominant, which can lead to creative breakthroughs.
    6. Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of it. The best way to insure you'll take on difficult tasks is to build rituals — specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Lesson #24 (09/19/11): Bow Trials, New Repertoire (Perpetual Motion) & Catchup on Recordings (May Song & Allegro)

    One hour lessons are much too short for me! By the time, I'm warmed up and ready for new material the lesson is already over! Ack... it's funny, in the beginning one hour was way too long and my saturation point was more like 40 minutes before my brain couldn't take any more. Now an hour is just isn't enough time to go over the the things I want to!

    Lesson notes:

    Bow Trial - We looked at the two bows that I have on trial that come with the cello outfit (cello, Eastman Z-tek case and bow).

    Just a quick reminder: these are just my thoughts on how the bows felt to me and are not recommendations to purchase bows.

    As Lee aptly stated in the comments below, picking out bows is: "sort of like a Harry Potter wand selection experience - i.e. very personalized and that you will just know... So it's something your teacher can only help you with..."

    • My current bow: CodaBow Diamond SX ($615) 
      • This came with my first cello outfit, but I didn't realize this was a really good bow for the price. My teacher says he's able to do advanced bowing technique with this bow and its fairly responsive. I'll take his word for it, since all I know how to do is legato, legato and more legato!
      • This bow is a carbon graphite diamond weave with an acoustic kevlar core, but I've managed to break it already! See... I can break anything! :). I broke the eyelit a couple of days ago - the screw has been giving me trouble for the last couple of weeks and when I tried to loosen it  a couple of days ago - I heard it snap and the hair go completely limp! Fortunately, it only cost $25 to replace the eyelit which the bowmaker had on hand so it only took 10 minutes to fix
      • I think I've been spoiled...since I've used this bow from the very beginning, the standard for finding a bow that is as (or more) responsive seems to be fairly high and with that, a higher price tag! 
    • On trial: Eastman Cardenza Master Model 305 bow (value $650)
      • Description: Hybrid bow with Carbon core with a pernambuco exterior. Silver-mounted and inlaid frog and buttons, and French-style grip
      • This felt a little too heavy and awkward for me. I think this produces a colder sound than the Paeshold bow, although it may project more, but I haven't tried it in a larger room yet. My teacher seemed to like it though
    • On trial: Paeshold 237C (value $930)
      • Description: Ebony frog Nickel/Silver fitted, Ivory tip, pernambuco, round, 82 gms 9.25" balance
      • I like how this feels in my hand. I've always had an issue with my thumb tightening up, but for some reason this doesn't have the same effect on my thumb. I also think this has a richer and more fuller sound than the Cardenza, but I have to remember that it doesn't need as much weight to produce sound
      • My teacher brought up some interesting points regarding pernambuco bows:
        • 1) The heart of Caesalpinia Echinata tree, commonly known as Pernambuco, has been used for making bows for the past 250 years, so they've become increasingly rare. So much so that many bow makers are now using other types of wood and materials (e.g. snakewood, rosewood, carbon fiber, etc.). Therefore, he suggested that it may be a good idea to buy a decent pernambuco bow since the price may go up. He mentioned that his handmade bow has tripled in price - his are higher quality professional bows, so I don't know the extent the value will increase for beginner/intermediate pernambuco bows, although I would assume they'd also increase somewhat
          • hhmmmm...maybe I should look into getting a good pernambuco bow sooner than later!

          • 2) Also, I already have a Carbon Fiber bow so getting a pernambuco bow would be a good idea so I can get two different sounds:
            • Carbon fiber bows generally make the sound more sprightly and bright 
            • Pernambuco generally makes the sound warmer with a richer timbre

      • My teacher mentioned that my intonation was better but I haven't really been working on intonation since I haven't been able to practice on my new cello, which is sadly back at the shop because a few open seams developed a couple of days after I got it back from an adjustment...I have all the luck!
      • I think it may be because I've had to pay more attention to where my fingers are located because the finger spacing for all three cellos are different
      • Also, changing out strings has caused me to pay attention more to the sound because breaking in some of the strings takes a few days and some strings change pitch fairly rapidly when breaking in (Obligatos & Evah Pirazzi to name a couple) so I've been placing my tuner by my sheet music as I play and have been checking to see if I hit the notes instead of looking at my fingers

      Worked on repertoire:
      I've been remiss in posting videos and since I'm already working on Perpetual Motion and haven't posted May Song or Allegro, I thought I'd better post those first. They're still a work in progress, but I thought I'd better just record and post them before I get too far behind in video recordings.

