Chinese Proverb

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

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lesson #80 (07/29/12): Preparing for my next workshop

Time to prepare for the next (and last) workshop of the summer. This workshop is the one in California, and I'm still apprehensive about traveling with my cello. They're providing me with a cello there, but if I can make the trip with my cello I'm going to try.

The previous workshop ended on Thursday, but I needed a break and didn't pick up my cello on Friday and Saturday and now wished I had! The pieces I thought looked easy, actually are not!

During this lesson we went through all the fingerings and discovered that a lot of these pieces were best done in 2nd position. *sigh*
Here we go again - another crash course! What did I get myself into?? 

I guess my penciled-in frets are going to have to remain. Although my intonation has gotten a lot worse since put my frets back in! I think it's because I'm depending on my sight instead of my hearing, so it's not sounding as good.

Adam had done an excellent job in preparing me with the "correct" fingerings for the last workshop. Our workshop instructors were providing fingering options, and I noticed that a lot of the cellists had to change their fingerings and I didn't have to change any of mine! Which I was very thankful for because I don't think I would have been able to change my fingerings at the last minute and still be able to play the pieces, so despite the fact some of the notes could be played in first position for these pieces I know that the fingerings he's providing are the correct ones.

I practiced the pieces once I got home and discovered that my intonation was waaay off. I'm also working on dropping my elbow and making sure I grab the string on the side, so I'm also changing my left hand technique, probably not a good idea right now with learning all the repertoire. However, Adam has been trying to correct my left hand and elbow, and I think the way I'm attempting to do it is closer to the correct way that Adam is trying to get me to do.
Therefore, I'm trying to get some practice with it to get some of it into muscle memory before I loose how it feels or revert back to what I'm comfortable doing, which I don't think is correct.

  • Brahms Finale from Symphony No. 1 Mvt IV (easier...)
    • Cmaj, 4/4 time
    • Things to watch out for: 2 accidentals (which we marked the fingers) and two measures where it shifts to 4th position or 2nd position depending on what is more comfortable for me 
  • Francoeur's Largo (difficult)
    • Gmaj, 3/4 time, some slurs 
    • This piece is almost entirely in 2nd position!!! ...argh...why??
  • Adagio by Corelli  (really difficult!)
    • Gmaj, 4/4 time
    • Lots of shifting with a lot of sections in 2nd position and a lot of chords, although Adam mentioned since there are two cellists on each part that we would probably be doing divisi on the chords, one person playing one note on the chord. Learned a new word! :)

...booo...I want to go back to Suzuki books!! :(
I can't believe I said that after how much I complained how boring and slow the pieces ramped up in the Suzuki book... I changed my mind, I LOVE slow and boring!! I can't wait to get back to Suzuki rep in the Fall!! 

I did have a mini-freakout when I received the last workshop's music; hopefully, I'll be able to get these down in two weeks. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 5 (Thursday): Final day!

I got there 20 minutes early to warm up again since I was finding that it was very helpful to warm-up my body before the Warm-up class! :).

9:00 Warmup Class
The instructor asked how many people had started shifting, and me and my stand partner were the only two who had not started shifting until we received the music in the mail! She had been working on the last piece in Suzuki Book 1 but playing for two years, and I was on the first piece in Suzuki Book 2.

She said that we should all be very proud about learning how to play the pieces we were going to perform. She mentioned that her high school students who were mostly in Suzuki Book 5 had just performed the Chant & Fugue piece and she knew a lot of us weren't quite to Book 5 yet.

She started us off on some shifting exercises, and she said the goal was to "trick" the teacher by shifting and not being able to tell that we had shifted. She asked if any of the students would like to demonstrate, and all of the little kids enthusiastically raised their hands again. She had us close her eyes and they shifted and we were to guess if they stayed in first position or shifted, surprisingly all of them shifted and hit the note!

Next we went over bowing at the frog and tip, and this time we were to "trick" the teacher by bowing at either the frog or tip and making sure that it sounded the same at either location.

10:00 Chamber Coaching
We practiced Blue Eyed Darling, which was something I really needed to practice. I'm telling you, singing and playing at the same time makes my brain explode!! Especially chopping and singing at the same time! I sing horribly, but it was fun trying to sing and play at the same time.

11:00 Masterclass
We went over how to set up a schedule which was very helpful! I had actually set up my schedule this way but after a lot of trial error. Our instructor had said there should be 4 components during practice: scale, etude, piece and review.

