Chinese Proverb

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lesson #70 (Jazz 05/30/2012): Etude & Bowing

I took a lesson once I got back from my dance trip from San Francisco, which I'm not sure was a great idea since I hadn't picked up a cello for a week! Though I practiced ALL DAY once I got back, which was really really difficult to get my fingering and bowing back.

I definitely missed my cello! It's times like those I wish I would have purchased an electronic cello so I could easily travel with it and just use earphones. But then again, electronic cellos don't sound as good and the fingering spaces will probably be different too.

Clayton also moved into a new apartment, and I'm one of his first students to play in his studio. Normally we meet at the university for lessons but this actually works out better for me since he lives down the street a few miles away. He'll also be leaving for the summer for Boston, so while he's away, he wants me to work on Schroeder's Etude Book and to continue to work on my intonation.

Schroeder Etudes:
He wants me to start at the beginning of the book, which looks fairly easy, but he said there are a lot of things to work on, especially if the fingering is easy.
  • Work on: 
    • Tempo 90 - I've been bowing at 60 bpm, so scales at faster tempos are kind of difficult for
    • Consistent tone, full bow in allotted time frame
    • Clean string crossings
    • Leading with upper arm and not my hand 
    • Other things I can work on: 
      • Different bow placements 
      • Lower tempos, like 72
      • Find different colors: rich sound, softer sound, etc.


  • Continue working on intonation, open bowing and using a drone. Work on the scale that is used in the piece before starting the piece. 

Bowing epiphany:
I made a break through in my bowing during this lesson! :)
  • I've been pushing my bow down unknowingly because I've been working on volume, which was making my bow slide downwards with the tip pointing upwards, so Clayton had me hold my bow up over my head (with my left hand holding the tip and the right hand holding the frog), and then slowly bringing it down in front of me while imagining it's a roller coaster handle bar. He pointed out that resting the bow on the strings should have the same arched feeling of the roller coaster bar coming into my stomach - which it wasn't! My feeling was more like - out and away from my body! I adjusted my bow so I could feel the arch which improved my volume without trying! Wow! :D
  • Another analogy I thought of, which is a bit morbid and weird, is if I had a knife, held it with my two hands and stabbed myself in the stomach (watching waaay to many martial arts movies), I'd have to go into an arch and kind of upwards with the knife to get it right into the middle of my belly. Weird analogy using the same arch, but it works! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lesson #69 (05/24/12): Long Long Ago (bow hold, volume)

A quick lesson before I go on my dancing trips, first to Seattle for a weekend workshop and then the following week another dancing workshop in San Francisco!

Long Long Ago:
We worked on Long Long Ago and my sound was sounding awful and I was struggling with my fingering for some reason. Things we worked on:
  • Volume and opening up the sound
    • I was pressing down on the bow again, and Adam reminded me to lead with my arm which fixed that! :)
    • Also, I was moving my shoulders too much instead of opening up my arm. I should think about free open movement, and no tight shoulders. 
  • Intonation - my fourth finger G keeps being to sharp ...again... I hate my pinky! 
  • Keyhole - I forgot about the keyhole analogy to get the bow in the correct alignment. The hair of my bow was laying flat against the strings, because I had been working on more volume, which is good in certain cases but shouldn't be my default. 
    • Anyway, when placing my bow on my string, I should imagine that the frog is a key, and when I bow the frog should be able to go into an imaginary lock; that is vertically. When I move to different strings, that still applies, which is why there are different elbow heights. Adam had actually explained this to me in one of my first lessons, but I had completely forgotten about it!  

