Chinese Proverb

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

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Week 1 - Day 5 (Thursday 8/1): Catchup, vibrato and no solo

It has been a WEIRD few weeks since returning from CelloSpeak! ...has it only been a month and a half?? Hopefully in the next few days my schedule will clear up a bit so I can finish my posts!

The reason for being so swamped... I was in a small car accident which resulted in my car being totaled (no one was injured), so I've been running around trying to find a car in my very low price range and settling the insurance stuff.

I also started a few side projects: a couple of photo shoots for a quartet and cellist, a wedding video montage, and two website designs. I do all that as hobbies, so I was surprised that I got a few requests, and all within a few days of each other.

Anyway, I also discovered last weekend my teacher Clayton is moving out-of-state at the end of the month. Noooooo....!!!! I am totally bummed out about that! :(  Since he's leaving, I'm also looking for another Music Director to replace him for our cello group. *sigh* I'm totally going to miss him. So bummed... :(

We're also going through some flooding in our area so a lot of the business and roads have been shut down. We're a block and a half from Boulder Creek, but our apartment complex is at a higher elevation - so luckily, I haven't been affected. Except for road closures, non-working traffic lights in the area and some power outages, it hasn't been too bad. ...on a positive note, everything pretty much shut down so I had time to concentrate on photographs, web design stuff, a blog entry and some cello practice. :)

My friend took this a few nights ago. That's a street! Table Mesa & Broadway is now a "river."

Did I also mention I happen to be looking at a 2002 Subaru Outback with an All Weather Package and All Wheel Drive, which apparently drives really well in torrential rain? Lol! I think I may be turning into a Subaru fan because this car totally kicks butt driving through heavy rain! I'm loving the AWD, but don't worry, I won't be driving through any large pools of water or anything.

It's strange - I went to the dealership after work to take a look at this car and they "approved" me, but they still need to run it through when the banks are open. However, since all the flooding, businesses including banks have been closed so I haven't heard back with the final determination, so it's kind of scary driving a car around not knowing whether or not I really own the vehicle!

I'm telling you, it just has been a very WEIRD few weeks!

Anyway, back to CelloSpeak... let's see what I can remember...


I was finally feeling back to normal, but still couldn't figure out if was because I was jet-lagged, if it was from the altitude change (going from a mile high from sea level), the change in climate or from caffeine withdrawals, but I finally feeling back to normal! Too bad it took so long!

My appetite also started to level off and I wasn't eating as much I was before. Although I was still taking a few pieces of cookies and fruit back to my room because I was still getting hungry in between meals! ..hhhmmm... I wonder if we were allowed to do that?

I woke up earlier than the previous days and even had time to have a more leisurely breakfast, instead of getting to the kitchen 5 min before they closed and shoveling food into my mouth!

Technique Class

As promised, we went over vibrato during this class period, which was great because I had been practicing it and wanted to hear the instructions again, which LB happened to be teaching in this class.

However, the other instructor DH taught the "sticky-finger method." I'm going to refer to it as the "sticky-finger method" although I have no idea what it's really called! If someone knows, let me know. :)

Anyway, I knew immediately he was in the other "vibrato camp" because I caught a glimpse of his expression when LB started to teach the rotation method. A surprised look flashed across his face for only the briefest moment, but I was watching for his reaction to figure out what "camp" he was in.
I was however, even more impressed that DH didn't try offer up his opinion on how he thought vibrato should be taught, but instead supported her teaching by giving some helpful tips that could be used in both rotational vibrato and sticky-finger vibrato. They totally worked as a team and I was HUGELY impressed that two teachers with two different methods could supplement each other so well! The instructors at CelloSpeak are just top-notch! And yes, I did get the chance to sit down with DH during lunch and ask him how he would normally teach vibrato - and it was the "sticky-finger method."

Anyway, he provided a great acronym when playing vibrato, which is S.E.W.


