Chinese Proverb

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

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lesson #42 (1/22/12): Etude, Intonation & String Crossings

I had my lesson with Adam a couple hours after Clayton's, and it looks like every Sunday I'll be having two lessons in cello, one in jazz and the other in classical. A very nice cello day indeed! :).

Not overwhelming either, I'm finding the more busy I am at work and school, the more I want to "cello-out." Hhhmmm... I guess it's a form of procrastination for me! Practice the cello or do cello-related stuff (i.e. blogging) instead of homework! :).

We went over Etude and had a few corrections to go over:

  • I know I always write about intonation in my blog entries, and I'm sure a lot of the info is repeated in my previous entries, but I think I just forget about specifics sometimes, and most times, I just can't tell if my intonation is off... I understand the concepts, but my ear hasn't been able to distinguish the minute differences yet, so I think the repetition of intonation correction is just going to occur over and over until my ear finally picks it up! Or until my teacher gets sick of repeating it over and over again! LOL! :). I hope he doesn't, otherwise I won't eventually pick it up. Anyway, if all of this sounds familiar, I apologize because I'm sure I've probably repeated it in a previous post.   
  • For Etude, which is in C Major, the E I normally play in D Major is too flat. Adam mentioned that in C Major the notes need to be more spot on because its more noticeable when its off
    • I remember from a previous lesson when playing in D Major that playing the F# a little bit higher was okay because it was leading up to the tonal center/home and it had to feel like it was going somewhere. I think he mentioned something called tonal expression. I guess in C Major there can't be as much "fudging" in intonation - I wonder if its because it doesn't have any sharps or flats?
  • Anyway, to check whether I am in tune, he wants me to play: 
    • 4th finger on G - play against open G
    • 1st finger on E - play against open G 
      • When playing this, I should remember the hand position to get used to the 1st and 4th finger relationship 
      • Also, if I'm having issues with my my pinky feeling weak, I can move my elbow slightly forward to get more weight into the pinky. This is something I can also do with my extensions

Closer to the bridge & more articulation
  • With this piece I should play a little bit louder and closer to the bridge 
  • We played this together with him doing two different accompaniments. I mentioned that I did NOT like the accompaniment that he preferred because I couldn't hear myself play. He said if I had trouble hearing myself, that may be a good thing because that meant I was in tune!
  • However, this led up to a good point, he recommended when playing with other musicians and instruments, I needed to make sure my notes were more articulated. So for this piece, I really need to make sure that I have my martele bowing down with a good start and stop, otherwise it'll easily blend in with the accompaniment
    • Adam mentioned it's really important to have an articulated sound because its really hard to compete with a grand piano if the bow strokes are in tune with a piano, and a legato-like sound or a stroke that is similar to a piano key stroke, would just get lost. One of the best ways to distinguish notes between a piano and a cello is to have an articulated sound using different bow strokes

String Crossing 
  • I need to revisit the different angles for the string crossings and remember that there is a minimal amount of bow movement 
  • I was having issues when I bowed on the A string and came back to the D string, that my bow was in a different spot. My bow hand also felt less secure after I did the string crossing back to the D string
  • Exercise: String crossings
    • Make sure my bow stays in the same spot
    • Do this at the frog, middle and tip (as many different location to get used to it)

  • Get a BIG sound! 
  • Adam mentioned that my favorite string should be the C string because it can be very robust and beautiful sounding! Right now my favorite string is the G string because it sounds really nice and it's easy for me to move, but I do love the C string as long as I'm not the one playing it! 
    • Currently, I don't like the C string as much because its harder to move, although I've been working on playing the C string so its not as difficult as it was before.
  • I have discovered that I can make a fairly big sound from the C string, but I always feel like it completely over powers the other strings so I always hold back on trying to get a big sound from it.
  • Also, when I first started playing the cello, I didn't like making really big loud sounds and used to play with a mute on all the time, and I feel like I'm having that same issue with my C string right now. I know I can make a loud sound, but I don't particularly want to....I know, I'm weird. Loud sounds scare me! LOL! :). I'll just have to start playing this loud for awhile so I can move on to the next piece - it doesn't look like the next three pieces use the C string. Yaay! :).
    • Wait, I shouldn't be thinking that the C string, I love the C string...

Anyway, Adam finished the recordings of the cello accompaniments and gave them to me on a CD during our lesson, so I'm REALLY EXCITED to do my next recording because I'm going to play it with and without the accompaniment. Unfortunately, I won't be able to do that until next weekend because I'm way too busy with class and work. I signed up for two history classes this semester, which was not very good planning on my part because both classes require a LOT of reading. Not that I don't like to read, but trying to read a lot of pages under a deadline is hard for me to do - so much easier (and quicker) to read when I feel like I have all the time in the world!