      These videos are after working eight hours, going to an hour cello lesson and going on a walk with my hubby so I look pretty tired! ;).Yep, I know - I should have done a repeat for May Song, but I was being lazy!

      May Song:
      • Tried to add dynamics - I thought I played measure 7 & 8 more softly, but it really isn't that noticeable in the video. But being behind the cello it sounds more noticeable to me! Really, I swear! :). I guess, that's why my teacher's been saying to make it more obvious and have more contrast with regards to volume!
      • A bit on the sloppy side, but I just wanted to get this recorded and over with, and I'm still having trouble with my string crossing from F-sharp to the A string...blah...

      Perpetual Motion in D Major
      • Bowing
        • The bowing for this piece is NOT supposed to be smooth, but with more articulation, so I need to stop the bow after each note
        • A string, work on:
          • Playing notes on the A string with the same volume I do on the D string
          • Lifting my arm to get the string crossing over to the A string correctly so that I have better contact between the bow and string
          • Using the same weight on the A string as the D string to get the sound consistent
        • Play closer to the bridge
          • Try playing closer to the bridge to get better articulation, but not too close or the notes/sound will "break"
        • Use the same tempo throughout the piece
          • At the end I rushed through the piece to get the song over with. I have a very bad habit of rushing through things, especially when I know I'm about to mess up! If I know my finger isn't in the correct spot and it feels like its slipping or the sound is about to break I'll rush through it to prevent that from happening! Or if I'm running out of steam, I figure I'd better rush through it before it all goes out the window! ;). Okay, I know - not good...I'll need to rethink my way of thinking!
          • Adam recommended going through the repertoire slowly and doing a small section at a time and then build on the previous section to build up muscle memory and stamina
      • Variations
        • Double notes - my teacher wants me to get this variation down
          • This should be interesting because I have ISSUES with short fast notes -  my hand either tenses up and cramps up, or my hand gets way too loose or sloppy
          • The bowing technique is what Suzuki calls "scrubby" => "ribbit" bowing. 
            • "Scrubby" bowing is in Allegro! Oops! The analogy being if I had a scrub brush and was washing the floor and was scrubbing back and forth, that's how it should feel like (or is reminiscent of)
        • Perpetual Motion in G Major 
          • I should give this a go - however, we didn't do this during the lesson and my teacher said it wasn't required. However, the other variations he definitely wants me to get down before I move on....darn...
      • F# exercises
        • Why in the world do I always have issues with my F#'s? At the end of measure 10 and the beginning of measure 11 where it jumps from D on the A string to F#, I always have trouble with my left hand. It's just not very coordinated doing this, so Adam gave me some exercises to do
        • Exercises:
          • 1) Keep first finger and pinky finger down on the A string and jump the second and third finger to the D string. 
            • For some reason, my fingers just don't want to do this! I can feel my pinky and my hand tensing up. Adam said that it takes time to build up the muscle memory
          • 2) Play that section as a chord - hold down D on the A string and F# on the D string 
            • This isn't how it is written, but it will give me some practice to get my fingers where it should be. The idea is to over-exaggerate the motion first to get comfortable with it before fine tuning it and having the fingers jump to their correct spots 
          • 3)  Play the arpeggio: F# on D string, open A, then G on A string
            • This uses the same notes, but gives my hand a break with the open A string, but I can use this to get familiar and more coordinated for F#
            • Also, try increasing tempo for more of a finger workout

      • Bowing
        • Use more bow especially for the first measure (D on the A string and open A note) since this is supposed to be forte. I think I was using maybe half of the bow, but it should be closer to 3/4 of the bow or as much bow as possible
      •  Video
        • Okay, the four notes that are supposed to be in forte in measure 1 seems to be a little forced (yikes!), so I think I definitely need to relax more into the bow and not push on the bow! I can definitely hear it in the sound - it sounds very choked and not ringing at all!
        • I think I'm trying to hard so I've stiffen up quite a bit. I can tell that my wrist is kind of leading... I need to remember to lead with the forearm more and use my entire arm. Ack, I've gotten really stiff again!

