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!
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: http://youtu.be/YkmfcO5sZgU
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.
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!