Chinese Proverb

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lesson #118A (2/27/13): Tuning

I started typing out my notes and then forgot it in my drafts folder and forgot to finish this, but I'll post what I started typing back then this as a place-holder.

This was a fun lesson! We worked on relative tuning and went slowly through the Judas Maccabeus and tuned each note my teacher playing a drone. Call me weird, but I really enjoy doing this! ;)

So I've been dreading recording any further videos because I haven't had a lot of time to practice and I've been re-learning my left hand. But, I'm supposed to be studying for my midterms, and I'd rather be playing the cello and blogging!! Lol!! ...haven't read any chapters for either classes and have a ton of things to catch up on...oh well, I'll stress out about that tomorrow!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lesson 117C (02/25/13): Vibrato and shifting

This was an awesome lesson!

I was telling Clayton that I noticed that my back, neck and shoulders were hurting from doing vibrato and he mentioned that I may be pulling my shoulders back and down, which would cause my back to hurt. And of course I was! :(

He mentioned when he does fast strenuous vibrato he can feel it in his back, but it shouldn't cause back or neck pain. Apparently there isn't a way to avoid those specific muscles from activating since the job of the muscles of the rotator cuff is to stabilize the humerous inside the shoulder socket, and doing vibrato activates those muscles. ...okay, it's been a few days since my lesson and I didn't take any notes (all from memory), so I may be off with regards to muscle names or whatever.

Anyway, I should be able to do vibrato without making my back hurt, and I'm obviously doing something wrong if it's causing my back and neck to feel tense. So much so, I went to get a couple of massages within a couple of weeks! ugh!

I have to say that Clayton makes everything look absolutely EFFORTLESS when he plays the cello. He advocates playing as relaxed, natural and efficiently as possible, so I've been trying to mimic his movement for awhile, which is not working! I guess my "mimicking powers" don't work very well! Lol! ;)

He assigned an "exercise" to feel how natural  movement would feel like when opening up the arm. Basically, I should pretend to reach up and grab an object that is located above and behind me, and then pay attention to what my body wants to do naturally, and how it feels when completing that action. The "naturalness" of this action, should feel as natural when opening up the arm to move up and down the fingerboard.

We worked a little bit on shifting to help with fixing my vibrato.
One of our conversations went something like this, "so you remember that shifting exercise that I assigned?"

I reply, "yeah, the one that I've been avoiding and don't like?" ...and yes, I really did say that! ;)

"Well, that shifting exercise will help with your vibrato to make sure that you're opening and aligning your arm correctly."

**DOH!!!**  ...and no, I didn't say that - I was actually thinking of a four letter word instead!!!

I hate that exercise!! Darn it, I guess I'm going to have to practice that one...
Clayton actually knew that I'd been avoiding that exercise and disliked it, so I think he was relieved and somewhat pleased to know that I would be practicing that exercise since there really aren't a lot of good shifting exercises out there. Darn, no way of avoiding it now!

Well, my vibrato is on hold for a little while anyhow, I just have too many things going on right now and can't spend much time on cello practice. ;(

Can't wait for this summer when I can devote more time to my cello!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lesson #116A (2/17/13): Band-aids and thumb

So I think I made another break through with my left hand!!! Yaay!! :)
But I'm back to basics again... booo!! ;(

Band-aids again...
  • I was complaining that it seemed like every time I made some progress, I had to step back and revisit old technique again. Adam commented that it was better fixing it now, instead of 5-10 years down the road, which he's had to do with some of his technique. 
  • This reminded me again of something one of my dance instructors used to advise - "Don't ever use the band-aid method!" That is, don't do quick "fixes" to cover the current problem, always address the underlying issue first and foremostIn theory it sounds simple and easy, but in reality, it's so much easier to pile more and more "band-aids" on top of the problem! I understand that it's better to pull off a band-aid once I realize that I've used one, but pulling off a band-aid sucks!  
  • In my case, I realized my band-aid was the way I was forcing my hand to be in a C-shaped position, so I'm "starting over" with my left hand ...*sigh*... I was able to play "okay," but my incorrect technique has finally festered so I can no longer get past where I currently am to play vibrato. Unfortunately, we didn't realize anything was wrong until I started learning how to do vibrato, so I'm kind of glad that I started learning how to do vibrato sooner than later. 