      Assignments for next lesson:
      • D Major Scale: work on full sound, articulated clean notes and good rhythm
        • Two notes per bow
        • Three notes per bow 
        • Four notes for bow
      • Work on Perpetual Motion
        • Work on bow articulation
        • Try the variations - double per note
      • Work on exercises to get fingers jumping from A string to D string for those darn F#

      I keep saying that I'll start my practice log, but this time I really mean it! I've noticed a decrease in learning new technique and also a decrease in my technique in general. And, I haven't had time to learn anything new from my other method and technique books because I haven't been using my time as efficiently as before - so starting tomorrow I'm back on it!

      Friday, September 16, 2011

      A quick thought on visiting violin shops

      Before coming across this wonderful shop, I didn’t like spending money on adjustments and couldn't justify this expense, but finding this wonderful shop has completely changed my mind!

      This violin maker David, is a great resource, has a wealth of information that he enjoys sharing, is patient and understanding, and has done wonders for my cello! I know finding a knowledgeable, experienced luthier is difficult and expensive, but I’m telling you its well worth it! I just can’t say enough great things about this shop!

      When I picked up the cello from his shop for an adjustment (he thinned and adjusted the bridge, replaced an ill-fitting soundpost and lowered the nut), he had me play it and then afterward asked me what I thought, which kind of threw me for second… “Huh? I’m supposed to give you feedback? Oops, better play it again and pay attention!”  
      In the past, all I did was drop it off, tell them what I thought was wrong, and then pick it up later to find it sounded better (and in one case – worse!)

      To me it played much easier and was more responsive, but was on the bright side which I tend to the warmer side, and I told him as much. He plays the violin so he likes brighter instruments, but instead of trying to convince me otherwise [which I’ve had another luthier tell me, “brighter is better and that’s what most professionals like” ....but I’m not a professional and my ears aren't that discerning yet. Maybe I’ll change my mind later...], he was very accommodating and moved the soundpost to make it sound darker! Apparently, moving the soundpost even a millimeter (or less) in a certain direction can make the sound brighter, warmer/darker, more brilliant and certain strings louder or quieter! WOW!

      He brought it back to his workbench and allowed me to watch him make the adjustments - more like hover like an annoying gnat! ;).
      We headed back to the sitting room to test it, and again he asked what I thought. This time I was paying attention and was ready! It sounded darker, but less open…  It’s hard to describe - “open” meaning I could tell that the sound carries throughout the room and projects further, whereas a “less open” sound seems to be thicker (almost muffled) and the sound sort of hangs around me like fog, instead of dispersing throughout the room.

      He adjusted it again and this time it sounded more open but still retained the warmth, and it made my A&D string brilliant and my G&C string smooth and rich! It’s totally magical. Yep – MAGICAL!

      With all of my different string combinations, he was able to get it sounding 200x better! Not to say my efforts were a waste of time, I learned a lot about strings and I still needed to find strings that were balanced with the sound that I wanted, but he made my string combination that much more better! He also gave some string recommendations. However, I still want to experiment to find different sounds and to discover the relationship between the string's tension, string's material and cello. I've yet to add bridges to that mix, but that will probably be next year.

      I just can't stop raving about this shop! I’m not here to advertise his shop, which is why I’m not listing the shop's name. Is it bad to keep a good thing a secret? ;).
      Well, I guess if you're local and are curious let me know. Actually if you’re NOT local, I don’t want you going to the shop so he’s too busy to take MY appointments! Just kidding…well, kind off… =p.

