Cello Muser SitRep (Situation Report)

My cello blogging has taken a hit thus far in 2009. However, my online interaction with other cellists has actually increased – thanks to Twitter. There have been a few regular readers of my blog that always left insightful and encouraging comments and now, they are on Twitter. Unfortunately, they have to put up with my non-cello Tweets. Regardless, I hope for continued interactions with @EmilyCello (The Stark Raving Cello Blog), @gottagopractice (If At First You Don’t Succed…), and @eKimOng (Temporary Insanity…). I enjoy reading your tweets and blog posts. Maybe our cello paths will cross some day.

Here are some quick updates:

Years Playing Cello: Two. Yep, I just crossed over my two year mark. I made a lot of progress in the first year and not as much between year one and year two. 2008 was a very busy year for me professionally. In addition, there was a six or seven month gap in lessons. I have taken a few lessons in the last six months – but not with the frequency I would prefer. Anyway – I am enjoying every moment of the cello and in about 11 months – I will own my cello.

Challenge 1: One of my biggest challenges right now is relaxing and moving with the music and the cello. Apparently I am robot-like and my instructor feels it is limiting my progress. I agree with her. Sometimes it just feels so technical that “flowing” with the music is an afterthought.

Challenge 2: Confidence. I would characterize my confidence with the cello right now as being like a child that just started treading water in the deep end of the pool. They know enough to stay afloat – but they can be erratic at times and when in doubt – quickly go back to the side of the pool or back to a depth they can stand in.

Lesson Result Notes from 5/9/2009. (Yes, I started this blog post on May 6th).

Note 1: Playing Staccato. About 10 minutes of my lesson this past weekend was spent on staccato technique. I was over emphasizing the staccato accents in one of the pieces I am working on from the Applebaum book. What I took away from L’s feedback was that the staccato accent can be achieved with just the slightest pressure of the bow hand. I was executing the staccato accents in a very inefficient way with too much bowing arm movement. L’s method was far more subtle, fluid, and the accent sounds far better. Now I just need to practice it like 3,000 times.

Note 2: Focusing. I asked L that we only focus on one or two pieces of music. It is not as though L is assigning me too much work. The problem is me – I love to play numerous pieces. The problem is that I am not mastering any of them. So, I encouraged L to be more assertive about coming to the next lesson prepared to show off at least two pieces of music. I need that cloud hanging over my head – it will help me in two ways:

1.    Prioritize practicing.
2.    Give a sense of accountability.
Note 3: Shifting. Shifting continues to be a weakness. I do not mind the shifting book we work out of – but I need a simpler way to work on shifting. So, I asked L about this and I am going to work on shifting via simple one octave scales per string and then two octave scales over two strings. I like scales for a few reasons:

1.    It is easier to focus on technique and pitch because you know what the scale sounds like.

2.    Since scales are often part of a warm-up routine, you can achieve two things – warm-up and work on weaknesses.

That’s it for now. I will try to be more intentional about cello blogging. Thanks for your patience.


One Response to “Cello Muser SitRep (Situation Report)”

  1. Excellent. Although I like to give students in your boat a lot of volume: I call it the “high fiber” approach. Lots of new pieces, etudes, scales, etc, to give you numerous opportunities to work on implementing new technique. Sometimes if you polish and polish Go Tell Aunt Rhody, change becomes impossible because students cling to what makes them feel secure. Most of the time it’s robotic playing, thumb tension, and holding the breath (all of which are connected, btw). So every week, I’m like a drill sgt, barking one element of correction during a new piece over and over again, making sure to keep things light and pace-y. I find that it takes a constantly shifting context to show the real virtue of a technique. Otherwise, it’s so easy to develop the wrong kinds of habits.

    But that’s just me. The student who had all of the crap technique. 🙂

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