I) Scale
  • For my level, she said that I should be practicing three scales: Dmaj (1 octave), Gmaj (1 octave), and Cmaj (2 octaves) 
  • Also, she highly recommended that we rotate either weekly or monthly and with a minimum of 10 minutes each practice session. 
    • She prefers monthly, although it just depends on our personalities. She said working on a scale for a month can accomplish a lot. For herself, after a month of focused scale practice she would typically burn out or get bored
  • She recommended I practice scales in both Major and Minor keys in the same key signatures
  • I should be using a metronome and tuner, however not at the same time (which is what I'm currently doing) because using tuner at the same time typically makes people hold tension. However, during scales my primary focus first should be relaxing and finding a good tone. Scales should be a warmup for the body and soul. Afterwards, I can focus on intonation and rhythm, but isolate them separately. 
II) Etude
  • I currently am not doing an etude, although Clayton had given me Schroeders Etudes to work on while he was gone, but I haven't had the chance to practice them since I've been working on the music I received for this workshop. 
  • Although she said I still needed to work on these despite the fact I don't have him around and have a lot of pieces to practice. I should find to do these always. 
  • The steps that Heather recommended when practicing etudes:
    • 1) Play through them to get through it to see what the theme is supposed to be, i.e. what technique am I supposed to be working on?
    • 2) Find the tricky spots that I am having issues with (fingering or bowing) and then focus on these
      • Practice with a drone with the same key signature 
      • Practice with a metronome to get the rhythm 
        • Pick a comfortable speed and then slowly work up to the speed that is indicated on the etude. It's always best to start of slowly 
    • 3) Star or circle the passage I am having issues with and then ask my teacher for help. This way, I can work on etudes independently and not have to depend on my teacher all the time 
    • 4) Stay on the etude for a month. This will develop ownership of the etude before moving on
  • She highly recommended Rick Mooney: Position Pieces for people who had started shifting. She said for a long time she didn't know the positions very well, she could shift just fine, but knowing the positions didn't sink in until she started playing the Position Pieces much later in her cello career. She said it doesn't mean we'll get it right away, but this was an excellent tool we should all utilize. 
III) Repertoire
  • Focus on one piece only
  • Focus on specific spots and resist the urge just to play through the piece each time - only focus on small sections at a time. If we were to join community orchestras, there would be no way for us to play through all the pieces all the time since the pieces are much longer, so focusing on the trouble spots is the most efficient use of our time. When the difficult spots get easier, the easier spots get easier too!
  • Play for a month: she again recommended only spending a month on each of the pieces. Seeing an end in sight and knowing we only have a month to really get the pieces polished, changes our frame of mind and allows us to focus in on the piece more. If it's a moving goal with no clear end in mind, she noticed that a lot of her students would slack off or get bored. 
  • While working on pieces, I should focus on one of these at a time: 
    • intonation
    • tone
    • dynamics 
    • bowing
    • practice in front of the mirror 
IV) Review
  • Review old pieces so you can apply what you've learned and reinforce what you have learned
  • To remind us how much fun playing cello is

I commented that I wished that this information was given to me in the very beginning instead of me going through the trial and error process, and she replied that most teachers don't really give this level of information or commitment until they've had a student for one year, which made sense. Although I was a bit surprised that she was so candid about it, but it definitely put things in perspective.

Apparently, during the first year teachers sort of "hang back" since most students decide after a year (whether they're aware of it or not) if they will continue practicing the cello or will stop. However, most teachers lose students during the first year so they don't like to fully commit until they see they will continue with it. After a year, they know that the student is truly committed and that's when they allow themselves to really open up and share their knowledge and when the fun really starts.

I have to admit that makes sense (a little unfair, but it makes sense). During the first few months I was a terrible student - I didn't practice, avoided lessons and nearly quit. After a year, I did notice that Adam had become much more "comfortable" with lessons - although I'm not sure if he's aware of that or if its because he's just gained more experience teaching.

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Orchestra
We went over all four pieces, which I was still struggling through. Although at this point, I was much more relaxed because I really only cared about the chamber piece because it would be more obvious if I messed up!

2:00 Individual Practice Time
I hussled to the practice room to get as much practice before the rehearsal and final performance, and tried to run through the pieces at least a couple times in its entirety. I was actually sounding much better than yesterday and was getting all the notes!

3:00 Orchestra Rehearsal
I was running around trying to find a spot to place my camera, but I forgot a small piece for the stand so I couldn't use the stand. I literally had to run up and down a flight of stairs three times to get my camera, then back down stairs to set up my cello and place the music on the stand, then run back upstairs to try and get my camera to work. Finally, rehearsals was starting which I didn't want to miss, so grabbed the camera and stand and raced back downstairs to change into my white shirt.

I sat down just as the conductor took her place and I was seriously sweating like crazy from running up and down the stairs! We went through the entire program and I completely nailed it! I was really relaxed and getting ALL the notes, and I think it was because I had run up and down the stairs! 

4:00 Final Performance
After rehearsals, I asked one of my chamber trio members if she had family coming and if they could video record us, so a few minutes before the start of the performance I handed the camera to him.

Unfortunately, the final performance for me was a disaster, I used up my good performance during the rehearsals! Lol! :).
My chamber coach did say, "a bad rehearsal means a good performance," which I found to be the case!