      Anyway, find a knowledgeable, experienced luthier that you like and trust (his was the 4th shop I visited), ask them a lot of questions, learn more about your cello and enjoy the experience! I think if more people knew what these wonderful professionals can do for their instrument they’d be visiting more often! And maybe it wouldn’t be as expensive….supply and demand, right? ;).

      Thursday, September 15, 2011

      A trip to my favorite violin shop - Part 1: Bow Maintenance & Rosin Maintenance

      I took a trip to my favorite violin shop a couple of days ago. I LOVE going to this shop - like a kid in a candy store! :).

      This is my third visit and I always end up spending more time than I should! Although David has been really nice about not charging me the full amount for the time spent there because I ask waaay too many questions, but I think he likes explaining things to someone who's really interested. I think a violinmaker's job is totally fascinating! I always learn so much visiting this shop and its really interesting when he shows me different aspects of the cello or shows me the processes of putting his violins together. SO MUCH FUN!! I know, I'm weird... :).

      During my last visit, he explained how they cut the wood to create the front and back plates of the cellos and his trip to Europe to pick out the wood he was going to use to create his violins. I would totally love to sit and watch him put together an instrument!

      I had brought the two cellos I had on trial to the shop and David went into some great detail with the measurements and what those measurements meant. Although I'll try and not go into too much detail because I kind of think that violinmakers want to keep all this information a trade secret or something. Maybe not, but just in case... I don't want to offend him or anything.

      Anyway, I think I'll make this post a two-parter (maybe three) to go over bow maintenance and what to look for in a cello, and maybe cello maintenance. 

      Some great information on cello bows from Finckel's Cello Talks:

      Talk 8: What the Bow Does:

      Talk 12: Bow & String:

      Cello bow hair information:
      • The violinmaker explained to me how a cello bow's hair works, which is hair from a horse's tail. I hope I'm stating all of this correctly - he provided a lot of information and I didn't take notes. I didn't want to bust out with a pen and paper and ask him to repeat everything! ...such a dork.. :).
      • When talking about bows, most people will explain it as barbs sticking up, which is what the rosin attaches to.  However, hair shafts are more like shingles on a roof, see magnification of horsehair below from a microscope:
      • Okay, I have to admit that kind of looks gross to me (it reminds me of insect legs or something!) and I have a weird compulsion to scratch at it.... LOL! :). Anyway, rosin gets trapped between the grooves which allows the bow to grip the cello to create sound. And if you've ever had a brand new bow that has never been rosined, than you know the bow will just skate atop the strings and doesn't make much sound
      • So what happens when I don't clean my bow? ...which I've NEVER cleaned my bow before! Oops!
        • 1) The rosin accumulates and also starts to harden. Hair is made of several layers, and eventually the build up will cause the outer layers of the hair to thicken and harden 

        • 2) The horse hair starts out to be circular, but due to bowing and rosining, over time it starts to flatten and become more oval in shape. Therefore, the rosin has less surface area (crevices) to attach to:
        • 3) This causes most cellists like me to add more rosin to try to get the bow to grab the hair like it once did - which only compounds the effect, i.e. the build-up of rosin gets thicker from application of more rosin and the hair's walls become denser and thicker which also makes the hair less flexible and more prone to break! ...ahhh... that's why I've been getting some breakage!

      Bow Maintenance
      So how do I keep my bow hair as healthy as possible?

      • Normal maintenance: wipe off the excess rosin from the bow, loosen the bow and then put it away 
        • Keep a cloth just for the bow hair and to wipe off the strings; and another cloth to wipe off the body of the cello paying attention to the area around the bridge
      • Once a month clean the bow hair using a toothbrush!
        • What? Yeah, I never heard of this before either! Why didn't someone explain this bow maintenance to me when I first started playing?
          • 1) Take a clean toothbrush and gently run it through the horse hair at an angle
            • A puff of rosin may come from the bow, which is normal. This will help with the responsiveness of the bow
          • 2) Blow on the hair to get the extra rosin dust off
          • 3) Then wipe off the extra rosin from the bow
      • Look at the bow under a light and the hair should be fairly shiny from its reflective surface which will tell you if the bow hair is "healthy"
      • I'll add some pictures later when I clean it next time