Hopefully I'll have something up next week, and I still have to transcribe a song too! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lesson #41 (Jazz #6 1/22/12): Eurhythmics & Bowing

OMG - such a FUN and HILARIOUS lesson!!! :D

We went over rhythm using (Dalcroze's) Eurhythmics, which uses concepts of rhythm and structure with physical movement. I had to look that one up because I had never heard of that before until this lesson. It was a surprise when after we went over some bowing technique and was ready to do jazz he asked me to stand up to stomp out the rhythm we were playing and clap to the beat, some of which were syncopated.

When I'm not on the dance floor, I'm  fairly klutzy and uncoordinated! My husband says its because I'm so focused on the dance floor that once I stop dancing, I stop paying attention which is why I'm constantly bumping and tripping over things!
Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and somewhat embarassing to find I couldn't stomp out a beat while clapping on the OFF-beat! As soon as I had to think about clapping on the off beat (one and two AND three and four), I would lose my stomping. I couldn't help but laugh how bad I was! HILARIOUS! :).
Even more ironic, I dance Lindy Hop and the basic move (a swingout) is an eight count step which is syncopated: step, step, TRIple step - step, step TRIple step so I should have gotten this really easily!

From what I read the clapping and stomping is supposed to give me physical awareness and experience of music through kinesthetics. Clayton explained that in jazz its really important to feel the rhythm, and that if I don't have a very strong sense of rhythm (which I thought I did, but apparently not), than it won't make people want to groove to the beat or get up and dance. He also mentioned that when playing jazz gigs, a lot of times they'll hire a player who has better rhythm than someone who has a lot of "chops," i.e. someone who has a lot of technique, but no rhythm.

I looked up Eurhythmics on YouTube and found an interesting video. We didn't do any of the different body movements in the video, just stomping and clapping, but it was really fun! It was like a cello/dance/light exercise/rhythm lesson all rolled up into one!

Grasshopper Exercise
  • I wasn't quite getting this exercise so he gave me some suggestions: 
    • Make sure my fingers are light and not gripping the bow tightly 
    • Think of the bow as being "balanced," and not necessary  
    • Move my awareness to my pinky - at the frog, I should feel more of the tips of my pinky and at the tip of the bow I should feel more of my pinky's pad (more surface area)

We quickly went over the different  bowing again because I got confused as to what bow did what.
  • Detache
    • Moves from the elbow. We first tried resting my elbow on a chair while I played the cello and then Clayton held my elbow up while I played. It felt like everything below the elbow was moving and the rest was stationary. Clayton described it like a karate chop. 
  • Martele
    • Stop bow
    • Like a detache, but more accented start (faster start)
  • Martele with U shape 
    • Sound should go from light to heavy
  • Stacatto 
    • Off the string = U shape 
  • Legato 
    • Legato is not a specific bow stroke, its more like a characteristic. i.e the sound is more connected  

This was a very fun lesson! :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cello Insurance

Below is some information regarding cello insurance that I researched to determine the insurance coverage for my two celli.
Both my teachers and my luthier (and consensus online), recommended requesting quotes from the main musical insurance carriers and from your homeowners (or renter's) insurance company and then the not-so-fun part, reading through the quotes and coverage descriptions to see what would best fit my needs.

I've added links to read through some of the insurance coverage specimens (the insurance company's generic, standard coverage).

Be prepared to know/have the following:
  • A list of cello(s), cases, bows, & accessories with descriptions, cost and bill of sale/receipts (and in some cases an appraisal)
  • Questions to know:
    • Will you be traveling or shipping your cello? 
    • Do you belong to any groups or associations? 
      • I don't belong to any, but apparently you get a discounted rate
    • Will you be getting paid or refuse payment? 
      • If so, you're considered a professional musician. You may need to get a rider if you go through your homeowners insurance, otherwise some policies will become void 
    • What type of security do you have and how do you store your cello?
Poor cello! :(