Here are the four pieces that we performed.

Chant & Fugue
Never mind, this is a recording from the performance. I had a lot of mess ups, but it's not as obvious here.

Allegro Spiritoso
Only the end of the piece was recorded.

Dusty River
Only the last part of the piece was also recorded, I lost my place in this, you can see the instructor telling me where I'm supposed to be at and trying to get me back on track! :).

Blue-Eyed Darling
Okay, my singing is TERRIBLE, but it was still a lot of fun and I learned to sing and play at the same time and my brain didn't explode!

Overall, this was a GREAT workshop and I highly recommend it!!! I'll be attending next year as well!! :).

I was very proud of myself for learning the difficult repertoire that was definitely way above my level. 
I learned how to shift to 2nd, 3rd and 4th position and play a D harmonic!!! Talk about a crash course - not to say I shift well (or correctly) for that matter, but this showed me what's in store for the future and I know I'm going to LOVE it! 

I have to admit, one of the reasons I decided to pick up the phone to find out if this workshop accepted adult beginners was because I saw that Renatta Bratt was going to be at this workshop! I love (and have) her Celtic Grooves, Fiddling Cellist, Hymns & Gospels and her Modern Cello Method books, which I got at Mel Bay. And, I got to sit next to her during two of the orchestral pieces (see first two videos), which I have to admit was a bit intimidating! I'm sure she thought I was a bit weird (I couldn't help it, I was totally awestruck!) and a complete newbie (I was messing up left and right every time I had to play next to her!), but that's totally okay!! Lol! The next time I attend one of her workshops, I'm going to be a much better musician, and I'm going to know how to chop while doing chords! :D

One more workshop this summer, which I will be starting to prepare for this weekend, and only two weeks to prepare!

I'll be happy going back to the "easier" pieces once that workshop is done. :).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Day 4 (Wednesday): Chamber Recital (all ready!)

I wanted to get there an hour before classes started but only managed to get there 30 minutes before warmup class due to traffic, but it really helped because I found that my hands were fairly stiff from playing so long and my bow was shaky!

9:00 Warmup Class
We did a bunch of stretches, the teacher must have known the 4th day a lot of people would be stiff. We did some easy scales while following dynamics and speed.

She asked who would like to lead the group, and the kids would enthusiastically raise their hand. They would slow down or speed up and the rest of the group would have to listen and follow along. This was definitely a fun little game!

10:00 Chamber Coaching
We avoided playing the chamber piece and focused on the two folk songs that we would be performing the following day. We were having issues singing while either bowing, plucking or chopping so we ran through the entire piece.

11:00 Masterclass
We did a quick warm-up and went over sitting posture, specifically feeling our feet on the floor and being able to move around using our toes to be able to move back and forth. She said if we're relaxed and able to move around it would enable us to use much more bow, which I found to be true. Afterwards, she asked us what we would like to work on.

A lot of the adults were having issues with rote memorization so we decided to focus on this. Kids typically learn through rote memorization, that is, the teacher would play one note and then they would copy them. Unfortunately, none of the adult beginners were taught this way so this was a skill set that none of us had.

Heather was absolutely amazing and understanding about this, and had us practice rote memorization with Long Long Ago in Book 1. Fortunately, I had not memorized Long Long Ago so I did have to do it via rote memorization which I am terrible at!

She took it very slowly, and played one note, we copied her (piece of cake). Then she would another note, then we copied her and so on and so forth and of course it got harder as we progressed, but she kept pointing out hints, such as looking for patterns, if notes were repeated or if sections were the same, and to also pay attention to sections if they closely resembled a scale.

She highly recommended that we go back to our teachers (which I'm going to do) and ask to learn how to play/practice doing rote memorization because this would help us in the long run.
In fact, one her assignments as a student when she was getting her degree was to learn ALL the Suzuki pieces by rote memorization; she had to learn how to play a piece only by listening to the Suzuki tapes!

She even told us one of her experiences of attending a masterclass and the instructor only teaching by rote memorization, which she had not done before. She said she couldn't do it and she ended up packing up her things and leaving. She told us how frustrating it was, especially since she was considered an advanced student and had been playing for years! She definitely knew how we were feeling, but she said to keep at it and it would help us in the long run. She was very inspiring and her masterclasses were my favorite!!!

This was a very relaxing class, which all of us thoroughly enjoyed!

12:00 Lunch
After our master class everyone was nice and relaxed, and one of the parents cooked a bunch of Mediterranean food for the group, which was the best lunch during the entire workshop!

Everything was going smoothly, until one of our chamber members spilled red punch on her khaki pants! She had to call her husband to bring her another pair of pants and only a few hours before our performance!

