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!

Back In The Lesson Routine…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20, 2008 by cellomuser

I do not want my lessons to be a “routine” – but that is the only word that comes to mind as I type this. L and I met for the first time since Feb 2008 this past Saturday. L looked very healthy and enthusiastic. After a few moments of niceties – we jumped into the lesson.

There is some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is that over the last few months, my bow grip has worsened in two areas:

1. My thumb is not as bent as it should be.
2. My bow hand pinky has not been staying on the frog or the stick above the frog.

Once L pointed this out to me (because my tone on the A strong sounded not so good). I immediately adjusted and heard a significant difference in the quality of the tone. I guess I need to document a checklist in a 48 point font of things to check for every time I touch the bow and periodically through an exercise / piece.

The god news is that L stated that I displayed more confidence with the cello then we last met earlier this year. I am happy to hear that and hope to demonstrate more of that moving forward.

Another interesting tidbit of info is that there has been a staff change at the “The Ohio State University” music school; specifically the head cello string instructor. The previous person in charge was William Connable. The new person is Mark Rudoff. I only mention this because I fully expect a portion of what L is being taught to trickle down to me. L has already stated that there are significant differences between the approaches and philosophies between the two.

If any of you know Mark Rudoff – let me know. Even though I am not taking lessons from him, I like to have as much information as possible.

Have a great week!

Instructor #2.5 – “L” Part Two

Posted in Uncategorized on October 13, 2008 by cellomuser

Some of you may recall of few of my posts from earlier this year where my 2nd instructor was very sick and I lost contact with her (I refer to her as “L”). My attempts to follow-up with L three or four times were in vain and to be honest I was very disappointed with the situation as a whole. I resorted to Emily’s self instruction approach – which has been very beneficial – and have been progressing in my own little way over the last six or seven months.

Well, I was recently contacted by L. I will spare the details but L and I are going to hook up for a few more lessons – hopefully beginning in the next week or so. My decision to go down this road is influenced by a couple thoughts (and these are in of importance):

1. In general, I think that most people are good and intentionally do not try to hurt or short change others. While I was disappointed in the lack of communication with L, there was contrition and I think there is mutual benefit to both me and L moving forward.

2. I have worked my butt off over the last six or seven months instructing myself – rather then quitting. What better form of measurement then to have someone else gauge if I have made progress over the same time.

3. The holidays are coming up and I have already been reached out to by a few folks at the church I attend to start practicing some songs for some ensembles.

4. I still have a $60 credit with L; enough for like two or three lessons. I would prefer to have something to show for the $60.

In preparation for our “reunion” lesson, I have asked L for a list of things she wants to focus on. I realize that this will be her reviewing or re-baselining where I am at overall – but I want our lessons to be intentional. I have already told L that I will probably not do more then one lesson per month due to my hectic schedule right now and wanting to focus on quality versus quantity. So, we’ll see how this approach plays out.

That’s it for now. I realize that I have not posted much the last several months. Work has been very busy and with school starting back up for the kiddo, free-time is very little. Cello practice takes priority over cello blogging even if its only for 10-15 minutes.

Have a great week!

O – H – Oh – NOOOOOooooooo……. (OSU @ USC Debacle)

Posted in cello shame on September 14, 2008 by cellomuser

Yep – “The” Ohio State University football team was humbled by the “left coast pretty boys”. So, since I talked some “smack” over at “The Stark Raving Cello” blog and was called out on it politely by Emily on her post-win tribute posting: I have placed a bag over a portion of my cello in shame.

I could ramble on for pages but simply put: WE SUCKED! That was not Buckeye Football!


Etude Fingering

Posted in cello blogosphere, Dotzauer on August 20, 2008 by cellomuser

Now that Emily is inspiring us to practice and blog more (almost a guilt trip ?), I thought I would throw up a quick post. For those that have read some of my previous posts it is no secret that I like the Dotzauer Etudes and Method books. For the past month or so, I have been messing around with the first 8 or so etudes from “Exercises for Violincello – Book 1”. Exercise four has recently caught my attention, because near the beginning there is a measure that requires two notes to be played (see the red circle in the image above). This is new to me and for the most part I can play it but I suspect my fingering technique for 1st position D-string / G string 3rd finger is probably not right. I have watched myself do it and my finger has to be flat to do it. Slurring into the G is fairly easy – almost as if I roll my left hand slightly to hit the note and get my fingers curved again.

Since I am now in the position of teaching myself and reliant upon the cello blogosphere for additional instruction – does anyone have any guidance about how these few measures in this “simple” etude should be executed from a fingering perspective?