Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lesson #24 (09/19/11): Bow Trials, New Repertoire (Perpetual Motion) & Catchup on Recordings (May Song & Allegro)

One hour lessons are much too short for me! By the time, I'm warmed up and ready for new material the lesson is already over! Ack... it's funny, in the beginning one hour was way too long and my saturation point was more like 40 minutes before my brain couldn't take any more. Now an hour is just isn't enough time to go over the the things I want to!

Lesson notes:

Bow Trial - We looked at the two bows that I have on trial that come with the cello outfit (cello, Eastman Z-tek case and bow).

Just a quick reminder: these are just my thoughts on how the bows felt to me and are not recommendations to purchase bows.

As Lee aptly stated in the comments below, picking out bows is: "sort of like a Harry Potter wand selection experience - i.e. very personalized and that you will just know... So it's something your teacher can only help you with..."

  • My current bow: CodaBow Diamond SX ($615) 
    • This came with my first cello outfit, but I didn't realize this was a really good bow for the price. My teacher says he's able to do advanced bowing technique with this bow and its fairly responsive. I'll take his word for it, since all I know how to do is legato, legato and more legato!
    • This bow is a carbon graphite diamond weave with an acoustic kevlar core, but I've managed to break it already! See... I can break anything! :). I broke the eyelit a couple of days ago - the screw has been giving me trouble for the last couple of weeks and when I tried to loosen it  a couple of days ago - I heard it snap and the hair go completely limp! Fortunately, it only cost $25 to replace the eyelit which the bowmaker had on hand so it only took 10 minutes to fix
    • I think I've been spoiled...since I've used this bow from the very beginning, the standard for finding a bow that is as (or more) responsive seems to be fairly high and with that, a higher price tag! 
  • On trial: Eastman Cardenza Master Model 305 bow (value $650)
    • Description: Hybrid bow with Carbon core with a pernambuco exterior. Silver-mounted and inlaid frog and buttons, and French-style grip
    • This felt a little too heavy and awkward for me. I think this produces a colder sound than the Paeshold bow, although it may project more, but I haven't tried it in a larger room yet. My teacher seemed to like it though
  • On trial: Paeshold 237C (value $930)
    • Description: Ebony frog Nickel/Silver fitted, Ivory tip, pernambuco, round, 82 gms 9.25" balance
    • I like how this feels in my hand. I've always had an issue with my thumb tightening up, but for some reason this doesn't have the same effect on my thumb. I also think this has a richer and more fuller sound than the Cardenza, but I have to remember that it doesn't need as much weight to produce sound
    • My teacher brought up some interesting points regarding pernambuco bows:
      • 1) The heart of Caesalpinia Echinata tree, commonly known as Pernambuco, has been used for making bows for the past 250 years, so they've become increasingly rare. So much so that many bow makers are now using other types of wood and materials (e.g. snakewood, rosewood, carbon fiber, etc.). Therefore, he suggested that it may be a good idea to buy a decent pernambuco bow since the price may go up. He mentioned that his handmade bow has tripled in price - his are higher quality professional bows, so I don't know the extent the value will increase for beginner/intermediate pernambuco bows, although I would assume they'd also increase somewhat
        • hhmmmm...maybe I should look into getting a good pernambuco bow sooner than later!

        • 2) Also, I already have a Carbon Fiber bow so getting a pernambuco bow would be a good idea so I can get two different sounds:
          • Carbon fiber bows generally make the sound more sprightly and bright 
          • Pernambuco generally makes the sound warmer with a richer timbre

    • My teacher mentioned that my intonation was better but I haven't really been working on intonation since I haven't been able to practice on my new cello, which is sadly back at the shop because a few open seams developed a couple of days after I got it back from an adjustment...I have all the luck!
    • I think it may be because I've had to pay more attention to where my fingers are located because the finger spacing for all three cellos are different
    • Also, changing out strings has caused me to pay attention more to the sound because breaking in some of the strings takes a few days and some strings change pitch fairly rapidly when breaking in (Obligatos & Evah Pirazzi to name a couple) so I've been placing my tuner by my sheet music as I play and have been checking to see if I hit the notes instead of looking at my fingers

    Worked on repertoire:
    I've been remiss in posting videos and since I'm already working on Perpetual Motion and haven't posted May Song or Allegro, I thought I'd better post those first. They're still a work in progress, but I thought I'd better just record and post them before I get too far behind in video recordings.

    These videos are after working eight hours, going to an hour cello lesson and going on a walk with my hubby so I look pretty tired! ;).Yep, I know - I should have done a repeat for May Song, but I was being lazy!

    May Song:
    • Tried to add dynamics - I thought I played measure 7 & 8 more softly, but it really isn't that noticeable in the video. But being behind the cello it sounds more noticeable to me! Really, I swear! :). I guess, that's why my teacher's been saying to make it more obvious and have more contrast with regards to volume!
    • A bit on the sloppy side, but I just wanted to get this recorded and over with, and I'm still having trouble with my string crossing from F-sharp to the A string...blah...

