Chinese Proverb

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lesson #141A (10/15/13): Violin shop, lesson notes and cats

Trying to catch up on lesson notes...

I suspected there was something wrong with my cello, and was excited to visit my favorite violin shop since it had been over a year since I last visited. Anyway, I was trying out a new tailpiece, but when I switched out the tailpiece to the original, another local violin shop didn't set it up exactly like before. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go to my favorite luthier the first time because he was unavailable so I had to go to two different shops in town to get the tailpieces switched out. Long story longer, when I finally switched back to my original tailpiece I had a very sad muffled sounding cello! So I had made an appointment to do a "quick adjustment" to try to get the sound back to where it was, and discovered that a quick fix wasn't going to happen.

There are two issues creating the muffled sound with my cello. First, I have a kevlar tailcord, which can only be removed by cutting it off. Therefore, the length of the cord was shortened when I switched it back to the original tailpiece. There is a specific length determined by each cello to allow the tailpiece, bridge, strings, etc. to vibrate more freely. Surprisingly, the cord length on my cello makes a very noticeable difference in sound. My cello happens to need a longer cord and cutting the cord shorter made it sound muffled.

Note to self: don't tryout any more tailpieces! ...although trying cello accessories is fun!! ;)
My current tailpiece is a ebony Les Bois D'Harmonie tailpiece & kevlar tailcord, which is a great setup, so I seriously need to stop messing with the setup, especially since I know it works well with my cello.

Secondly, which is the major issue and none of the shops fault, my fingerboard has dropped more than 1mm which means the action on the strings is very high. There is also a scoop in the fingerboard, which is closer to the nut (ironically in the first position area!), which is making it more difficult to play notes.

I had also recently noticed that I kept bumping into my other strings, which I do sometimes, but now much more frequently with the heightened strings! :) ...hmmm...maybe that's why my 4th position was feeling so terrible!

Anyway, I have to setup another appointment in a few weeks to get the string height fixed since my luthier is swamped for the next couple of weeks.



This lesson was a COMPLETE disaster - I couldn't find a note to save my life! Which is really weird because I actually practiced every day up to the lesson. It sucks when that happens!

For most of the lesson we worked on the Gmaj scale and intonation. Although I normally like working on intonation, it was really frustrating to work on it during this lesson. I was totally lost and fishing for notes (i.e. sliding my fingers around to find a note), and just couldn't find anything.

Anyway, Adam assigned 20min daily exercise on the Gmaj scale with a drone and tuner, and so far I've kept to it, although I haven't worked on any of the other pieces that were assigned.

I also couldn't play Long Long Ago and Allegro during the lesson either, which I've played in the past and have the videos to prove it! :) But I couldn't get the notes and rhythm correct either. ...argh... I'm in a big cello funk! :( Also, probably because I changed my hand shape again...

Very short lesson notes since we primarily worked on basics and intonation. I guess it was just one of those days too.

Fall 2013: Lesson #3


A very short entry, and I'm feeling pretty crappy about my terrible lesson, so I'm posting some "happy cute stuff" to make me feel better because I can! Ha! ;)
Here's a repost of Musical Notation According to Cats by Trumpet Angst in the order I think is the cutest and with some of my comments in green. ;)

My cats will get bonked on the head several times before figuring out they need to move out of the way! Lol! :)
Rub my tummy?
I'm pretty sure this is going to happen to Cello Kat sooner or later - he's not a very sure-footed cat!
Always land on all fours you say?? ;) 
...too...much...CATNIP! ....kick, kick, kick, kick...
whatcha lookin' at? ....just hanging out... perfectly normal I tell you!
Oops, forgot how to walk! 
Kittens are so silly!




Aaaarghhh - cats on their hind legs freak me out!!  That's just... freaky weird/scary!! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lesson #140A (10/10/13): Finding another teacher & semester goals

I'm going to take a break from entries for CelloSpeak so I can refocus on my lesson notes for a while, and so I can start practicing "seriously" again.

Lately, I've been in a big cello funk.. and not the good kind either! It's also been over two weeks since Clayton has moved and I'm still really sad about it! :(
It's ironic, but people who know me, know that I don't like to open up to people and am fairly introverted, and that I don't like to share personal information about myself (despite the blog), so it's been really surprising to me that it's been so difficult, especially since we've only known each other for such a short time.

Luckily, Clayton doesn't read my blog so I can be a bit open about it, but it's been ridiculously, and embarrassingly sad regarding how much I miss him! I've been trying to remind myself that I'm happy for the wonderful opportunity he received, but I'm still "upset" that he's gone. I swear I'm happy for him, but...

