Monday, April 17, 2006


My first group session - a rehearsal

We were nine cellos (celli, I know :) and one viola. A 4/5'er playing a quarter size cello currently finishing book one after a year or so; a 7/8'er beginner with a three-quarter sized; a 30s/40s'er, who started a month before me (who already plays the piano); me; an early-30s'er whom I'd called in early Feb about Stringworks cellos and shipping issues with a couple years experience; an 8/9'er with two to three years experience, an 11/12'er with somewhat more than that, and a 15'er who was quite good. The 15'er violist was quite good too. Plus the teacher.

We setup in the church altar area - two on the back row, three in the middle and four down front; we beginners filled the left two chairs on the front two rows (the kids down front; I was outside left, on second row). The teacher sat facing us.

We tuned up (she went around tuning each cello - she sharpened my A and D quite a bit) played a scale and then the French Folk Song. We played it through four times - we weren't very coordinated; but not really that bad either. I had just a little trouble finding the tempo and occasionally even the right notes - I sure could hear my sour notes - I played quietly, but I "felt" every miss. Yet, it really was nice those few times that I did get my notes to match the rest of the group.

It would be nice to have a playing partner to spend some time practicing together. Knowing so little about music education, I wonder if there is a method of teaching that pairs like-abilities and encourages them to learn together. If your partner is truly simpatico, and just as eager to learn, it seems like it would be beneficial to have someone to bounce your sounds and experimentation off of, as well as someone to motivate you to keep up with.

We played through the other two pieces, pretty successfully I thought, and then started working on the Mary-Zuki piece - it was a bit complicated and we knew we didn't get it right, but we did agree to keep it in our program. We quickly went through the Pachelbel piece (I get to play a few bars from Twinkle) and then the advanced students played a Bocherini piece accompanied by a piano (the other beginning cellist). They were pretty good. It will be a good program!

It was fun, but also really daunting. I know these pieces inside and out, my intonation is usually pretty good, and I don't feel challenged by the tempos (tempi, I know :), so my real problem is just nervousness and being overly self-conscious. If I can get myself to just relax, I know I'll play fine, which sure would let me enjoy the experience a lot more.

I've been playing my pieces v-e-r-y slowly the past several days, breaking the difficult parts down into small three- to four-note segments and playing them slowly over and over again, patterning the finger muscles and coordinating the bowing. It seems to help. I've used it with all the pieces, now, slowing them down just enough to play them through perfectly without missing a note or intonation. This helped me identify the problem areas, which I then focused in on and repeated over and over and over and over (up to 50 times for some of them). Then I added it back into the section, playing it until I had it right; then finally the whole piece. I've done this with all of the old tunes in Book 1.

After dissassembling The Happy Farmer and working the trouble spots, I am in the process of putting it back together and am able to cleanly play it through (quite slowly). Still, each day I start by replaying several of the tough parts for a while, before picking up the whole piece. I haven't yet reassembled the Bach Minuet, but I am playing most of the individual segments pretty good. I am in no big hurry to put this one back together yet.

I've started working a new piece from the Fiddle book, "Hunting the Hare", an english jig in 6/8 time. The sequences are simple and repetitive, but I've been challenged by the rhythm ONE-two-three, FOUR-five-six, and so on. I'm working on each three note group, one at a time.

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