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Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2010 by cellomuser

Tonight (3/16/2010) is my first practice with the local community orchestra. I attended a practice back in late February to get a better feel for the group, follow along by reading some of the score, and gauge my confidence level in being able to play with this group of musicians. I walked away from that practice ready to tackle the world. Everything just felt right – a perfect opportunity to play music. The conductor was happy to have another cello player come on board – for a grand total of two cellists.

There are two pieces of music we are practicing:

1.    Viennese Sonatina No. 6 in C Major: I. Allegro; Mozart. You can get a look at the score here (the PDF file will not allow for printing or local “save as”).

2.    Saul, HWC 53: Symphony; Handel. I really like this piece. It is very lively. There are alternating melodies between the various string sections. If there is one instrument I would love to hear played with this piece, it would be the harpsichord. The facility that is hosting the orchestra has a harpsichord and the conductor can play it; but I do not know if he will play it as part of a performance. Some more information about this piece of music can be found here and here.

There is one musical term I needed to quickly learn about and that was “tutti”. Its placement in the score was right after a section marked “solo”. Tutti means all or together. Thus, this is where the rest of the group all plays together right after a solo section. This is yet another example of how playing with a group expands both skills and knowledge of music.

For anyone that cares to learn a little more about the community I live in – here is the Wikipedia overview.

I look forward to sharing more about my community orchestra experience soon!


Lesson Notes – 6/13/2009

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14, 2009 by cellomuser

L and I are starting to have more regular lessons. My lesson on Saturday marked the 3rd lesson in about 7 weeks – which is pretty good for us. So where to begin…

We started out by me playing “#15. Allegro” from the Applebaum, Chamber Music for Two String Instruments (Book 2). This piece of music has been one of my “focus hard on” pieces for the last seven weeks. I have made a lot of improvement, but there is room for more.

The take-aways for this piece were:

1.    Practice at a faster tempo. L wants to me be able to play this song at around 120 beats per minute (3/4). I had been practicing around 88 or 90 beats per minute.
2.    Around measure 16, there are four measures of string crossings; three eighth note slurs per measure. I need to make sure to make my sure my bow is placed in such a way on the string that is in the middle of the bow and only use about 3-4 inches of the bow per slur. Another aspect of this section of the piece is to make sure my bow is some tilted toward the string I am crossing over to.
3.    Be mindful of the accents. (sigh).

The next piece was “Japanese Garden” from Mooney’s Position Pieces for Cello. This particular piece is focused on 3rd position, with string crossings between the A and D strings and a few shifts back to 1st position. I did pretty good on this assignment. However, I think the tempo listed in the book is slow – so it sounds boring. However, L has a remedy for that – more on that later. The primary take-way for “Japanese Garden” was to make sure I slightly shift my bow closer to the bridge when I am playing in the 3rd and 4th positions.

L assigned me a new piece from the Applebaum book; “#13. An Episode” by Beethoven. Unlike “#15. Allegro”, “An Episode” is very legato like and has a lot of slurs, some of which contain string crossings. I have not yet put this into Finale, so I do not know exactly how it –should- sound – but it should be a lot of fun.

L wants to start spending some time working on vibrato. This is new territory for me – from a formal instruction perspective. In my opinion, vibrato is one of the “it-factors” when it comes to really appreciating great cello music as well as watching people do vibrato. All of us “young” cello players experiment with vibrato – so to be formally trained on this technique is awesome. Plus, L warned me that some of the exercises will drive my family crazy – which is always an added bonus.

Practice Summary – 5/11/2009

Posted in Uncategorized on May 12, 2009 by cellomuser

Overall Mood: Eager

Length of Practice: About 1 hour

Number of Interruptions: 2; one from my son and his friend – related to BB guns; the other from my wife regarding dinner preference.

Warm-Up / 20 minutes: Scales. C Major – two octaves, G major – two octaves. One Octave scales on all strings (0-1-3 / 1-3 / 1-2-3).

Primary Focus / 20 minutes: #15 Allegro from the Applebaum book. Focused on staccato and “sweeping” bow movements on some of the slurs. The metronome is my friend on this song.

Secondary Focus / 20 minutes: Gavotte (J. B. Lully; Suzuki 3, piece 4). This has some 3rd position sections on it. This song is fun because there are some trills in it. Overall, it is a fun piece to play with room to incorporate some of your own musical interpretation.

Cello Muser SitRep (Situation Report)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 11, 2009 by cellomuser

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.

New Year Distractions (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 24, 2009 by cellomuser

February is less then seven days away. While it seems like January is flying by, I am very happy to get closer to the Spring season. This winter has been extremely frigid here in the US Midwest. I can handle the cold but it has been cold since late November and it seems like their wind every day. It just drains the energy from me and that combined with the early evenings makes cello practice even harder.

Another self-inflicted distraction has been our family’s purchase of Guitar Hero. This has been a double-edge sword. One, it has taken away from some cello practice time. However, the game itself is a great way to keep the fingers in shape and a great way to keep the hand eye coordination. If I had a spare $100K or so, I would invest in developing a Cello Hero version of the game. It would not take much effort from a hardware perspective and it would be quite fun.

Lessons have not started back up yet. I should probably reach out to L and get at least one scheduled so I have something to drive towards from a practice perspective.

