Saturday, March 04, 2006


Another lesson

Number 4. She was running somewhat late so I quietly setup my new cello while she finished the other lesson. As soon as the kid started packing up she asked to try it out. Wow, did it sound good! She ran through several appeggios and the like in several registers. She seemed surprised not to find any wolf - but said "there might be one just above G# on the D string". She suggested that the cello might have been "designed" with its wolf-tone outside the normal tones.

She said she was very impressed with it, that it had a really nice sound. When I told her I had an option to return it, she immediately said "keep it!" She told me it has Jargar steel core strings, "forte" on the lower and "softer" on the uppers. She suggested I might eventually consider gut strings for the lower two, but to keep the uppers. I said I didn't like the A string, but was willing to see if it will break in (the A did sound much better when she played it). If not, I'll just have to buy another brand and try it out until I find what works best on this cello. She just bought a full set of Pisastres ($120). It sounded much brighter, more dynamic than when I last heard it.

She played my cello with her bow first, then mine. My bow didn't produce anywhere near the quality of sound her bow did. I didn't realize how much difference the bow makes. I'm thinking I might go ahead and ask the strings store in California to send me a higher model (in exchange for the $65 backup bow).

We started by playing several of the pieces in the early repertoire that will be played in the upcoming recital. It's tentatively planned for Sunday, May 14 - Mother's Day. The recital will include her students, her husband's, and those of a friend who also teaches violin. Only a handful of cellos, with a viola thrown into our group. We'll play four pieces - and maybe a fifth one.

I played OK on several of today's selections, but on Rigadoon (which I got down pretty good this morning at home) I kept losing my place. Nerves - she said that the better I get with the piece, the easier it will be to play. She pointed out that the Suzuki method differs from the others in that you work on the same pieces until you get very good at them. We will even come back to several of them in later books. Other systems tend to move along quickly, which means that while you end up able to play a lot of pieces you never quite get that good at it.

She liked my bow hold! I told her I struggled to find it and showed her the pictures that I copied and hung on my music stand. My left arm position was pretty good, but still needs a little work. I do need to work on my left hand position over the fingerboard. My pinkie should be held curved above the string - I was reaching out with it, so it was extended straight. The way to fix that was to move the wrist parallel to the forearm, and keep the forearm up.

We talked about making a mental checklist to regularly try to run through while playing - left fingers curled and thumb relaxed, wrist straight, forearm elevated, left shoulder relaxed, jaw relaxed, right shoulder relaxed, bow arm relaxed and pivoting at the elbow, wrist straight, fingers loose while curled over the bow, thumb curled into the frog.

I've got a new exercise to work on that will help me learn to better "feel" the intervals. Spend some time playing fifths, then fourths, and thirds (varying rhythms and tempos - and intervals). At first on neighboring strings bowing both together - double-stopped - (harmonically), and then separately (melodically), using a variety of bowing techniques (e.g., two notes in each direction). Then, eventually I'll play melodic intervals all over the map.

Now I'm starting the extended fourth finger on the second half of the Bach Minuet #2. This involves holding the forefinger in place while sliding the rest of the hand - including the thumb - one semitone out toward the bridge (up the scale). The third finger moves to the harmonic (usually the fourth finger's normal place), and the fourth finger automatically drops into the new note, a half step up. But don't move the forefinger - that would make it a shift, and we're not ready to start shifting, yet...

She cancelled our lesson for the 13th, and it appears I'll have to wait until the 27th for the next one (three weeks). I should be "pretty good" on several more pieces by then. My goal is to play the Bach Minuet #2 clean-through!

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