Long Long Ago Variation:
  • A string - the notes I play on the A string seem to be muddied and not very clean. Adam recommended practicing these notes but over exaggerating these notes and making sure I have the string before I play the note
  • G string - notes on the G string are too short and not very clean. Adam recommended that I focus on the notes on the G string as well, and for now put accents on all notes on the G string. This way, it forces me to grab the string, and then later we can work on smoothing it out. 
  • Bow placement - make sure after the up, up bowing that I get back to the frog. I should be using the weight of my arm to really grab the string, which is easier when I'm back at the frog 
  • String crossings - make sure that I'm leading with my arm/elbow and not my hand which was what I was doing. When we get into more advanced bowing technique, then there is some technique that requires more hand movement, but for now it should all be in the arm with my hand just going along for the ride. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lesson #68 (Jazz 05/19/12): Greensleeves & Lullaby

Clayton had forwarded one of his student's parents who is a beginner pianist who wanted to work with a beginner cellist like me. She transcribed a few pieces for me to work on so we could do a few duets together but the problem is that I don't really know how to shift. I worked on the pieces but was struggling on finding the correct position and notes, so we worked on this during the lesson.


Different Shifts
We went over what the difference between what an underhand shift does versus an overhand shift.
  • Underhand shift 
    • Old bow, old finger
  • Overhand 
    • New bow, new finger
Great video that explains this as well. She's recorded a bunch of videos on shifting which has been very timely for me! :).

Things to work on:
There were two parts for Greensleeves, Part I, the harder part has shifts to 2nd, 3rd and 4th and part II, the easier part, only requires one shift to 3rd. 

Measure 3

Cello 1:
  • Shift to 4th position 
  • I don't like my tone in 4th position, so he recommended that I play closer to the bridge since I was getting a light ghosting sound. I think when I get scared to do something I lighten up on my bow to make it less obviously horrible, but in this case, lightening up makes it sound worse! Guess that won't work any more, actually I don't think it ever worked! Lol! :).
  • Going from 4th position to 1st position, we did some exercises to make it more smoother to return back to 1st position. I was pausing between the shift so was messing up the phrasing. 
    • He said think of it as an airplane landing
Measure 15 & 31

 Cello 1:
  • Shift to second position, fingering G#3, F#1, G#3, A4
  • I was playing an open A, but Clayton recommended that I just play A on the D string to keep the tone sounding the same. Although I don't like how my A sounds on D...I'm going to have to work on that. 
Cello 2:
  • Shift to third using Overhand Shift
    • Shift with first finger and replace 4th finger C, then tunnel and play fourth finger on the C string (G#), second finger on the C string (F#) and then 4th finger on the C string (G#) 
  • Fingering: G#4, F#2, G#4 
Measure 18 & 19:

Cello 1: 
  • Shift to 4th position 
  • Think about hand positions as "blocks" and not individual notes so it doesn't feel like such a huge distance 
Measure 26 & 27:

Cello 1:
  • Last note in measure 25 is an E on D string with 4th finger. Move first finger to fourth finger 


Cello 1: Measure 1 & 2
  • Shift to upper first position C1, Dx2, E4 
  • Play against a G drone 

Cossman Exercise

My fingering was a bit mushy and did not have very much "intention" or energy so Clayton recommended doing the Cossman Exercise below. 
  • Fingering
    • 1,4,3,4
    • 1,4,2,4
    • 1,3,2,3
    • 1,2,3,4
    • 4,3,2,1
  • Do this in first position, third position 
  • Hammer on / Pick off
    • I can't get the "pick off" yet, but the hammer on is getting there! 
  • Think about tensing (I don't think this was the word he used...) and then releasing the fingers into the fingerboard, NOT squeezing the fingers. 
    • If I were to lay my hand on a desk and pick up each individual finger and drop it, I should allow gravity to take my finger back down and there should be an audible thump. I should remember how this feels like and apply it to my left hand.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Practice Log #15: Minuet in C

Finally got around to recording Minuet in C! :).
I've been working on volume and it's really been driving me nuts on how harsh and scratchy I've been sounding lately....horrible!!! I actually recorded a video yesterday, but when I listened to it today and heard how awfully scratchy it sounded and I had to re-record.
This one is less harsh, but it's still annoyingly loud to me, and I'm not sure how I can get a rich tone yet without sounding so darn harsh! Ugh...ugly..ugly... *sigh* :(

Turn down the volume before you press play!