1:00 Orchestra
We practiced the sections we were having trouble with during the four pieces we were going to perform. One of the teachers sat with our section (next to me) while we played through the pieces. I was grateful that they did, but was also a little bit intimidated by this!

2:00 Individual Practice Time
I was still having issues with Chant & Fugue and Allegro Spiritoso, so I raced upstairs to the practice rooms to try and get this a little bit better. I found that I could play these solo and at a slower tempo, but playing it faster with the group was when everything would fall apart!

I didn't want to practice my chamber piece because I felt that I either had it or not, and practicing it would make me stress out about it more so avoided that piece and just tried to avoid thinking about the performance in general. Although I have to admit my overall mood that day was a little subdued and I was quieter than normal.

3:00 Concert Warmup
All the Chamber Groups performing that day went to the waiting area and we went through a quick run through of the event again with us go the waiting room, then the green room, then back stage and the on stage.

At the waiting area our first chair decided that she would like to play the piece a lot slower than how we were practicing it so she had us listen to the tempo she would like to play. I tried to get the tempo in my head, but didn't quite get it. I was also told last minute that I had to announce the group too! Yikes!

So during the run through, I wasn't able to start at the slower tempo and I immediately defaulted back to the fast tempo and it was a complete disaster. We only played a four measures and then we were hustled off stage so the other groups could have their turn We were told to wait in the audience and to move to the waiting area as soon as we saw the group that was two ahead of us leave the audience to get ready. 

4:00 Chamber Group Concert 
It was interesting see some of the groups play, before we had to go back to the waiting area, and I have to admit that I felt better seeing that some of the groups were also struggling through their pieces.

Once we saw the group leave, we waited for one more performance and then we headed to the waiting area. Our instructor came up to me and reminded me to go at a slower tempo, and had me move my body in the tempo. I tried to internalize it and was air bowing the tempo as we stepped into the green room. 

We had actually timed it incorrectly, so from the green room we were sent briefly to the back room and a few seconds later onstage! So here's my chamber performance: 

I messed up announcing the group and took my time setting up and finding the first note, which took longer than I expected, but I wasn't flat! Although I was flat on other parts. I didn't realize I took so long until I watched the video! Lol! :).
I also started at the slower "correct" tempo, although I think it was a little slower than they wanted, but we ended up speeding up to the tempo we practiced during rehearsals anyway.

It went a lot better than I anticipated, although I did mess up a few times! I was so dead tired from getting up at 6am and practicing late, that I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be, and I didn't notice the audience at all because I was too focused on my music, listening to the group and watching the first chair.

Even though I messed up a few times, after a year of playing I was really proud of how well it went! We weren't the worse and we weren't the best - we were comfortably in the middle, and I was perfectly happy about that! Yaaay!!! :D

Our chamber coach is wearing the white shirt, while our group was wearing the black shirts. We discovered later that all of the groups had their teachers performing with them anyway, so we didn't feel bad for asking our teacher to do some hand holding and performing with our group. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 3 (Tuesday): Getting ready for Chamber recital

I got there early to warm-up in the practice room. I was a little surprised that there wasn't anyone else there practicing or warming up.

9:00 Warmup Class
We did a quick Cmaj scale warmup and then went over a few spots in Allegro Spiritoso and Chant & Fugue that our section was having issues with.

10:00 Chamber Coaching
We walked through the process, which was very interesting for me since I always wondered how they put on performances! We walked to waiting area, and then into the Green Room (the room before the stage area) and then back stage and finally onto the stage! I had no idea there was so much going on before a performance!
  • Waiting area
    • They typically have two groups waiting ready to go. During this time we should grab everything: our music, our rock-stop, our bow and cello and just wait until we're called to the Green Room
  • Green room 
    • This was the last chance for us to run out to grab something we've missed, so Susan had us hold all four items and really feel how each item felt in our hands so we would notice them if we didn't have them in our possession
    • In the green room, we could talk and try to relax so she ran through some exercises:
      • 1) Feel our feet and how grounded we are to the floor 
      • 2) Wall push-ups
      • 3) Shoulder, arm and finger stretches 
      • 4) Wrist stretches 
    • There was also a monitor that showed who was onstage so we could watch their performance and to know when their performance ended. Once their performance ended, we had to wait until the next group who was back stage entered the stage and started to play. Then we could walk quietly backstage to wait our turn
  • Back stage
    • We weren't allowed to talk or make noise back stage because we could be heard on stage 
    • There was also a monitor there so we could watch the previous group's performance. Once their group was done, we were to wait for the stage hand to set everything up and then tell us it was okay to enter the stage
  • Stage
    • She instructed us to walk to our chairs but not sit down and wait a few seconds for the clapping  to end and then look to chair one for the cue to sit down 
    • Then we were to set everything down and to take our time and get comfortable
    • She also said for everyone to wait for me since I was the only one that wasn't playing an open note to get in tune, and for me to take my time to find the B note. Once I was done, I would nod to the first chair and then we could start 
Going through the steps in detail helped me relax because I knew what to expect. We ran through it a few times so we knew what the timing was. We also decided as a group to wear khakis and a black shirt for our chamber piece. Details, details!