Professional Insurance
  • Clarion Insurance
    • My quote was $160 with no deductible (covers my two cellos, bows, cases and accessories) 
    • Requirements: completed application, proof of value (either bill of sale receipt or appraisal), and premium payment
    • Documents:
    • Heritage Insurance / Musical Instrument Insurance Program
      • Their minimum premium to issue a policy is $250.00 per year. Policies are usually written without deductible. For my quote, this was the case  (includes celli, cases, bows & accessories).
      • Coverage is "All Risk" and worldwide, including devaluation as a result of loss
      • Exclusions: governmental actions, general wear and tear, shipments and air cargo (can be added). Another important condition is if an instrument is stolen from an unattended automobile they require some visible signs of forced entry 
        • Shipping & air cargo coverage can be added when needed. The cost per shipment is $0.50 per $100.00 for domestic and $1.50 per $100.00 international
      • Coverage provided by Hartford Insurance Company
      • Requirements: copy of appraisal and premium payment. If no appraisal is available, they can start coverage based on a complete description of the instrument including make, model, year built, serial #, and current replacement cost. Payment options are available
      • Documents:
    • Total Instrument Insurance
      • My quote was $78.52 premium with no deductible (includes celli, cases, bows & accessories).
      • "All risk," except governmental action, nuclear hazard, war & military action, pollutants, pre-existing conditions and normal wear and tear.
      • Traveling IS covered 
        • Sorry, there was a typo in the email I received from the agent
      • Requirements: Application and premium payment. Must disclose if any item has been repossessed, been convicted of a crime or filed for bankruptcy
      • Coverage provided by New Hampshire Insurance Company 
      • Documents:
    • Merz-Huber
      • I was quoted a premium of $250.00 a year with a $100.00 deductible (two celli without cases or accessories)
      • The policy is "all risk" and covers everything but normal wear and tear. Fire, theft, damage, traveling and shipping is covered. 
      • Requirements: completed application, cello appraisal and check
      • Unfortunately, they didn't have a coverage specimen to forward me
    • Anderson Group
    Personal Insurance: 
      • Farmers Insurance: my current renter's insurance company
        • My quote is $54.78 annual premium with a $250 deductible. 
        • I ended up forwarding Clarion's quote to my Farmer's insurance agent to see if their policy would provide similar coverage. Although it seems that they are not very knowledgeable about celli coverage or any type of musical instrument for that matter.
          • Both my teachers currently have insurance through State Farm, but I don't think my Farmers insurance is as good as State Farm.
        • Personal property with Farmers Insurance covers theft, vandalism, smoke if sudden and accidental, sudden and accidental discharge of water, fire, collapse of dwelling and falling objects. But does not cover flooding or earthquakes (not an issue in Colorado), or if my cello is damaged while walking across the street and it falls out of its case!  
          • Huh?! That was the example my agent emailed me specifically! This is because it does not have a "drop and break peril." 
          • Another instance this may occur is if I were to move and accidentally dropped my cello. Or if my case were to fall over with the cello inside, or if someone bumped into it, and the case didn't protect it (scary thought!). So make sure you ask specifically that this is covered under your homeowners policy!
        • Requirements: check, copies of my receipts and a picture of my two celli front and back
        • Documents: 

      Helpful forum reading from different websites:

      There are a lot of other insurance carriers out there, but these were the ones I found to be the most common. I would recommend getting quotes from all of them and compare the different coverage, premiums and deductibles. Just click on the highlighted links to go the the main website for each one. The quotes are "relatively painless" and should take 30 minutes to complete all 5 carrier's online quotes. You should receive quotes within 24 hours, except for Anderson which took a few days.

      Also, be sure to read through ALL of the specimen policies! I highlighted some aspects that are important to ME in this blog, but I'm sure I missed some important information that may affect your decision in picking a policy. Use this as the BEGINNING POINT of your research only.

      I think I'll be choosing HCC / Total Instrument Insurance since it covers my celli, bows, cases and its accessories, has no deductible and is relatively inexpensive. I believe you can also add coverage to laptops or other equipment used in gigs or teaching too.

      Happy reading! exciting... LOL! =p
      Probably more information on musical insurance coverage than you ever wanted to know...

      ***FOR FUTURE READERS PLEASE NOTE: Entry posted on 1/17/2012, so if you're reading this and its been awhile (say 3 months or longer), the coverage specimens and rates may no longer be accurate. I'm not responsible for outdated material or information! But let me know if you come across any inactive links.***

      Monday, January 16, 2012

      Lesson #40 (Jazz #5 01/15/12): Extensions, finger games & jazz pizz

      Clayton is finally back from break! Yaay! :).
      We covered a lot of technical stuff this lesson which was really fun! Lots of technical stuff, so another long post...

      • Clayton's commented that:
        • The angle and position stays relatively the same. 
        • The fingers should NOT be stretching horizontally or vertically, they should be stretching diagonally! I forgot about this (which he covered in a previous lesson), and that totally helped my extensions click for me! 
        • For the most part, when extensions are done, the second finger is used first - I kept playing the note with my third finger and then trying to extend with my first finger! I'm just so used to the D Major scale where I only use my third finger.
      • Backward extensions notes:
        • There should be weight in the second finger with my thumb behind it, while the first finger reaches towards the nut.
          • My second finger had no weight to it and was just loosey-goosey, which was why my hand was moving around and drifting towards the nut.
        • The mechanics/movement should be the same with backward and forward extensions.
        • For now, he recommended that I don't move my thumb until I start learning how to do vibrato.
      • Forward extension notes:
        • There should be weight in the first finger instead while the second finger moves with the thumb as one unit towards the bridge.
        • The mechanics/of moving the second finger higher (towards the bridge) should feel the same.
        • I should watch my hand to make sure the shape of my fingers and my wrist don't change.
      • Extension with moving from one string to another notes:
        • I can try keeping the same shape of my hand in an extension and just move to the next string by moving my whole hand-forearm-elbow as one unit.
        • Or, I can shift and than do a backward extension. He recommended that I try both.
      • Exercises:
        • Downward extension (play on D string; Drone C) 
          • 4 2 1 2, 4 2 x1 2 :||
        • Upward extension
          • 1 2 4 2, 1 x2 4 2 :||

      After the corrections, I feel like I have more control over what my hand is doing! Now for lots of practicing!

