Chinese Proverb

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lesson #120C (3/6/2013): A Minor Melodic, Hunter's Chorus and Oh Susanna

This was a fun lesson, and we covered a lot of information.

New Scale: A Minor Melodic (2 octaves)
My first minor scale! Clayton explained that C Major's relative minor key is A Minor. Basically it has the same notes but I start with A, and then the last two notes (6th and 7th) are raised on the way up and then lowered on the way down, so I have to play it as a F# and a G# on the way up, but a natural G and F on the way down.
  • A Minor: A, B, C, D, E, F#, G#
    • Oops forgot to get the fingering!
  • Things to work on;
    • On the upper octave, remember that is half step, and not a whole step on the way back down so watch my spacing between my fingers 
  • Arpeggio: A, C, E 
    • Oops forgot to get the fingering

Hunter's Chorus 
Clayton thought it would be okay for me to start Hunter's Chorus while I worked with Adam to iron out the kinks in Judas Maccabeaus, which is mostly with my intonation anyway. So we worked on articulation for Hunters' Chorus.

  • I'm moving my elbow too much, I can leave it at one level if I need to do one string crossing to grab a note. In general, if I need to grab one or two notes its okay to leave my elbow at the same level, but if its a few measures I need to make sure that my elbow level goes with the string which Adam has mentioned to me several times as well, but I have the bad habit of exaggerating all of my movement. 
  • Measure 31 & 32: I kept picking up my bow and I need to make sure that I stay on the string.
  • To accent the the notes, just use more bow instead of my bad habit of pushing down on the string.
  • Don't reach with my 4th finger, I was playing everything to sharp 
  • Measure 2 & 3: I was stopping my bow when I got to the D, but I should "run into" the next note, that is, I need to connect to the next note instead of playing each note separately. I didn't even realize I was doing that!  
    • It boggles my mind regarding all the minutiae I do that I don't even realize I'm doing! I wonder if it drives teachers nuts to hear and see things students do that they aren't aware they're doing. Lol! :) Although I'm really happy that he is calling it to my attention so in later pieces I know what it means to connect to the next note or whatever. 
    • ..hmmm...I wonder how long it takes for a beginner to become consciously aware of "everything" that is going on (bowing, dynamics, fingering, phrasing, etc)? Although I guess if one doesn't know what information they are missing in the first place that would be difficult to determine.  
  • Measure 21, 22, 25, 26: Just as an exercise (this is NOT how it's supposed to be played): think of it as a decrescendo. Think about not playing the A, that it just occurs when I bring my bow back to the frog to get quieter dynamic.
  • This piece is in forte so I need to make sure that I play with a lot of energy and volume. I should think of hunters on horseback with trumpets blaring and match the sound to that. :)

O'Conner Method
I keep wanting to go back to jazz or some other genre with Clayton because I want to take advantage of the fact that he is really good with rhythm (he plays jazz double bass) and seems to know how to teach other genres.

Anyway, I told him that I was going to start the O'Conner Method so I've been slowly going through the book. Clayton recommended that I start from the very beginning and make sure that I read through everything since it's cumulative in its progression. So far so good! I like the content and it introduces nomenclature, how to read music, how to count out the rhythms and some history on each of the piece that is being played. Very well rounded with regards to approaching and starting a piece. Darn, why couldn't I have stumbled across this sooner??

Anyway, I'm only on page 8 on Oh! Susanna, and I have to admit I am not used to playing songs very quickly, which is evident in my videos since most of them (except 2 or 3) seem to be at the same slow tempo. The first few pages had similar rhythms with regards to the Twinkle variations, but I happened to skip the Twinkle variations because I absolutely HATE Twinkle and asked Adam if I could skip the variations! And of course, it's come back around to haunt me. ;)

Even though these are "easy" we were able to find a LOT of things to work on! Mostly on bowing however:

  • Match the bowing in the audio recording
    • I've discovered that when I listen to audio recordings that I have a difficult time distinguishing the different bowings used. I can distinguish it if it's drastically different, say from really smooth legato strokes to really short staccato, but anywhere in between sounds pretty much the same to me! 
    • It's weird. If I watch him play while listening, it's like "duh, I totally hear that!" Yes, extremely obvious! But, if I just listen to the recording I become less certain. I'm sure it's because I'm receiving more sensory information with Clayton playing it in a small room in front of me than what an audio recording can provide... I'm blaming it on  my speakers! ;) Or maybe I'm just not familiar with the different bow strokes and therefore can't tell them apart. 
  • Don't pick up my bow
    • I tend to spring off the string (whether or not I'm supposed to) instead of choosing whether I'm bowing on the string the entire time or not. Since I need to match the audio I need to stay on the strings more. Another thing that I'm not consciously aware of doing! 
  • Relax!!
    • To play fast, I need to be even more relaxed. Funny enough, I'm familiar with this concept since to be able to dance fast I have to relax and drop tension, which is at first counter-intuitive and not what my body wants to do most of the time, but I know it's achievable since I can do it with dance. Although that took a really long time to get used to! 

