Chinese Proverb

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

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lesson #85 (Jazz 08/26/12): F Major Scale 2 Octaves

Doing the workshop and camp, made feel more confident about trying to do jazz again, so Clayton and I set some goals for this semester. He recommended that I learn as many scales first before proceeding with the Jazz stuff.

I won't blog a lot of details about my jazz session since Clayton is writing his paper, and he doesn't know I have a blog yet. I'll have to tell him about my blog during our next lesson to see what I can and can't post on my blog. In the mean time, I'll just list my assignments:

F Major 2 Octaves

  • Clayton recommended that I learn as many scales first, so I told him I know Cmaj (2 octaves), Dmaj (1 octave) and had just started learning Gmaj in two octaves with Adam. I think we also did E major or E minor at the camp, but I don't remember how to do that. So Clayton had me start learning the F Major scale in two octaves

Bowing arm
  • We also worked on bowing technique and making sure that I'm not pushing down to get a more open sound with my cello
  • Assignment: "Bow Releases" 

Articulation Exercises
  • Using Hammer-Ons & Pluck-offs (with and without the bow)
  • Cossmann: 
    • 1434
    • 1424
    • 1323
    • 1234
    • 4321
  • Trill: 
    • 1,2
    • 1,3
    • 1,4
    • 2,3
    • 2,4
    • 3,4

I also asked that we work on ensemble pieces that we'll be playing in my cello group. We'll be doing a holiday recital and I'll need help working on ensemble skills - so we'll also be practicing on that as well. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lesson #84 (08/23/12): Shifting in G Major (2 octaves)

We started on the G Major scale and immediately I got a lot of corrections with my intonation and bowing. The first thought that ran through my mind was, "ugh, I haven't even warmed up yet and he's correcting me already! How can he possibly know what I've done to correct my mistakes from the last lesson?"

Followed by, "well... I really shouldn't need 20 minutes to warm-up to get it right in the first place; and if I really corrected it and understood what was happening then..." which ended my thought / complaint process!

We focused mainly on shifting during this lesson.

  • Arm position - moving the whole arm and feeling like I'm "pushing something down." My hand likes to tilt forward so my hand tends to be sharp  
  • Thumb - the thumb should rest in the saddle. For some reason, this works for everyone except for me...yet. I think I haven't felt how it's supposed to feel like in the saddle so I keep missing it. 
  • Hand position - should be slightly slanted and should be the same hand position as my "first position hand"
Adam said what is most important in learning how to shift is: have a method!

He said there are a lot of methods out there and as long as it works for me, and I'm consistent, than I should continue using it. It's those that don't have a method to get from point A to point B that consistently miss the note.

Prior to this discussion he asked what my method was, which I replied that I think about lines on my fingerboard and skipping one line to get to E. Which at first he thought was kind of "interesting" but said that it works. I tried practicing and thinking about the saddle, hand position and arm position and was too sharp each time I practiced it, but thinking about where E is located and moving over "one line" gets me to the spot more consistently.

I think after a while of "thinking about skipping a line" and doing that for awhile, I'll start feeling it in my body and then I can start using the saddle as a physical marker.

May Time

Before I started the workshop, I was really getting Long Long Ago, but now I feel like I have to re-learn everything and I can feel myself getting bored and losing focus, so I requested that we move on to May Time.

We recorded May Time for me to start practicing for the next lesson. Yaay - new piece!! :D

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lesson #83 (08/20/12): G Major Scales

One of the things that I've noticed was that my intonation has really gone out the window since I've started shifting and trying to learn/cram a bunch of repertoire in a short period.

Before this summer, I would typically learn only one piece of repertoire in approximately 2 months, but the last 2-3 months I must have played/learned 13 pieces (3 for the Denver workshop, 3 for the camp and about 7 for a cello group I'm playing with).

So now we're going back to drilling down to technique, intonation and bowing - which I'm extremely happy to be doing! A definite relief to go back to technique - I LOVE working on technique, it's just so calming...

G Major Scale (2 octaves)
  • My first time learning the G Major in 2 octaves! Now I'll know two 2-octave scales: C Major and G Major! Yaay! :D
  • Adam instructed that I do really slow bowing using two clicks, so I'll eventually be able to do 16th notes on one bow. I actually find it easier to do slower bows than fast bows though, but for slow bowing, I'm to focus on consistency of sound and intonation 
  • We started on shifting (which I've been doing a little bit with Clayton), but now I've "officially" started learning how to shift. Lol! 

Long Long Ago
  • My main issue again was my bow angles! I started pushing the bow too far out again and not bringing the bow back around in a curve.  I wanted to get this recorded by the end of August so we reviewed this piece again.

Friday, August 17, 2012

NSC Day 5 (08/17/12): Last day & large ensemble performance

I was a little worried about getting back home since I was flying standby and they kept messing up  my reservations. It's always more difficult to fly back into Denver, especially since Denver is a major hub for international flights and cross-country flights. I packed and organized some of my stuff the night before but still had a lot of packing to do.


7:30 -8:30 Breakfast
Before heading for breakfast we had to pack up our things by 9 AM so the camp's staff could start cleaning out the cabins, so I had to store my luggage in my roommate's car. Another reason I'm driving next year too, it's just so much easier having a car around! 

Dirty laundry! Sheets and towels in the pillowcases.

9:15-10:30 AM Large Ensembles
We concentrated on dynamics some more (I really enjoy working on dynamics!), and Abigail recommended that we hold back our energy for the performance. Although I wanted to go all out, I held back a bit which felt a little weird to me. 

11 AM Concert: Large Ensembles
I thought our group ensemble went fairly well, and I really enjoyed playing this piece, although I messed up in a couple of parts and during a quieter section of the piece I could hear my hands trembling again! Which I thought was kind of odd that it occurred in the large ensemble piece and not during the quartet performance.

One of the campers came up to me and complimented me on my playing and said they really enjoyed watching me play because it looked like I was really feeling the music - I was just me moving around more than I should again! ...oops!

Anyway, I don't take compliments very well, for some reason compliments just remind me of things that I should be doing but I'm not; and therefore, I never feel that I deserve the given compliment! I know, I have a strange sense of logic.
My apologies to the campers and instructors who were being so wonderfully supportive, caring and friendly - if I seemed to have blown you off it's because I become flustered, self-conscious and embarrassed when I receive a compliment! I know, I'm weird!

My husband is right - I really need to learn how to take a compliment! :(. I always feel so bad afterwards because I never know how to respond and it always ends up with me pretending not to hear their compliment or something, so it feels like I'm blowing people off. *sigh* to anyone who reads my blogs, in person please don't give me a compliment! It'll avoid a lot of unnecessary awkwardness on both parts! Lol! ;). ...seriously though, don't... not that I get very many compliments or anything, but you know what I mean!

12:45 PM Lunch
I was happy to learn that lunch was being served early, otherwise I would have had to wait until I got to the airport which was 3-4 hours away. They had some items to prepare sandwiches with a lot of meat, so I just had some cheese and fruit, and some brownies.

