9:00 Warmup Class
The instructor asked how many people had started shifting, and me and my stand partner were the only two who had not started shifting until we received the music in the mail! She had been working on the last piece in Suzuki Book 1 but playing for two years, and I was on the first piece in Suzuki Book 2.
She said that we should all be very proud about learning how to play the pieces we were going to perform. She mentioned that her high school students who were mostly in Suzuki Book 5 had just performed the Chant & Fugue piece and she knew a lot of us weren't quite to Book 5 yet.
She started us off on some shifting exercises, and she said the goal was to "trick" the teacher by shifting and not being able to tell that we had shifted. She asked if any of the students would like to demonstrate, and all of the little kids enthusiastically raised their hands again. She had us close her eyes and they shifted and we were to guess if they stayed in first position or shifted, surprisingly all of them shifted and hit the note!
Next we went over bowing at the frog and tip, and this time we were to "trick" the teacher by bowing at either the frog or tip and making sure that it sounded the same at either location.
10:00 Chamber Coaching
We practiced Blue Eyed Darling, which was something I really needed to practice. I'm telling you, singing and playing at the same time makes my brain explode!! Especially chopping and singing at the same time! I sing horribly, but it was fun trying to sing and play at the same time.
We went over how to set up a schedule which was very helpful! I had actually set up my schedule this way but after a lot of trial error. Our instructor had said there should be 4 components during practice: scale, etude, piece and review.
- For my level, she said that I should be practicing three scales: Dmaj (1 octave), Gmaj (1 octave), and Cmaj (2 octaves)
- Also, she highly recommended that we rotate either weekly or monthly and with a minimum of 10 minutes each practice session.
- She prefers monthly, although it just depends on our personalities. She said working on a scale for a month can accomplish a lot. For herself, after a month of focused scale practice she would typically burn out or get bored
- She recommended I practice scales in both Major and Minor keys in the same key signatures
- I should be using a metronome and tuner, however not at the same time (which is what I'm currently doing) because using tuner at the same time typically makes people hold tension. However, during scales my primary focus first should be relaxing and finding a good tone. Scales should be a warmup for the body and soul. Afterwards, I can focus on intonation and rhythm, but isolate them separately.
- I currently am not doing an etude, although Clayton had given me Schroeders Etudes to work on while he was gone, but I haven't had the chance to practice them since I've been working on the music I received for this workshop.
- Although she said I still needed to work on these despite the fact I don't have him around and have a lot of pieces to practice. I should find to do these always.
- The steps that Heather recommended when practicing etudes:
- 1) Play through them to get through it to see what the theme is supposed to be, i.e. what technique am I supposed to be working on?
- 2) Find the tricky spots that I am having issues with (fingering or bowing) and then focus on these
- Practice with a drone with the same key signature
- Practice with a metronome to get the rhythm
- Pick a comfortable speed and then slowly work up to the speed that is indicated on the etude. It's always best to start of slowly
- 3) Star or circle the passage I am having issues with and then ask my teacher for help. This way, I can work on etudes independently and not have to depend on my teacher all the time
- 4) Stay on the etude for a month. This will develop ownership of the etude before moving on
- She highly recommended Rick Mooney: Position Pieces for people who had started shifting. She said for a long time she didn't know the positions very well, she could shift just fine, but knowing the positions didn't sink in until she started playing the Position Pieces much later in her cello career. She said it doesn't mean we'll get it right away, but this was an excellent tool we should all utilize.
- Focus on one piece only
- Focus on specific spots and resist the urge just to play through the piece each time - only focus on small sections at a time. If we were to join community orchestras, there would be no way for us to play through all the pieces all the time since the pieces are much longer, so focusing on the trouble spots is the most efficient use of our time. When the difficult spots get easier, the easier spots get easier too!
- Play for a month: she again recommended only spending a month on each of the pieces. Seeing an end in sight and knowing we only have a month to really get the pieces polished, changes our frame of mind and allows us to focus in on the piece more. If it's a moving goal with no clear end in mind, she noticed that a lot of her students would slack off or get bored.