      Bow exercises:
      • I really liked the bow exercises he provided. I have very stiff fingers and wrists, and initiate a lot of my bow movement from my wrist, which is incorrect. After doing the exercises he gave me a few weeks ago, I'm starting to feel a difference in mobility in my wrist, thumb and fingers. I'm still very stiff, but now I'm aware of my lack of flexibility/stiffness and tension, so I know what to focus and work on.  
      • Grasshopper exercise:
        • Do a short stroke at the tip and lift off of the string and move the bow on the correct track and angle without touching the strings in an upbow and then land the bow silently on the string at the frog, and then do a bow stroke (make a sound) at the frog lift the bow from the string into a downbow and land silently at the tip. Imagine a grasshopper hopping from the tip to the frog. 
        • I should focus on the thumb straightening when the bow is at the tip and the thumb being bent when the bow is at the frog.
          • This is really hard and needs a lot of bow control! My bow just wobbles all over the place when its off the string and looses its path!
        • I couldn't find a YouTube example of this exercise. 
      • Knuckle flexibility exercise:
        • He gave me this during my last lesson, but I was actually doing incorrectly and was doing the opposite of what I was supposed to be doing!
        • Knuckle raises
          • Hold bow horizontally, the left hand holding the tip and the right hand at the frog. 
          • Relax the hand and fingers and thumb should be straight - this is what the thumb should be doing when the bow is a the tip and the down bow is completed. 
          • Raise knuckles and thumb should bend - this is what the thumb should be doing when the bow is at the frog and the upbow is completed
        • Knuckle raises part 1
          • After I get that down (which I was completely doing backwards), I hold the bow the same way, but pull the bow to the left to mimic the bow at the frog. Then push the bow, which mimics the bow at the tip. 
            • Pull bow = thumb bends
            • Push bow = thumb straightens
        • Below is a YouTube video. It's not the same exercise that my teacher was teaching me because I couldn't find the same exercise on YouTube, but it's the same concept.

      • Spider crawl exercise:
        • This is a lot harder than it looks! I can go up the bow, but going back down... really hard for me! My fingers are so uncoordinated and stiff! 
        • YouTube video on how to do this:

      Jazz pizzicato:
      • Really fun stuff! Clayton went over how he typically does pizz on a bass and said he doesn't need to use as much strength since bass strings are so much thicker than cello strings. Also, the elbow height applies to jazz pizz just like in bowing. 
      • He covered using two fingers to pizz faster for faster tempo'd songs and how bass players can use different types of pizz. I asked him why cellist don't use this type of pizz because to me, it sounds so much more robust. He commented that he thought it was because typically when cellists are doing pizz they also have a bow in their hand so they can't turn their hand downwards with their palms facing outward.  
      • Homework: 
        • YouTube bass players and watch their fingers.
        • Work this into my scale practice. 
      • Below is another YouTube video from Erik Friedlander (who is a jazz cellist) doing jazz pizz. One of the many ways it can be done. 

      Next lesson, he'll go over more "jazz stuff" instead of "technique stuff" since we've been working a lot on technique. However, I can't work on a lot of the scales he assigned (which is important in knowing what modes to improvise in) until I learn how to do forward and back extensions and shifts.

      During my next lesson, I think we'll be going over how to do a walking bass line, how to swing notes, and a piece he assigned from the Mello Cello Method Book. We haven't been able to get to the pieces or improv because we've been doing a lot of scale work and technique work. I really love working on technique anyway! :).

      Saturday, January 14, 2012


      I've been working on extensions lately, and I just don't understand the mechanics of it! :(
      It's a definite hit or miss in finding the note!

      Since Clayton was on break, he forwarded me a YouTube video to review since he wasn't in town. I finally have a lesson with him tomorrow so hopefully he can clarify some things.

      I also found another helpful YouTube video on extensions:

      Working on extensions has also messed up my intonation and fingering for first position. I thought I had first position down fairly well, but apparently not! Working on extensions seems to be making my hand drift towards the pegbox and is making my notes flat more often than not. And making my first finger waaayy too flat because I'm making the space too wide!'s just not clicking for some reason... grrrr...!

      Thursday, January 12, 2012

      Lesson #39 (01/11/12): Review of Rigadoon & New Rep: Etude

      It snowed the day of my lesson so I got to my lesson late. My car was sliding all over the place! Note to self - buy some snow tires!

