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... 


  1. Aww, no need to get disappointed, I see there's a lot of point for me learn in this post, so i'd say it's a "blessing in disguise" :D

    Anyway, i've been having quite similar problem like you had on bowing last week, just that i have it on my INTONATION!

    It felt so weird that suddenly i lost my intonation now that i start to leave 1st position and more on 2nd and 4th in particular. Like you put it in last post, it was terrifying how you could go from 'knowing something a lil bit' to 'having no idea' least for me, i am too terrified that i shed my ego and start to use the tuner periodically (which my teacher doesnt recommend).

    During that period of total dissonance, even my 1st position went haywire, when i checked w/ tuner, my 'in-tune' notes heard on my ears were actually at least 10hz off with my relative-pitch skills didnt seem to pick anything. To make things worse, i havent been having my monday classes for 3 weeks now due to other commitments on both our sides - so i was pretty much alone :P

    Thank God for that article by on revisiting my thumb position. It was really the problem as the intonation sounds good when i start to carefully observe and position it correctly. Still improving, but at least my Air on G string now stops to sound like Teargas on g string :P

    p/s: Your bowing wrist looks very loose! i want :P

  2. Thanks Thaddaues for the encouragement!

    Although I guess you right - it is a blessing in disguise! For both you and me.
    It seems the worse I do during the lesson, the more I learn afterwards!! Maybe it has to do with the fact that I feel like I have to redeem myself during the next lesson, so I work harder than usual! :).
    But if I do well during a lesson, I feel like I don't need to work as hard because I felt got all of the things correct! Lol!

    Cello Professor is awesome! I want to try and use his intro. to vibrato...