Chinese Proverb

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

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!

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