This rehearsal was kind of a mess and our first chair asked if our instructor would accompany her part because she didn't know if she would be able to play the piece and didn't want to let us down. She was really stressed about being the first chair and having the responsibility of leading the group.
I could sympathize with her, but at the same time I was glad I wasn't the first chair which was considerably more difficult than my part. 

11:00 Masterclass
We went over sitting and different stretching exercises. The instructor, Heather, said since we all started as adults it's very important to stretch before starting to play. We don't have nimble fingers like children do and it takes more time for our fingers to stretch out, which I completely agree!


  • Wall stretches - she had us find a clear spot on the wall and do finger and shoulder stretches
  • Using our Rags - she than had us grab our rags and then had one hand drop the rag behind our head and hold the rag while the other arm grabbed the other end of the rag behind our backs while trying to maintain our shoulders. 
  • Finger stretches - she had us gently spread our fingers out and the pull gently up and then the opposite direction. Then move to the thumb and massage the thumb muscle and pinky muscle. 
  • Forearm - she had us massage the two points where the muscles met on our forearms, which I always forget about when I do my stretches
  • Collarbone - she had us massage into the collarbone; a place I didn't even think to massage but apparently it gets a lot of work because it definitely felt good when I massaged that area
Sitting Posture:

Heather had us first stand and feel our feet on the ground and practice sitting down with a good posture while paying attention to what our hips, spine, shoulders and necks were doing.

She then came around and placed the cello against us, leaning it against us, and then taking out the endpin while we remained in that relaxed position. I noticed that the cello was much more upright than I normally had it. It was funny, since all of us were women adult beginners, one of the students asked what we were supposed to do because of our chest area.

We all laughed, but there was also a sense of relief for her asking because all but one had male teachers and this was something that was difficult to bring up. Both my teachers are male and 2-3 years younger than me so this was a question I had for awhile, but wasn't comfortable enough to bring it up. She said it really depended on the size of our chests and that in most cases her female students who were more blessed in that area typically had it more at a slant to give them more breathing room. But as long as they are able to maneuver comfortably around the finger board, had a nice relaxed posture and comfortably touch the bridge than that was good place to have the cello - it just depends because we come in all shapes and sizes.

After she was done adjusting everyone's cellos, everyone's endpin lengths and locations of the rockstops were at different locations. She then had us memorize and feel where everything was, and then instructed us to retract our endpin, set the cello aside and then walk around the room, and then come back and find that same spot again. This was a great exercises, one which I wished I had learned in the very beginning.

She then had us tap up and down the fingerboard to loosen our shoulders and to feel the weight of our arms against the fingerboard. While we tapped away she reminded us to make sure that our shoulders don't fall forward which all of us were doing. I noticed that I have a really bad habit of doing this so I'll be focusing on this during my practice sessions.

Then she had us slide our fist up and down the fingerboard to get used to the range and to make sure that we were able to reach the bridge.

Next she had us lightly touch the strings to create a harmonic and slide our fingers up and down the strings. We tried it on all strings. She told us to think of a balloon attached in the front and that we weren't supposed to crush it by allowing our shoulders to collapse forward.

She also made sure that we were grabbing the string on the side and not straight down. Getting the string on the side was new to me, but it definitely felt better and more secure. I felt like my hand wasn't going to slip off which it occasionally does when I play on the A string.

She then went around and gave us individual advice, she gave me three main ones:

  • Drop my elbow especially on the A string and D string, it was too high and I was doing a lot of work that I didn't have to do 
  • Grab the string from the side which will help me with my elbow height as well
  • Make sure that my shoulders don't droop forward

Using our toes
Once we got a good base, she showed us how moving around allowed us to get more bow. We could push off our toes to go from side to side. She said if our bodies are free to move, we can breathe and therefore relax more which ultimately means better tone!

We did a Cmaj scale and really exaggerated the back and forth motion and it definitely felt good to move around and just play in that mode.

12:00 Lunch
We were all excited leaving the masterclass because we all got great tips on what to improve on our playing. We all wholeheartedly agreed that her classes were our favorite!

1:00 Orchestra
More practice on orchestra pieces, the conductor gave us a bunch of slow downs in sections of the pieces, which was difficult for me to read my music and watch the conductor at the same time for the cues for the diminuendos.

2:00 Individual Practice Time
I practiced Spiritoso and Chant & Fugue since those two were the ones I was struggling with the most. I think practice time (besides the masterclass) was one of my favorite times of the workshop. I could relax and focus on the things I wanted to focus on and "re-group" since there was tons of information that was being thrown at me!

