Saturday, January 28, 2006


Lesson 1

It was -10 this morning with a light snow falling. I pulled out the cello, tuned it up and played for about half an hour to limber up my fingers and hands. I packed up and left early, and it was good I did. There was no traffic going in my direction, and the roads were reasonable for this time of year - I made good time for the first 45 minutes. But then it started snowing pretty seriously, and finally about 15 miles out I caught up behind a plow and had to follow it at 30 mph on into town. I arrived at my new music teacher's house about 5 minutes early. They’d already gotten a lot of snow overnight and it was still coming down.

It was a good first lesson - mostly sounding each other out to see if we would be able to work well together. I quickly realized I would be very comfortable studying with her and could learn a lot from her. I know it’s up to me to put in the effort, but having a good teacher is good motivation. I think I'll get a lot out of it.

We talked about postures; finger, hand, and arm positions; relaxation of the shoulders, arms, and thumb; holding the bow (I was already pretty close, so it won't take long to adjust it); using the bow; doing string crossings. It's a lot to work on. I'm supposed to work on one step at a time, but I know I'll end up thinking about all of them at once.

She tried my cello, pronounced it OK, saying it did have a metallic sound. She played hers briefly; it was so much richer, purer, cleaner, deeper. She’d had it since HS, a student model that she was quite happy with. She said a lot of the difference was the strings. Then she let me try hers. I could “feel” the difference. More motivation.

I played one piece, “The Clown”, from memory – slower than I normally play it at home. I was nervous – my first “performance” since 8th grade – so my pacing and bowing were sloppy, but I did hit all the notes. I’m proud of where I am after two months. I wonder what it must look like for the teacher to have another student at my current level, having seen so many others at this level at one point in their studies? Hopefully, she’ll get to watch another student gradually improve.

I need to get a better chair. Something flat, about 20 inches high, with no back. I’ll look at Bigbox. Y has a vanity with a small, upholstered stool. It would actually work for me if it were tall enough. Maybe I can replace the legs with longer screw-on legs – that would be easier and cheaper, and more comfortable.

We’ve tentatively set the next lesson for two weeks, unless one of her students is willing to switch to Saturday next week (I can’t go that day).

Next Cello

I told her I had looked at some cellos at the violin shop in Anchorage. They showed me an Eastman V405 for $3,500 with a bow and a hard case. I saw one for sale (cello only) somewhere on the internet for $2,200. Apparently there is a big markup for stringed instruments. She said she’d try one out for me next time she goes to Anchorage – in a month, I think.

I looked in and found a seriously nice cello in the $3,500 range that includes a decent bow and their best case. The Soloist is their level five intermediate / advanced in that line of work. I’m not sure, but it seems to be a much higher grade of instrument than the Eastman V405. Stringworks lets you try it out for 2 weeks and return it if you don’t like it. Still, it would be nice to try out several at once…


S showed me how to use harmonics to tune the lower strings after finding A. That it was better to tune A by ear, but do whatever worked… Then find the D harmonic on the A string and bow it along with the D string. Then tune D until it matches. Undsowieter.

Also, bowing A&D together produces a “pure” sound. I have to try it out – lower the D while bowing these two together and see how much more uncomfortable it gets, then slowly raise it until they ring pure.

The Exchange

We got the covenants for the Tustumena Lake Road property. It appears that they won’t stop us from putting in our one-site RV park. Just to make sure there wasn't anything better out there right now, I called the owner of some property nearby, but they weren’t interested in selling it – they had just bought it. So I called a realtor we’ve known for years and told her about the exchange and what we were wanting. She said she knew of one or two possibilities and would call me tomorrow.

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