One of the campers offered me a lift to the shuttle location since it was on her way to Berkeley where she lived, which I was really thankful for because the cab ride was more than $60 plus tip just to get to the shuttle pickup.
As we were walking to the car we discovered an inconspicuous sign hidden between two tall trees. At first we thought it said '1061' because we were walking on the other side of the trees, but we realized that it read '1901' the year the camp, St. Dorothy's Rest, was established - 111 years! What a great discovery during our departure from the camp! 

The year St. Dorothy's Rest was established.

2:00 PM Shuttle 
We arrived at the shuttle pickup with 15 minutes to spare. This time the bus was empty with only two other people besides myself on the bus so I was able to put my cello by the window. I think the last time I was unable to place the cello by the window seat because the person sitting in front of the cello had his chair reclined. It was definitely more comfortable sitting by the aisle! 

My cello riding on the bus. Lol!
During camp, Eliza had commented that my case looked like a beetle and started saying, "beetle juice, beetle juice, beetle juice!" every time I walked by with my case! Lol! ;).
I thought all beetles were pretty much in shades of brown or black, so I Goggled it when I got home, and now I'm going to think of a huge beetle every time I see my case. ..eeewww...gross...!

I can imagine a huge bird spotting my case, and swooping down to carry it off with me still attached to it by the straps! Lol! ;).

...eeewww, bug !! I do see the resemblance though... time for a new case??  j/k

4:00 PM Airport
I arrived at the airport around 4:00ish and as usual they couldn't find me in the system so I had to wait in another line to get it sorted out. My flight was schedule for 6:26 PM so I had a lot of time left to reflect about the camp. 

I have to take my hat off to Marion and Marcia for cultivating a very supportive and friendly environment. The leadership of these two wonderful caring cellists, and their focus on creating a nurturing environment has truly made this a friendly, inviting and supportive camp!

I was hesitant about describing what we worked on for each of the classes or the camp in general, but then I thought everyone would learn and leave with different experiences, and classes are never taught the same way twice. To keep the openness and nurturing environment in tact, I avoided listing camper's real name (except for the teachers since its part of their profession anyway) and avoided personal conversations that I had with campers and just focused on my experiences.

This was just a wonderful camp, one that I thoroughly enjoyed! Ha - now I can say, "this one time, at string camp..." Lol! =p

Group photo!!
Where's Waldo?? Such a dork... ;) 
Note to self - don't wear glasses in photos!
NSC August 2012
(Photo Credit:

Attending my first workshop and camp this summer I feel that I've gotten more confident in playing with others and really look forward to playing with others more!

The two events definitely had a different feel to them and I would recommend both of them - pretty much a workshop versus a camp/retreat experience. Workshops tend to focus on cramming as much information into you as possible (so it's a little stressful), whereas I think camps are generally geared to have fun and more relaxing, so:
  • Rocky Mountain Cello Fest challenged me and I feel like it pushed me to the next level. I think there were only nine adults and the level was higher since it was mostly kids who had been playing since they were really young and even a few that had completed the Suzuki method! Wow! I had to work my ass of to be able to play the pieces, but it was highly satisfying to be able to play them when I didn't think I would be able to (although I tried to play the pieces a few weeks after the workshop and couldn't!). After the workshop, I had to take a a long break, and it was very difficult for me to start practicing again. 
  • Navarro String Camp was nurturing and relaxing, and more like a retreat-like atmosphere. It was extremely energizing and it made me want to play with people even more! And it was my first time staying at a camp ground so that was especially fun.

I would definitely recommend both events!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

NSC Day 4 (08/16/12): Chamber group performances

I woke up really tired from staying up the last two previous nights, but I didn't want to miss anything the camp had to offer and feeling tired was a small price to pay to get as much from the workshop as I could! :)


7:30 -8:30 AM Breakfast
Baked french toast and syrup. Yum!!

8:45 – 9:30 AM Cello warm-ups with Burke
We continued working on hammer-ons and pluck-offs and Burke mentioned that the fingers and the arms should be very relaxed and that the most important thing is that the fingers and thumb are not squeezing.

He had us put our first finger on the C string on D, and then rotate our upper body to get the weight into the finger. He said the famous pictures of women looking over their shoulder is not because they're posed, its just good technique! For some reason, that concept just really sunk in and I was excited to start practicing this!

Guilhermina Suggia
I tend to over exaggerate my movement - something my teachers are trying to break my habit of, so I've been working on less movement and being more calm, and I think rotating the upper part just a little bit to feel the stretch is what I was missing! I feel like it opens up the shoulder area and lengthens my arms more too. I'll have to practice this during my scales practice.

Burke also mentioned that the finger is just planted on the fingerboard while everything is relaxed. I imagine the fingers being like those clear plastic suction cups that are placed against a window or glass with a toy monkey or something dangling loosely from it. The suction cups being my fingertips and the loose dangley monkey would be my arm, shoulders or whatever.

He demonstrated this by having Jenny hold out her hand out to him and then had her move her body slowly away from him while keeping her arm and fingers (except for the tips) to remain relaxed, which creates the stretch and weight.

In Lindy Hop, we call this type of connection/feeling "stretch and release" and feels like a rubber-band tightening and loosening as our bodies move closer and  farther apart. 

He then had us plant our fingers and then watch our fingers to make sure that the joints, fingers and arm was nice and loose by wiggling our arm and fingers about.

He said that we shouldn't be working hard to play the cello and we should be as relaxed as possible. It was quite amusing when he started playing the Dvorak concerto (one of my favorite pieces!) and then exaggerated being relaxed and proceeded to fall asleep with his head resting on the cello's shoulders as he played the piece! LOL! ;)
Both of my teachers had mentioned at one point in their cello education, that they were told / or heard that when playing the Dvorak concerto that by the end of the piece they should be completely exhausted and covered in sweat! So seeing him pretending to fall asleep playing the concerto was hilarious - who would be able to fall asleep to that piece any way? Ha! ;)

9:45 - 11:15 AM Rhythm Skills Series #3
We continued saying Ta-Ke-Ti-Na, but this time she had us also clap on the off beats. As we progressed through the class, Marcia tried to "trick" us by clapping different syncopations and other distracting things like dancing around in the circle and waving her arms crazily in the air. It was funny trying to watch her out of the corner of my eyes making funny faces and trying not to loose my rhythm!

11:30-12:45 Chamber Group with Elizabeth
We practiced more on the piece and we decided that we wanted to have instructors accompany us during the performance. After that decision was made, Elizabeth suggested we work on the different dynamics. She had us play really softly, and really loudly and then something in the middle. I think I was being too loud again and over-powering the other members of the group. I think the idea was to calibrate to each other to see what dynamics or different volumes meant for each of us.

