Chinese Proverb

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

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lesson #50 (Jazz #10 02/19/2012): Rhythm & Repertoire (Back to School Blues)

I was thinking about joining a Bluegrass ensemble playing the cello, but with my schedule I couldn't do it this semester. I'll try during the summer though, but I wanted a little more experience in jazz and classical first anyway. However, I think I may have found a group of jazz musicians that may be open to me jamming with them in the future! This should be interesting - or a complete disaster! LOL! :).

Another really great thing about Lindy Hop/Swing dancers, they're are a lot of really nice dancers who play instruments and are very welcoming with regards to their jam sessions! :).

It's like in any partner-dancing: to improve quickly, one needs to do a lot of social dancing! For musicians, I guess playing with other musicians is the equivalent.  Reminds me of the "sink or swim" mentality, but in a good way! :).

Lesson notes: 

Back to School Blues
  • My understanding with regards to meter and subdivisions was incorrect, so I had written in 4/4 subdivisions instead of 3/4 timing so everything was completely off. For some reason I thought the meter affected what notes were accented, but it affects the duration of the note (not the accent). So when I played the piece for Clayton he immediately said that I was playing it in duples, not triples. 
  • I had no idea how he knew that (I'm sure he could hear it right away), but the subdivisions that I had written in for the piece was 4/4. He played the piece for me in duples, then triples and I could definitely hear a difference in how it was played, but my understanding beyond that...well...let's just say I'm still working on it - although I think it's slowly sinking in...
  • He reminded me as I break down the piece into subdivisions, that most of the notes will fall on the 1 or 3, and in triplets, the notes' duration will be much shorter. 
  • He also recommended getting a metronome that breaks down the beat in subdivisions. He looked at my Korg TM 40 tuner/metronome but it didn't have that function, so he recommended that I set it to 3 beats with the speed at 180. He showed me his Korg MA 30 tuner/metronome which does subdivisions, so I think I'll be purchasing that, especially since its only $17.49! 
    • Although I already have 5 tuner/metronomes (I also have a Korg CA 40 tuner/metronome), none of them do subdivisions. I have two on my music stand, and two in my bag and my husband uses one for his guitar. I like using two tuners/metronomes at the same time during my practice. I turn on one for a drone which I put under my chair and the other one I put in front of me on the music stand to see the tuner needle, this way I can see and hear it visually. The drone is actually quiet enough that the sound doesn't get picked up by my second tuner. 
    • He also mentioned a really expensive, popular tuner/metronome - Dr. Beat Metronome. It says the subdivisions aloud! Very cool! Okay, I have to admit I like gadgets, but I'll have to wait until I get good enough to purchase this one! :). Although he says that it's pretty big and uses up a lot batteries so its better to plug in and use at home. 
  • Intonation - my intonation was really off on this piece! Although, I've noticed that if I'm working on bowing or rhythm, my intonation is the first to go! No surprise there! So I'm not too worried about this, although he would like me to stop looking at my tuner to see if I'm in tune. He keeps flipping my tuner around during my lesson so I can't see the screen!
    • Okay whining moment... it takes a really long time to find the correct notes!!! Ugh...okay, just be forewarned, be ready to sit there for a long while until I'm able to find the correct pitch! =p
    • So, same as what Adam recommended, start playing notes against open strings whenever possible. Which I'm kind of sort of doing, it just takes a really long time...and I never really know if I'm spot on. *sigh* I've seriously spent 30 minutes or more during a few practice sessions going up and down a scale trying to figure out if I'm in tune by listening to my cello's resonance...did I mention it takes a really long time to figure out if I'm in tune or not? 
  • My assignment is:
    • Re-do the subdivisions to triplets 
    • Clap the notes to the beat 
    • Then say the fingerings aloud with the beat 
    • Practice this in pizz and make sure that I am landing on the correct beat
    • Do just the bowing without fingering 
    • Practice the different rhythm with scales 
    • Combine the fingering and bowing! Whew - that's a long process!