      Rosin maintenance:
      Rosin is equally important in producing the sound. I asked him if he had any recommendations for rosins and he just asked what I currently have, so I handed him my Andrea rosin, which apparently is a fairly good, expensive brand. It came with  my first rental cello outfit so I didn't have to purchase it.
      • He looked at it to make sure that it was still good, which it was, but I forgot to ask how he knew that was the case. I'll have to ask him next time I visit the shop
      • I was starting to wear small grooves into the rosin, which I didn't know was a "no-no"

        • Why? Apparently grooves in the rosin create more surface area which allows for more oxidation of the rosin. Since terpene is a major component of resin, it can be modified chemically through oxidation, which is why its important to always seal up (or wrap) rosin when its not being used and why rosin generally doesn't last very long. Rosin is generally recommended to be used within a year
          • The rosin I'm using has a screw on cap which should allow the rosin to be preserved longer. I think David said up to three years
        • David recommended when I rosin my bow I to go across different areas of the rosin to keep it relatively flat to prevent grooves from occurring
        • Also, most cellist use two rosins - one for the warmer seasons and another for the colder seasons
          • The darker rosins are generally for cold and dry climates or seasons while lighter colored rosins are generally for hot, humid climates or seasons. Living in Colorado with its dry, and mostly brisk weather, I should be able to get by using dark rosin only. I'll have to post more info on that later

      Bow parts:
      Always a good idea to know the different parts of the cello bow

      Part 2 should be in about a week or two...scratch that - I'll post it under a blog called Cello Review & Purchase.

        Tuesday, September 13, 2011

        Lesson #23 (9/12/11): Polishing Up Old Repertoire

        Finally another lesson after a two week hiatus! I definitely needed a cello lesson fix!

        I guess the devil's in the details because we're revisiting all of the old repertoire to get it more polished, which I don't mind since Adam is introducing some interesting concepts.

        We went over the old repertoire during the entire lesson, which I found to be very interesting and we did a lot of practicing during the lesson. I always enjoy it when my teacher accompanies me because it always sounds so much better and I can get my timing and intonation better by listening to him while I play. :). He went into phrasing and dynamics and what makes these songs flow and how to interpret them.

        • Dynamics - refers to the volume to indicate how loudly or softly the musician is supposed to play a section of the song

        1) May Song
        • I've still have to work on those darn F#s - I'm still rushing through them!
          • I should try counting it out with 16 beats per measure ("1 and 2 and 3 and 4") and do the string crossing to the A string on "2 and" to get the timing better. I really don't think I can coordinate all that, but I'll give it a go
          • I had him play the song with me and I definitely had some funky (and not in a good way) rhythm going on because I could hear the discrepancy in my timing compared to his. I recorded him playing it so I'll try playing along to try to get my rhythm more in time with his. I figure he's the one that will be determining if I can move forward in the repertoire so I'd better play it like he does!
        • Singing
          • This rhythm for this is just not clicking with me. He recommended singing it first before playing it to really get it into my head. This is what he does when he plays more complicated pieces because it really lets him focus on his timing and rhythm instead of his bowing and fingering and such. Time for some singing... 
        • Dynamics 
          • Forte needs to be loud - for me much, much louder!! There wasn't much contrast during the 5th and 6th measure because I was playing medium to medium soft. Or more like: medium to medium! LOL! :). Actually, I definitely know I can produce more volume, but for some reason it wasn't quite working today. I think I was a little tense from my usual nervousness so I wasn't able to relax into my bow to get a bigger sound - that, and my bowing was also off  
          • My teacher mentioned that volume is all relative and can depend on the other musicians, e.g. if playing in orchestra and there are 7 cellos than forte doesn't need to be played forte but more like mezzo-piano
        • Bowing
          • Time to re-visit my bowing again! I was noticing the last couple of days that my bowing was starting to get "weird," but I wasn't sure exactly was going on. My teacher said I was pushing my bow forward again and my bow didn't have full contact, especially after some of my string crossing. 
          • I'm going to have to incorporate my 20 min bow warm-up again. I had this on my Practice Log, but stopped using the log...I think I'd better start the log back up again since everything seems to be slipping