Thumb placement
  • Since I was having issues with my vibrato, Adam recommended that I revisit my left hand again, which led me to experimenting with my thumb placement and shape. I felt that I was forcing my hand into a certain shape, so I asked Adam if my hand was too "C-shaped." At the end of my lesson, I ended up relaxing my thumb more so it's currently flatter than it used to be to allow more of my thumb to touch the back of the neck, instead of holding it in a more fixed C-shaped position.  
    • Adam also mentioned that some people use that shape because it's more difficult to squeeze the thumb and fingers together, but since I no longer have that problem I can allow it to be more flexible and relaxed, which happens to be flatter than the previous shape I had. 
  • Incidentally, it has also fixed my issue with my arm flapping around too much because my thumb seems to be securing or anchoring my entire arm to the neck (if that makes sense...) and my intonation seems to have improved too. 
  • However, we putting vibrato on hold until I feel more comfortable with my new thumb shape and placement. I tried initiating vibrato with my new thumb placement and shape and it just felt too weird and awkward, so I agreed that I would hold off for awhile longer to start learning how to do vibrato. 

Wow, I'm way behind on my entries and YouTube postings again. I'll try to post Minuet No. 1 this's going to be HORRIBLE, but it's been 3 months since I've posted a video!!! Yikes!!!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lesson #113C (02/03/13): EMajor, Vibrato & Judas Maccabeaus

  • Clayton recommended that I start looking for "landmarks" in EMajor so I know where to shift and to also start vibrating each note to practice vibrato. 

  • What can I say? It's a new and awkward process and I've only been practicing this for two weeks so it kind of sucks. :)
  • Clayton had the great idea of recording my vibrato so I can do a video analysis of it. I have to admit it's completely SPASTIC!! Lol! :). But at least, when I finally get it I can say this is how it used to look like, and my vibrato is more audible now. When I first started practicing my fingers were vibrating away, but I couldn't really hear it in the sound. 

Slowed 50%

  • My video analysis:
    • My hands look fairly tense and I need to relax them more
    • I seem to stop and then restart my vibrato instead of making it smooth and continuous. I actually get it going and then second guess myself and then I stiffen up. I was also counting two sets of four for each finger and at the end of the first set I would pause, maybe I should count to eight?
    • I think my hand is supposed to rotate more...
    • Make sure my knuckles stay relaxed and loose
    • Make sure I'm using my thumb and that it stays loose
    • Like my teacher recommended, work on slower vibrato 
  • During my lesson Clayton recommended:
    • That I work on slow vibrato first and then speed it up later. Also, while working on slow vibrato I should make sure that I stay nice and relaxed, which really worked. Every time I attempted to vibrate slowly while reminding myself to stay relaxed, my vibrato was more consistent and more audible.
    • Stay on top of the string - he reminded me that my fingers should be right atop the strings and pretend that my fingers are walking a tight rope and I need to stay balanced.
    • Look at my hand - I tend to avoid looking at my hand and fingerboard because it's "sensory overload" for me and I tend to also tense up if I look at my fingers. In this case, he said it would be more helpful to look at my hands, although we ended up doing the recording because I kept tensing up when I looked at my hand. 

Judas Maccabeaus
  • Without vibrato
    • I'm bending my notes when I have to reach my fourth pinky. Clayton provided an exercise to work on making sure that I could reach out with my pinky without changing the position of my 2nd finger. Adam had mentioned that I had a problem with this as well. 
    • My phrasing has improved, but that may be because I stopped counting in my head again. It's one or the other with me. If I count, I can't work on phrasing. To me phrasing works only because I feel like it should sound a certain way...I don't know, I can't explain it...I should probably think about it to figure out why that occurs, so I can make sure that I'm able to count and work on phrasing at the same time!
  • With vibrato
    • I need to focus on using slower vibrato and staying relaxed.
    • I was trying to correct intonation while doing vibrato at the same time which was making it sound worse. Clayton recommended for now to work on vibrato and not to correct bad intonation while vibrating. 

I think I may record this one in the next two weeks and then record the two previous songs later since I have to re-learn those. I'll do a recording with and without vibrato - it's going to be "blah" and I expect the one with vibrato to be as bad as my Twinkle video! :)