- While working on pieces, I should focus on one of these at a time:
- practice in front of the mirror
- Review old pieces so you can apply what you've learned and reinforce what you have learned
- To remind us how much fun playing cello is
I commented that I wished that this information was given to me in the very beginning instead of me going through the trial and error process, and she replied that most teachers don't really give this level of information or commitment until they've had a student for one year, which made sense. Although I was a bit surprised that she was so candid about it, but it definitely put things in perspective.
Apparently, during the first year teachers sort of "hang back" since most students decide after a year (whether they're aware of it or not) if they will continue practicing the cello or will stop. However, most teachers lose students during the first year so they don't like to fully commit until they see they will continue with it. After a year, they know that the student is truly committed and that's when they allow themselves to really open up and share their knowledge and when the fun really starts.
I have to admit that makes sense (a little unfair, but it makes sense). During the first few months I was a terrible student - I didn't practice, avoided lessons and nearly quit. After a year, I did notice that Adam had become much more "comfortable" with lessons - although I'm not sure if he's aware of that or if its because he's just gained more experience teaching.
We went over all four pieces, which I was still struggling through. Although at this point, I was much more relaxed because I really only cared about the chamber piece because it would be more obvious if I messed up!
2:00 Individual Practice Time
I hussled to the practice room to get as much practice before the rehearsal and final performance, and tried to run through the pieces at least a couple times in its entirety. I was actually sounding much better than yesterday and was getting all the notes!
3:00 Orchestra Rehearsal
I was running around trying to find a spot to place my camera, but I forgot a small piece for the stand so I couldn't use the stand. I literally had to run up and down a flight of stairs three times to get my camera, then back down stairs to set up my cello and place the music on the stand, then run back upstairs to try and get my camera to work. Finally, rehearsals was starting which I didn't want to miss, so grabbed the camera and stand and raced back downstairs to change into my white shirt.
I sat down just as the conductor took her place and I was seriously sweating like crazy from running up and down the stairs! We went through the entire program and I completely nailed it! I was really relaxed and getting ALL the notes, and I think it was because I had run up and down the stairs!
4:00 Final Performance
After rehearsals, I asked one of my chamber trio members if she had family coming and if they could video record us, so a few minutes before the start of the performance I handed the camera to him.
Unfortunately, the final performance for me was a disaster, I used up my good performance during the rehearsals! Lol! :).
My chamber coach did say, "a bad rehearsal means a good performance," which I found to be the case!
Here are the four pieces that we performed.
Chant & Fugue
Never mind, this is a recording from the performance. I had a lot of mess ups, but it's not as obvious here.
Only the end of the piece was recorded.
Only the last part of the piece was also recorded, I lost my place in this, you can see the instructor telling me where I'm supposed to be at and trying to get me back on track! :).
Okay, my singing is TERRIBLE, but it was still a lot of fun and I learned to sing and play at the same time and my brain didn't explode!
Overall, this was a GREAT workshop and I highly recommend it!!! I'll be attending next year as well!! :).
I was very proud of myself for learning the difficult repertoire that was definitely way above my level.
I learned how to shift to 2nd, 3rd and 4th position and play a D harmonic!!! Talk about a crash course - not to say I shift well (or correctly) for that matter, but this showed me what's in store for the future and I know I'm going to LOVE it!
I have to admit, one of the reasons I decided to pick up the phone to find out if this workshop accepted adult beginners was because I saw that Renatta Bratt was going to be at this workshop! I love (and have) her Celtic Grooves, Fiddling Cellist, Hymns & Gospels and her Modern Cello Method books, which I got at Mel Bay. And, I got to sit next to her during two of the orchestral pieces (see first two videos), which I have to admit was a bit intimidating! I'm sure she thought I was a bit weird (I couldn't help it, I was totally awestruck!) and a complete newbie (I was messing up left and right every time I had to play next to her!), but that's totally okay!! Lol! The next time I attend one of her workshops, I'm going to be a much better musician, and I'm going to know how to chop while doing chords! :D
One more workshop this summer, which I will be starting to prepare for this weekend, and only two weeks to prepare!
I'll be happy going back to the "easier" pieces once that workshop is done. :).