Chinese Proverb

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

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