      Lesson notes:

      Cello insurance 
      • I had asked my teacher about his cello insurance after being reminded by Mark, a fellow blogger, who was also wondering about cello insurance. It's been on my To-Do List for a while now, so I figured I'd better get a policy inforce to cover my two cellos.
        • Coincidentally, my co-worker happened to damage his cello while visiting his family during Christmas. He had bumped his cello into the edge of a table which created a hole/crack. 
        • I can definitely see that happening to me, especially in circumstances where I'm not familiar with my surroundings. I would be totally livid if that happened to me! Unfortunately, I don't think he had insurance and he had only purchased his cello a few months ago, so cello insurance has been fresh on my mind as of late.
      • Adam recommended that I check to see how much it would be to add the cellos to my renter's insurance and in general commented that it's a good idea to insure items separately if they are higher than my deductible and travels between locations, e.g. a $1,000+ laptop or camera being carried to and from campus with a $250 deductible. Also, I need to be aware if it will be considered "professional" coverage (any instance that I get paid or refuse payment) or "normal" coverage, as in an amateur or student that doesn't get paid. I'll cover these details in a later blog.
      • I asked my luthier for his recommendations, which he also recommended that I check the cost of adding it to my current renter's policy, and then also comparing it to other insurance companies to see which is cheaper. He also recommended checking out Heritage Insurance.
        • So far, I've requested quotes from all of the major cello insurance companies (Clarion Insurance, Heritage Insurance & Merz-Huber Insurance) and from my current insurance - Farmers. I'm still waiting for a quote from Farmers, but as soon as I get that information I'll post it. Yeah, I know over-kill, but I want to get the most bang from my buck and to make sure my cellos are taken care of. 

      Scale warmup
      • We warmed up with the C major scale, which I'm still having issues with not putting enough weight on the C string. 
        • Going up the scale I'm too light, so the sound doesn't resonant. However, coming down the scale I do just fine because I can gauge the weight and the angle from the other strings; whereas the starting point I don't really have a reference point. 
      • My teacher recommend that I make sure I grab the string before starting the bow stroke on the C string and to use more weight, which he had also commented in a previous lesson. I better start working on really feeling the "grab" before starting the bow stroke. 
        • Trying this after the critique, I did better on the open C and on D, but my stroke lightened again on E and F, so I'll have to really focus on those two notes. 
          • I think it was because I was unsure if my angle was correct because it felt off.  The bow didn't feel like it was at the right angle and wouldn't have full contact with the C string during the E and F stroke, so I also lightened my weight. I always lighten my weight if I think I'm about to play something incorrectly! 
        • I'm still hesitant with adding more weight to the C string because I'm afraid of getting the really heavy/closed crunching sound, which I've had to work really hard to get rid of on the D and G string, which is still an ongoing process!
        • Also, on the C string I think I'm still having the issue of pushing down on the string instead of  having a feeling of a horizontal pull, so I think I just need to work on the C string more.

      • We played through this a couple times, which went fairly well. I always seem to do well with pieces I like - the music just flows and I don't have to think about it to much! :).
      • My intonation was good for all of the notes, except for one note, which was way off! I over-extended my pinky...
      • Working on dynamics & phrasing 
        • Since I have this fairly down, Adam wants me to start working on dynamics and phrasing on this piece.
        • As an exercise, we're going to disregard the current dynamics that are noted on the sheet and use different dynamics to make sure there is more contrast between them, which will also help in my phrasing.
          • For lines 1 & 2: piano (instead of mf)
          • For lines 3 & 4: mezzo-forte (instead of f)
          • For lines 5 & 6: piano (instead of mf)
          • For lines 3 & 4: mezzo-forte (instead of f)
      • Working on phrasing
        • Using the different dynamics I should try applying the rules:
          • In general: higher notes should be played louder 
          • In general: longer notes can be used as a lead-in to a crescendo 
        • To me, it feels/sounds like falling in and out of steps in dancing, or I would imagine a train going up and down rollings hills or a rollercoaster or something...
        • Since I'll be using piano instead of mezzo-forte, I can really be loud/forte on the higher notes to make it really stand out. 
      • Adam is still working on the recordings for the accompaniments, but when I get it from him I think I may record myself playing Rigadoon with the recorded accompaniment and post it.
      • Recording of me playing Rigadoon - I haven't worked on dynamics yet and this is definitely still a work in progress since I have not had time to apply all the information from this lesson yet.

