Monday, November 06, 2006



Rehearsal was so much better tonight.

A week of focused practicing with the metronome paid off. I was at least able to hold my own, for the first time. And that boosted my self-confidence enough so that I was able to do OK on a few of the new pieces that we sight-read. When we played "Palladio" I was able to confidently set and hold the tempo through all the various rhythm changes. Only five more rehearsals before the Christmas concert (we'll only be doing two pieces). Then we'll do our own complete concert some time in April.

I'd guess mine isn't the only silent voice yelling in my head during these rehearsals: "you sped up again on that passage, are you ever going to get it right?" or "wow was that B sour!" or "can't you keep up?" or "why can't you hold that dotted quarter longer?" It's funny how everybody blogs about experiencing the same highs and lows - during lessons, practice, rehearsals, etc. And how we all seem to be so critical of ourselves. Another blogger recently talked about being too critical of herself, which got me thinking.

This trait seems to be universal to some degree among all musicians. Self-criticism is an important facet of musical development. The problem is as a beginner, I think I set my standards way too high at first and then immediately began to beat myself up for not being able to meet them right away. I have to learn to channel this self-criticism into motivation to keep on working. Rather than dwell on the fact that maybe I didn't do as well as I wanted on a particular passage and accept that as proof that I'll never be any good, I need to get beyond that and figure out exactly what I have to do to make sure I do a better job on it next time.

Over time, I've gradually eased back on my expectations - actually mostly on the timing of when I should be able to play what, etc. I think I am only just beginning to understand how much effort it takes. Maybe Suzuki should offer a section to beginners on setting realistic goals, how to be fair in your self assessments, how to practice, how to prepare for a performance, etc. In fact I think schools ought to include these sort of things in their general curriculums as early as second or third grade.

I've updated my sidebar to show all the blogging cellists that I've run across. No doubt there are many more.

Q: What's cuter than a hippo?
A: A baby hippo.

I think all those things you mentioned in your last paragraph (realistice goals, self-assessment, etc) are what was so lacking in my first effort at learning cello that I just gave up. I had no idea what was even possible as an adult beginner. I went from thinking I'd sound great in a year or so (ha!) to thinking I'd never sound acceptable. My first teacher told me he didn't know of a single person who had started as an adult and played well.

The internet (and that ICS board I love to grouse about) has really given me a better perspective. I still can't answer the question of when I'll sound "decent", but I do hear of other adult starters becoming good players.

That plus I've just decided, it has to be about the process, not about the result, because there's a lot more process than result involved in playing an instrument like cello.

Did you ever play an instrument as a child? I played a toy piano, and taught myself to read music with a color chart. I sure as heck didn't worry about how I sounded. It was just pure enjoyment of learning and making music. Now and then I remind myself to try and recapture that innocent state with my cello efforts.
Yeah, it is all about the journey, isn't it?

Wow! Who could blame you for giving it up with a teacher like that. I can almost picture him rolling his eyes as you struggled with each challenge. With that sort of attitude he ought to at least have the decency not to take money from adult students. Heck, I wouldn't even want him teaching my kids.

When I was seven, my parents gave me an accordian, and I practically lived with it until my brother smashed it. I know exactly what you mean about that pure enjoyment of producing music without all the angst.

I've been looking for a toy piano (not one of those electronic simulations, but the real thing). I love that sound. Unfortunately, if I remember correctly, they don't extend into bass clef, so we probably wouldn't be able to use it in our bass clef orchestra (unless, maybe for rhythm?)
I don't really have time to type a novel or anything, but I would like to atleast say this: I absolutely admire the fact that you are able to take your negativity and make something positive out of it. I catch myself thinking things like the things you mentioned and others like "What in the world were you thinking! Mrs. L has pointed that out multiple times! FIX IT!" That is the most common one. I feel so sorry for her, because its the same thing every Friday. At first I felt like I was getting better about my negativity, but the feeling faded. I am back to square one. I get the lecture every Friday. "Maddie, it's all in your head. You are so negative. You could be where Noah is if you would just stop being so mental!" I'm working really hard to fix this though, and maybe if I follow your blog, you could just inspire me to be good! Haha!
Here's what I recently started doing: Pick just one thing in your current playing that bugs you and concentrate on it... for example, if it's a certain passage, break it down into small segments and put a lot of extra work on them, slowly, over and over; for several days. Then pick another one. You can bet there will always be more coming at you, but maybe if you can knock them off one at a time, you will begin to feel more confidence.

Oh, yeah, tell your inner critic to take a hike!

My teacher always tells me to look for the good things in my recent playing. Such as what am I doing better this time that I had been struggling with before?
G, I ditched that evil teacher after one year, and had a pretty good one for the second year, so I can't blame my quitting entirely on teacher #1.

I haven't seen a real toy piano for ages either. Here's some music trivia for you: Tori Amos used a toy piano on some tracks on her Under the Pink album.
I went out and bought that album the first time I heard one of the toy piano tracks on the radio. Another performer who used one was Grant Lee Buffalo.
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