At that moment I was really thankful for my two teachers: Adam for insisting that I work on volume and for Clayton for helping me with my tone. Attending both the workshop and camp, I noticed that volume was something that was usually on the quieter side. I now know why Adam was always on me for volume, even though I thought I was being loud when I really wasn't.
It makes a HUGE difference when I'm able to use different dynamics. Even though I was on the "louder" side with this chamber group, I think I could have been louder and it made me realize I'll have to start working on being quieter as well! Although for now, I think I'll continue on working on more volume. 

Elizabeth also had us decide whether at the end of the piece if we wanted to crescendo or diminuendo. I voted for a diminuendo since that was easier for me to do, but everyone wanted to do a crescendo so we did that instead.

1 PM Lunch
Tofu wrap and brownies for desert.

2-3 PM Free time
I practiced Largo with Jenny again since we felt like leaving the chamber piece alone, and continued to work on dotted notes. Surprisingly, I was able to count out the notes "1 & 2 & 3 &" while playing, which I wasn't able to do before. The rhythm class definitely was working!

3:15-4:30 PM Concert: Chamber Groups
It was fun watching everyone playing their pieces and absolutely heart warming and great to see how supportive everyone was!

We had Burke and Elizabeth accompany our chamber group, and at one point Burke got up to write something down on the music before we started playing our piece and someone jokingly asked if he was writing down his fingerings, which got everyone laughing and more relaxed. He wasn't of course, which made it even more funny!
So while introducing our group, Beth commented that we were teaching the coaches how to play in a chamber group! It was hilarious! Everyone was just so relaxed and light-hearted about everything.

To be honest, I think we sounded better when we were practicing, and I actually had some issues with my intonation and couldn't find / blend with the rest of the group. I think my nerves definitely got me. Also, I've noticed that every time I have to perform in front of people, my brain kind of shuts down and it's really difficult for me to remember what happened while I was playing!

5:15 PM Free Time
My cell phone decided that it was going to start working again (darn you AT&T!) and I started to get wireless, so I spent some time on emails after having FOUR days of no contact with my husband or able to access email or text! That was tough!

6.30 PM Dinner
I don't remember what I had for dinner, but we had ice cream for desert! :)

7:30-8.15 PM Master class w/Burke
The trio consisted of the camp's assistants/instructors Karen (violin), Trevor (viola) and Elizabeth (cello). They played two movements of a piece and after each movement Burke gave them some suggestions.

It was funny when Isabel commented that they would purposely be making mistakes for Burke's benefit so he could make corrections and that we could all learn! Everyone was quite the comedian! ;)

A few suggestions that he gave was when the notes are repeated it should be played similarly especially if using hooked bowings so the spacing between the notes stays the same, which also helps with articulation. 

Also, when there are a lot of the same notes grouped together, it's nice to emphasize the first couple of notes so its easier to communicate when a phrase starts.

Trevor was having issues with intonation during a passage where he was playing the same note over and over again, so Burke commented that he shouldn't stay on the note if he wasn't in tune. During those measures Isabel was playing too quietly so he joked that she be louder to cover up his bad intonation! ;).
He didn't say it mean-spiritedly, and it was all in good fun, since they were joking back and forth with one another, but it definitely hit home for me because sometimes I get scared to move my finger to the correct spot because I think it'll be more noticeable and draw more attention to my bad intonation!
Although Adam did mention that no one has great intonation 100% of the time, and those who are able to react more quickly than others to fix it is what makes them sound better.

Another really great suggestion/exercise was when he had Karen and Elizabeth who were sitting across from one another, play and project towards each other to get a beating sound! To get the beating sound they had to match their volume and if Isabel was too quiet they wouldn't be able to  hear the beats. He mentioned that one of the famous quartets said they had a "fifth player" who was in the middle who they would constantly try to project their sound into. By the end of the master class, their sound was definitely sounding much more full and rich! 

8:30-9 PM Evening of sight reading 
We played Grandfather’s Clock - I picked out a really easy piece of music to play for beginners.

9:30 PM Chamber Music reading Burke’s Choice
The music was a bit difficult for me so I was struggling through the pieces.

Continuing his tangent on being in tune, he asked the group, "when are we in tune?" I jokingly said, "never." So he rephrased the question and asked, "when should you be working on being in tune?" To which someone replied, "always."

Things to work on: sight-reading, volume, rhythm and intonation - pretty much anything relating to how to play the cello! Lol! :)

Memorable Moment
In between the sight-reading groups, my roommate and I decided to play outside by an old shed to wait for our turn. We decided to play some Celtic music which she had brought with her to the camp, and we just had one of those "magical moments." She describes it much better than I do, but imagine this...

Against the dark background of the night sky, two beginner cellists huddle beneath a single lantern sitting on a rickety bench, their music illuminated by the soft glow of a single stand light. The gentle sound of cellos playing Celtic music echoes softly and eerily into the dark, drifting and fading into the surrounding redwood trees. The notes float into the quiet air, often jaggedly, sometimes smoothly, but every once in awhile, the notes blend to create a beautiful harmony, like clouds opening up to allow the moon’s rays to shine through...

Yes - it really was one of those moments! :).

Anyway, the next day, at breakfast my roommate shared with our table that she would always remember me and that moment, and proceeded to share and describe that enchanting memory with the group.
Then a few minutes later our hostess gathered our attention to make an announcement to thank us for being guests at the camp grounds. She thanked us and told us how wonderful it was to host this string camp and that it was quite a treat for herself and for the staff; and compared it to walking through a movie set while hearing beautiful classical music.
The hostess then proceeded to describe how late last night, as she was getting into her car, she heard and saw two cellists playing outside under the lantern, and as she drove away the music had followed her home, and that image and music captured what the camp was all about!

I don't think we were playing particularly well (...she must of heard us when the moon's rays were shining through! Lol!...), but it was really heart-warming that she had shared our moment with us and it had affected her, and we didn't even realize it! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

NSC Day 3 (08/15/12): More fun and music!


7:30 -8:30 AM Breakfast
Woke up late and slept in until 7:30ish, so I rushed to grab some breakfast, but discovered there was still a lot of food left and people still eating breakfast, so I decided to wake up later from that day forward! ;).

8:45 – 9:30 AM Cello warm-ups with Burke
Burke continued working on hammer-on and pluck-off technique and also worked on tuning and finding intonation.

He had me demonstrate how to tune an A string by getting way out of tune; first going way too flat and then going way too sharp and then back to the middle. After playing over 50 years he said he still couldn't tell if a note is too sharp or too flat, especially if the note is really close to being in tune, so this is how he normally tunes.
This is how Adam tunes as well and he once tried to explain this to me, but I don't think I was ready for the information yet, especially since at the time I couldn't hear beats or even tell if two notes were dissonant!

This time we worked more on pluck-offs. He explained that the bottom of the forearm should be doing the work and that fingers should be springing back into the palm. At one point, he compared our fingers to the Rockettes' legs kicking up and down because all our fingers were moving in a synchronized fashion (up, down, back... 1, 2, 3..) and even the sound of our fingers hitting the fingerboard with an audible thump was in unison! Lol! ;).