3:00 Enrichment
We played the folk songs and worked on chopping and singing at the same time. Ha - talk about rubbing the tummy and the head at the same time!

We learned how to do the D, A, G chords which I wasn't able to do. I had to look at my fingers to get it, and I kept forgetting to drop my elbow all the way down to get my fingers across the strings.

Our instructor said eventually we would be able to chop while doing chords - I'm going to learn how to do this if it kills me! Lol! :). 

4:00 Student Recital
This was interesting to see the kids and one adult sign up to do the recitals. I was expecting everyone to be a virtuoso and play the cello very well, but I was pleasantly surprised that there was a wide range of abilities.

The only adult that performed did very well, but I could tell he was very nervous because his bow was fairly shaky. I know for myself, my hand would have been shaking terribly so I was really proud of the fact that he stuck it out and also signed up to play amongst kids. I may have to try that next year...maybe...

There was only one kid that was a really, really good - he looked to be 9 or 10 and he was playing a really fast difficult piece and his fingers were moving all over the fingerboard like crazy! He was nice and relaxed, and his tone and intonation was spot on! It was humbling and also very inspiring to see a kid that age playing so well.

I have to admit at the end of this day, there was a lot of complaining coming from the adult groups, so I promised myself that the last couple days that I would focus on having fun and not complain at all. I don't think I was being negative or complaining, but I definitely was agreeing that all the pieces were very difficult and probably not helping with the complaining. The adults definitely felt like we were thrown off the deep end and were expected to learn how to swim. :).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 2 (Monday): Cello Workshop

Wow, this was busy day! Although this morning, I was afraid I was going to get there late due to traffic, but I got there with 5 minutes to spare, although I couldn't make a Starbucks run and I was missing my coffee the entire day! Mountain Dew just doesn't work as well. I'm guess I'll just have to get up at 6am if I really want my coffee. *sigh*

9:00 Warmup Class
I thought we would be moving around doing exercises or something, but apparently not! :). We were given some new music and started right in. Did I mention I'm horrible at sight reading?

Anyway, unlike yesterday we were mixed in with kids which was a bit interesting. I was sitting next to one of my trio players (on my left) and a kiddo on my right, and this kid was really good! I was listening to him to figure out what note and bowing I was supposed to be doing! A little disconcerting how good he was but I didn't really let it get to me and tried to have fun despite the fact I was completely screwing up and missing a LOT of the notes. I kept making a lot of faces (not on purpose, I just tend to make faces when I screw up), and the teacher noticed and kept saying it was okay. Lol!! I got to stop doing that!! ;)

I have to admit, this was a difficult class because the teacher was teaching everything by ear - listen, watch, sing - now do!!
She finally allowed the adults to look at the sheet music by the end of the class period. Which by then, it was back to sight reading and trying to remember the sound and fingerings which confused me even more. :).

On a positive note, I finally learned how to "chop" on the cello!! Something I wanted to learn how to do since its used in jazz and folk songs. And also how to strum chords, we learned G, D, and A chords, something I couldn't do very well and need to practice some more.

Overall, very challenging, but I really enjoyed this class.

10:00 Chamber Coaching 
We started a bit late, since all of the adults including myself had to take a quick break before starting the Chamber coaching and we spent a lot of time chit chatting! :)

I'll be playing Musette for my chamber trio and am cello number two. I'm not sure why, but things didn't go as smoothly as it did yesterday. We worked on dynamics and matching each others bow strokes, and also trying to find where our partner was in the music. Our chamber coach would play something and we would have to find where she was in the music and join in to help us if we got lost during the performance.

Also, we practiced really listening to the other players so if a person did an extra note or is holding a note too long, we would be able to add an extra note or hold it longer so everyone ended at the same time.

11:00 Masterclass
This was my favorite class of the day! We started off by doing some wall stretches for our fingers and arms, which is good for the nerves running through the arm and hand. Then we worked on loosening our shoulders and aligning our bodies, making sure our feet were on the ground, good posture with our pelvis aligned correctly.

The three cellists who are in my trio were also in this masterclass, so Emily went first (changing everyone's name, just in case). She was working on Minuet No. 2 which I was also going to play for the masterclass, but changed my mind since she was doing it. She was having a lot of issues with bow crossing, the same issues that I have so it was nice seeing others struggled with it. Heather had us place the bow on the string and then tilt it to get to the A, from D drop the elbow to get to G and then pull the elbow back to get to C. She used a car analogy which really made it sink in.

Next up was Sharon, who was working on an etude. She knew specifically want she wanted to work on which was anxiety and performance. She would get flustered and would need to stop practicing or playing in front of someone. So Heather gave us some examples of what she did before a performance, which was not listening to any classical music before a performance to get her mind of that, know specific sections to warm up on before the performance, always practice scales before a performance.

