Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Playing beside another cellist

In advance of our upcoming recital on Friday (gack!), several extra players ("ringers") came to last night's rehearsal of the Central Peninsula Youth and Community Orchestra. One was a cellist who'd played with this group last year but now plays with a larger local chamber orchestra. Believe me, we definitely needed a(nother) cellist. I was relieved to take second chair. I don't know if she previously knew the pieces we worked on last night, but if not, she sure "sight read" them well. I've been practicing the recital piece intensively over the last few weeks, so I kept up reasonably well on that one. But I've got a long way to go to be able to sight read very well at all. Fortunately our conductor gave us a heads up about the next several pieces we are going to be working on, so I can get a jump on them.

It sure was nice was to hear TWO CELLOS playing together. It should be obvious from all this that I'm living in a place so remote that this is my first experience in over ten months to play alongside another cellist (except for my teacher's recital in Homer last May - an episode I never ever want to have to think about again). To my knowledge there are only three cello students (including me) in the area. There are quite a few more in Homer. I really liked being part of the blended cello sound last night. Since I wasn't a basket case (that recital in May, again), I was able to relax and enjoy it. We actually held our own beside all the violins and violas. Hearing a second cello not only helped me with rhythm and tempo, but also with intonation.

Playing with the metronome is now a full part of my practice routine. After warming up and running the scales and arpeggios, I switch on the metronome. For the familiar pieces, I've been steadily increasing the tempo - now, I'm up to about 92 for most of them. For the more recent ones, I slow it way down to work on accuracy. For the newest pieces I turn it off. I think it is helping. My rendition of that Bach Minuet #2 is almost good, and I'm finally feeling those dotted quarter notes in Happy Farmer.

I haven't fretted ;^) much lately about intonation, and surprisingly I haven't had to cringe much either.

I'm getting annoyed with my d-string, lately. It's the original string that came with the cello, and it seems like it used to sound better. Of the four, it seems to be the one that needs the most retuning and most often. Maybe it's time to put on a new string, or maybe as my cello is "opening up" (I don't really know what that means - I borrowed the phrase from the CelloChat forum) a wolf is emerging. But, if I don't hit the first position E and F notes exactly, they screech. I am able to overcome this by intonating exactly and by making sure the bow is exactly perpendicular to the string and by paying attention to bowing pressure. Low humidity also seems to be a factor. But on those rare occasions when all the planets are aligned the d-string can sound fantastic! I have to talk this over with my teacher at our class on Thursday.

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