I have to say, that I was also extremely impressed with Burke's tone and overall sound. His playing reminds of a smooth thick liquid of some sorts...his notes are so smooth, but yet so rich, full and's hard to describe. His tone and sound is just so thick that it fills up the air like fog! I would honestly have to say if his sound was liquid, than his "liquid sound" could definitely overflow a cup!

And his legato bowing - WOW! His notes just flowed right into each other and it was really difficult to distinguish where one note ended and the other began! No offense to my teachers, who I absolutely adore, but his sound is just leaps and bounds better than both of theirs! Then again he's been playing for years. ;). A short incomplete bio:

Burke studied in London, England with William Pleeth for five years, where he made his debut at the age of 19. He also studied for extended periods with Margaret Rowell and Colin Hampton. After his studies in England, he became principal cellist and soloist with the Salzburger Solisten in Austria. He has performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician in Europe, the U.S. and Israel. He has also been principal cellist and soloist with the Sacramento Symphony and the Mendocino Festival Orchestra.

Anyway, I hear cellists and my teachers instructing me to get a "full rich" sound, and now I know what they're talking about! I don't think I'll ever get close to how he sounds, but if there's a small chance that I can, than I'm going to try my hardest because his sound is just so lovely!!!

9:45 - 11:15 AM Rhythm Skills Series Class #2
We continued working on rhythm in a circle; stepping on the "Ta" and clapping on the other beats and replacing other syllables as well. After warming up, we applied the rhythm to reading notes. Marion would hold up one notecard one at a time and then we would have to recognize the subdivision, internalize it and then clap out the rhythm. This is when everything just came together and clicked for me!

Two important take-aways for myself:
1) First find the subdivision and get it in my head before attempting to clap or play the rhythm
2) Moving the body with the rhythm (even if it doesn't feel like I'm getting anything out of it), will translate into muscle memory later

I have to admit, I didn't really believe #2 until that day because stepping back and forth and clapping didn't feel like I was really learning much, but boy was I wrong! I could actually feel the rhythm in my body!

Another example of it really sinking in was when I was sitting on the bus, and we were making a left turn at the light, the bus driver put on the turn signal and I distinctively remember hearing the pulsing beat of the turn signal in my body! It was a weird realization/experience!

Once I got back home, I decided to see if I could sight-read some music I was having issues with, and I was able to keep the rhythm in my head and clap out the beats! Something I was never able to do before. Although I'm afraid that I may lose this pulsing beat by the time next summer rolls around! I wonder how I'm supposed to practice this without being in a group??

11:30-12:45 Chamber Groups Abigail
We practiced playing the first note of each measure and holding the chord to get in tune with each other, which was really helpful for me. This reminded me of Clayton telling me about "flexible intonation" and that it didn't matter whether I was in tune with the tuner, if I was out of tune with my group - than I'm the one that is out of tune!
I did find that I had to slide my fingers around to find the note that blended better with the group - learning to shift in a very short period has definitely ruined my intonation! 

I have to say that our instructor, Abigail is just wonderful and sweet. I felt bad for leaving without getting the chance to sit down and talk with her for a bit to get to know her. Next year, I'll make sure that I do. 

Abigail and I.
I tend to clench or jut out my jaw when I'm concentrating.
Ugh, I keep accumulating more and more bad habits!

1 PM Lunch
I don't remember what I had for lunch...

2-3 PM Relaxation for Performance Class #2 with Abigail
Abigail had invited us to invite our chamber group to this class to do a mini-performance for this group to get some practice in performing in front of people because she said that we needed to practice practicing in front of people to start getting more relaxed.

During the session, they would try to distract us while we were playing by standing too close, or looking over our shoulders, or doing some distracting movement or coughing or something. I thought this would be a great idea and invited my chamber group to participate. However, they felt that we needed to continue practicing so I skipped this class to practice with my group. I'll have to take this class next year.

3:15-4:30 PM Large ensembles with Abigail
I didn’t really practice this piece before coming to the workshop so my fingerings and intonation was all over the place. I always feel sorry for the people sitting next to me when that happens because I'm pretty sure that I throw them off because I know it throws me off sometimes if I'm not concentrating. Oops!

We concentrated on dynamics which I thought was really fun. Since I've been working on volume and tone for the last few months I was playing waaayy too loud. Wow - ME playing too loud! Yaay!! My teacher would be so proud! Lol! ;).

She mentioned when playing with a soloist in an orchestra everything needs to be a lot quieter so the soloist doesn't have to work as hard, which means playing piano is extremely quiet. She said a good rule of thumb when playing quietly in an orchestra is if I can hear myself than I'm too loud. And I definitely could hear myself... a lot!

My teacher Adam once mentioned that playing loud should be easy and playing softly should feel more difficult. I used to complain to him that playing loud was difficult and he was crazy if he thought that playing softly was more difficult, but now its starting to feel the other way around.
When playing loud I can relax into the string, but when playing softly, I feel like I have to "hold myself up" to get a lighter sound.

Abigail gave us some suggestions on how to play more softly:
1) Play at the tip or upper half of the bow
2) Use less hair - tip the bow on its side so less hair is touching the string
3) Use less bow - use an inch or two only
4) Less speed - bow more slowly
5) Blow up the balloon - pretend there is a balloon under the underarm instead of lifting up the bow which is more work. I tried pretending to blow up a balloon under my arm and then trying to hold my arm up and the sound and how it feels is considerably different!

Oops, I have some bad posture going on there!

5:15 PM Free Time
One of my chamber members (I'll call her Jenny) and I sat out on the patio and worked on Francois Francoeur's Largo for a while. This piece was cut since we were already having difficulty with the piece we were working on, Brahm's Finale.
However, we didn't want to give up on the piece so we practiced it on the side. Jenny was super sweet and extremely helpful in helping our chamber group come together and helped me work out reading the dotted notes (...I hate dotted notes!). This was her second time returning to the camp and I think she mentioned that she had been playing for more than two years.

I think if we had a few more days we could have performed it with the group. Jenny was just so wonderful and patient in helping me in the pieces we played together. We even worked on our ensemble piece together since she was playing the same part and I was having difficulty with the rhythm and shifting.

6:30 PM Dinner
I don't remember what was for dinner...

8.15-8.45 PM Sight Reading with coaches
I signed up for some sight reading and brought some music called "Basic Beginners" - a collection of beginner pieces. We went through the book and played the pieces, which was difficult for me because the tempo was too fast for me. I also discovered that I'm not consistent in counting and every time I stopped counting I got lost.

My goal until next summer: become a better sight-reader!!

There was also an orchestra play-in where music was passed out once everyone was seated (so there was no preparation for this), and surprisingly this was a lot of fun! It was such a great experience that I feel like I have the confidence to join a community orchestra or something - even at my beginner level!

Despite the fact I can't read rhythm or notes very well, I was able to play some of the pieces because playing with so many people, I just sort of got carried into the music! And if I made a mistake it really wasn't very noticeable because there were so many musicians, and no one cared if I made a mistake either!

