Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Off came the tape
It was sort of intimidating to play without the tape at first, but I mostly found my way to the right positions. At one point, though, I felt like I'd completely lost the D string fingering positions. I switched to the G string and then came back and everything worked fine.
I worked on the fingering workbook for more than an hour, getting up to the full positions on each string. I'm also quickly getting up to speed with sight-reading - even though my previous experience was always on the treble clef.
After looking at various electronic tuners online (with costs ranging from $25 to $50), today I found a place offering a free downloadable on-screen tuning system: http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~tuner/tuner_e.html .
All you need is a basic microphone. It has a meter where you can manually enter the note you want (e.g. A3) and it displays the frequency (220 Hz). When you play the note, the actual wavelength is displayed and a needle on the meter gives an analogue representation of that wavelength in relation to the preset frequency. You dial in any note you want and then play that note to see how close you come to the desired frequency. For whatever reason, it stops at C#2, so you can't dial in the lowest cello string. However it will still display the actual frequencies way below that. Since C2 is 65.4 Hz, it was still easy to tune to it.
I was surprised how close I have been tuning by ear - using a downloaded MIDI file for each string on my MS MediaPlayer, although D3 was considerably further off (flat) than the others.
Another neat feature lets you change modes so that it deals with whatever note you actually played (it guesses what note you are trying to hit), and then you can see how close you can get to the actual note's frequency. Remarkable! I was able to check all my fingerings, and learned that I have been doing pretty good at finding the right points.
Another feature displays the sound in a wave form. Then when you bow an open A3, it will show the highest peak at 220 Hz, but also smaller peaks at 110 Hz, 440 Hz, etc. It also displays several other peaks - other harmonics and apparently some just showing noise from the bow, etc.
The program also acts as a tuner, generating the full range of notes (in several different electronic formats). These aren't as good a quality as the MIDI piano notes I downloaded from another site, but it's really helpful for checking fingerings.
There are some other features that I haven't yet figured out - the instructions are minimal. All in all, a nice program. And free! Now I don't have to buy one of those little battery operated ones - they all have tiny little buttons with indecipherable icons.
Apparently, there's nothing that you can't find on the internet - eventually.
On the sidebar I've added some links to several interesting cello web sites. Andrei Pricope is a music teacher with lots of downloads, tips and techniques, music, etc. Nice site. The New Directions Cello Association is for non-classical cellists. That's where I hope I can eventually end up hanging out. But I'll lay low on that one until I've gotten a little better at it. Finally, there's an interesting forum called Cello Heaven, geared to newer and mostly younger learners. Lots of good info, here.