Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Lesson 19

Another positive class, today. We started by talking about the orchestra pieces, and working through the fingering on some of the newer ones. I find myself questioning many of the fingering decisions. Why shift here? Why not shift here? Why go to third here, when second seems to be OK? etc. It seems to help me understand the cello.

We played the LeClerc piece that Pink Puffy Slippers sent me. She had not seen it before but said she really liked it. Of course she played it much faster than I'll be able to for quite some time. This is a good one for a cello duet - really good for Halloween, too. I promised to send a copy to her.

We played through Bach's "March in G" - I did well enough. :) Then we moved on to talk about some of my problem areas in the new pieces - particularly "Witches' Mountain" and "The Two Grenadiers". I have a lot of work ahead of me on these. We played "The Moon over the Ruined Castle" and talked about how to play the piano and pianissimo dynamics. We finished by playing my "nemesis piece", Bach's "Minuet No. 2". This was the first time we'd played it together (as a duet) where I felt like I could finally handle it. I really feel good about my progress on this one. She commented that I was forcing those darn opening eighth notes too rapidly...

We spent a lot of time talking about first finger and fourth finger extensions. I had been doing these all backwards. So here's what I think I understand to be the right way:

For the first finger extensions (Bb, Eb, Ab, and eventually C#) I had been sliding my whole hand - hitting these extended notes relatively cleanly - but then not getting back to the right places afterwards. Instead the thumb doesn't move on the back of the fingerboard; the rest of the hand should be able to fall naturally back into its normal place; only the first finger slides up the fingerboard - it helps to move the left arm forward while extending.

For the fourth finger extensions (D#, Ab, C#, F#) I had been holding my thumb fixed (too tightly) against the back of the fingerboard, while lifting and rolling the top of my hand, trying to reach them. The result is I have been overshooting all the notes by at least half, and then not finding my way back. The proper way is to slide the thumb with the whole hand down (or is it up? I never seem to get that right... up the scale, but physically down the fingerboard... for that matter, I still have trouble figuring out the whole up bow / down bow thing...) to that half-position; except the first finger stays in its normal position, acting as an anchor. Now the fourth finger naturally falls onto the extended notes. It helps to visualize the third finger going to the target notes (D, G, C, F) and sometimes it actually does finger them when it is inconvenient not to move back to the normal first position. The first finger anchor guides the hand back to its "home" location.

Finally I asked about intonation. What can I be doing to improve it? That led to another lengthy discussion about fingering and practice techniques. I came home today with a lot to do.

This morning a fog bank rolled over the southern part of the peninsula, bringing a little snow (of course on a day I had to drive to Homer and back), but worst of all by afternoon it had put an (hopefully temporary) end to our recent streak of clear, sparkling sunny days and spectacular moonlit nights. Last night's full moon rose immense and very bright in the extreme north-northeast at about 4:15 pm, slowly climbing southward in the sky above the eastern mountains until it was almost directly overhead about midnight. By morning it was hanging above the hills in the western sky as it slowly drifted back northward, finally setting about 11:45 am in the extreme northwest. I guess it's no surprise that it was following almost the exact same path the sun takes through the sky near the summer solstice.

So, I keep finding good things to say about our winters. Maybe I don't hate them that much after all... Or, more likely, my struggle to stay positive with my cello is bleeding over into my real life.

Good for Halloween? Would you mind sending me a copy of that LeClerc piece? If it can be sent electronically, that is...


Glad to hear things are improving for you. Keep it up.

Let us know what you think...
Carter Brey (Principal cellist for the NY Phil) once posted something else about the position of the thumb for extensions. He said it not only should it go back or forth, but also come out to the player's left on extensions. That lets your hand get in a higher position. I think it helps.
Terry: Do you mean actually away from the fingerboard or just out toward the edge? I found that I do tend to move my thumb out to the edge on these extensions.
Thanks for the link! I'll add one to your blog as soon as I figure out how.

I've been enjoying your interesting blog. You've made lots of progress in just one year.

Wow, you get through a lot of pieces in one lesson. I'm lucky if we have time to visit two.

I have a hard time with extended position also. Like you, I don't want to move my thumb, but it's supposed to always be behind second finger in the neck positions.

Glad you & your teacher liked the LeClerc piece.
I really push to cover as much as possible, since I only get a one-hour lesson every two weeks. Then I rush home and try to write it all down in my notebook (and my blog, of course) in order to remember it all. Lately, I've had to email my teacher for clarification on one or two points that I forgot. It seems that each time I start to feel I am ready to start a new piece, my teacher brings it up first...
Yes, "out to(ward) the edge." That's a good way to express it. These things are so hard to desrcibe in words.
Ok gang, I finally went ahead with it. Even though the world doesn't need YAB (yet another blog), mine is out there at http://folkcello.blogspot.com

I won't be posting every day. More like once or twice a week.
I read that the "blogosphere" doubles in size every 230 days or something like that-- but we definitely need yours, Terry.
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