    Perpetual Motion in D Major
    • Bowing
      • The bowing for this piece is NOT supposed to be smooth, but with more articulation, so I need to stop the bow after each note
      • A string, work on:
        • Playing notes on the A string with the same volume I do on the D string
        • Lifting my arm to get the string crossing over to the A string correctly so that I have better contact between the bow and string
        • Using the same weight on the A string as the D string to get the sound consistent
      • Play closer to the bridge
        • Try playing closer to the bridge to get better articulation, but not too close or the notes/sound will "break"
      • Use the same tempo throughout the piece
        • At the end I rushed through the piece to get the song over with. I have a very bad habit of rushing through things, especially when I know I'm about to mess up! If I know my finger isn't in the correct spot and it feels like its slipping or the sound is about to break I'll rush through it to prevent that from happening! Or if I'm running out of steam, I figure I'd better rush through it before it all goes out the window! ;). Okay, I know - not good...I'll need to rethink my way of thinking!
        • Adam recommended going through the repertoire slowly and doing a small section at a time and then build on the previous section to build up muscle memory and stamina
    • Variations
      • Double notes - my teacher wants me to get this variation down
        • This should be interesting because I have ISSUES with short fast notes -  my hand either tenses up and cramps up, or my hand gets way too loose or sloppy
        • The bowing technique is what Suzuki calls "scrubby" => "ribbit" bowing. 
          • "Scrubby" bowing is in Allegro! Oops! The analogy being if I had a scrub brush and was washing the floor and was scrubbing back and forth, that's how it should feel like (or is reminiscent of)
      • Perpetual Motion in G Major 
        • I should give this a go - however, we didn't do this during the lesson and my teacher said it wasn't required. However, the other variations he definitely wants me to get down before I move on....darn...
    • F# exercises
      • Why in the world do I always have issues with my F#'s? At the end of measure 10 and the beginning of measure 11 where it jumps from D on the A string to F#, I always have trouble with my left hand. It's just not very coordinated doing this, so Adam gave me some exercises to do
      • Exercises:
        • 1) Keep first finger and pinky finger down on the A string and jump the second and third finger to the D string. 
          • For some reason, my fingers just don't want to do this! I can feel my pinky and my hand tensing up. Adam said that it takes time to build up the muscle memory
        • 2) Play that section as a chord - hold down D on the A string and F# on the D string 
          • This isn't how it is written, but it will give me some practice to get my fingers where it should be. The idea is to over-exaggerate the motion first to get comfortable with it before fine tuning it and having the fingers jump to their correct spots 
        • 3)  Play the arpeggio: F# on D string, open A, then G on A string
          • This uses the same notes, but gives my hand a break with the open A string, but I can use this to get familiar and more coordinated for F#
          • Also, try increasing tempo for more of a finger workout

    • Bowing
      • Use more bow especially for the first measure (D on the A string and open A note) since this is supposed to be forte. I think I was using maybe half of the bow, but it should be closer to 3/4 of the bow or as much bow as possible
    •  Video
      • Okay, the four notes that are supposed to be in forte in measure 1 seems to be a little forced (yikes!), so I think I definitely need to relax more into the bow and not push on the bow! I can definitely hear it in the sound - it sounds very choked and not ringing at all!
      • I think I'm trying to hard so I've stiffen up quite a bit. I can tell that my wrist is kind of leading... I need to remember to lead with the forearm more and use my entire arm. Ack, I've gotten really stiff again!

    Assignments for next lesson:
    • D Major Scale: work on full sound, articulated clean notes and good rhythm
      • Two notes per bow
      • Three notes per bow 
      • Four notes for bow
    • Work on Perpetual Motion
      • Work on bow articulation
      • Try the variations - double per note
    • Work on exercises to get fingers jumping from A string to D string for those darn F#

    I keep saying that I'll start my practice log, but this time I really mean it! I've noticed a decrease in learning new technique and also a decrease in my technique in general. And, I haven't had time to learn anything new from my other method and technique books because I haven't been using my time as efficiently as before - so starting tomorrow I'm back on it!


    1. Interesting that you are upgrading your bow so quickly... I am hesitant to do so now since I read that it's sort of like a Harry Potter wand selection experience - i.e. very personalized and that you will just know... So it's something your teacher can only help you with...

      For example, my teacher's bow is very light but I like my heavier bow right now. Also, I wonder how much my preference will change as I progress further.. And I don't think I do much yet to have a preference for where the balance point is.