Learning how to really focus so you're not distracted by others, so practicing with the t.v. or radio on. I joked that I wanted beta blockers and she mentioned that bananas have a good source of those. I'm definitely going to look into that one!! :)

Also, practicing in chunks because working through an entire piece at one time can get frustrating if one messed up and had to start over. Also, if you mess up in one section, she mentioned that starting a different or next section would "clean the slate" so you didn't mess up the entire piece only a specific section which can be less overwhelming for people.

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Orchestra
This was the part I was dreading. I wasn't able to get the pieces down very well, so I was afraid this would be a complete disaster. Fortunately, there were five parts and about 5-7 cellists in each section so I made sure I sat in the very back!

Allegro Spiritoso - this went fairly smoothly although the first few run throughs I got lost since I tend to get confused when I hear other people play something different and seeing people bow different things also throws me off! Fortunately, we didn't get to Section E which has the fast part with lots of shifts so it wasn't too bad....yet.

Chant & Fugue - ok, this was kind of a disaster. :). Emily and I sat together, she's also a beginner, and we struggled through this piece. A teacher noticed and sat between us and played alongside us so we could figure out what to do! Lol! ...yea, still dreading playing this one.

2:00 Individual Practice Time
After the orchestra session, I decided I wanted to work on the two orchestral pieces and found that I was able to play through them much more easily than when I had practiced at home and even during the previous class.

This place has REALLY nice practice rooms with windows!!! And, I sounded so much better in the practice room too! It definitely felt much better after practicing the pieces by myself. :)

3:00 Break 

4:00 Enrichment class 
Another piece of music and sight-reading! Wow, a total of FOUR pieces for orchestra, when I was only expecting two! However, this piece was easier than the first piece of music that we received in warm up class. I'm definitely getting in some practice on sight reading! ...yikes...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 1 (Sunday): Cello Workshop

My first day at my first cello workshop. :D

Apparently this year will be their first time that they have two adult groups so it was nice know that there are a lot more adult at this workshop this year. I think there were 8 or 9?

I found the place okay, and traffic wasn't too bad, but it was Sunday. Registration was well organized. I've been to many a dance workshop that were a complete mess and this one was well organized.

First Chamber Music Group Coaching
My - hhmm...what do I call them - team mates? (shows you how little I know about chamber music!) were really nice. They had the same mini-freak-out as I did when they received their music too so I felt better about my reaction when I received my music. :)

Both have played a year longer than me, but I was able to keep up, although I have to admit I broke down and penciled in my frets!! *sigh* 
Although I'm glad I did because I was out of tune more than a few times and had to look down at the frets to get my bearing! Darn, I'll have to take it off later.

Our chamber coach broke it down measure by measure and we played through the piece and surprisingly at the end of the hour session we were sounding 100x better! It felt like a very short class which I enjoyed a lot. 

Teacher Recital 
It was really fun seeing all of the faculty play in a cello choir. I'm not sure if I was allowed to take photos or not, but there so darn blurry I guess it doesn't matter!

Renatta Bratt!!!

Faculty included: Blake Brasch, Richard Slavich, Jennifer Arnold, Renata Bratt, Julie Carew, Katharine Knight and Carol Tarr.

Good first day, I think I can handle this! :).

Monday, July 9, 2012

More music!

I'm doing two cello workshops this summer, one in July and the other in August, and I just received the three pieces of music for the one in August. And I have to say this is going to be a piece of cake!! :D
I can sight read most of it since the music has a lot of quarter and half notes, and two out of the three pieces are all in first position with the third piece having a few small shifts. 

The three pieces are: 
  • Brahms Finale from Symphony No. 1 Mvt IV - Cmaj, all first position, 4/4 time
  • Francoeur's Largo - Gmaj, all first position, 3/4 time, some slurs 
  • Adagio by Corelli - Gmaj, mostly first position with shifts to second and half step down, 4/4 time, chords
I was worried that the music would be as (or more) difficult than the pieces I'm currently working on, but they're almost too easy... It's funny, if I hadn't worked on the pieces I'm working on now, I would have thought these pieces were the perfect level for me. Too bad the music selections weren't reversed. 

Although wasn't I saying that I wanted a "walk in the park?"
This is going to be a wonderful lazy stroll through the park. Although I need it - my brain needs a break! :).

On second thought, after looking at the music again - I can work on using different fingerings! Cool!!! This is going to be FUN!! :). 

I take it back - the music IS PERFECT

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lesson #77 (07/08/12): Musette & Spiritoso and new fingering

This was a productive lesson and I'm feeling like I'm actually making some head way on the pieces! J

Some positives: This one is going fairly well, I was counting out and playing the rhythm without too much trouble (but then again it has a 2/4 time signature) and I was hitting my shifts to G#. The shifting exercises that Clayton was having me do definitely seems to be working.

