Archive for May, 2008

Extending the Fourth Finger; First Position

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2008 by cellomuser

I am still in limbo in regards to the instructor situation. I am hoping that a few of you that frequent this blog might be able to provide some feedback with a challenge I am having.

Some of the Dotzauer etudes and a few other pieces of music I have been messing with recently like to throw in an F-Sharp (C string, 1st position, ext. fourth finger), C-Sharp (G string, 1st position, ext. fourth finger), and G-Sharp (D string, 1st position, ext. fourth finger). When I have to play these notes the following seems to occur:

1. My left hand pinky feels weak and not able to able to find the proper spot.
2. The tone sounds terrible.

I have found that if I slide slightly down into 2nd position of which the same notes are played using the 3rd finger – the tone sounds much better – but the shifting is problematic. Shifting in general is still problematic for me.

So my question is this: Should I shift or not? If not, what are some good exercises to extend the fourth finger in the first position to nail these notes? You feedback is greatly welcomed and appreciated!

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Columbus Symphony Orchestra – Gala Event Featuring Yo-Yo Ma

Posted in Columbus Symphony, Yo-Yo Ma on May 16, 2008 by cellomuser

My wife and I started the evening out by going to a restaurant called “M”. For fear of being labeled as an elitist or something, please understand that Columbus is not a DC, Chicago, NY, or high–end resort area where real 4 or 5 star restaurants abound. We have been to some very nice restaurants around the US and “M” was definitely a surprise for us. The menu was excellent, the table service was excellent, and the atmosphere was that of one I would typically expect in a bigger city. It reminds me of some of the Emerill and Four Seasons restaurants we have dined in; “M” was probably a solid 4 in my opinion. We really enjoyed ourselves.

We hit the Ohio Theatre and from the moment we were within eye-sight of it, you could tell this was a huge event. There was so much excitement. Because I am short on time I will categorize my comments.

Music played (in order):
Schubert’s “Overture to Rosamunde”; just the Columbus Symphony Orchestra
Haydn’s “Cello Concerto in C Major”; Yo-Yo Ma
Saint-Saens’ “Concerto No.1 in A Minor”; Yo-Yo Ma
Schubert’s “Cello Quintet”; led by Yo-Yo Ma with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s Carpe Diem String Quartet.
Ravel’s “Bolero”; Columbus Symphony Orchestra; Yo-Yo Ma played as a contributor and sat in the back row of the cellos amidst pleads from the principal cellist to have Ma sit front and center. Even one of the bass players took a picture of the hidden cellists sitting next to Ma.

Junichi Hirokami is the music director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. He was phenomenal the entire evening. He was so in the zone and it was apparent that he was so connected with the musicians and feeding off of them. He is a very small man. During the “Cello Quintet” I think he was half lying down on his podium and just taking in the entire experience.

Yo-Yo Ma. Where to begin? First of all, his musical gifts aside, Ma is every bit the gentleman and professional that I thought he was. He is so humble and considerate. He is the type of person I would hold up on a pedestal to my son or something and say “this is goodness” when it comes to character and social mannerisms. The man willfully sat in the back cello row just so the attention would be on the overall performance of “Bolero” and not him.

During the Haydn piece, Ma had some issues with his bow hair. We were sitting about 40 feet away. Of course, I was watching his every move and somewhere in the beginning, he hit his frog while bowing on the G string. I heard it make contact and within a few seconds a strand of hair was flying. Of course, Ma saw it and during a few measures where he did not play – he calmly pulled off the broken hair strands from both ends of the bow. This happened at least four more times during the Haydn concerto. Talk about staying cool under pressure.

Another Ma observation was how animated he was playing. There were some times where he physically was off his seat while playing. It was intense. Ma and the Concertmaster Charles Wetherbee were feeding off of each other, which just added to the energy of the whole performance.

Finally, it is appropriate to mention the drum player for “Bolero”. This guy played a beat the entire piece – like for 10 minutes. He did get some special attention when it was over and he enjoyed the moment – someone from the orchestra even gave him a bouquet at the end.

So, that is about it. It was money well spent, time well spent, and another deposit in the inspiration bucket to keep on learning and enjoying the cello.

Measure 40: One Year Later…

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2008 by cellomuser

As of April 2008, it has officially been one year since I started learning the cello. There will be no blog post title “Measure #” prefixes anymore. I started getting annoyed with these right around “Measure 3” or something. I wish I would have been able to post 100 blog entries in the last year – but – time does not allow for such fun.

Learning the cello has thus far been a wonderful experience for me. Below is just a small list of items or concepts that have had an impact on me when I reflect back on the year; each of which could be a blog post in itself:

  1. Patience
  2. Stringed instrument acumen
  3. Music theory
  4. Quality of tools does not guarantee mastery of the fundamentals
  5. Cello instructors can be helpful
  6. Not all cello instructors are created equal
  7. Confidence
  8. Maintaining bearing when not confident
  9. Reading music
  10. Composing music
  11. Transposing music
  12. Collaboration
  13. Perspective
  14. Human relationships (student /teacher, other musicians, bloggers)
  15. Respect for others
  16. Creativity
  17. Time management
  18. Safe playing 🙂 (think safe drinking….)
  19. Better appreciating trips to the music store…
  20. Measuring success
  21. Celebrating success
  22. Staying motivated
  23. Striking the right instrument / technology balance
  24. Other things that are too numerous to list….

So without getting into a really long post about how great it has been – just understand that it has been great and well worth the opportunity cost from time expended, equipment rental costs, equipment purchase cost, and social relationships.

Some quick hit updates….

Yo-Yo Ma: I get to go see him this Thursday (5/15/2008) here in Columbus, OH (http://www.columbussymphony.com/). I went ahead and took both Thursday and Friday off. It is a Gala event, but I could not justify Gala tickets – just commoner tickets. So, I am taking my wife out for dinner and then we are going to hit the event. We found a sitter for boy-wonder and are just looking to enjoy a night out.

Current Instructor Update: My current instructor has still not reached out to me since late February / early March. As you will recall, she suffered a pretty serious medical condition – that was life threatening for a few days. I know she had to go back to her home state when she was finally released from the hospital, but I do not know if she is back in Ohio. I tried to reach out to her about 30 days after she left the hospital to no avail. I really enjoyed my lessons with her, and I will try to reach out again. If I hear nothing from her after the second time, I may seek out a new instructor.

In the mean time: I am trying to get between 3-4 hours of practice a week. I wish it was more and I should be playing more – but I am running a lot now and I have probably taken on one too many side-projects that is competing for time. Some of these I have neglected as well.

Dotzauer: I have taken a mental break from the Suzuki books and have been very focused on Dotzauer. The exercises in Method I are so enjoyable and force you to learn so many different things. I am sure that I am probably dong some of these wrong and that my technique could be improved upon, but the enjoyment of playing trumps the annoyance of knowing that it is not 100% perfect. I was hoping to bring my Method I book in and scan a portion of one exercise in F-major that has brought me so much enjoyment (simple by most of your standards) – but I forgot it. I thought I would Google for it (Dotzauer PDF) but it did not come back with anything for Method I. It did come back with some other interesting results…remember support other musicians and be respectful of copyright laws…

That’s it for now. Hopefully I can post an entry after the Yo-Yo Ma event.