      But if I had the funds, I would upgrade now and trade up later :-)

    2. Hi Yee,

      Well…not really upgrading… I’m in the process of purchasing a cello and a "free" bow comes with the cello purchase so I get to pick out a bow. Yaay! :).
      Which I didn’t get to pick out a bow with my first rental cello, so I’ve been using this as an excuse to look at and research bows.

      Oops – I didn’t mean for my bow thoughts/opinions to be recommendations. I think I should add your warning about bows to the beginning of my blog post! :).

      I actually do like my CodaBow SX. I can get another CodaBow for the new cello because its in the same price range, but I thought I should probably get something different and experiment with it a bit.
      I initially liked the Paeshold bow, which feels more slim and lighter than my CodaBow, but feels more “solid” and “fits” better in my hand.

      You’re definitely right though, it’s a matter of personal preference.
      I also trust my teacher’s judgment and deferred to his expertise; and fortunately, we happened to like the same bow. Or he knew I liked the Paeshold more and said that one was better! ;). I never know with him - although I have a sneaking suspicion that he liked the other bow which was a bit heavier like his bows.
      I guess since my teacher knows my preference he can suggest one that he knew I’d like, but can double check to see that the bow is capable of doing advanced bowing that I’ll need in the future (martele, colle, spiccato, sautille – jeez, sounds like different ways to prepare food dishes!) since I don’t know how to do those yet.

      Thanks for the comment, and I'll be stealing your Harry Potter analogy on picking out bows! :).

    3. i actually stole the Harry Potter analogy from someone else's post :-)

    4. hey there, it's your blogstalker again. Some bows you have there (so jealous :P). Ill probably go for the heavier bow of them all. As a lefty, my bow hand at the moment is still shying away from granting me total control - or at least enough control to let me coordinate the applied pressure with the bow position / volume / dynamics etc. I somehow find heavier bows are easier to control but that might be overgeneralization from my side. And kinda agree with Yee - bows ARE like wands! (minus the pheonix tail/dragonspine coring)
      Seen the videos, boy you are great! Your staccatos are definite and do not sound like being rushed at all (unlike me :( ) I also love your swaying a bit while playing - you already have the grace :) . I am totally inspired that i started recording (at the moment sound only) myself during practice last night on EKN, Irish washerwoman(IWW) and Jesu, joy of desiring man (JJDM) and i totally despise them (and those are without the distractions from your suggested experiment last time!) One good thing maybe i notice where i gotta improve like my 16th and 8th notes sound similar on EKN, 1st finger intonation in IWW, accented notes during string shifting (I hate A string) etc. etc. etc. Now i need to find a decent camcorder to despise myself even more with the posture!

      BTW I hope you'll get that darn F# down soon. As my teacher once said, what we need to do is to make friends with both our hands and fingers, so that we can trust them arranging themselves while we think about the music we wanna make. Sounded very abstract to me at first, but now my left hand started to listen a bit (maybe because i am lefty) even though my bow hand is still playing hard-to-get. Not that i dont have any problems with the left hand, but at least my teacher started to teach me glissando on 1st to 2nd position on my left hand but still have me repeat upbow, downbow open strings on the right hand (the same lesson since 1st week as he still couldnt give a pass on that!) My bow hand just hate me :(

      I thought ive said it before but i truly love your staccatos, me, I know the principle of it but my bow hand just love to rush it! My portato is passable and slur is still B- . I dont even want to go to spiccato since it doesnt even work anywhere else aside in Viva la Vida opening i learned in my 1st month (when i barely knew where is where and just played it anyway :P ). I guess we have our own strengths and weaknesses :).

      Looking forward to your Perpetual Motion since up until now i still just legato it mindlessly (like the youtube video i referred to) :P Love to find some articulations in your version!

    5. Hi Thaddaeus,

      I'm probably the last person left in the world that hasn't seen the last couple Harry Potter movies! But I can't watch them until I'm all caught up with the books - IMHO books are always better and I'd hate to watch the movie and ruin the book! :).

      You know me too.. I generally like heavier bows but for some reason the, bow... chose me!

      LOL! Yeah, wait until you start recording...ugh... all the little things just jump out and bite you in the ass! Watch out! It's really very depressing at first, but it did get me motivated to get better sooner than later. I'd hate to be a beginner forever - that would truly be torture!

      "Left hand, meet the right hand! Fingers please work together - OR ELSE...!"
      My right hand bowing is totally faking it...I still work on open bowing for 10-20 minutes as warm up, then scales! And the A string, don’t get me started...I totally sympathize with you there!

      Yeah, I need to start learning what each bow stroke is called - I keep forgetting. The swaying is actually kind of crazy, I don’t do it on purpose, and it just started happening when I started leading from the forearm area during my downbows. Like if someone grabbed the middle of my forearm and was pulling me to lead me somewhere and the rest of the arm/body follows along.

      Best of luck! And get some videos posted!! Don't worry I'm sure you won't die of embarrassment! I haven’t…. yet… =p