Monday, June 26, 2006


Second Position! (Lesson 11)

Maybe, just maybe, Summer is finally here! We've had a run of sunny days, even though it hasn't been very warm - in the 50s, and windy. But when the sun is out and the sky is blue, the world seems full of promise, of hope and possibilities! I am such a slave to sunlight. I live for the summers. It would be nicer of course if the weather were warmer and there were fewer mosquitos (gak), but I'll take all the sun I can get, at least.

Finally, Saturday, I started SECOND POSITION!!! I didn't have too much difficulty finding the new octave targets for my second finger. I've played the "Target Practice" measures in Mooney's "Position Pieces for Cello", over and over, until my second finger is sore. Mooney teaches by alternating the open string note, it's octave-harmonic on the same string (using the third finger in fourth position), the first octave on the next string using the fourth finger in first position and then that same note using the second finger in second position. By repeating this over and over, the second finger learns its proper location on the fingerboard. Mooney also includes a couple of brief pieces using the a and d strings with first and second position.

Suzuki 2 uses a slightly different approach, presenting both the upper (hand-closed) second position and the lower (hand-open) second position at the same time. My teacher also gave me a brief “Countdown” etude to help teach my fingers to find the target points for the basic positions. She wrote it out for me on a sheet of scratch paper using the note names and finger numbers, which I then transcribed using Finale Notepad. I haven’t paid much attention to finger numbers before now, but now I guess I’ll have to start. It will be important to easily recognize them in order to know what positions are required.

It's such a great feeling to be making this big step forward (in one sense it's not that big a step - musically - it only adds E (a-string) to the top end of the scale, but it also opens F# (c-string), C# (g-string), G# (d-string), and D# (a-string) to a more comfortable playing position instead of using the 4th finger extension). It's a lot bigger feeling than when I moved from Suzuki Book 1 to Book 2. I feel as if I have now moved onto a whole new level of learning, beyond the basic introductory level. It feels like I've now progressed from being a raw beginner to a more serious student. It also helps that I quickly got pretty comfortable working on the new position. It also helps that my ears are becoming quite sensitive to the accuracy of the intonations. Next I have to build a new mental map for the all the finger locations in second position.

My teacher suggested I start playing with a metronome - especially on the older pieces that I fully know the fingering and bowings. She showed me an electronic one that plays different sounds for quarter notes, 8th notes, 16th notes, etc. I still have trouble with rhythms. She commented that in music, the rhythm is king, and that I should make every effort to establish the rhythm of each piece in my mind FIRST, before working on fingering or bowing. I'm also supposed to be counting out loud when I play (but I find that hard to do when anyone else is home at the time).

At the lesson, I played both "The Happy Farmer" and the Bach Minuet fairly well. She pointed out a few areas to attend to, but commented that I had come a long way. Also the C-Major version of "Long, Long Ago & Variation" went well. As always, she advised me to stick with pizzicato until I had the fingering all worked out. Also, she suggested that I continue to follow along with the music instead of playing with my eyes closed (as I always seem to do).

congrats on reaching 2nd position! once you get the hang of it you'll find it liberating :)
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