Saturday, October 28, 2006


Time marks it ceaseless course...

To everyone who offered a comment on my question about metronomes, thank you!

There are relatively few tangible things cellists need to make music. First and foremost of course is a reasonably good cello that is properly setup with good quality strings. Then a good usable bow with adequate hair and some rosin. Add to that you ought to have music and lesson books (and a teacher!); some sort of music stand; a stool or chair; and of course a place to play. I am fortunate to have all of that. Then there's a metronome. I bought my little mechanical metronome almost without thinking - the cheapest grab off the shelf in the violin store in Anchorage. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a metronome is an integral tool in making music. After all, I spend up to 2-hours a day listening to that thing tick-tocking away right beside me. Like it or not, unless I'm performing in orchestra, the metronome is a part of the music I'm making.

A couple factors helped me decide on a replacement metronome. My lousy electronic Boss tuner/metronome (the tuner is OK) puts out a barely audible tinny tap-tap sound, which I'd need an earphone to hear while playing. This seems to be a common problem with the digital electronic units. I also don't like their method for adjusting the BPM. Still, I decided I'd like some bells and whistles (assuming I have the patience to figure them out and actually remember how to use them when I need them); notably, the downbeat accents. Also, to satisfy my obsession with accuracy; if I set it to 102 bpms, then it darn well ought to be exactly 102 bpms - with every beat on time.

With all that considered, I've reluctantly turned away from the Wittner mechanical metronomes and decided to try a dial-type quartz metronome. The Seiko SQ70 Quartz metronome is available for as low as $55 (online), and it has a dial adjuster and a large speaker with a volume adjustment. Supposedly it is one of the loudest metronomes available. I'm going to try to order one tonight.

I think I've finished tinkering with the wolf eliminator, and the wolf now seems to be under control (currently, I have the 7-gram weight on the g-string). I'm so much more satisfied with my sound - especially the d-string - that I find myself spending an extra half-hour playing each day. What is really making me happy is that I'm finally working out the Bach Minuet #2 that I've struggled with since March(!) For whatever reason, I just couldn't quite make my fingers and bow arm come together with those five string crossings in the first nine notes (this passage comes up 12 times in the piece, so it's critical). But recently, I tried playing the piece with the metronome set at 96 bpm, and something clicked - those 9 notes just flowed off the strings! I tried slowing down again, and it all fell apart. When I tried playing a little faster, it also didn't work. But at or around that speed, it still works...

My progress on the new pieces in Suzuki 2 is slow but steady. I'm focusing on learning just a few measures at a time on each piece, slowly picking out the notes, then bowing them, and then adding segments together. For the position shifts, I'm playing them over and over and over - just the shifts and the related notes immediately before and after. The tonalization piece, "The Moon Over the Ruined Castle" has gone surprisingly well, even though it involves a lot of extensions and dynamic changes.

I'm still struggling with several of the orchestra pieces, but with some progress. For whatever reason, I don't seem to be able to memorize them like I can with my lessons, but I am becoming more comfortable with the timing and all the rests.

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