Chinese Proverb

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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Week 1 - Day 4 (Wed 7/31): Technique, Coffee & Group Photo

My memory is failing me so I think I may be confusing some of the days.... ugh, I knew I should have taken more detailed notes instead of jotting three or four words on the inside of my binder!

Woke up late again so I was late to class... as usual... slacker! Totally setting a bad example... :(
By the way, don't be late if you attend CelloSpeak next year! No one else was late, and I have to admit it was rude of me to be late all the time... sorry... Plus it is nice to get there early to be able to get a good spot and tune, which I didn't get to do most of the time.

However, I did figure out a helpful tip in setting up quickly and more quietly! :)
Most of the participants would bring their stand into the room (and even cello cases) and setup in the room, which is a bit loud. Since I was late all the time, I didn't want to disturb the class so I put my stand together in the hallway and put my binder on it. Don't try this if you have a wire stand because they're not very sturdy.

I would then bring my stand and music, set it down and then walk out of the room grab my cello, tighten my bow, and then come back in to extend my endpin, sit down and be ready to go! Took me a few times of being late to figure that one out.
I didn't think to do this while I was there, but it would have probably been more efficient and quieter if I had extended my endpin before entering the room too so all I had to do was sit down and be ready to play.

Although setting up in the hallway didn't really work in the large ensemble because we were in a theatre and we stored our cello cases and bags in the same room... oops...

Small Ensemble
We selected the pieces for our small group ensemble and voted to play Blue Bells and Hunter's Chorus (for Cello Quartet)and also decided that during the break we would reorganize and sit in the appropriate sections now that we knew which song we were performing and who was playing each part.

Since my focus that week was on vibrato, I tried vibrating my pizzicato since half of Blue Bells for my part was pizz and I wanted to get some practice. I don't know if I was doing it correctly, but LB had mentioned that I should try to get my left hand and right hand comfortable doing different things and I figured this was a bit different! Anyway, I forgot to ask what circumstances would someone want to vibrate pizzicato so I'll have to ask my teacher this weekend during my lesson.

Technique Class
We worked on Hunter's Chorus, but we also covered a lot of helpful techniques.

Shifting to 4th
Prepare for the shift by first thinking about it (imagine the location on the fingerboard), and then shift into the position. I've read this in technique books before and my teachers have mentioned it too.

However, having AE instruct us to look at the note on the page, think and visualize the shift, and then waiting more than a few seconds before telling us it was okay to shift helped a lot.

Typically, when I think of a shift, I don't think of it as long as I should since I tend to rush. My normal thought process would be something like, "What note is that? Oh, that's a shift! Darn. I need to move my hand to that spot. Okay, I think it's over there. Go!"

But with AE instructing us to visualize the shift and think about it, and then "holding out" before allowing us to shift made me focus and think about the shift more. This was basically what I was thinking during the first exercise:

"Okay, shifting to 4th, so I need to move my hand down to the saddle. Ugh, I hate shifting to 4th... oh yeah, don't forget to stretch my pinky to grab that G. Are we ready yet? Why isn't he saying 'Shift?' ....Okay, well I guess from a third person point of view it would be located here on my cello. I wonder how my cello would look from an aerial view?? hhmmm, interesting... why isn't he saying 'Shift' yet?? ...fine, I'll think about it some more... maybe I should make sure my elbow stays in the correct path. Okay, now I think I know where I'm going... yep, I've got this. Oh for goodness sake, are you going to say 'Shift' yet?? I've got this!!" 

And I totally got it too!!! :) I wonder if my thoughts showed up in my facial expressions and if I shot him an impatient look? I think I may have because he smiled and then said, "Shift." Lol!

Anyway, it was an enlightening experience. It made me realize how unprepared I was each time I shifted! Although thinking about it with that much focus and making sure I found that "feeling" each time is a lot of effort and concentration! Not sure if I can do that each time...

Shift to a position
Don't shift to a note, shift to a position.
Both of my teachers have told me this before, but it finally sunk in because I was caught in the act when I tried to shift to 4th position to grab the G on the A string during Hunter's Chorus. See my thought process above - I should NOT be reaching for that G! My hand position should allow for that note just to be there.

Even though people have told me that 4th position is the easiest and most comfortable position, I've found it to be the opposite! But then again, I haven't spent a lot of time in 4th position so it's still unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Anyway, this is still a work in progress too.

Someone asked about harmonics, so LB2 explained how harmonics works by dividing a string in half to find the octave of that note. Then by halving that section again, you can get another octave. It's funny, but I've heard this explained several times before, but I actually never tried it after the fact, so the information never really sank in completely. ...hhhmmm... I guess you could say I was "familiar" with the information because I had heard it so many times, but never really understood it? If that makes any sense!