Minuet C 
  • I need to record the rest of the Suzuki pieces by the 23rd, and I didn't get a chance to work on this with Adam, so I had Clayton go over it instead. This is really a nice piece! 
  • Minuet C is a piece that was played for a dance (waltz), and the emphasis is on one. He mentioned that I should record this, and if it doesn't make me want to get up and dance, I should keep trying to get that feeling. He mentioned that Bach's pieces mostly have a light and airy feel to them, while Brahms has a more powerful quality to his pieces. He played it both ways, and it was amazing how different the sound and the feeling was! 
  • My bowing was very even and on the heavy-side, so Clayton corrected my bowing and said that it should be, "heavy-light-light," like the rise and fall of a waltz. Another way to visualize this, was to pretend to tossing a tennis ball in the air and catching it, with the throw/emphasis being on one, while everything else is light because I'm waiting to catch the ball. 
  • For this piece, to get a nicer, lighter feel to it, he recommended playing closer to the fingerboard and to get a louder sound to use more bow. The "heavy" bowing just means a little bit more weight and bow, which should be horizontal, while the "light-light" bowing should release of the bow and is a shorter bow stroke. 


  1. What helped me with ryhthm has been the - New School of Cello Studies -Book 1 -Preliminary Grade (Percy Such). We used this at my first lesson (along with Suzuki). It has kicked me in the brain, but now I'm on study No. 27. I am always out of my comfort zone with these studies. We only used Suzuki for my first 12 lessons, and then moved on to a book called: Klassische Stucke Fur Den Anfang (Classical Pieces for the beginning). The ryhthms are more difficult, allowing for more variety and mature bowing. Also a lot more fun and engaging than Suzuki for an adult.

    If you have any questions about my lessons, let me know. Today I go to lesson "31"! I have been working on 1 string, 1 octave scales, very, very fun! Vibrato. Several pieces from the book- Bach for the'Cello, and my very first non-beginner Bach -Suite no. 1 in G Major Prelude (I'm 8 bars in, it will probably take me a year to get though it)!

    1. Hi,

      I'll have to check out Percy Such's book, I don't have that in my collection yet! :). I have the other two, and they definitely look a lot more complicated.
      Yeah, I have to agree, most of the pieces in the Suzuki book are not so fun. Although I've finally gotten to the last few pieces at the end of the book which is much more interesting.

      My co-worker started playing the Bach Suites after 1.5 years of playing, so I'm getting really antsy to get to more complicated pieces too (and you've already started - so lucky!). He had just started Suzuki Book 2, when his teacher left to tour, so he took lessons from another teacher and they decided to start the Suites! And yes, he plays them fairly well now! I think sometimes, you just have to be thrown in the deep end to learn how to swim! :). You'll probably get through it faster than you think!

      Yo-Yo Ma started playing the Bach Suites when he was four years old by learning two measures at a time. Granted I'm no child prodigy (or remotely close), but still... maybe I should throw myself into the deep end and just start learning how to play one of the Suites! did your teacher start teaching the piece to you? ;)

      Fortunately, my jazz lessons are going over the rhythm, note reading, music theory, etc. that is missing in the Suzuki method. Too bad I didn't start that earlier, although I'll definitely look into Such's book.
      Jazz lessons make my head want to explode and classical seems to be more about body movement and coordination for me.

      You're already on vibrato?! So jealous!!! Did your teacher have you do exercises before actually attempting vibrato? Are you using any books for vibrato technique?
      Also, how many adult students does your teacher have, and how long has he/she been teaching adult students?


    2. I would love to give you all sorts of info about my lessons, and will. But wondering if there is a way to email each other, without letting the whole world know either of our email addresses!

      My teacher agrees with the get out and swim attitude, she does not let me have any negitive attitudes and expects me to succeed, so I do!

      Every lesson incorporates something new, something I find difficult. I usually have two studies and 2-3 repetoire to work on , my lessons are every two weeks for an hour. I started on vibrato on my fourth lesson, added to my long tones. Then I had to do it on all whole and half notes, and then to scales. Now it feels weird not to do it!
      My teacher is just brilliant, I love her. She has quite a few adult students and at least 2 other beginners like me. (I wonder when I won't call meyself a beginner?) She has been a professional musician and teacher for at least 30 years. I feel quite lucky to have found her!!

      In my last few lessons I have had a number of pieces where I have to shift(half position, 2nd pos. and 4th position), it feels so different, but so fun to start using the whole cello.

      As far as Prelude, one of the cello studies I did had a similar note structure and so I printed out Prelude and got to bar 4 on my own and got stuck. So asked my teacher for help. So I kind of snuck it in! I am at the end of bar 7 now. This will be a two or three bar at a time project for a long time to come!

    3. You can email me at

      Wow, she gives you a lot to work on! Probably keeps things interesting though.

      ..hhhmm...I wonder how I can sneak in Prelude! :).