Wednesday, October 11, 2006



This morning I began working on two new pieces (more Bach!), #7 and #8 in my Suzuki Vol. 2. It was nice to play through them the first time OK. Sight-reading! Clearly, a lot of practice is needed, but it feels like I'll be able to pick them up fairly quickly. Lately, I've noticed my technical abilities have undergone a step-change improvement, all across the board - even on the newest pieces. Working with the metronome has sure made a difference. I've been steadily increasing the tempo every week or so; now I'm up to 92 bpm on most of the pieces - a little slower on the newer ones. I don't feel as if my sound quality is improving much, though.

Apparently, I'm being way too critical of my sound - especially the d-string - for my level of capability. It's good that I have high expectations for myself, but I can't just blink quality into existence overnight. My lesson (#17), yesterday, started off with a long discussion about my sound issues. My teacher thought the d-string sounded "OK... maybe a little bright". I could try a set of synthetic core strings to take that down a bit. Of course it hasn't sounded that bad to me these past few days. She tried my bow on her cello, and it sounded pretty good to both of us. She suggested that I was probably using too much rosin. You only put it on when you need it. She says she rosins about twice a week. I clearly had too much on. Hmm.

Then she found that wolf that I've heard a time or two, hiding between E and F on the d-string. It was pretty obvious. But hard to describe. Like a somewhat slow, warbling vibration - partly resonating but then jumping way out - back and forth. I'm not sure how she got it to come out so clear. I think it's my lack of bowing skills, which might explain why I only hear a screech when I miss my intonations on those two notes. The wolf seems to roam back and forth a little between these two notes (depending upon temperature and humidity?) I'm going to order a New Harmony wolf suppressor from Cellos2Go.

We talked at length about my bowing. I'm still holding my wrist too high - actually I'm holding the bow reasonably well with the right part of the fingers, and a good position with my thumb, but I'm letting my wrist slacken and the fingers droop down, hanging from my hand, over the bow. I need to hold the bow further out - still near the ends of my fingers but with the wrist straight and the lower knuckes extended out, not down, more or less in line with the back of the hand and the forearm. That helps me keep the bow loose.

Tonight, I've been experimenting holding my hand out in these two positions, without the bow. I can feel some muscle groups in the top of my forearm and front of the upper arm tense and relax as I moved between the two. Needless to say, the "correct" position is the relaxed one... Awareness of these muscles will help me "check" on my bow hold as I'm playing.

We started off with a couple duets - partly for sight reading practice. It wasn't too bad, but my intonation sucked. Then we went through the C-scale, slowly, and I sort of "found" my place. Still my weakest part yesterday was intonation. My rhythm and tempos were good. I didn't play too many wrong notes (just several poorly executed ones). After our long detailed discussion, we only had time to play through "Judas Maccabeus", "Hunter's Chorus", and "The Whale's Song" from Mooney's Position Pieces book. I was mostly pleased with how I did. We turned to the Orchestra pieces and talked about some of the questions I had, and she made several helpful suggestions.

Finally, we talked through the two new pieces, #7, "Musette from English Suite No. 3" and #8, "March in G", both by Bach. She explained the "teaching points" - the open second position, using the first finger for C natural. I've been drilling on this a lot the past few months, so it hasn't been difficult. Then the "inchworm" shift from second to first. We talked briefly about the purpose and handling of the dynamics markings.

A too-quick hour. I feel as if I could do at least another half hour. Since I can only take lessons every other week, if I extended them to an hour and a half, I'd be sneaking in a third lesson each month.

Ah yes, the wolf thing. I have the same problem on my new, good cello. It's worse on G string, but I play E and F more often on D string, as you probably do.

At least take comfort that it's good cellos that have wolfs. My laminate junkie has very little wolfishness.

On the wrist and sound things, I have some opinions that would be difficult to explain. Have you seen Prof Edberg's right hand video? It's at

Notice that his wrist is high. BUT, it's because he's playing with as little arm involvement as possible.

Nicholas Anderson says the bend/straightness of the wrist depends on the volume and it's making more and more sense to me. He says the wrist straightness of the wrist acts as a gas pedal. We don't try to straighten the wrist. It just straightens by itself if we're pulling more, and automatically bends by itself if we're not pulling it straight.

Heretical ideas, no doubt, but they work in my mind.
Hey Guanaco, wanna play a silly blogger game? I hereby tag you.
Maybe I will start a blog before too long. Problem is, I'd be interested in posting mp3s and MIDIs and PDFs as much or more than words. BTW, how is your website,, hosted? I see that's where you keep downloads. Nice job with that fingering chart. What graphics package?
Go for it Terry! I like the idea of publishing mp3s and pdfs, etc. In addition to text, you should be able to post your designs and recordings through your blog, like Misty does in hers, for example:

My website,, is affilitated with a site owned by my son and hosted by a server in Florida somewhere. I honestly don't know how he set it up, sorry I can't help there. But there sure seems to be plenty of website hosts available...

[I drew the fingering chart with AutoCAD and then converted it to a pdf.]

I've been thinking about your discussion of wrist angles. It makes sense.
But at my current level, I think I'm far too inexperienced to be testing these ideas. I'm willing to go with my teacher's recommendations until my bowhold is natural and effortless... then I can try out other positions for stylistic purposes. [Style! I'm still working hard just to hit the right notes at the right time. I'm only now starting to think about dynamics. And I'm only hoping to get to style and interpretation, one day...]
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