This is an experience that one just needs to jump in with two feet and do! Highly recommended!!! :)

I decided to stay up late and watch the two movies that they were showing. I figured if I didn't watch it at the camp, I wouldn't have time to watch the movies once I got home. I'm glad I did because both movies were really interesting and I haven't had time to watch them yet.
  • Bow making with Bowmaker Stephen Beckley (20 min)
  • Music from the Inside Out - Musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra (90 minutes)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

NSC Day 2 (08/14/12): Classes and late night music - how many cellists does it take to play one part?

I couldn't sleep the night before because it was kind of hot and was still adjusting to the new room, so I think I got 5-6 hours of sleep, which is what I typically get, but I was still fairly tired - probably from all of the hiking/walking around! ;)


7:30AM Breakfast
Before I met my husband, I didn't eat any meat (chicken, beef & pork), just fish, but living with him since he's a big meat-eater (he's gluten intolerant!), I started eating meat. However, this year I cut out eating meat again because it always made my stomach turn south (especially beef) and I always found that it just had weird unpleasant smells to it too, so I was worried that there wouldn't be much food for me to eat here.
I also dislike telling people I don't eat meat because I sometimes find it annoying when people are really picky about their food, so I just make due to what is given to me. There was a section when registering for the camp about food requirements, which I didn't list that I don't eat meat, so I felt kind of bad for eating some of their non-meat items because it may have taken away from the people who did list it under their food requirements, but there was always a lot left over so I didn't feel too bad. Next year, I'll have to list it.

Anyway, there was a LOT of food to eat here! There was food that was gluten-free, lots of fresh greens, lots of meat for meat-eaters and really yummy deserts. I was really impressed with their food selections! And did I mention they had coffee and tea available 24/7?! Awesome! :)

I ate some Morningstar sausage patties, waffles and fruit. I was going to have some of their yogurt and fixings but I was too full. The food there was just amazing! Time to go on a diet...again!

8:45 Cello Warm-ups with Burke
I really enjoyed taking classes with Burke, he is just a hoot! ...kind of looks like an owl too, now that I think of it... with his tufts of hair around his ears, beaked nose and wide-excited eyes as he explains cello concepts! WISE old owl! Hoot! :D. He's quite the character. ;).

For warmup, he mentioned that we should be "warming up our technique" so he practices hammer-ons and pluck-offs, which are the two different types of techniques he uses for fast and slow playing. He explained that the feeling should be that of finger-tapping, which often happens when people are impatient. I happen to be a finger-tapper, and yes I'm a bit impatient, so this was easy for me to do! Although instead of tapping your fingers from pinky to thumb, it should be in the reverse order from thumb to pinky - which was more difficult for me.

Burke also mentioned that the muscles underneath the forearm are more substantial than the top of the forearm so its easier to use the bigger muscles for left hand technique.
This was something that Clayton had tried to teach me a few months ago to start practicing with my scales, but I was unable to do it. We worked on these during the warmup sessions so I was able to do the hammer-ons much better after the workshop, but the pluck-offs is still a bit difficult for me. I'll have to work on these some more.  

All the concepts that he covered in this session, Clayton had also covered, but for some reason it really sunk in this time. Probably because I have to hear it a few times before it makes sense and/or I wasn't ready to learn it yet. I'm sure practicing it consistently for a week helped too. 

I always find it comforting to know when I hear other teachers teaching the same concepts and techniques as my two teachers because it just reaffirms their teaching and that they are good at what they do.

Rhythm Skills Series #1 with Marcia and Marion
We started off as one group and started stomping out rhythms and clapping on Ta-Ke-Ti-Na. I don't remember what Marcia said exactly, but the syllables weren't created by them, it's part of a method specifically designed because of its use of creating the sounds with the mouth, tongue, etc. Even though I'm a dancer, it was still difficult to be on rhythm sometimes, I always wonder how much more difficult it would be for non-dancers! Yikes!

After the group work, we broke up into smaller groups, with our group practicing outside. I have to admit I absolutely LOVED practicing and playing outside! I would love to play on my back patio, but I'm sure my neighbors would complain!

Our small group worked with Marion on a 4/4 rhythm in rounds and then learned how to conduct. While we were conducting the 4/4 time signature, she had us hold a conversation.

Two things I discovered:
1) I have to completely disregard what my body is doing and trust that it'll continue doing what it's doing while I do something else.
2) The more I focus on one, the other gets more difficult to do. It's like I have to keep one in my peripheral vision while I focus more on the other.

One of my chamber members, Beth was conversing with me and Marion had to move her arm while she spoke with me. Eventually, she stopped moving her arm for her and it just kept going. She had the same experience I did, that as long as she didn't focus on her arm than she could do it.

In psychology, this is called the Stroop Effect. Of course, practice makes perfect and this also applies to learning how to multi-task, in this case conducting and holding a conversation, or left-hand fingering and bowing, or trying to play while listening to your chamber group!
It's often assumed that this happens because the more often we practice the more it becomes automatic so we are able to focus our attention elsewhere, which also explains why two tasks involving a direct relationships between stimuli and responses can be performed together with no disruption, while having indirect relationships between stimuli (e.g. conducting and conversing) is much more difficult to do.

Which made me think the other day, if multi-tasking is more easily done by people who have ADD?
I was reading a short article on a study regarding a genetic link between autism and the prodigiously gifted, so was wondering if there was a link between ADD and musicians? I have observed some ADD characteristics in a few musicians, but if they've never been tested I'm sure they've learned to cope with it and not realize that they may have ADD? It would be interesting to do a test on a well-known symphony to see how many musicians have it....

Group B Chamber Group with Elizabeth
We headed up to Farmers to practice the Brahms piece. I have to admit that it was easier practicing the piece with only three people because it was easier to hear each other. Elizabeth had us clap out the rhythms and then play it.

1 PM Lunch
I had a Morningstar hot dog, salad and bean. A camper commented that it was really daring of them to serve beans to a bunch of people who had just met and living and playing in small quarters! Lol! ;).

2:10 - 3:15 PM Free time
I had some free time, so I had signed up for a shoulder massage 2:10 – 2:30 which was done outside on the patio. I LOVE massages - they're so addictive! 

3:15 - 4:00 PM Relaxation for Performance Class #1 with Abigail
One of the things that I'm constantly working on is trying to be more relaxed when I play and controlling my anxiety when performing or playing for someone. We sat outside, and there was five other people in our group, so we introduced ourselves and explained why we were in the group. I told my story of playing Twinkle and having my hand shake like crazy and then my mind blanking out and then skipping a whole section because of it!

It was also interesting to discover that they had the issue of being nervous playing for their teacher as well. It was great to discover because I felt that this may have been a personal hangup of mine, or that maybe that my personality wasn't meshing well with Adam's or something, but it looks like it's fairly common occurrence. Although I don't get nervous around Adam any more, which took about a year to get over! ...jeez... It may also be because I'm much more comfortable playing the cello now too.

