Chinese Proverb

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

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)

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