Clayton had worked a little bit on this with me before the camp, since my vibrato was super squirrel-y; that is, very narrow, fast, and extremely uneven! Anyway, it's best to start off learning how to do slow relaxed vibrato, instead of doing narrow fast vibrato. ...wait a minute, I totally love that.. SUPER SQUIRRELY! ...could be a rock band or something! Lol! :)

Anyway, learning how to vibrate more slowly... the example they gave was to turn the metronome on to 60 and vibrate using the rhythm: ap-ple, straw-ber-ry (or "tri-ple it") and then wa-ter-mel-on (or Mis-si-ssi-ppi). In this case, going slower, use "ap-ple." I have discovered that going slower was more difficult, so I've only been working on "ap-ple."

Using the metronome will also help make my vibrato more even, instead of speeding up or slowing down, especially when changing notes. I had a lesson with Clayton regarding this, and I think this applies to "Continuous Vibrato" too, which just means that my vibrato doesn't stop/hesitate when moving from note to note even during shifting, extensions or chords.

With wide vibrato, I think I'm just trying to get as much of my finger to touch the string to vibrate, which means more movement to get more of the fleshy part of the finger to contact the string, or in other words - larger or smaller oscillations? Still trying to figure this one out so I'm not sure... :)

They also gave a helpful tip which was to keep my elbow at the same level by resting it atop a table, or between a door frame, to make sure my elbow isn't flapping around. Which is another reason why I've been working on making sure my elbow isn't flapping in the breeze as I play because it's pretty important to have the elbow at the correct level when playing vibrato.

Another helpful tip:
The previous day, LB2 had provided a helpful tip when putting away my cello, which was to loosen the endpin and lower the cello to the ground and then tighten it, instead of picking up the cello to reach the endpin. Anyway, the reason I remembered this was, that day, being my normal spaz-tic self and forgetting about what I learned, I picked up my cello to slide in my endpin and accidentally hit another cellist with my scroll who was walking by! Sorry D!

Small Ensemble
I was feeling fairly confident on playing Blue Bells and Hunter's Chorus for the concert the following day, but I was still practicing it more than the large ensemble pieces since there were less cellists to cover up any of my mistakes. :)

We worked on watching the conductor and some cueing exercises, which I thought was really fun! I always like working on those exercises and trying to expand my awareness. A fun exercise is to try to keep track of one other person in the group to try to expand my awareness (in addition to keeping track of the conductor). Although I always find that this only works if I know the music fairly well though. ;)

I think I've posted this in a past post, but a really helpful tip, in large ensembles or orchestras, is to raise my stand fairly high so I don't have to look up to see the conductor and can easily see them in my peripheral vision. Although I've discovered that this can block someone else's vantage point if they are trying to look at the first chair or something... However, in smaller ensembles like quartets or trios, I was told it would be better to lower the stand so the sound can escape and one can see cues more easily.

Large Cello Choir
I was feeling fairly confident with these pieces since they were on the easier side, so I didn't practice any of the music, which was not a good idea! I played terribly at the concert, but I'll go into more detail about that in the next blog post.

I thought the conductor for our large ensemble was pretty funny and he liked to say this saying, which I can't seem to remember how it went exactly, or who said it. I thought I wrote it down somewhere, but apparently not!  ...argh... I think it went something like: "To practice is to fail, but awareness is cure." It's self-explanatory, but I really liked it because it's insightful and to the point.

I also learned a new music term: strain 
The conductor kept saying, "let's begin at the 2nd strain..." and I finally figured out it meant the second ending to the repeated section. least, that's what I was doing! :)

He also explained when playing music, we should strive to develop "characters" to what we are playing.
For example, there was a section in one of our pieces where it sounded like angry trolls or ogres stomping around, so he had everyone who played that part make funny orgre faces or pretend they were ogres playing cellos, which I have to honestly say - worked! It sounded much more colorful and had more character! He also recommended that the section play that way during the concert too! Lol! ;)

There's this great photo of that cello section making funny faces while playing that music during rehearsals, but here's one of the conductor making a ogre face while explaining the concept! ...hhmmm... looks more like a vampire! :)