Abigail also mentioned that in the past, she had to switch teachers, and she wasn't expecting to feel nervous playing for her but she did, and she finally knew what some of her students were experiencing.

After the introduction, we headed inside to do some "belly breathing." I am absolutely horrible at belly breathing! I tend to stop by breathing half way through, or hold my breath, or only breath from the top of my lungs! At the end, I was feeling a bit dizzy and light-headed! ;).

After our breathing exercises, she had each of us play a short scale. She had me play first, and instructed me to play a G Major scale. It was completely unexpected, but when I played the scale my sound was just BOOMING.
This was the first time I felt that I filled a room with my sound! It was an interesting experience because I could actually feel and hear the sound bouncing off the walls and echoing back to me!
The first thought that ran across mind was if someone else was playing with me because it sounded like another cellist was playing the scale with me. In fact, I glanced over my right shoulder to see if there was someone else playing behind me, when I discovered there wasn't, my second thought was, "that can't possibly be me playing - that's not my sound! Someone's playing a practical joke on me!"

I haven't been able to play that loud since then. I think the belly breathing relaxed my entire body so that I finally experienced having the total weight of my arm into the strings! I'll have to incorporate some belly breathing and some relaxation methods before starting to play!

4:15 - 5:00 PM Shifting and Note-finding with Burke
I really enjoyed all of the stories that he tells to illustrate his points. He described when he was a "serious student" he went to see a famous cellist play during a rehearsal. During the rehearsal the cellist was sitting back relaxing and just hanging out in his chair while the orchestra warmed up and got the piece up to speed, and once it was the cellist's turn to play his part he just jumped right in and started playing near the bridge without having to find where the notes were located, i.e. sliding his finger up and down to find a note or plucking or tapping to find the notes. At the time, this baffled him as to how he was able to do that. He then shared with the class how this was done - the cellist knew the fingerboard! Yes, it's as simple as that!

Most cellists like myself, know patterns and I have to admit I have to say the alphabet to even find what the next notes are! Lol! ;).

To practice this, we have to create a mental image of our cello from a bird's eye view and then add notes to the fingerboard. Then  we should move the first finger to each note while visualizing each note, and not to move the finger before being able to see the note on the fingerboard. Eventually as we play pieces we should be able to see the fingerboard with its note.

He's also met other musicians who could just play without practicing by just reading the notes and knowing where the notes are located.

It reminds me of learning how to type. When I first learned how to type in middle school, my teacher commented that typing would be SO much faster than writing, which at the time I didn't believe. Now that I've been doing administrative work for more than 10 years and using the computer daily, I can type without looking at the keyboard, so I kind of compare it to that. Knowing the keyboard so well, that I just think of the word and my fingers fly out to type the word without even thinking about where each key is located. Well, at least I assume that's how it would be like once I'm able to create a mental picture of the fingerboard and practice it for a while!

This will be an interesting concept to practice!

6:30 PM Dinner
I don't remember what I had for dinner...

Free time
In between the concert and dinner I had some free time so I rounded up some people to play with outside of my building. We sat on the benches and played for a little bit.

I love playing outside! :)

It always surprises me when other people want to play music with me. I don't know why... I always assumed since I'm a beginner, no one would enjoy playing with a beginner, but I guess that's not the case.

I've also discovered that there is a different kind of relationship between musicians. I first noticed this when I was dancing Lindy Hop and all of the dancers who were also musicians would somehow find one another and create a closer "connection/bond" to each other. I had thought that there would be a closer relationship/bond between dancers because of the physical connection while dancing, but it seems to me that musicians actually create a stronger bond?

Maybe it's because the lack of the physical connection because there are boundaries, so they're able to open up and share more because of the lack of physical connection to each other, more mental? ..hmmm..I'll have to think about that more...

8:00 PM Concert with Kaila Flexer & Shira Kammen
This was a really fun concert! They played some baroque music on baroque instruments and also play some fiddle tunes.

Memorable Moment:
I think what set the mood of having fun for me, was Tuesday night. I was invited by Eliza to play in an impromptu sight reading session in the "Lydia House." I thought it was just going to be a few cellists reading from an easy/beginner piece, but the bottles of wine came out and it quickly grew to include about 3-4 violinist, 1-2 violist and 5 cellists crammed into the living room! I think it was Beth who joked, "How many cellists does it take to play one part?" ;). Apparently five!

Photo credit:

It was insane! Oh, and then there were glow sticks...! The lights were turned off for a bit as we played under the music lights and glow sticks!! Surprisingly everyone sounded great and it was funny trying to avoid hitting each other with our bows. I've heard musicians sometimes complain about sharing their music stands, but this was absolutely hysterical! I learned how to play the cello with it extremely slanted to my right to avoid hitting the person beside me while cramming my head around to see the music - although I'm pretty sure my intonation was all over the place! Lol! :).

Beth came up with the great idea of taking a picture of the music and displaying it on the ipad so we had more than one copy of the music, which worked but the notes were still kind of blurry.

It wasn't like a college party where people got drunk and crazy or anything, it was just a bunch of adults relaxing, drinking wine, having a good time and sharing the love of music! This camp just has a great group of people!

Monday, August 13, 2012

NSC Day 1 (08/13/12): Orientation

I'll be typing these entries from memory since I didn't really take very many notes, so I may confuse the days or something, or not explain concepts as well as the instructors did so I'll correct and add more details as I remember them.

This camp is very nurturing and protective of their campers to ensure that they're able to have open up and relax in a nurturing environment, so unless its on their website or the faces are really blurry, I won't post photos of people. I'll change names as usual (except for teachers), and if I'm showing photos of the back of people's heads its on purpose. :). And if you recognize the back of someone's head, well...ummmm... you probably know them pretty well and probably know that they attended this camp anyway! Lol! :)

So here goes... 

I woke up somewhat early to pack up my things at the hotel and call a cab to get to the camp. On the way there, we got lost through winding mountain roads and I knew immediately that this would be a wonderful experience! Getting lost on the way to a destination always bodes well for me because it reminds me of previous adventures that always seem to end very well! I can get into some crazy stories... but I won't. ;).

I arrived at camp and was immediately greeted by the both of the hosts of the camp and a couple of the instructors and was then taken to my dorm and introduced to my room-mate. Thankfully she was absolutely wonderful and sweet - I'll call her Sue.
She was older than me - maybe around my mom's age? I can never tell people's ages any more... This was also her first time to this camp and had also started playing approximately at the same time as me although she could also play the piano. Coincidentally, we both share the love of trying to play different genres with the cello and she was also working on some Celtic tunes. :).

One of my initial worries was how I was going to adjust to having a room-mate since I'd never had the college experience of staying in dorms, or staying in camp before, so I was really curious how this was going to work out. Therefore, I opted out for reserving a room with two beds instead of dormitory style accommodations. My thought being it would be easier to adjust to one personality than to a roomful of personalities.