      • We reviewed this piece for the first time. Typically what happens is I record him playing a piece during a lesson with my iphone, but don't cover the mechanics or have me play it during the lesson. However, he will sometimes point out tricky spots to watch out for. Then I watch the recording and work on it at home, and then review it during the next lesson. 
        • I also have software that slows down or speeds up the video while maintaining the correct pitch so I can work on things really slowly
          • Typically I have to slow the video down to 50% at first and then slowly increase it as I get comfortable with each speed. 
        • I'll play it on my iphone with one earbud in my right ear so I can hear my intonation in my left ear. This has also helped my volume because I'm trying to match the volume from my earbud. 
      • For me, this works out really well because:
        • 1) It would be really embarrassing playing it front of him without trying it first - I'd be making a LOT of mistakes and that would make me even more nervous and I'd end up playing worse!
          • My nervousness of playing in front of him has definitely dissipated some, but I'm still fairly nervous playing in front of him. When I can play the way I do at home, then I'll know I've gotten my nerves under control! 
          • I wonder if this is an issue for a lot of cello students or because I just tend to be tightly wound! 
        • 2) Sometimes things just come naturally and I think finding something naturally on my own is better than learning the mechanics before discovering it may have occurred by itself.
        • 3) I think it's better that I get comfortable with the piece. This way, I can learn the notes and fingering so we don't waste time during the lessons going over this.
      • Corrections for this piece
        • As usual, use more bow!
          • A default of mine is to use very small bow strokes. My brain for some reason thinks it's easier to use less bow, when in fact it's harder (of course!). I'll have to train that unruly brain of mine to think the opposite!
        • Don't lift the bow 
          • Another default of mine is to lift the bow. I'm actually not sure why I do this, it's an unconscious habit of mine, so I'm going to have to really watch my bow movement to figure out what/why it's happening so I can correct it.
        • Left hand: use more conservatively 
          • Don't lift the first finger if I don't have to. I'm doing a lot more work than I should be doing! 
        • Try the Etude Variation
          • My teacher commented, "if I get bored of Etude" I should try the variation. It dawned on me that he may have commented on this because I lost my place a couple of times. My mind definitely wondered! However, it wasn't because the piece was boring (it's definitely a challenging for me), but because my attention drifted. My ADD kicking in! LOL! :)
          • This bowing is similar to Perpetual Motion, but what is more difficult for this piece is that there are more notes and string crossings. 

        Adam commented that I've been progressing nicely since I started my lessons and reminded me that I didn't even know how to read notes back then, which I hadn't even considered! I'll have to add that to my end of year review! :).

        Dance concepts for cello practice?

        I'm taking a solo dance class and there are some really interesting concepts that I think can be applied to cello practice. Below are notes forwarded to me by our teacher Brooke.


        Notes for 10-week Session on Technique & Artistry, Winter 2012
        (Please chew, digest, embrace, disagree, & add to these…)

        1)  Craft of a discipline, Skillful means, Skill set
        2)  Practice-based, Cumulative
        3)  Relative to goals/intentions (“good” technique in one context can be considered “bad” technique in another) – what are ours?
        4)  The “How” of what we’re doing/expressing/being in contemporary dance

        1)  Evoked/Invoked through Intention – an intention born from, or dropped into, our body-mind, and held within while moving, invokes imagination, subtlety, and nuance in our quality of moving that is captivating, magnetic, and “artistic.”  The intention can range from an image, to a question, to a word, to simply the desire to be available and present.  The intention can even be to find the intention.  It is, at heart, a call to bring one’s whole self (body, mind, heart, senses, imagination, etc) into the singular immediacy of the moment at hand.  Can be playful, serious, or both, but is whole-hearted, we could say.

        2)  Evoked/Invoked through Attention – both personal and universal.  My attention is here with this movement; a profound Attention is moving me as this movement.  Presence, curiosity, a sense of discovering my body and the environment in the process of moving – WHAT IS THIS?  A sense of  “this is the first time I’ve ever moved” AND “this is the last time I might ever move.”  A way of discovering and knowing what it is to be alive that includes mind and body, but is also beyond both.

        ** Marriage of Technique and Artistry is an ever-deepening process and practice, and is cause for captivating performance (in life and art), and deeply satisfying, transformative experience.  **

        Concepts/Dualities We’ll Work With:
        1)  Contraction/Expansion
        2)  Ascending/Descending
        3)  Resist/Release
        4)  Will/Allow
        5)  Linearity/Circularity
        6)  One/Many
        7)  Improvisation/Choreography (Freedom/Structure)

        Body Concepts:
        1)  Head/Tail
        2)  Core/Distal
        3)  Upper/Lower
        4)  Body Halves
        5)  Cross Lateral
        6)  Interior/Exterior (Subjective/Objective)
        7)  Concealing/Revealing
        8)  Control & Specificity of movement
        9)  Facial expression
        10)  Breath & Vocal expression

        1)  Gravity
        2)  Floor
        3)  Other dancers
        4)  An Idea/Image
        5)  Something greater than self:  Intuition/ “We”/ Inner Voice/ Spirit/ God/ Self/ a Guide
        6)  Movement/ Music
        7)  No partner/ Nondual

        Context for Learning:
        1)  Concepts – Experience – Reflection
        2)  Challenge + Support

        Intention for 10 Weeks:
        1)  What do I want?
        2)  Really, what do I really want?
        3)  What wants me?
        Nuggets from these three combined, framed open-endedly, perhaps as a question


        I've taken two lessons and its been very interesting so far, especially the exploration of body movement concepts that can be applied, e.g. moving linearly or circularly using different body parts. Or being aware of how the body can be divided and used across different axis points and how it affects one another. 