Anyway, this time I actually took the time to measure it out (from nut to bridge), mark it with a pencil and found all the harmonics! Honestly, if you haven't done this with your cello yet, do it! ...NOW... seriously... right NOW... stop reading this and go find your harmonics.... Your cello will thank you! Not only is it fun to do, but it really does help learn the geography of the cello!

LB2 provided a wonderful tip on tuning. After tuning always play each string individually and then play double stops. This will help start training my ear to recognize when the strings are in tune!! Not sure why I didn't hear of this before, or maybe I had forgotten, because it's so obvious and simple! I'm going to do this from now on.

It's also important to be consciously aware of the sound, so a good idea is to hear the sound in my head or hum it so it doesn't become passive listening.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this class! Even though AE & LB2 went over a lot of information I've heard before, it never really clicked for me until then. We learn by building information in layers to build a deeper understanding of the subject, so revisiting basics is always helpful for me. And, I think focusing on cello 24/7 for a few days really does wonders for improving and understanding cello technique!

Cello choir
We broke up into sectionals and went over fingering and timing. I don't remember what we worked on exactly, but if/when I remember, I'll update the information.

Lunch & Coffee 
If it wasn't so hot and humid, I would have loved walking around campus because they had some awesome buildings! The coffee shop was located in this beautiful castle-looking building, which we got to by walking across the tree-lined field below. Enchanting right? :)

Anyway, I was still suffering from a headache and still a bit jet-lagged or whatever, but I was finally feeling back to normal after getting some coffee, which made me realize that perhaps I was also suffering from caffeine withdrawals too, so I started drinking coffee and soda!

Private lesson
We re-visited vibrato since that was my focus for that week. During my practice sessions I noticed a couple odd things with my vibrato. I always felt that when I was moving my first finger to vibrate that I was doing an extension to reach the note. She explained that it feels that way because the hand has to relax to vibrate so the space between the fingers closes up a bit.

I was also unsure of what to do with my thumb. I don't remember what she said exactly, but she mentioned that the thumb was a balance point. She also mentioned that the thumb had an important role in shifting, and I should think about moving my thumb and the fingers would follow.

Right after the lesson I decided to practice to make sure that I remembered some of the concepts and feelings of the vibrato movement I felt during the lesson, but I'm sure I was driving people nuts with my vibrato exercises!

Group Photo
Yaaay for group photos!!! :)

My muscles were feeling fairly tense so I attended one of the stretching/exercise classes.
What I really enjoyed about this class was the instructor gave cello-specific stretches since she herself was a cellist and participant at CelloSpeak. I'll have to post these exercises in another entry later since this post is exceedingly long. SOOO much information... and this is only the stuff I can remember!

Dinner & Practice 
After dinner, we met up in the spare dorm room and practiced for a while. Since we were having issues with rhythm, we decided to clap out the measures which helped tremendously.

Recital / Concert
A fun concert! My two favorite pieces during the recital was the faculty's performance of Pray by Apocalyptica and one of the cello participants who performed a piece by Natalie Haas.

The Natalie Haas piece was simply amazing! I especially loved the fact that she had invited her daughter (who was a violinist) to do a duet with her. Also, her mom was participating at CelloSpeak so there were three generations in attendance. Very sweet! :)

I don't remember what song they performed, but below is a video of Natalie Haas performing.


  1. thanks for blogging about cello camp, and please keep posting - I'm living vicariously through you :-)

    1. Thanks Joe! :) I'll post more entries shortly...

  2. I just took my first orchestra class at a local college with some fairly advanced music to start with, and I was massively surprised by what a challenge playing with a large group can be. I have so much more respect for what orchestra players (like yourself) do now! It is almost another musical skill altogether. I guess that is part of what is so useful about cello camps like this? I guess I will find out next summer ;)

    1. I think it definitely requires a different skill set. :) If you can, grab the cellists in your section and start a cello ensemble! You guys can work on blending, intonation, breathing together, etc. together. It's lots of fun! ;)

    2. That was my plan actually! To try to form/join a small ensemble :) However, after reviewing the material with my teacher, it looks like this particular college orchestra may be a bit advanced for my humble 16 months of solo cello experience - maybe once I master Suzuki book 7? In the meantime, I'll keep hunting for an more appropriate beginner orchestra.

      Here is an excerpt of the "easier" and extremely beautiful hour long Rachmaninov Symphony No 2 they were starting the semester with, which the veterans of this community college orchestra sight read almost flawlessly.

      Something to aspire to!!