Chinese Proverb

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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lesson #75 (6/29/2012): Musette & Spiritoso

We went over 2 out of the 3 pieces that I’ll be playing at the workshop during this lesson. 


We recorded this piece and it seems to be the easiest of the three and is in G Major but with some accidentals (C#) and hooked bowing.

This wasn't too bad after practicing this for a couple of days after my lesson. I definitely scared myself when I looked at this piece. Although I don't think I would have been able to play this without a recording. I really should learn how to read rhythms better.


This one is tough! It’s in F Major but with a lot of accidentals (C#, B naturals & F#s). Actually I think Adam mentioned this was D Minor, since the first note started on D and the last note was an A. 
Adam mentioned that accidentals only apply to a specific measure and then go back to what was originally indicated. I can't seem to get them straight so I ended up just entering the fingerings for all of them.
And half step to B flat…ugh…

Shifting all over the place is really making my intonation bad on this piece too, and I can't figure out how to get back after I lose my placement/intonation. 
I’ve also discovered that extensions are fine as long as my first finger can hold my place, but if there’s an open string note first before an extension with my pinky, than I’m more accurate if I just shift a half step for me. I wonder why that is?

So far the most difficult part of this piece, sections 93, 94, 97 & 98. I can’t seem to make my fingers move faster. I can move my fingers faster if I’m in first position, but moving to half step to B flat first makes my fingers slow and sluggish.  

I'm cello number 5 in the cello choir (page 1 of 2 shown below), and I'm not sure how many cellos are in this piece. Hopefully, there are a lot more so I can fake my bowing and fingering!

Chant & Fugue

We didn’t get to this piece during this lesson, but Adam sent me a recording of it to work on a couple of days later. Since we didn’t cover this during the lessons, I attempted to put in my own fingers, so they're probably a little wonky. I like the sound of this piece, but I don't know if I'll be able to play it! ;)

I'm going to take a few more lessons before the workshop so I can get comfortable with these pieces. 

I have a few concerns:

1) I may not be able to get "comfortable" playing these pieces by the time the workshop rolls around; i.e. I won't be able to listen to anyone else if I'm concentrating too much on my bowing and fingering, and I'm only able to listen to other people if I know the piece fairly well. 

2) I get confused easily when I play with other people! If I hear something different than what I'm accustomed to, I automatically think it's my fault and have a mini-freak out and loose my rhythm, bowing or fingering! ;).

3) I don't want to hold anyone back and am afraid that I'll be the "weakest link," which is fine, but I don't want that to affect anyone else's playing. 

This is supposed to be FUN, but I think I'm stressing out on it, and only 17 more days! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

New cello music...uh-oh...

Lately I've been feeling that I've been making some strides in my cello practice; first, I think my bow hold is coming along and my volume is getting up there - my neighbor actually pounded on the wall a couple of nights ago! First time that's happened since I started playing cello. Although it was only 10:30pm (...come on, really?!), so I think my volume has definitely improved and I can feel that my cello can get much louder too. Sorry neighbors! =p.

Secondly, I've been playing duets with a beginner pianist, which has been really fun because we would start off really slow, and take it section by section, piecing together the music, and suddenly (I don't know how it happens) but we both "magically" hear how the music fits together!! It really has been interesting to hear the progression. Awesomeness... :D

Today, feeling a little over confident about my playing, I received sheet music for my first cello workshop that I'll be attending in July. I took one look at the music and had a mini-freak out and started questioning how I filled out the form. I did fill out that I was a beginner, right? Yes... I did write down I was working on Long Long Ago? Yep... then why am I doing extensions and doing weird rhythms? Did they send the wrong music by mistake? ...uh-oh...

Okay time for my (lame) excuses.... so I've only finished Book 1, and am comfortable with first position only. Granted there is a one note shift to second position in Minuet No. 2 and with Greensleeves I really have just been half-assing ('scuse my language) doing shifts (sorry, Clayton!). And my extensions - not very good. I HATE extensions, I'd rather shift than do an extension... seriously!