        2) O Come, Little Children
        • Bowing 
          • Measure 12 - use LESS bow (use only half) and save the other half of the bow for the second B note 
          • Work on getting a fuller richer sound - more bow contact and volume
        • Phrasing 
          • This piece has fairly clear phrasing as the quarter rests indicate where one phrase starts and one begins. I just need to make sure that I give enough time for the rests 
          • Measure 12 - we discussed how this could be interpreted. To me, measure 14 was the "peak' of the song, while measure 12 was a "small peak" before the actual summit
          • He recommended starting the crescendo on measure 8 with piano (p) [soft] and increase in volume by using more bow and weight, but to also to remember the second B note in measure 12 is the beginning of a phrase, so make sure I don't skip over the rest before starting the second B note to give that note its fair share of the limelight
        • Interpretation
          • Since this is a Folk Song and is passed down through generations, the interpretation varies greatly. Unless, the composer specifies how to play the piece than I should start learning different ways to look at sheet music to find ways to interpret it 
          • My teacher demonstrated a few different ways I could lead up to the D note, which is played forte in measure 14 to make it sound and flow differently. 
            • I wonder how many different ways I can make that section sound? That should be pretty fun! I've also found that by trying different dynamics I've learned to control my bow more

        3) Go Tell Aunt Rhody
        • Dynamics
          • In the revised Suzuki Book Vol. 1 I'm using, it doesn't have dynamics from measure 5 through 12 for Go Tell Aunt Rhody. However, my teacher says that measure 5 and 6 should be forte (loud) and measure 7 and 8 is mezzo-piano (somewhat soft)
          • A lot of times repetition of notes are used to make it sound like an echo of the previous phrase. Or a "call and response" - the first phrase may be a loud statement or question and the following phrase is a softer response/statement or answer
            • In general, when a phrase is repeated, the second repetition is played differently using different dynamics or bow technique to add expressiveness to make the piece more interesting
            • Although he says not to go totally crazy on this because sometimes a repeat of notes should sometimes sound like a repeat of notes depending on what the piece is trying to convey
          • I only got to play this twice, but the second time when I added dynamics it definitely sounded a lot better and was more fun to play and hear the difference!
        • Bowing
          • For this particular song, my bowing sounded a lot richer and fuller to me, but I'm not sure what I'm doing with this piece that I'm doing with the rest that is making this sound better...actually I think I use more bow for this piece than any other songs I've tried so far. I'll have to try using more bow for the other pieces

        4) Allegro
        • We played the next piece Allegro really quickly and only once because we ran out of time, but I didn't play it as well as I normally do! :(. My bow was just being squirelly today! I definitely need to work on my bowing again!
        •  Adam said that I interpreted the ritardando (gradual slow down) in measure 12 correctly, but I think I should have made E a little bit longer and slowed down a bit more. He says when he used to play this when he was younger, there was always one person that would play right through the ritardando, which he's also done!

        I think I've finally picked out my cello! Yaay!! :).
        I have it at a violonmaker's shop to make some adjustments (lower the nut, soundpost adjustment and bridge adjustment) and will be picking it up today.
        I'll post those pictures tomorrow, or more likely this weekend some time when I have more free time. I already have my first quiz this semester (tomorrow) and then a couple of exams at the end of the month! 

        I've also been doing some some research on rosin. Hmmm....I'm always doing some kind of research on a cello-related product! Learning to play the cello is very expensive hobby! Which reminds me - I need to post my thoughts on the strings that I've accumulated. I'll have to post those at some point too.

        Saturday, September 3, 2011

        Lesson #22 (08/29/11): Cello Testing #2 (Part 2 of 2)

        Another thing I discovered while testing these two cellos which I've discussed with my teacher.