On a different note, we have a new rescue cat. I told my wife last year (when we had three cats and a dog) that when the older cat and dog passed on, we would get a new cat. Well, during the summer last year, both the older and cat dog passed on within two days of each other. So, a week ago, we picked out the new cat. Mo is the third cat we have adopted from the same rescue.

Mo is the little one on the right, and the “dilute calico” on the left is Ruby. Rudy, our other cat did not want to participate in the photo fun. Thus far Ruby and Rudy have tolerated Mo. We kept Mo separated for about 4 days before letting him roam free. There is still some hissing here and there. Ruby and Rudy show an interest in Mo, but they are not going out of their way to be enthusiastic about it.

2008 Year End Post

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2008 by cellomuser

What a quick year this has been. I have wanted to post so much the last few weeks but between work, vacation, scrambling around for Christmas visits from relatives and not wanting to touch a computer for a few days – well, you know how it goes.

So off we go…

Christmas cello gigs:

I played two times leading up to Christmas. The first event was about four days before Christmas and was with a small group for a Christmas Coffee House – about 300 people. We played three traditional carols – no singing. Other instruments included a whistle, an acoustic guitar, some lap mandoline-like thing, some hand-drum looking thing and a flute. My role was very bass-like – think SATB score and I was playing the bass. Overall a good performance – would have liked to practice a few more times – but doesn’t everyone?

The next performance was a Christmas Eve service. Again, about 300 people in attendance. We did five carols for that performance three at the beginning and two at the end – people sang to these. Other instruments includes a mic’d acoustic guitar, an electric bass, a whistle and the cello. This performance was more solid in my opinion then the previous but I did not like the electric bass in the mix.

Cello-related gift:

My parents bought me a cello case for Christmas – an Enthral Acrylic case. This was not something I was expecting at all – so I was really surprised when they called to get my opinion on the case they had found. I tried to dissuade them, but I lost that battle. Ms. Emily over at the “The Stark Raving Cello” blog gave me some feedback – thank you Emily! Here is a link to the place my folks ordered the case from.

I received the case on December 23rd and used it on the 24th for the Christmas Eve performance. My cello fit very nicely in the case and I was pretty impressed with how much less time it took to get the cello in and out compared to the soft case. Overall – a great gift – that will get some good use and provide some protection against accidental bumping into things while in transit.

Moving the Cello Muser blog:

I want to get away from Google Blogger. So, hopefully in the next few weeks, I can create a blog over at WordPress and no longer have to bounce between blog providers. I will make a final post when that occurs. I think I will be able to import all my Google Blogger posts over to Word Press – but we shall see.

Classes With “L”:

L and I only had two lessons before the holidays hit. We tried to squeeze in a 3rd but logistics did not allow. So, hopefully we can get a few in between late January and summer.

Bowing Issue: When L and I started back up again, she noticed that my bow is tending to creep up towards the fingerboard when I am playing. This has not always been the case and appears to have began while I was in instructor limbo. I have been trying to be aware of it – but still notice (and hear) it happening. I know when it is happening because my tone sounds terrible and sometime I barely get a tone because there is not really anything there for the bow hair to grip and cause the string to vibrate. If anyone has any feedback regarding this feel free to comment.

That’s it for now. I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!

Lesson Notes – 11/15/2008

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2008 by cellomuser

I had another lesson with “L” this past weekend. We are now meeting on Saturday morning for a variety of reasons – but primarily to accommodate my scheduled. In addition, feel less rushed on weekend mornings especially on a huge college campus where most students are still looking at the inside of their eye lids at 9:00 AM (unless the Buckeyes are playing a home game; life starts at like 5:30 AM).

Generally speaking, I was very pleased with the lesson and the progress I made the three weeks in between since the previous lesson. An added bonus for me was that “L” and I played a few exercises from the shifting exercise book – and it was really awesome. I enjoy playing with others versus for others – so this was a pleasant change and one that even L wants to do more of.

Now that we are back in a lesson routine and caught up on about 8 months of me on mine own – there are new challenges ahead.

1. We are going to start focusing on 3rd and 4th positions more.

2. Going to start tackling Suzuki 3. I was instructed to buy this book in early 2008 before L got sick – but we never really dove into it. I can play the first two or three pieces without a problem.

3. L wants to bring in some duets pieces for us to play.

4. We are going to be playing more duets.

5. L liked the fact I want to tackle Bourree I from Bach’s third cello suite. However, she was not to keen on the sheet music I had downloaded from the Internet. We compared it to her version and the differences were very extreme. I had downloaded my version from some Russian site. L’s version seemed to have more practical bowing. So, I need to make a trip to the sheet music store.

6. Lessons are an hour long versus 45 minutes. I also gave L a $5 raise per lesson. Granted, we are not doing as many lessons – and she wanted to stick with the lesson rate we currently have – but I insisted.

Some things I need to work on:

1. Opening up the arm. No robot arms.

2. Bow placement awareness. My bow has been creeping toward the finger board.

3. Bow hand form; getting more consistent; especially keeping the pinky finger on the frog.

4. Left hand form; keeping fingers curved.

5. Upper position tone. My overall tone in the 2nd and 3rd positions sounds weak and pitchy. Part of this is probably a lack of confidence on my part.

Thanks for reading!