Things to work on:
  • Practicing the repeats – so far I’ve only been working on playing it through without repeats, so Adam reminded me to make I practice with repeats to make sure I engrain the habit of doing the repeats
  • I was also having trouble finding my line when I jump from one line to the next since the score has three cellos on there. So he recommended that I highlight my line for now until I get more practice doing this. Very helpful!
  • Another helpful tip, was he put in little brackets so I know where I need to repeat so it’s easier to find where I’m supposed to start
He played part I while I worked on my part (part II) and I lost my rhythm and place. I always seem to get confused when I hear other people play for the first time! This probably means I don't know my part as well as I should.

Allegro Spiritoso
I was going to purchase the music for this (which I thought I had, but didn’t) but can’t find it for the life of me! And I have fairly good Google-fu!! It’s driving me nuts that I can’t find the music for this anywhere!

Anyway, this is also in 2/4 and I’ve been subdividing and counting “1-2, 1-2” instead of “1-and-2-and” because my brain sucks and it’s more difficult sticking an “and” in there! Lol! :). 

Things to work on:
  • Counting correctly for this piece
  • New fingering – I try to avoid extensions as much as possible. I’m actually more accurate with shifts than extensions. Extensions just feel weird to me and takes a lot of work – probably because I’m doing it wrong! Anyway, Adam gave me some new fingerings to work on

Chant & Fugue
We didn’t have time to go over this, but I was having some issues with a slur because I couldn't get very clean string crossings. Adam recommended that if I ever had to do a slur, especially for fast passages, and was changing strings, that there is probably fingerings that I can use to have the notes all on one string (at least at my level).

Things to work on:
  • Continue counting out the rhythms – this one is proving to be much more difficult for me!
  • Fingering – work on the new fingerings. Lots of shifts for this one, but it's kind of fun

Adam has been really helpful and available the past few weeks which has been a pleasant surprise! Normally he's totally swamped with stuff, and I think marriage agrees with him... I really shouldn't write that, but I oh well, I promised myself I wouldn't censor anything. Sorry Adam, hopefully you don't read that! ;).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Why it's important to fail

Yaay - psychology in action!! :).
I came across this great video on Why It's Important to Fail by Derek Sivers.

I'm definitely feeling like I'm "failing" my pieces lately so this was motivating.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lesson #76 (06/05/2012): Rhythm

I hate rhythm...

One of the reasons I’ve been focusing more on technique, bowing and shifts rather than my jazz pieces with Clayton was because I was avoiding working on my jazz pieces because of the rhythm. A lot of the pieces start and end on the ‘and’ and are syncopated, and have “weird” time signatures. Well, no avoiding it now!

Maybe I wasn’t ready for it before, but it’s starting (very slowly) to sink in. Or maybe it’s because I know I need to at least get a "hold” of it so I don’t let my ensemble group down (whomever they may be), whereas before I was playing the pieces for “fun” and knew I could stop at any time – which I did…ugh, quitter!

Anyway, during this lesson, we spent the time counting out and clapping Chant and Fugue. I always find it so embarrassingly funny when I have to do this. Embarrassing because I think I must look like a stammering idiot being an adult not knowing how to count to FOUR! And funny, because I just have to laugh out how flustered I get – reminds me of being in second grade having to go up in front of class to do a presentation or something. Lol! ;).

Why am I always so embarrassed when I have to do this?
When I dance Lindy Hop and am working on rhythm and footwork I can easily scat the rhythm/syncopation and steps. Although I don’t count the steps any more since scatting is so much easier, maybe I should start counting again… Yet I get embarrassed when I have to count out or say the rhythm. Why is that?

When I first started to learn how to count out rhythm, I was actually SUPER embarrassed to count the rhythm in front of Clayton, which made me all flustered and made my counting worse! Surprisingly, I got flustered when I had to count it out for Adam too, although not nearly as bad since I had practice doing it with Clayton.

I was discussing this with my husband, and he mentioned that math and music use up the same area in the brain which is why it makes it tough for some people to concentrate on math and music at the same time. My husband says that he can’t listen to music and work on physics at the same time either. I’m going to have to look into/research that! Is that why it's easier to clap out or do some kind of body movement for rhythm instead of just saying it because physical movement uses a different part of the brain?

Anyway, I digress…
When I was working on rhythm with Clayton we were doing subdivisions and I found that I had to go back to doing subdivisions. Which I wasn’t doing correctly for this piece anyway since this has a  4/4 time signature and I was doing a 2/4 count since it's obviously easier to count to two! Which Adam of course noticed and recommended that I start counting it with 4/4 timing. ;).

I also discovered that I have to at least have a handle on my bowing and fingering before I can start working on rhythm. I know rhythm is more important when playing with an ensemble, but if I can't get my fingering and bowing where it should be when I need it, than I'm going to miss the beat every time.

Lots to work on for this piece!!