My goal for this is to learn how to count out the rhythms and learn how to play faster. I'll try to post a few pieces later on.

Practice Log #19: Minuet No. 3, Suzuki Book 2

It was stressing me out about having to to go back and relearn everything so I'm just going to post what I can play now and not worry about getting it back to the way it used to be, so lots of intonation errors and bowing errors. Going forward I'll make sure I'll do better. I'm also getting kind of bored so I need to move on to the next piece. ;)

Minuet No. 3 without a drone

I was really nervous about playing this piece so the sound is a bit shaky! It's my fake "vibrato"! ;) Although my bowing hand can shake a lot worse... can't believe I still get nervous while recording!

I was also very tempted not to do this with drones since I haven't really practiced this, but I need to move on and not worry about these pieces. Too bad though because this is a really pretty piece, maybe after I learn how to do vibrato I can try playing this again.

Things to work on:
  • Obviously intonation... lol! ...ouch... that first note is really off! 
  • Moving around way too much again too.
  • Bow speed - I kept losing the string
  • Tempo - I was watching other YouTube videos and everyone plays it much faster. I've got to get out of my tempo comfort zone! 
  • Rhythm - I wasn't very consistent and was kind of just playing it how I wanted ;)
  • Tone - sounds very harsh to me. It's Bach so it's supposed to be softer, and it looks like I'm pushing down on the bow. I didn't think I was, but I can hear it in the sound as well. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Practice Log #18: Minuet No. 1, Suzuki Book 2

It's been about three months since I've posted my last video, and I'm more or less 2 songs ahead in the book (currently on Judas Maccabeus). Way behind on my posts and much for my New Year's Resolution! *sigh*

On a positive note, I finished my midterms today so I figured I should continue with being on a roll of doing things that I don't want to do like post a video!! Lol! :)

Minuet No. 1 without a drone

Minuet No. 1 with a drone

Things to work on:
  • My bow angle is doing it's thing again; that is, I'm pushing the bow to far out so it's sliding and the tip is pointing upwards too much.
  • Intonation as always! There are a few spots that are obviously off, but not too bad overall... I think... I'm still trying to train my ear to hear when it's in tune or not. I was playing this from memory so I think I may have played a couple of notes incorrectly! 
  • All my other videos are slower and under tempo, so I was trying to play this faster than I normally prefer to play pieces, but sacrificed intonation and bowing in the process. 
  • Since it's Bach it's supposed to be softer, and I think mine is way too harsh sounding. 
  • Didn't do the repeats like I should have, which is also on my goals. Next time when I'm caught up! ;)
  • I was looking down and to the side, which is a bad habit of mine when I'm listening for intonation. A bad habit because I think it pulls my posture down. Maybe I should start looking up and to the side! :)
  • Better end a positive note - my elbows aren't flapping around as much and I'm able to play with more volume now. :)

This was difficult for me to record because I was dreading re-learning this piece of music because I knew it wouldn't be as good when I first started learning it and practicing it consistently. 

I spoke with Adam about this during one my lessons. He was very encouraging and said just think about it like I'm trying to apply the new technique I've learned since then, and that it should be easier to play since I've improved since then. 

Very nice of him to say, except I think it definitely was not nearly as good as it was before. I wonder how musicians play a piece of music and still be really excited about playing it even after they've played it a billion times. Adam mentioned that he still really loves to play The Swan,  but I know a lot of cellists who get sick of that one after awhile. I'm actually looking forward to playing that one! :)

UPDATED 3/11/13:
Well this was timely! :)
An article from the Bulletproof Musician: How Can I Keep Repertoire Sounding New and Fresh?

Lesson #119A (03/05/13): Tango

Typing this post a few days later (again) so it's lacking a lot of detail.

It's been a while since I've had a lesson at the college I'm attending, but Adam happened to be there so we scheduled our lesson at the school instead. The practice rooms were packed! We finally found a room in the last hallway with a piano.

I was working on a Tango for cello quartet and unfortunately, tangos have complicated rhythms which is my weakness!
Every time I have to count something I just lose track of my bowing, fingering and intonation so Adam pointed out some hints so I could play and not count all the time, like listening for certain notes as cues when to start playing, or looking for another part that is playing the same rhythm I am, which Clayton calls "rhythm buddies." So Adam would play a different part with the same rhythm so I could get the rhythm into my head.

I really should learn how to count out rhythms... ugh... on my To-Do List!