        For example: cross lateral movement can be applied with left hand fingering and right hand bow movement, or head/tail concept for good cello posture, or interior/exterior with regards to how I want the piece to be played and how it is heard by the audience...actually I think all of these dance concepts can apply to playing the cello! Under the Partners categories, instead of "dancers," it can be applied to other "musicians." This is going to be a very interesting course! Exciting stuff! :).

        What I think is especially interesting is the concept of intention versus attention applied to both dancing and cello playing. I'll have to digest these concepts a bit more and blog about it at the end of the 10 week course. 

        Sunday, January 8, 2012

        Lesson #38 (01/06/12): My first lesson of the year! :).

        I've been sick for a few days now, a really bad cold or flu, and almost cancelled my lesson Friday.
        I was feeling the first symptoms Wednesday, but woke up Thursday morning feeling really bad, so I called in sick from work and stayed home all day Thursday drinking Theraflu and Emergen-C and watched the movie Contagion (my husband's idea) ...good way to become a hypochondriac and think I'm spreading a deadly disease!! LOL! :).

        Anyway, I was too excited to cancel my lesson Friday so hopefully I didn't get my teacher sick. Although practicing in one of the university's very small, poorly ventilated practice room is almost a sure fire way to get sick...sorry Adam!

        Unfortunately, just as I suspected, my technique has been getting worse. I've always thought getting corrections done sooner than later was important, so as not to ingrain bad habits, and I've definitely had some bad habits returned.

        Although my teacher mentioned that when he's off for awhile not practicing that some of his bad habits go away and things that he's been working on just clicks. This occurs in my dancing, but not in my cello practice yet. I think you have to get to a certain level before that starts to occur. I took a year off in my dancing, but am back at it this year (Yaaay!) and noticed the same things. Time to start some dance training (cardio, lifting weights, losing the weight from sitting on my butt for a year playing cello...*sigh*).

        Review of old repertoire
        We went over some old repertoire to get back into the cello-playing frame of mind. I've been practicing during my two week vacation but not recently during the past few days because of my cold. Therefore I wasn't really prepared for this lesson. If I don't practice the day before a lesson I always do horribly worse. Its ridiculous how much I lose if I don't practice daily!

        Adam reminded me that I need to keep reviewing the previous repertoire periodically (which I haven't and I'm sure it showed!) so that I can play these pieces from start to finish from memory and have it polished! Hmmm...that may be an idea...I should record all the pieces in Book 1 at the end of 2012 and compare it to the original recordings! ...should be interesting...

        Some notes on things to work on:
        • French Folk Song
          • My bow angle on the A string was way off again - my bad habit has returned! blah...
          • Another bad habit returned, I'm lifting my bow again and not letting the weight of my arm sink into the string...
          • My teacher mentioned that one of his teachers gave him the advice of making sure that he could see his second knuckles on all of his fingers, but to be careful not to bend the wrist in the other direction
            • I'll have to practice this and try it out
        • Lightly Row
          • This was better, but I think my intonation was off, although my teacher said it wasn't
        • Song of the Wind 
          • hmmm.. I don't remember what the critique was on this...I think I played this okay although I don't feel comfortable playing this
        • Go Tell Aunt Rhody
          • F# is flat again
        • O Come Little Children
          • F# are flat again - need to work on intonation on this piece 
        • May Song
          • My strokes were too smooth and too legato-like, but this needs to be more articulated. This was the weakest out of all of them. I'll definitely have to work on this more  
        • Allegro
          • Good job on this one, not much work on. I really like this piece! I always do well with pieces I like. 
        I definitely didn't play these as well as I should have, and as well as I know I can, but Adam seemed to think it was fine - I think he was just being nice!