        If I play one cello first for a couple of hours and then play the other, I prefer the first cello I played over the other!
        • If I play the Eastman cello first, the notes sound very rich and singing, and then when I play the Wultur cello next, it sounds overly loud and boomy. The Wultur cello is a naturally loud & robust cello
        • If I play the Wultur first, than it sounds rich with a certain presence, but then when I play the Eastmen afterwards, the Eastman sounds too quiet and lacks a rich quality

        This was very confusing to me, but it made me think if there was anything on the psychology of buying a cello regarding how a person's ear is being TRAINED while they are doing a cello trial and how it affects their preferences, and what is the likelihood of someone purchasing a cello if the trial period is extended. 

        I was thinking as long as comfort and playability aren’t factors (which I've now learned is a very important in looking for a cello, but was only looking for sound before), then the chance of returning the cello probably decreases because the person is training their ear to PREFER that specific sound. I think this may be a feedback mechanism… I'll have to research this further and post my findings!

        This got me wondering how much of this affects my developing personal preference in sound and what is its lasting effect? So what happens if I play the same cello for 10+ years? How likely or how difficult will it be to find another great sounding cello since my ears would be so attuned to the sound of that particular cello?

        Also, I was curious how much of the sound preference is influenced by the TEACHER. Since a student’s ear is still developing and is using their teacher’s cello as the point of reference!
        I found it very odd that I had almost the EXACT same thoughts as my teacher about the sound of my cello when I changed out the strings!! I had brought a cello that I was testing to my lesson with the original strings, and then the following lesson brought it in with my new string selection. We both thought the cello sounded too bright and that the original strings sounded better! When he gave me his feedback on the strings during the lesson, his words were almost verbatim of my own thoughts regarding the string selection! It was very weird...I seriously thought he was reading my mind! Lol! :)

        So subconsciously am I trying to find a cello that has a sound similar to that of my teachers?
        I joked with my teacher that how would I know if his cello's sound was any good, since his was the one I was using as a reference point! However, I do think his is a great sounding cello - in comparison to other cellos as well.

        Anyway, my teacher had come across this same issue when he recorded the same piece on different instruments and about half way into listening to each version his ear had gotten used to the way the cello sounded and liked it better than his original initial impression. Although this can also depend on recording quality, he's had his other fellow cellists listen and have the same issue.
        So there is definitely an issue with getting used to a certain sound and not realizing it. I forgot what this was called, but we covered this in my Cognitive Psychology class, I'll have to look at the textbook and post some info on this.

        However, my teacher did say if I don't like a particular sound, than I won't like it and my ear won't get used to it.

        Here's a fun little experiment my teacher sent me:

        Below are audio files of my teacher playing a tango. He's playing all 4 parts. He recorded the 4 tracks and then put them together. All of them are recorded at different locations with different mic mixes and different cello's or cello set ups.

        Listen to the recordings:
        1. First impression: Listen to the beginning of each recording first and see what immediately grabs you. Describe it and explain why its your favorite
        2. Listen to the entire recording: What happens after listening to the whole recording and then move on the next. What changes?
        3. Skip to different sections: Listen and compare
          • I found this to be the easiest way to compare the recordings because my ear doesn't have time to get used to (desensitized) to the recordings
        4. Listen in different orders:  What happens to each recording? Does it sound different?

        El Choclo (2011)
        • My teacher recorded this a few nights ago with his current cello and set up (with a French bridge)

        El Choclo (Whedbee):
        • The cello used was a friend of his that he used for several years before finding one he liked better. The value of the instrument is $35,000, which he borrowed to make a Christmas recording and threw in this tango for fun

        El Choclo (Walke):
        • This recording is right after my teacher purchased his current cello, and has different strings with a belgian bridge instead

        I should post my thoughts on each, but I don't want to make this a three-parter!

        Some good articles on music and listening. They're a bit too short with not enough information, but its a good start. I'll have to look at the original publications for more information...hmmm...maybe I'll post them and write a short blurb...

          Lesson #22 (08/29/11): Cello Testing #2 (Part 1 of 2)

          I didn't have a lesson last week because Fall classes started last week and my teacher and I had conflicting schedules.

          This week's lesson we tested and recorded a couple of cellos I have on trial. I think I'm really close to choosing a cello! There will be one more lesson to test the last cello (another Eastman cello) and then I'll finally have a cello to call my own!! :).