So the music I'll be playing (yes, I'm sure it's easy for everyone else):

Bach - Musette from Anna Magdalena Notebook (cello trio)
Upon further inspection, I think this won't be too bad. I just freak out when I see more eighth notes than half or quarter notes. Told you - I'm a newb! =p

Kibbe - Chant and Fugue for three cellos
Okay, this piece...OMG, not sure I can do this one. I freak out when I see a lot of eighth notes, this has a bunch sixteenth notes and a bunch of slurs. ...uummmm - heart attack?

Senallie - Allegro Spiritoso 
After seeing how many sixteenth notes are in Chant & Fugue the small section in this piece looks manageable. Both Kibbe and Senallie have C#, so the dreaded extensions for me... blah...

These pieces will definitely be a challenge for me! I was thinking this workshop would be a walk in the park because its mostly for kids, but I thought I'd try it anyway because I enjoy playing with other cellists... I guess it won't be a walk in the park after all!
What...I have to WORK on stuff to have FUN?? I forgot about that...LOL! ;)

I was planning on working on Suzuki Book 2 this summer and get some videos recorded, but I think I'll have to put that on hold until the end of the summer. I'll try to record Long Long Ago in the next few days and then start working on these pieces ASAP!! Less than three weeks away!

I guess it's better to have music that is above my level so I can improve during the workshop. I'd better just suck it up and start practicing! No wonder the instructions say "please take this to your private teacher!" Hopefully I don't hold anyone back in my assigned ensemble though. This should be an interesting next few weeks... ;).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Catching up...

Record drones - check!
Enter all my past notes into my blog - check!
Practice daily (practiced daily the previous week and starting a new page for my cello practice log tomorrow) - check!

Ha - finally, caught up on my cello stuff!!! :D.

Two more months of summer - I'd better make them count! By the end of the summer I want to record Long Long Ago and May Time, and also start working on Minuet No 1.  
So priorities are: cello practice, cello group, cello blog, web design stuff, and then last - dancing.

aahhh...Stjepan Hauser!

I'm a HUGE fan of Stjepan Hauser! I seriously have his album Song to the Moon on repeat in my car for the last few months, and now I'll have another album to listen to - Noc Nek' Tiho Svira!

Actually it seems I've missed out on his other albums too: Christopher Ball: Music for Cello, Brahms, Beethoven & Bruch for Clarinet, Cello, and he's on three tracks on Nino Rota Centenary Album. I guess I'm not that great of a fan after all! Lol! Got them now though! :).

I have no idea what Oliver Dragojevic is singing or saying, but it is just so absolutely lovely and mesmerizing! Who knew Croatians were so talented and the language could be so beautiful! Enjoy! :).

I didn't post all the videos, but here are a few: 

Oliver Dragojevic & Stjepan Hauser: Tristeca (Live)

Oliver Dragojevic & Stjepan Hauser: Ostavljam te Samu (Live)

Oliver Dragojevic & Stjepan Hauser: Vise Mi Nije Vazno (Live)

Oliver Dragojevic & Stjepan Hauser: Notte di Natale (Live)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lesson #74 06/21/2012: Long Long Ago, Book 2

We went over Long Long Ago which went much better this time! :).

It's funny I used to hate playing in the little practice rooms, but now I'm starting to like it because my sound sounds SO much louder and richer in there! It's almost cheating though because the room is so small...

A lot of positive things going on during this lesson, especially with my bowing: more volume, richer tone, bow isn't all over the place and I was able to use my first finger to grab the string.

Now that I have my bowing better, Adam wants me to focus on the left hand more.

The main issue when I play Long Long Ago is my G on the D string, so Adam recommended that I float my hand across the strings to feel how my hand feels during string crossings. He also said don't "jump" my hand across since I seem to do that fairly well and don't need to work on that. For this exercise slide my fingers across, and specifically for this exercise, it's okay for my fingers to get smashed and not stay rounded.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Practice Log #16: Minuet No 2

I've been working on Long Long Ago in Book 2, and I think I may have killed Minuet No 2, so I thought I'd better post it before it becomes another Twinkle! I think it's gotten worse over the past few weeks instead of better, which is another reason I think I'd better put it to rest.