Things to work on:
    • I really HATE my tone at the moment. I like the fact that I'm able to go louder now, but I just can't make it sound good.
  • Speed
    • This is definitely a LOT slower than how my teacher plays this, so hopefully I can get my tempo faster.
  • Intonation 
    • Every time I focus on something else, like my bowing or fingering, my intonation goes out the window! I also stopped working on this piece to work on Minuet No. 2 and Long Long Ago in Book 2, so it isn't as good as how I played it before! :(. Yeah I know - excuses, excuses!
    • With the tuner blasting away during the video, my missed notes were pretty obvious too! Oops!
  • Bowing
    • My bowing is still skidding around all over the place even when I'm watching it to make sure that it doesn't do that, and my bow angles look weird to me. I think I may be pushing my bow too far forward to quickly...?
Whew - anyway, glad I got this recorded so I move on to Minuet No. 2. 

I thought this was an interesting piece for a few reasons:
  • First, both my teachers interpret this piece differently.
    • Since both my teachers interpret this piece differently, I decided to learn it both ways (although I only recorded the way Adam wanted me to do this). I know the piece says mezzo-forte and piano, but Adam wanted me to work more on volume, which I agree - I've noticed it's harder to get a good tone with loud volume, than it is to get a good tone while being quiet (for me anyway). And getting more volume is something I've struggled with from the very beginning, so better to keep working on that, especially since Minuet No. 2 has a few sections that are supposed to be forte. 
    • Also, Adam wanted my bowing to be more smoother and connected with the bow closer to the bridge, but I couldn't quite get it to be very smooth and because it sounded so harsh, I moved my bow closer to the middle. Hee, hee...
    • On the other hand, Clayton wanted it to be closer to the fingerboard to have a nice light and airy sound with it being more articulated, which I also like the sound of and actually prefer! It's just sounds so lovely and sweet! :). But I need to work on my weak points, so I decided to work more on volume and post that instead.
  • My teachers also phrase this differently. I've been exploring different ways to phrase this and I tried messing around with the repeats, which I didn't do in the video because my repeats always came out really bad, so I decided not to do the repeats when I recorded. I was practicing it with a really loud beginning the way Adam wanted it, and then a really soft repeat the way Clayton wanted it, but going from really loud to really soft messed up my bowing and made my tone and intonation even worse! 
    • Those two definitely have different schools of thought, but I really like both their interpretations. Although I kind of interpret having the notes being much more shorter and articulated so its easier to dance to. 
      • Although I'm sure I'll look back at this post and think, "What in the world was I thinking, I should have listened to my teachers because my interpretation was awful!" 
    • Also, when I listen to my teachers play this piece, Adam has a much more bold rise and fall, while Clayton uses mellower softer dynamics. It's funny because I kind of like it in between! Lol! :). They're definitely on the opposite sides of the spectrum. It would be interesting to see those two play something together... ;).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lesson #67 (Jazz 05/12/12): Volume & Phrasing

We've also been working a lot on tension, weight and volume, and since Clayton is a TA for the Musicians’ Wellness Initiative he's very much into playing with as little effort and tenseness while maintaining a good sound. I have the very bad habit of pushing down to try to get more volume and being really tense in my shoulders (and in my body in general), which has gotten a lot worse since I've been trying to get more volume, so we've been focusing on this for the last few lessons.

I've also noticed that I've lost some of the ringing tones from my previous videos and my sound sounds much more "stuck." I feel like I'm definitely pushing down on my bow again! :(.

I'm collapsing my elbow and I should remember that my bow should remain on the same path.

In a previous lesson we had discussed some ideas regarding posture and weight to get more volume instead of my bad habit of pushing down. Clayton mentioned the Lynn Harrell's YouTube videos below regarding posture and weight:

Clayton sent me the link to the video to listen to the different tone produced at 4:30(ish).

Lesson #66 (05/12/12): Minuet No. 2

Very short lesson notes... I didn't take notes and my memory is failing me (since I'm writing this a month later!). I'll add more details as I remember them.
We worked on Minuet No 2 again, and pretty much had the same issues as the previous lesson. I haven't had a lot of time to practice so maybe I should space my lesson out more until I can find more time! But then again, it forces me to practice.