          Testing cellos has definitely made me solidify and hone in on what type of cello sound I like versus the ones I don't like. I've discovered I like very rich, warm sounds, and I don't particularly like smokey or bright sounds.

          Also, I've read, and was told by my teacher, that how a cello sounds with me playing it ("under my ear") is quite different than how it sounds to people in front listening to it or people in the same room in general! I didn't think it would be that huge of a difference but the sound really is different!

          Before going into this lesson I was leaning towards the Eastman cello because it sounded warmer, velvety and smoother to me. While the other cello, a Calin Wultur cello, sounded too smokey and not particularly warm! During the lesson my teacher recorded the test (he's playing the cellos in the recordings too) and I discovered that the one I favored least before the lesson, the Wultur cello, was the one that sounded best in the recording!

          When he emailed me the recordings the following day, I was really surprised that I liked the Calin Wultur cello more. I emailed him with my initial thoughts below with each recording. He was also surprised that he liked the Wultur cello as well.

          The first half of the recording is the Calin Wultur and the second half is the Eastman cello. My teacher spliced up the recording so I could listen to both cellos one after the other to compare them more easily. The recording highlighted in green is the cello I preferred.

          Just a quick note: I kind of put my teacher on the spot with the recordings. ...heh, heh... he was playing the passages from memory and he didn't know I was going to post them later so the pieces were unpracticed.

          Beethoven excerpt
          • 1st recording: nice full round sound in the beginning and robust lower register
          • 2nd recording: nice upper register, but the lower register was not as full as the first recording

          Brahms excerpt
          • 1st recording: lower register has a nice big sound, which I liked! Nice upper register, sounds sweet and round/open. Good volume
          • 2nd recording: quieter lower and upper registers, and also sounded more closed than the first recording

          Dvorak excerpt
          • 1st recording: chords didn't sound very full and the upper wasn't very rich. Although my teacher said he didn't play the chords as well as he should have and it wasn't because of the cello
          • 2nd recording: this was a little quieter, but I found this to be rounder and the chords sounded better

          Elegy excerpt - this was a toss up!: 
          • 1st recording: nice robust warm upper, good volume and color
          • 2nd recording: a bit quieter, but more expressive?

          I initially liked the Wultur cello because it was extremely responsive and had great volume so I didn't have to work too hard and it was very enjoyable to play, but I didn't like the voice on this cello. Listening to the recordings made me realize that I needed to give the Wultur cello a second chance, especially since I really liked how this cello played and sounded in the recordings - although I didn't like how it sounded "under my ear."

          The original strings on this was Jargar A&D and Belcanto G&C. The Belcantos sounded too smokey on this cello, so I switched them to Jargar Fortes since I read that these strings typically do very well with Belgian bridges and adds warmth and rich tonal quality to the sound - now they sound beautiful!! I changed the Jargar A&D to Larsen A medium and Larsen D fortes. The Larsen sounds warmer and rounder on this particular cello, but I know on other cellos Jargars can sound warmer. I did try out other string combinations including Permanents, Evah Pirazzi and Flexocor strings, but this combination was the best on this cello.

          Now that I've changed the strings to suit my taste more, it sounds really, really GREAT! So much so, that I'm having trouble deciding on this cello and the new cello I received a couple of days ago which I thought was the one and had made my decision on that one, but now... I don't know! This is going to be a tough decision!

          What did I learn about picking out a cello during this test?
          • Focus more on the playability of the instrument and how it feels because the voice of the cello can easily be changed by the strings or bridge!

          That would have really sucked if I had shipped this cello back and not tried out different strings on this cello because this cello is a KEEPER!

          The other cello also plays very nicely, although the Wultur cello does have a faster response... and neither cellos have a wolf so far! Although its too early to tell because wolfs can develop later, especially if the cellos are new. The Wultur is a 2010 and the new Eastman is a 2011.

          The next cello test should be interesting... I wonder how the Wultur cello will sound with new strings. I don't have a lesson next week because of Labor Day Holiday, so I'll post those results in two weeks.