So, I've been neglecting my practicing and haven't been practicing daily, but from today forward - until August 13th when I go on my first Chamber Summer Camp (yaaay!!),  I will be practicing DAILY! Really, I swear!!...hopefully... ;).

Lots of issues in this one! I'm just getting worse and worse on this piece...I guess that's my own fault since I haven't been practicing consistently. :(.

Things to work on:
  • Intonation - a few flat spots that were very noticeable!
  • Slurs - my slurs weren't very consistent in rhythm 
  • Tempo - this should be a little faster. I also started at a slower tempo and sped up!
  • Tone - still a little harsh to my ears! I want it to be rich and resonant, but smooth and soft at the same time...if that makes any sense! :).
  • Repeats - I hate doing repeats!! I really should force myself to start recording the whole piece. Okay, going on my goal list - from now on I need to record the entire piece including repeats... ugh..
On a positive note, my bow isn't sliding around as much as usual. Ha - listed a positive item! :).

I've also started doing duets with one of Clayton's student's mother who is a pianist. We're both beginners so it works out perfectly! :). We're working on Greensleeves together, so I thought I would record that as well. This is my first attempt on playing a piece that requires some shifting to 3rd and 4th position!!! Scary!!

Things to work on:
  • I think my movement for my shifts is incorrect because it looks like I'm leading with my hand and not my arm...
  • Make shifts more seamless so it's not as obvious and less of a pause 
  • My bowing kind of went out the window (sliding all over the place) since I was focusing on the shifts! 
  • And of course intonation! HORRENDOUS!
  • So many things to work on with this piece I don't want to list it all...*sigh*
Pretty bad!!! :(. But at least, in a month or so I'll have something to compare it to! Not as practiced as the other piece either... Ouch! In all fairness, I haven't really been working on this piece, I was playing the part that only requires one shift, and I haven't been practicing as much since I've been dancing, traveling, organizing, building websites....yes - excuses, excuses!

I was seriously considering not posting this video since this was a complete disaster, but I thought it may be cool to post another video in a month to see the difference. Hopefully for the better!

I'm not sure what's up with my sleeve!! I think I scratched my arm or something and my sleeve just stuck up there!!! Jeez...what a mess...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lesson #73 (Jazz 06/11/12): Long Long Ago, Posture, Intonation

This was the last lesson before Clayton leaves for the summer for Boston - 6 whole weeks!
We didn't want to start anything new, so we just worked on a few existing pieces in Suzuki. Unfortunately, I was really tired and couldn't really concentrate during this lesson. I played very poorly during this lesson! :(.

Long Long Ago:
  • Volume
    • I'm still working on increasing my volume, but it's made my bowing more staccato than legato because I'm trying to grab the string too much, so we worked on smoothing this out a bit more.
  • Phrasing
    • Clayton recommended that I work on phrasing a little more and make the first few measures one long phrase. I tend to pause too long and not lead into the notes. 
  • Intonation 
    • We started building each note in Long Long Ago, listening for good tone and making sure that each note rings before moving on to the next note.
  • Tone
    • I really want to get that lovely resonant tone, so he recommended that I play each note until I hear the sound I like, play that repetitively to get it into my muscle memory, and then move on to the next note. Find the tone that I like for that note, and then add it on to the next note, being careful to make sure the tone that I like stays the same.
Releasing tension
  • Posture - we went over posture and sitting in the chair and releasing tension. I tend to flex my leg and move around too much, or flex my foot or something.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lesson #72 (06/08/12): Long Long Ago (String Crossings & Dynamics)

I knew exactly what I wanted to work on during this lesson, string crossings and volume in Long Long Ago.

The dynamics for this piece go from medium soft, to forte to soft and then back to medium soft and my main problem was playing the dynamics without getting sloppy. I do fine when I'm playing forte and then piano, but going from piano to forte my bowing gets sloppy and I start hitting strings! Adam commented that this is very common for other players as well. 
He explained that when most beginners try to go from piano to forte, they exaggerate their movement too much which causes the sloppy string crossings, which is the case for me!

