Archive for practice

A Grinch Smile

Posted in cello, cello blogosphere, confidence with tags , , , on February 24, 2010 by cellomuser

Wow! It has been about 9 months since I last published a cello blog post. It is reasonable to infer that during those nine months there has not been significant cello activity for me. Lessons came to a halt in June 2009 due to my instructor going home for her college summer break. The second half of 2009 was crazy from a work perspective; some of it brought on by me and some of it the result of keeping my employer happy. All of this resulted in me spending less time practicing my cello – let alone playing with others.

I have not been entirely “happy” over the last few months – a music / artistic type of happy; though I am not naïve to realize that it probably spills over to other parts of my life.  While it is easy to take more of a pragmatic approach to analyzing this sense of unhappiness, like paying for a cello I am not using as much as I should be, or realizing the benefits of investing time and money in lessons for little gain; I think there is an underlying psychological issue. I keep thinking back to an “Organizational Behavior” course I took three or four years ago at “The” Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. I think we spent a total of two hours covering “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” (MHN from here on out).

As I reflect back on almost three years of learning the cello, I can loosely map my journey to MHN.

I chose the cello because I needed a non-computer hobby that allowed me to get back in touch with music and hopefully allow me to socialize with other musicians using a language that is not spoken but demonstrated through passion, skills, and reverence.

So how does this map to MHN? (For any psychologists or music education gurus I beg your pardon if I am misapplying MHN in this manner… but it makes sense to me…).

Physiological: The basics or bare essentials. I rented a cello. It came with the tools I needed to get a tone. You can’t play music without some type of instrument and tools to make it function. While sheet music is not necessarily a bare essential – it is if you are not gifted to make music on your own (like me). So, I think of it as a bare essential.

Safety: For me, safety was taking lessons. Improving my skills to a point that I could make a half decent sound on the cello, demonstrate some technique, demonstrate music reading skills, as well as play music pieces.

Up to this point, I would submit that I am already seeing evidence of the higher levels of MHN; esteem and self –actualization. However, there is a gap…

Love and Belonging.

My favorite part of the journey over the last three years was when I could play with others. It seemed to be the difference between a good lesson and a bad lesson; as well as few opportunities to play with our church band (albeit a genre of music – contemporary Christian – that does not lend itself well towards a beginner cello player). The reality is that I have not been playing with others as much as I need and want to be. When you are not taking lessons or you are not skilled enough to quickly improvise music based off guitar chords – you do not get to play with others.

So, this uneasiness has reached a boiling point. I was hoping to get over to DC in early March to take a lesson with my web 2.0 friend Ms. Emily. All in the hope that it would be the catalyst I needed to get back into more intentional practicing but also to meet someone that is far more passionate about the cello then I am as well as very accomplished. Well, due to family obligations – like our son’s birthday – this opportunity was squashed. Next, while recently shoveling snow with a neighbor after a winter storm that dropped nine inches of snow – I learned of a community orchestra that was being started in the town where I live. You know the Christmas story “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”; specifically the older animated show where at one point the Grinch gets an evil smile that seems to take like 20 seconds to fulfill? Well, that is the smile that came across my face when I heard about the community orchestra.

At this point, I am now left to have to make a decision. Do I investigate the local community orchestra opportunity and see if it can fulfill MHN’s “Love & Belonging”? Or, do I tuck my tail between my legs – admit / accept defeat, and keep on coming up with easy excuses to not intentionally pursue playing music on the cello?

Stay tuned… 🙂


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.