(c) Time Points Photography

There was another piece of music which had some call and response between a little old lady on a spinning wheel and a young girl on a spinning wheel. He created a colorful image to associate with the music by acting out the little old lady, huddled over a spinning wheel which was moving slowly, his hands moving in a small circular pattern that wasn't very smooth. Then he acted out the young girl on the spinning wheel, who sat up straight and confident, smiling brightly while spinning the wheel in a larger and more smoother circular motion.
Amazingly enough, the sound resulted in one that was darker and "rickety" versus one that was brighter and smoother! It was really cool to hear the difference with them just imagining and assigning different characters to the music. I guess the take-away is to connect stories to the music to add character and...

...don't just play notes!

I spoke with SS who had performed the previous day and she said something to me that I thought was just so extremely helpful and valuable. I asked her how she felt about her performance and she said she was, "happy with it," which was really surprising to me because I don't think I'd ever heard anyone be "happy" about their own performance! Normally, someone will say, "Good, but I could have done this better... " or "it was okay, but I wish I could have..." - there's always a "but..."!

I know for myself, I can easily find a million things to work on and do better, but she explained that she averaged out her practice time for her performance piece, and if she performed 75% of how she practiced at home, than she was happy with it. She explained that it was unrealistic to expect that we perform perfectly 100% of the time, especially if we don't practice perfectly.

Which made sense because who practices perfectly? And there isn't a way to take into account other variables like bad acoustics, distractions, a string going bad, weird weather that causes the cello to go crazy, etc.

I thought this was a really great idea because thinking about it that way can relieve some pressure of trying to get everything "perfect," so one could be more relaxed and therefore play better!

I had been avoiding signing up to perform Hunter's Chorus as a duet with my teacher LB and had been working up the courage to do so. I had finally made my decision the previous night that I would sign up that morning, but unfortunately, when I visited the bulletin board to sign up, the signup list was full! :(
So during lunch I went in search of LB to tell her that I couldn't signup. She asked the director if she could squeeze me in, but I told her that I'd rather not perform, which I now regret doing!

Anyway, I was really excited about this upcoming recital because my buddy Rob was going to perform. He and IC had been practicing music with us in one of the spare rooms, and I had attended a couple of Rob's lessons. He was also performing with our teacher LB, so I was really cheering for him to do well - which he did!

Since this was the last night to be able to perform a piece of music of our choosing, there were more non-advanced cellists performing which I found to be extremely inspiring! The previous nights, I felt more of the advanced cellists had performed so I had expected that same level (which was one of the reasons why I didn't want to perform!), but it was very refreshing to discover that wasn't the case for this night! This night had a lot of scared, nervous cellists like me!

I've mentioned in previous posts that my hand used to shake uncontrollably when I played in front of people.... now for some reason, I sweat like crazy! :(  ...but anyway, I could tell some of these cellists were uncomfortable performing in front of people and a few even struggled through their pieces; and yes, they weren't perfect, and there were notes that were out of tune, and a few had my issue of the "shaking-bow-syndrome," but the point wasn't to perform something perfectly - it was to gain the experience of performing in front of an audience and getting over some of that fear!  ...ugh, if only I hadn't chickened out! Next year...

Anyway, I felt absolutely PROUD and happy for those cellists that night for having the courage to perform in front of an audience! I know how difficult it is to get on stage. ...obviously, since I chickened out! But, it was TRULY INSPIRING, and I hope those performers know that they were an inspiration to me, and I'm sure to the audience as well!

After the recital everyone was full of excitement for the following day's concert and also from the wonderful performances that night, so our merry little band of cellists decided to practice one last time before our concert on the following day. We took our glasses of wine, crackers and cheeses and headed to the spare dorm room to practice. By the end of the night, we had two more cellists join us and had six cellists crammed into a dorm room to practice the music. It was a tight squeeze, but there's always room for cello, right? :)

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you're posting again; I was wondering how the rest of the workshop went. Also glad you're getting through the bad weather ok.