Anyway, before he left, I organized a small get-together after one of his concerts so members of our group could hang out and say goodbye, and being my typical self I avoided talking to him for most of the night because I didn't want say goodbye. When we finally had our very last lesson, I avoided saying goodbye again, which I now regret!
One of the reasons I was avoiding saying goodbye was because I was feeling myself get teary-eyed, and all I wanted to do is bawl and ask him not to leave! But I'm sure his wife and my husband would have thought I was some overly-attached nut or something! Lol! ;)

After Clayton left, I had a list of possible teachers to check out, and I sent him an email back with all the things I found wrong with them - without even speaking or meeting any of them in person! Looking back at my email, it was a bit ABSURD to say the least.
I wrote to him that I didn't want to take lessons from this person or that person, because I wanted to play and sound a certain way, and they didn't play/sound the way I wanted. Clayton emailed me back reassuring me that any one of the teachers I could learn plenty from. Truthfully, I think it was because I was trying to find a "Clayton-clone" who played, sounded and taught like him. ;)

I've also discovered speaking to teachers and students in our area, that most teachers don't typically teach vibrato and thumb position to beginners like me. I didn't realize "everyone" was so picky about if/when students should start learning to vibrate!
Although I have heard some teachers start students on thumb position early on so they're not intimidated by higher positions when they get around to it. Truthfully, I was really intimidated by thumb position, until I started learning it - though I'm still really unfamiliar with it. I'm currently learning Dmaj scale and French Folk Song in thumb position. ...hmmm... I should probably record those and post it so I can do a "before and after" video comparison later.

Anyway, it's been "weird" searching for another teacher. I still have Adam, but I really enjoy and prefer having two teachers; and honestly, if I only had one teacher I could only imagine the "meltdown" I would have had if they were to move away!
However, I did find a potential teacher and have a lesson with him next week. He didn't want me to use his real name so I'm going to call him Dr. G because I think he's funny among other reasons.
Dr. G and I are both fairly opinionated so this should make for some "interesting" lessons. I think we're fairly similar too; which my husband knows that I like to say when I see two people with similar personalities: "They're either going to get along swimmingly, or they're going to end up killing each other!" No idea how this will turn out either, but should be interesting nonetheless. :)



I met with Adam after a really long hiatus; he was finishing his Comps and I was busy with life and cello related events, so it had been awhile since I met with him for a lesson. I haven't been keeping up with lesson notes either, so this is Lesson #2 this semester.

Semester Goals:
Adam would like me to start memorizing a few pieces so we could start working on phrasing. Since it's obviously easier to work on phrasing and expression if one doesn't have to think about which notes to play. ;). Also, at the end of the semester, I will have to memorize and perform the following:

1) Relearn & memorize three old pieces: Long Long Ago, Allegro & Perpetual Motion
2) Learn & memorize a new piece: Musette from English Suite No. 3

I wanted to learn the remaining songs in Book 2 by the end of the year, but that's not going to happen! I just don't have time...darn... I also have a bunch of holiday music I need to start practicing for our Holiday Concerts in December.
Anyway, I've discovered relearning old music is more difficult than learning new music (for me). I'm finding myself reverting back to old bad habits that I originally learned with the old pieces and having to break everything down to relearn it with the new technique. I guess when my technique is better later, it won't be so difficult?

Exercises that I will be working on:
1) Scales: Gmaj 2 octaves in a different order. Make sure notes in different positions sound the same. Although I'm not sure if wrote that down correctly.
  • III - 0, G
  • III - 3, B
  • III - 1, A
  • III - 2, C => shift to 2nd pos.
  • III - 1, B
  • III - 4, D
  • II  - 1, E
  • II  - 0, D
  • II  - 3, F#
  • II  - 1, E
  • II -  2, G => shift to 2nd 
  • II -  1, F# 
  • II -  4, D 
2) Cossman exercises - I seem to be getting this okay except 4th position. I know everyone says 4th position is the easiest, but not for me! So obviously, something in my hand position or shape is wrong.

For the most part I had this memorized, but decided to look at the sheet music instead. After I played it for him, he commented that it was the most confident he had seen me play, which I thought was kind of odd because 1) I know I've played it better before, maybe just not in front of him, and 2) Adam isn't the type of person to give out a lot of praise, but that was really nice to hear.

A couple things to work on:
1) Use more bow - like 3/4ths of the bow for the quarter notes
2) Use a fast and weighted bow, but closer to the fingerboard

Long, Long Ago
I didn't have this memorized and tried to do it from memory even though I was looking at the music, and ended up messing up the beginning. I finally decided to "let it go" and just played it the way I "normally" do, and I sounded much better.

Besides the obvious mistakes and memorizing the music, he didn't have anything for me to work on, and he commented that I sounded like "a real cellist, instead of one who was just playing and learning the notes." At which point, I started to criticize my own playing, especially the mistakes in the beginning, and he kind of waved me off and said, "you'll always be critical regarding your playing, you're doing fine." :) Okay, so I was being a bit self-critical... can't help it!

Musette from English Suite No. 3
This is still a work in progress and I should have this one ready to video record in a month or so, and memorized by the end of the semester. Memorizing music is just really difficult for me! Although that was one of the reasons Adam wanted me to start memorizing music.

Things to work on:
1) Feel it in twos instead of fours: It's in cut time and I'm accentuating all the beats when I should be emphasizing the beginning of each measure instead. Still haven't figured this out though.
2) Tempo: play a little faster, which this should help with feeling it in two
3) Use more bow during the string crossings. I was having the issue of running out of bow, so I started using less instead which created more issues.

Fall 2013: Lesson #2