Things to work on:
  • Smoother bowing
  • Slurs - make sure the timing & rhythm is consistent
  • Intonation - my C's were also very flat

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lesson #65 (Jazz 5/06/12): Chromatic Scale

Sorry to the folks who are subscribed and get a bunch of notifications, but I want to try and catch up on my notes.

Anyway, I'm back to doing some Jazz cello, which was put on the back burner while I worked on some classical repertoire and technique. I'm going to try and take a Music Theory class at the college next semester so hopefully that helps with my Jazz training as well.

One of the issues when I attended the jam session was that I discovered that I had a seriously lack of knowledge of my fingerboard! I practice my scales and even say the notes aloud, but I've discovered that it's all very superficial, because when it came down to it, when I was asked to play a certain note I couldn't find them very easily! Kind of embarrassing, but Daniel was very nice about it and I had explained beforehand that I was a total newb and still working on this stuff - still, a hard wake up call that I needed to start learning my fingerboard better! :(.

A great idea from Abigail McHugh's YouTube channel - spelling out words! I'll have to try this later:

Lesson Notes

Chromatic Scale: 
During this lesson we started working on the Chromatic Scale. I don't know what the deal is, but when I have to think about notes, my brain completely shuts off!! Especially, when we're going back down the scale! It's a little funny and embarrassing... Clayton would ask, what note is after D on the open A string going back down the scale and my brain would completely go blank!! ...uummmm B? Seriously, no exaggeration! Lol! ;). Okay, in my defense I was thinking about my bowing and fingering and we were learning some shifting and I was getting lost a bit... wow, brain overload...

He gave me a couple of exercises to do, which truthfully I haven't really practiced because my brain just shuts off when I have to think about this stuff!
  • Exercise #1:
    • Learn the enharmonic spelling => same pitch , but different spelling
      • First, try saying the flats
      • Second way through, try saying the sharps 
        • I can barely find the notes at it is, let alone switching between finding all the flats versus the sharps! Lol! :).

G Major Scale using different positions: 
These exercises are to get comfortable in moving around the fingerboard and to start learning notes as well.
  • Exercise #2:
    • Create a 3 note pattern in G Major, he said we'd go over D Major next time
      • Example: G0, A1, B3, then reverse => then A1, B3, C4, then reverse => move first finger to B, then play B1, C2, D3, then reverse => move first finger to C, then play C1, D, E and so forth...
  • Exercise #3:
    • Use only the first finger and move it to each note on the G Major scale, this means I will have to "shift" to each note; e.g. move my first finger from open G to A with my first finger, then move my first finger to B flat, than shift the first finger to B, and so forth 
    • Clayton mentioned that this should also help me with getting more comfortable with moving out of the first position. 
    • I should also remember to check pitches against open strings 

So far I can kind of manage Exercise #2 & #3, but I still need lots of practice on it! 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lesson #64 (05/05/12): Flying with a Cello & Minuet No. 2

This summer I decided to sign up for a beginner adult strings summer camp in August. The problem is I live in Colorado and the camp is in California.

I didn't know much about traveling with a cello so I asked Adam what I needed to do if I wanted to fly with my cello. Fortunately for him, he has an expensive cello case and is able to check-in his cello. I have an Eastman Z-Tek, which he did not recommend that I use for airline travel since it's not specifically made for it. He's flown several times without incurring damage to his cello (knock on wood) and only had his cello "lost" a few times; that is, it didn't arrive at the airport when he arrived.

I think he mentioned that his case was a BAM cello case, so his cello is completely suspended, but he would also wrap some towels around his cello before putting it in the case and would also duct tape the latches. He also mentioned often times if a latch is accidentally knocked loose or something, the integrity of the case is compromised so the cello can be more easily damaged so it was best to use duct tape and then use some GooGone to remove the tape.

Unfortunately, way too expensive for me to buy!