For now, what he recommended that I work on is gradually building volume, so instead of drastically going from quiet to loud, allow myself to go from quiet, to medium, to medium loud and then to forte.

He also recommended playing this very slowly to make sure that all my string crossings are clean and then increase the tempo.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lesson #71 (Jazz 06/07/12): Intonation

We've been working on intonation for the past lessons, and from now on we're just going to start with warm ups that work on intonation. I think I've complained way too many times that I don't like how I sound! :).

Every time I play something for him, Clayton asks, "so what do you think?" and I respond with, "I don't like how that sounds!" So now he's having me work on my quality of sound - and intonation has a lot to do with it (along with bowing of course), but I can't get that ringing resonant sound unless I hit the note spot on, which I'm starting to hear now. 

I've gotten better with telling him specifics of what I don't like either, instead of making the general statement "I don't like it" since he always follows up with, "what don't you like about  it?" ;).

Warm-up exercises
  • Scales - what we've been doing at the start of each lesson for the past few weeks, is to work on a specific scale. He would play a drone and then we would slowly work on a scale by slowly adding notes. So on the C scale I would play a D and then he would ask, "Is it in tune? No? Than is it sharp or flat?" If I'm in tune, we do it one more time, and if we get it, we move on. If we don't we start over. 
    • Yeah, it is a long process! In another lesson we spent a good 20 min or 30 min on just this! Most the time, I can't tell, but I'm slowly starting to figure it out. It's weird, my finger will slide up or down to match the note automatically, but if I consciously think to try and figure out if I'm too sharp or flat, I can't tell! ...way to go brain for over thinking things again...
    • It's a good thing that he's really patient because if I had to play a drone for someone, I think that would kind of drive me nuts! He said eventually I should be doing this on my own, but first, I need to learn how to recognize whether I'm flat or sharp. I especially have difficulty with E, B and F. 
  • Drones - my coworker had the wonderful idea of recording a drone; that is, bowing on the A string over and over to create the drone. The electronic drone for me is really hard to hear if my intonation is off and hearing a "real" A note being played on a cello is a lot easier for me to hear if I'm off. 
    • Clayton recommended that I record a drone playing C on the G string because it'll be closer to the notes that I'm playing so it should be more obvious for me to hear when I'm off.
      • Two things I've discovered: first, it IS much easier to hear when I'm off using the new drone I made playing C on the G string. 
      • Secondly, it is really, really difficult to bow consistently and smoothly for more than a minute! A very good exercise and test to try out! 
        • I ended up cutting and pasting  it to make a 5 minute drone since that is the perfect amount of time for me to break things up into chunks to work on specific sections since I always time myself in 3 min - 5 min intervals to focus in on different sections - now I don't need to use my timer, I just need to wait for my drone to stop! :).
  • Arpeggio - I've been concentrating on my bowing so a bad habit of mine has resurfaced - when I move my hand to a higher string, it becomes sharp, and if I move it to a lower string it becomes flat. Clayton recommended that I work on arpeggios, and when I move to the next string, leave the fingers behind so I know where my hand is in relation to the other fingers and to the fingerboard. 
  • Double Stops - Clayton loves working on double stops and advocates them since it puts the hand in the correct position and is great for intonation. 
    • I seem to have issues with my hand touching the other string so I get a scratchy squealing sound, which obviously means my hand position is incorrect! 
    • Also, he recommended that I try to play open G with the notes in Long Long Ago whenever I can. 
  • Open strings - to help find the "quality" of sound I want, Clayton recommended that I bow on an open string and find the sound I like (loud, soft, open and smooth, harsh, crunchy, rich, etc), and then add a finger and then really listen to make sure that adding a finger doesn't affect my bowing or how I want it to sound, and then build on that (add more notes).
    • I've discovered my sound seems to change when I add a finger to my bowing! 

Body Awareness
My left hand and my bowing get really tense when I have to concentrate on something, so Clayton recommended picking a body part (like my right foot) and concentrating on that while I play a passage. 

This should do two things: first, it should loosen some body tension for my bowing hand and left hand, and secondly, this will start training me on being aware of multiple things at once so when I start playing with other musicians it'll be easier for me to pick up on cues.