        Current Repertoire: Rigadoon
        • Slow down
          • I'm rushing through this - Adam mentioned that I seem to be on the front side of the beat instead of the end part of the beat, but I did better when my teacher played the accompaniment with me, although the third way through I rushed it again because I was nervous 
        • Think of this as a "heroic" piece! 
          • Measure 17 - 24 should be medium soft, but I ran right over it and continued to do it very loudly. I caught myself the second time around because I heard my teacher get softer but I was a measure or two late! I'll remember the next time around. 
          • Measure 25 - 32 should be in forte, I should imagine the triumphant return of the hero so it just needs to sound grandiose! Fun stuff!! :). 
        • Adam went into a little bit of history on the composer Henry Purcell who was an English composer in the Baroque period 
          • Apparently Rigadoon Z.653 in C Major was written in 1687 and may be an excerpt from one of his semi-opera compositions and I think originally created for the harpsichord

        Goal Time:
        I have 7 weeks to get through Book 1 with four more pieces to get through, so that means I have 1.5 weeks to work on each of them and get them recorded. I'll try to record Rigadoon by Wednesday (I think I have this!) and start working on Etude afterwards.

        I know I'm rushing through these... not good! :(

        I told my teacher my goal and he said I definitely can get the pieces learned by my time frame, but not as polished as it should be. Although he said in most cases, a student will learn the piece, and as they learn and better their technique, they have to return to the old pieces to polish them up because there are just some things they can't learn right away.

        I've been listening to the Suzuki recordings diligently at work - I'm sure my co-workers are sick of hearing it! Fortunately, my teacher said he would record the cello accompaniment to all of the Suzuki pieces so I can start playing along to that to get used to how it sounds playing with another cello! Awesome idea!!!  Can't wait to get those recordings!! :).

        Sunday, January 1, 2012

        My Cello New Year's Resolution 2012

        I really didn't have a 2011 goal except to: "not be a beginner for a long time!"

        That is, I don't want to sound and look like a complete newb after a year of playing cello! Although I still have 2.5 months before my time frame is up.

        Looking at my very first recording to my most recent video, I have to say that I have tangible proof that I've improved - though I haven't gotten out of the "beginner-newb" category yet! :). I've definitely learned a lot and am really enjoying playing and learning about the cello. I'm also satisfied with my progress, but it's not as quick as I hoped, but it is what it is...

        My other goal was to finish Suzuki Book 1 in one year, but I don't know if I can have the last four pieces (Rigadoon, Etude, Happy Farmer and Minuet in C) completed in time (February 23rd). It'll be cutting it close if I work hard at it.

        My first video (4/30/2011): My Twinkle Recital (after 6 Lessons)

        There are so many things I'm doing incorrectly. Wow, Adam definitely had his work cut out for him! At this point, I always wonder how / where a teacher starts because there is just so much to fix!

        I added my objective critique to the video. Wow...terrible! Although, I guess the worse I am in the beginning, the more improvements I can make! LOL! :).

        Most recent video (12/31/2011): Andantino (after 38 lesson)

        I think I look more relaxed, I sound better and am able to use a different bowing technique! Yaay! :). I didn't add my critique to the video since I'm still working on it and I don't know it well enough to review it very well. Though I don't feel comfortable with this bowing yet and I don't like how I sound in this video. I think I'll add my critique next year, that way I have something to compare it to. 

        I have to admit, I'm really happy that I recorded my progress, especially since at times I felt like I was just spinning my wheels and not going anywhere. 

        I was also recently reminded that I didn't know how to read music and now I do! Well for the most part - I can read notes on the staff, but I'm still working on learning how to read/interpret timing and rhythm.

        Not bad for starting as an adult and not having any previous instrument experience! Ha! :D. 

        Goals for 2012:
        1. Stop worrying about how far I get in the Suzuki book and focus on getting each piece polished, getting them memorized and learning the technique - after Book 1 of course! ;).
        2. Learn vibrato
        3. Learn 2nd & 4th position better and practice it consistently
        4. Be able to have consistent good intonation for 1st position - this should become second nature
        5. Start playing more improvisation
        6. Learn how to transcribe songs
        7. Learn how to do jazz pizzicato on cello
        8. Start playing with other musicians 
        9. Do some ear training
        10. Practice shifts and extensions daily - I hate practicing these, I tend to avoid these because I'm not very good at this!
        11. Focus on 1 or 2 pieces, instead of 3-4 pieces and other misc projects at the same time! Focus on assignments given and not what I want to work on or skipping ahead. I've discovered once I finally get to the piece I'm already bored with it because I worked on it before and its no longer fun and exciting!
        If I do 9 out of 11 goals, than I think I'll have met my goal for 2012.

        Hmmm...I wonder what I can use as a carrot ...oooo....I know.. a really nice pernambuco bow!!! That'll keep me motivated! :).

        Here's to more progress and learning to play the cello in the new year! 

        Practice Log #12 (after 38 lessons): Andantino

        I don't like how I played this piece and I'm still working on the bowing. I'll have to keep working on this piece on the side since my teacher wants Rigadoon ready for review for the next lesson and I need to start working on that one.

        I feel like I can spend a lot of time on Allegretto and Andantino to figure out how to do the different bowing so I'll continue to work on them until I feel comfortable with them; because right now, I don't think I have these very well. My intonation is also off since I've been focusing on the bowing instead of intonation.