Chinese Proverb

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

Week 1 - Day 2 (Monday 7/29): Classes & a replacement cello

I was really ill prepared for this workshop and totally off on my game the entire time I was there ...ugh... worse student ever! I'm blaming it on being jet-lagged! ;)

Anyway, I woke up late and rushed to eat breakfast before hurrying to the first class of the workshop. I got there a bit late, but (I think) no one noticed because everyone was still slowly unpacking and getting settled in when I arrived.

Technique Class & Ensemble Class
In my haste, I forgot my workbook and rockstop so I ended up using my slip-on shoe as a rockstop and sharing a stand with an elderly women named "Elle." I felt kind of bad because I know how difficult it is to share a stand, especially if one has bad eyes, and both of us had poor eyesight! Anyway, I didn't mind sitting in the back and actually preferred it.

As a class, we decided we wanted to read and play through the music so we could select the 2 out of 3 pieces we would perform at the end of week. We had the choice of Hunter's Chorus, Blue Bells and Locus Iste.
Since I was swamped at work and other tasks before the workshop, I hadn't practiced any Week 1 music and was sightreading everything. Even though I had played Blue Bells and Locus Iste in my cello group before, I had also sightread it back then too so none of it really stuck with me.

Anyway, we decided to read through Blue Bells first, which was a relief because it was an "easy warm-up" for me. I was also thankful the teachers decided to have everyone play the parts together before splitting us up so I could get a sense of how everything should be played.

After they assigned us our parts for Blue Bells we did an exercise to determine who had the melody. Each part would only play if they had the melody. I had done this exercise before so I was familiar with it, but it was fun nonetheless. :)

A key take-away and a "rule of thumb" that I've heard FREQUENTLY for ensemble playing:

If you have the melody bring it out
If you don't have the melody, be quiet!

Which can be reiterated as:
  • Know if you are a supportive role so you know when to be quiet; or if you have a supportive role "get out of the way!"
    • This can be done by playing pianissimo or "decaying notes," especially with whole, half and some times quarter notes.
    • In large ensembles or orchestras, if I can hear myself during ppp, pp, or p I'm being too loud. Of course, that's all relative too. 
  • If you have the melody, be louder!
    • If you have "moving parts" it is likely it's a more important role.

Unfortunately, I tend to play on the loud side... heh, heh... oops...

We were all reading from parts, so another helpful tip was to write down who had the melody.

My teacher Clayton had actually gone over a lot of these ensemble tips before, but I was really surprised that I remembered most of the information he provided and the context that I first heard the information!
It was also nice to know that other teachers taught the same information Clayton did. I was beginning to think I was ahead of the curve with all of the ensemble tips I had received from Clayton!

Anyway, we had a 15min break so I ran back to my dorm to grab my rockstop and music, and we read through more of the music.

Large Cello Choir Class
The first piece we worked on was Sarabande, but I kept getting lost because the tempo was on the slower side. Per the conductor's suggestion, I started subdividing everything as to not rush the notes.
Clayton had also mentioned this prior to the workshop, he explained that it's more difficult to rush notes when subdividing because I have to fill out the space with the "&'s" and whatever - they're like speed-bumps! But in my case, it's more like stop signs because it takes me a while to figure out how to subdivide! Lol!

Anyway, Sarabande looked really easy and I could play it by myself, but a roomful of cellos playing all at once and my counting just goes out the door! I also hadn't practiced the music. I finally decided to watch the first chair in our section to get cues on when to play because my counting was so inconsistent!

I quickly ate lunch so I could start practicing the assigned music. Sightreading the music and playing poorly was definitely taking a blow to my ego! Lol! ...not that I play that well... but I definitely was playing a lot worse than I normally did and it was driving me nuts!

Private Lesson 

We went over some of the large ensemble music since I'm terrible at rhythm and didn't know how to count some of the measures. She had me say "Mississippi" or "Watermelon" for 16th notes, "Hot Dog" for 8th notes and "Triple It" for triplets. Using words for rhythm seems to be a lot easier for me to keep track of than numbers and letters!
I know the Suzuki method teaches that to read rhythm, but for some reason that never clicked for me until that day. Wow, it took me two years to figure that one out!! Doh!!

I have however, gotten better at counting 1 & 2 &... but still can't manage to count 1e&a2e&a.... while reading music, bowing and fingering!! A work in progress....
Some time ago, I had been complaining to Clayton about my lack of counting and how I just kind of "feel" how the music goes, which of course doesn't work when playing with other people! He commented that if I had tried counting from the very beginning, than I would have had 2 years of practice on learning how to count!!! ...and without saying, probably a lot better at counting since 2 years is a long time...
Anyway, that comment actually had a huge impact on me and what has made me focus more on learning on how to count... I have two years to catch up on afterall! ;)

Anyway, I also wanted to focus on vibrato since my vibrato was still incorrect. I could feel it was incorrect because it took a lot of effort, and I would tense up and my shoulders and neck would start hurting, so I asked that we work on vibrato.

LB had me make a circle with my pointer finger and thumb and put it by my collarbone. Next, she had me rotate from my elbow while keeping my elbow in place.