Adam also warned me that the fees (e.g. oversize baggage, carry on, another ticket for the cello etc) seemed to change depending on how knowledgeable the check-in counter person was or if they were having a busy day, because every time he flew he was charged a different amount even though the departure flight and return flight was on the same airline. He said it was pretty much a luck of the draw or lack thereof!

After the lesson, I was feeling pretty good about flying with my cello, but I decided to look online to see what my airline (United) would charge for my cello and discovered a bunch of horror stories about traveling with a cello instead! It seems United is notorious for how they deal with cellos. Apparently, my teacher has had more luck than most cellists when traveling.

Some discouraging cello travel blogs & articles below:
Great info on how to travel with a cello:

Anyway, my husband recommended that I just rent a cello once I get there (if they have one available, which they haven't confirmed yet), but I really, really, really want to bring my cello! *pout*
Maybe a month or two ago, I wouldn't have cared and would have used a rental cello, but lately I've started to really hear when I'm tune and can hear my cello's resonance much stronger than I did before. And, I think traveling with my cello and playing a minimum of 4 hours (not including practice time) for 5 days straight will really cement my recognition and muscle memory with regards to intonation, current fingering and positions. Check out the camp's schedule, it's exactly what I was looking for at my level. Actually, I think it's above my level since I haven't really worked a lot on shifting yet, but I think it's always better to have something right out of my reach. :).

After researching the different airlines online, I decided that I may want to drive to California instead, only to discover that it would take 20 hours and 34 minutes to get there... ouch! My husband definitely was making fun (and complaining) about my choice of musical instrument! - "Why did you have to pick such an expensive bulky instrument?!"

Although, so far, driving to California seems to be the choice for me. However, I would have to drive solo, which I've never done before! I've driven to places in California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and Texas (and Tijuana!) before but never alone, so it's kind of a scary thought driving alone. - What if I get stranded or something? Ugh..
I decided to rent a car since my old '93 Toyota probably won't make it to California. The cost of the rental from Saturday to Monday only costs $272.19 with unlimited miles, but I'm not sure how much gas is going to cost... I've always loved to drive (I'm kind of a speed racer and I've had my license revoked back in the day for speeding tickets, but that's another story...) so I'm kind of looking forward to this! Just me and my cello on a road trip... lol! :).

Anyway to my lesson notes:

Lesson Notes:

We talked mostly about traveling, but we also worked on Minuet No. 2 for a bit.

String Crossings
  • Keep my left hand down, and don't "jump" from string to string. I was lifting my hand when I don't really need to, I can just slide my fingers across, which will also help with my intonation. 
  • Slurs in Measure 29 & 30
    • My slurs were really obvious, and in this piece he wanted me to be much more smooth and "sneaky," i.e. I shouldn't be announcing my string crossings. He mentioned when I get to play The Swan, the string crossings need to be as inconspicuous as possible and this is a good way of starting to learn how to do this. 
  • Exercise #1
    • Example Measure 29: Think long bow on the open D, but I need to slow down before transitioning to the second note. Then grab the string on the 3rd note and do a short bow. I should think about using only half of the lower portion of my bow since I was using too much and it was affecting my sound. Then do the same for Measure 30.
  • Exercise #2
    • Insert a chord. For the slurs, I was moving my bow too fast, so Adam recommended adding a chord between open D and G, so it would slow my bow down and my transition wouldn't be so out of control.


  • My intonation was off, even though I got to warm up for 15 minutes before my lesson started. I really need to start doing scales again... slacking on that! :(
  • Specifically the measures that are similar to 2 & 4 - my C was just always flat! Adam recommended that I "visualize" or think about reaching further down, but not actually stretching my hands further. He said sometimes just thinking about it will correct it, but when I try to do it physically some people tend to overshoot it, so just thinking should help fix the issue. 

Start Book 2, Long Long Ago 
  • Recorded how to play this piece and went over bowing, but I didn't get to attempt this during the lesson since we ran out of time. 
  • Exercise #1 
    • To work on bowing, play the hooked bowing without the left hand first 

Behind on lesson notes again! Hopefully I can catch up today...