My bed on the right by the window. My roommate arrived before me and selected her bed first.
Although I really loved being by the window and smelling the fresh mountain air.
I definitely over-packed, but I didn't know what to expect!
There was also a closet and dresser, but it was full, so I kind of sprawled my stuff on that half of the room. Sue drove so she was also able to store some of her things in her car. I'll be driving next year!

After designating which drawers and shelves we were to use, we unpacked and was settled and ready for orientation in no time. Since we didn't know what to expect, we were both anxious and excited as we headed to the Main House for orientation.

11:45 Welcome & Orientation
We had arrived early, so we entered the cabin like building to find other campers milling around. We headed to the desk to pick up our name tags, which I was really thankful for. I have a LOT of trouble remembering people's names - not an exaggeration! Despite the fact I spent a lot of time practicing with my group and getting to know my roommate, I really didn't start to remember their names until the last two days! Yes, my memory for names is that bad - that I don't really pay attention much! My ADD kicking in! Lol! ;).

There was a sign up sheet for additional classes which I didn't know was going to be available. Unfortunately, the slots for the Alexander Techniques were full, so I signed up for some sight-reading chamber music instead.

The orientation started promptly at 11:45am, signaled by drums, with everyone heading towards the main living area. Like a moth to a flame, all of the new cello campers congregated in the same area in the back corner of the room as all of the “old timers” seemed to be catching up and greeting one another. As everyone quieted down, Marcia and Marion welcomed everyone and went over the schedule and introduced the teachers and assistants.

The "Main House" where concerts occur and food is served.
During orientation we were instructed to turn to someone and introduce ourselves and speak to them for one to two minutes. And yes, in most circumstances, this sort of thing is a bit annoying (I'm a fairly introverted person in the first place), but when you get a room full of people who are passionate about a certain subject and want to share that excitement it became really fun! The din of excited voices increased quickly to a loud roar, and for me it was very difficult to tear away from my conversations. We were then instructed to find and introduce ourselves to members who would be playing in our groups. This was a wonderful ice-breaker, which transitioned smoothly into lunch since everyone was conversing and introducing themselves already! ;).

1PM Lunch
My other worry was the food that was going to be served at the camp. I expected the food to be your typical “camp pre-prepared, cheap food," but I was pleasantly surprised that everything was fresh and tasted really good! In fact, I gained more than a few pounds even though I was walking more than I normally do in any given day while lugging the cello and stuff up and down hills!

During lunch they served a baked potato, beans, salad and some other food I can't remember. I know that doesn't sound much, but they had all the fixings for the potato so I loaded up on it! 

2-3:15 PM Group B Meet in 2 groups for Chorale
After lunch we headed to the Chapel for our first class of the camp. We were given some music to sightread, which of course I'm terrible at, so I started to dread if this was how all of the classes would start. Fortunately it wasn't - though I really need to practice sight-reading more! 

3:45 PM Group B Chamber Music
My next session was with my Chamber group, which I quickly discovered was up a fairly steep hill (steep for me, but not for others!) or steps up the side of the hill!

Two members of my chamber group were also in the same class with me, so we walked up the path together. I'll call them Beth and Emily. Beth was around my age and was a physicist, had played the cello for two years and this was her second time to camp, while Emily had been playing for about the same time as I did and was in her forties.

I'm pretty out of shape, so with the cello strapped to my back, my Peak portable music stand which I purchased specifically for this trip (HIGHLY recommended), music folder and wedge cushion, I ascended the hill. Beth noticed that my hands were full and offered her extra carabiner to connect my cushion to my portable stand to free up my hands, and in green to match my cello case too! :).

Helpful Tip: attach your seat cushion with a carabiner to your music stand to free up your hands!

We walked up the hill and met in the "Farmers House" which was sweltering hot inside, especially after making it up the hill. It was hotter in the inside of the house than outside, so after our session was we decided to practice outside.

5:30 PM Free time
Our piece wasn't meshing well together, so we broke down the piece measure by measure and repeated them three or four times to get used to hearing the harmonies and by the end of the hour we were sounding much better!

6:30 PM Dinner
Pasta and salad, and for desert apple cobbler with whip cream!

7:45 PM Large Ensemble
Luckily for me, there was four people in part two, which was nice since I didn’t practice this piece and we also ended up doing divisi so two cellists took the upper notes (me being one of them) and two doing the bottom notes.

At the end of the day I was tired but looking forward to the next day, although I had trouble falling asleep with the new environment and thoughts of cello concepts and techniques running around in my head!

I also noticed that my cello LOVED the humidity in California. He was responding much more easily; that is, the strings were so much more easier to move and the volume seemed to be considerably louder and richer with less effort on my part. I may have to look into humidifying my cello...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Traveling with a cello to a workshop

After dinner and a glass of wine (I am in Sonoma County after all!), I'm finally starting to relax a bit from traveling. I left for the airport at 8am and didn't arrive at the hotel until 6:00pm-ish.

I decided to travel to California one day before the workshop to make sure I get there on time, but I wasn't sure if I would be able to bring my cello until the very last minute since I was flying standby!

There was a bit of a snafu getting the tickets, but flying standby since I was a child, I'm kind of used to that kind of thing. I just always expect there will be issues that come up when flying standby and that I have to wait at least 2-3 flights.

The snafus? First, after telling my family member to list my cello a million times, he didn't believe me so he didn't list the cello. I had to text him while I was at the ticketing counter, fortunately, he was working at the airport so he ran out and listed the cello quickly, although he sent me the incorrect confirmation number and listed it under my first name instead of "Cello" followed by my last name; e.g. "Jane Doe" & "Cello Doe."

My husband walked me to the security gate and was going to wait to see if I made it on the plane. If I didn't make it on to the first flight I would hand off the cello to him and then fly cello-less since they had a cello waiting for me at the workshop as well. 

I went through the security area and watched my cello go through the conveyor belt, walked through the metal detectors and was able to watch my cello go through the x-ray scan while watching the monitor as it did. It was really interesting and fun to see the skeleton of the cello, with the endpin and pegheds evident against the outline of the cello body. I was very tempted to take a picture, but I'm sure the security personnel would have objected and may have even taken my iphone from me. 

I had read through this wonderful blog about traveling: so I felt somewhat prepared, so when I got to the gate I immediately went to the agent and verified that I was listed, which was a good thing I did because one of the agents had deleted the other ticket because she thought it was a duplicate listing. I guess a good rule of thumb: ALWAYS confirm your seats at the gate and tell them you are traveling with a cello regardless if you are flying standby or not. From reading other blogs, they may provide additional instruction and information anyway.

Luckily I got on and didn't have to wait for the next flight; however, just as I reached the door to the plane a flight attendant stepped off the plane almost to block me from getting on and exclaimed, "I'm sorry, but we don't have room for that cello!" Luckily the ticket agent had followed me down to the airplane door and quickly responded "don't worry the cello has a seat." Which got me wondering if family members who fly standby get better treatment?