Both my teachers do not advocate the "rotation method" but the up and down motion (i.e. sticky finger) instead, but I wanted to learn it anyway. I figure more tools in my toolbox! :)

Anyway, I'm glad I did because I had a MAJOR epiphany about my vibrato. I kept hearing from my teachers "don't rotate," "it should be coming from your elbow/back and not my wrist," etc. But doing that exercise made me become conscious of the feeling of how to initiate the movement from the elbow! Anyway, my vibrato is sounding better, but it's still a work in progress.

She gave me a few exercises:
1) Vibrate at different speeds. Set the metronome to 60 and then vibrate slowly using "apple," then "strawberry" and then "watermelon."
2) Try it at different positions: 1st, 2nd, 4th and 7th (if possible)

I've tried the "sticky finger" exercises below, but for the life of me I just can't figure it out!
My finger just slides all over the place...
View this video on YouTube:

Baroque Dancing
It was a terribly hot and humid day and I was still a bit jet lagged so I wasn't entirely up for dancing, but I made myself go because I was feeling tense from practicing. I'm glad I attended because it definitely loosened some of my muscles.

Violin shop
I went to the shop to replace the cello, but I was sort of frustrated that I had to use up my "free time" (and had to walk in the hot and humid weather) instead of practicing. When I got to the shop, the luthier apologized, but I was in a "mood" and left quickly after he exchanged the cello.

I'm totally blaming it on the headache! In fact, another Colorado participant had mentioned she was suffering from a headache since she got there too. I know people get altitude sickness going to Colorado (we're a mile up from sea level) so maybe it happens in reverse too?

Anyway, later I checked the cello and discovered it was a a Jan Szlachtowski cello!
I was really curious about this cello maker and had heard good reviews, so I had wanted to try out a cello from this maker. These cellos are "professional" handmade cellos usually costing more than $10,000.

And I got to play it for two weeks!!! SWEET!!! :)

I still felt jet lagged or under the weather, and had an annoying headache so I decided to take a nap and slept through the concert! I woke up just in time to help out with the Reception, which I had volunteered to help out.

Overall, a good day - a few cello epiphanies and a cello I was excited to test out!


  1. I am really enjoying reading about your Cello Camp experiences as we just don't have them here in Australia. I have only been playing cello for 6 months, so I read everything voraciously. I love that you go into so much detail about everything.

    I'm so glad they gave you such a great cello to replace the shabby one they first gave you. How was it? Did you enjoy it? Was the tone beautiful? Did it sing to you?

    Just wanted to let you know I was listening. I hope your headache gets better really soon! Drink lots of water, get enough sleep and I hope the rest of the camp is FANTASTIC!


    1. Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy reading about it! Great to meet another fellow cello blogger too! I just added you blog to my list. :)

      It was an awesome cello, but Marge's borrowed cello was really great too. I'll try to write a review for both cellos in one of the entries.

      I'm back from camp and am trying to recreate everything from memory and a few notes, but the headache did finally go away on Thursday!

    2. Mangrovejane, I am in Australia too. I am two months in. Queensland. Where are you ?

  2. I've always thought the old school 1e&a2e&a needed a revamp, the fruits and veggies are so easy, its marvelous. The ensemble insights will be a great help since I'm starting orchestra in a couple weeks!

    I cant seem to see any of the videos unless I'm on a PC for some reason. I think its an issue with blogspot and mobile devices, which is why I moved my new blog over to Wordpress for now. If its not too much trouble maybe you could post hypertext links for the videos as well as embeds ? Sorry to be a pain!

    1. I think it's a blogspot issue too... funny you should mention Wordpress! I was thinking about moving my other website to Wordpress and moving the blog may be good practice for me! :)

      No problem! I can post hypertext links too. :)

      NICE!!! Let me know how orchestra goes! I'll be posting more ensemble insights as I blog about the camp too.

    2. Wordpress is easier to work with on an mobile device & has waaay more options (but at a price $$$). Whereas BlogSpot is totally free and has a few cool features that are harder to implement on Wordpress. For instance the RSS update feature that shows recent post on the list of cello blogs you follow. Call me lazy, but that is one thing that I really miss, especially on your website since you've done all the heavy lifting of finding these resources.

      I found Abby's videos frustrating at first too, but after doing her "jiggly finger" or the "back of the hand" exercises for a few weeks, the rest of the exercises started to become possible. Still can't quite do the "tennis ball" one, but that's party because the fumes from the new tennis balls make me a little dizzy.

    3. That's good to know about WordPress! I'm not that great with HTML and all that, so WordPress is a bit scary... not as user friendly as some of the others, but I figure I need to start using it since everyone seems to be moving to it.

      Lol!! Yeah, I watched her videos, tried it a couple times and thought, "this doesn't work!" ...I'm kind of impatient... ;)
      I'm going to go through them more carefully and methodically, along with some other vibrato videos as well.

      That reminds me - I should probably go buy a tennis ball before they're out of season!

  3. I am loving the emails of your time at camp. I am still getting through them. Time ! I have not started on Vibrato yet. I am so eager. I could not see the sticky finger imagine so I can in to the blog hoping it was there. I can't see it here either. I would like to.

    1. Hi Helen,

      Oops, sorry! I forgot to post a link to the YouTube video.

      I just added it beneath the video. Let me know if that works. :)