Chinese Proverb

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

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. 

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