Anyway, I followed instructions from the other blog and once I got onto the plane, smiled nicely and asked one of the flight attendants, "may I have an extender strap?" He looked somewhat surprised that I knew what that was and said, "sure, let me get that for you."

I definitely got a bunch of stares and curious looks walking down the aisle. It was kind of weird. ..hhhmmm..I think I've come up with an interesting idea for a sociology experiment! ;).

Anyway, I got to the seats and tried to position the cello into the seat but kept bumping into the arm rests and had to pull them up first. Then I tried to put the cello in its seat but it wouldn't fit, so I reached down and pulled the seat up which made a fairly loud ripping sound because it was attached with heavy velcro. A little old lady sitting across the aisle from me commented that it looked like I knew what I was doing and that I must have traveled a lot with the cello (which of course, this was my first time). I just smiled and nodded. I think ripping off the seat a little too enthusiastically looked like confidence or something! ;).
I put the seat on the floor, positioned my cello and buckled him in with the extender strap!

My cello sitting beside me on the airplane - with a seat belt no less!
I was going to take more pictures, but I was already getting a bunch of weird stares so I just snuck one photo.

Have I mentioned how cumbersome a cello is yet?
Well, after picking up my luggage: 1 big suitcase, 1 small suitcase, a carry on and my cello it was a really pain in the you know what! If I wasn't getting curious glances before, well now, it was a bit more obvious! Come on, really? Never seen someone travel with a cello before?? ...well, actually I never have and I travel fairly frequently! Lol! :)

After an hour of waiting, my shuttle arrived. I had missed the previous shuttle by mere minutes and had to wait more than an hour for the next one.

The shuttle arrived 15-20 min late and as the bus driver was loading the baggage under the bus, he asked if I wanted to put the cello underneath. I shook my head, smiled, said "no thanks" and quickly headed towards the bus doors because I got the impression he was going to insist, which I understood why as soon as I stepped onto the bus. The bus aisles were SUPER small and it was EXTREMELY difficult to maneuver the aisles without bumping into people and chairs! There was one row left with two seats next to each other at the very back of the bus - those poor people I bumped into! Sorry! 
I put the cello in the chair beside me, with me crammed between the window and cello because there was no room by the window due to the overhead racks - and I mean crammed! I must have looked so funny squished between the window and cello...

Two hours later I arrived at my hotel, tired and completely understanding why people drive with their cellos instead of flying! Arriving at the hotel was definitely a welcomed respite!

At the check-in desk, I innocently asked if the walls were fairly thick and if it would be okay if I practiced. She shook her head and told me that she would put me as far away as possible so as not to disturb the other guests - which I knew would be the case!
In this three floor hotel, she put me on the third floor, at the very back of the hotel, in the corner of the building near the elevator! Literally, as far as possible!'s not like I'm playing drums or! ;).

iPhone photo of my hotel room.
FOOD!!! I didn't eat all day until I got to the hotel - I was starving!

Traveling with a cello is just plain exhausting... I wonder how professional cellists do it!

Traveling with a cello reminds me of owning a pet or something. You sacrifice your comfort to ensure that your "pet cello" is taken care of and in return, you receive the enjoyment of learning how to play and the cello "grows" with you. It's no wonder that cellists become really attached to their cello!

I'll blog about my workshop days too, but from what I've read and been told, there's very spotty wireless (if any) so I'll probably have to post the entries when I get back. The camp is in the redwood forest, so it'll be fun taking photos of that as well! :).

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lesson #81 (08/02/12): Trills & 2nd Position

Overwhelmed = Procrastination! :(. 
I have to admit preparing in a very short amount of time (2 weeks) has gotten be a bit overwhelmed so I've been procrastinating like crazy on practicing these pieces.
I didn't pick up my cello all day Saturday and I even cancelled my cello lesson today (Sunday) so I could go dancing instead! *sigh* And this is the last full weekend I can practice since I'll be leaving early Sunday morning.

These pieces are "easier" than the last workshop, but if it wasn't for the previous workshop, I would have had a full 4 weeks to practice these three pieces and I think I would have been fine. Next summer, I'm going to have to make sure there is at least 5-6 weeks between each workshop so I can have a full 4 weeks to practice the pieces and also have a few days for a break to recharge. Two weeks is just not enough time to prepare! ...argh...!!! This is going to be a disaster! :(.

The only thing that has really gotten me to pick up the cello and practice a little bit is that I don't want the rest of my chamber group to suffer because of my lack of practicing. So I'm trying to get at least 2 out of the 3 pieces somewhat "decent" and only have six days to do it. The two pieces, Largo & Finale, has four cellists including myself, and the last piece Adagio has eight cellists with two cellists doubling up on each part, so I figure I need to practice the first two. In fact, I haven't even looked at the third one! ...I'm in trouble...

One of the items I forgot to mention in my other entry is that one of the pieces, Largo, has trills! I've never done trills before so we spent some time on this. Adam showed me how to do this and gave me some helpful tips:

  • The arm should be further back and more at an angle
  • The joints on the fingers (not the arm) should be moving, like someone waving goodbye with just the hand 
  • Since this is a baroque piece, he said that it would probably start at the higher note instead of the lower note 
  • I asked whether the trills needed to be in time with the others, and he said, "in more advanced quartets  - yes, but in my case they probably won't require that." Hopefully, he's correct because my trills are very inconsistent!
Adam pointed out that Largo is slower than Adagio. I didn't even know Largo was a tempo marking... and since this piece is called Largo, Adam told me I could anticipate that this would be fairly slow. 

He recommended that I pay attention to part IV, which will be acting like a metronome since it has eighth notes and playing on every beat.

And, he also pointed out that for at least 7 measures it's marked as solo so I need to be louder than the other three parts - yikes! I need to start focusing and practicing those measures more! They're also happen to be the hardest measures for me. 

2nd Position
Everything is so out of whack in 2nd position! Intonation, fingering, tone, string crossings, everything! So far, I hate second position... Lol! ;).
Adam recommended that I stay and practice in 2nd position to really feel the spacing with my fingers since  the spacing is different and smaller than first position. He said to think of it as the hand being more relaxed in second position since I keep wanting to stretch my fourth finger.

Also, with the string crossings in 2nd position, I need to remember to "go up and over." For some reason, I'm having more of an issue with this in 2nd position than in 1st position, although I do have the same issues in 1st position, maybe its just more noticeable in 2nd since the spacing is smaller so when I'm off, the intonation is more obvious.

I've also been practicing the "Count Down" song that I learned at the workshop (which I think is really fun!) and it's helping me find second position easier. Although I keep forgetting to initiate the shift with my whole back/arm and not just my fingers.

More on the procrastination front: I just confirmed/purchased my round-trip airline tickets, hotel and shuttle ride today - yep, with only one week to go! Although I still need to figure out if I need to reserve a taxi cab or something to get to the camp grounds...

Like to whine & complain?..........Blog it!, I mean - Go practice!
Want to procrastinate?......Blog some more! ...ok, fine - Go practice!


Tomorrow, I swear! ;).