Tuesday, January 16, 2007


"My hands felt just like two balloons"

That describes the start of Lesson 23 today. [I've always liked Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb"; it's one of their best. One day I want to play it on my cello.]

My left fingers just wouldn't go where I told them to. That meant a lot of unexpected sharps and flats. I suspect the stiffness comes from driving the 70 miles to Homer. So, we stopped playing for a bit and reviewed the new orchestra pieces. She played the "Ashokan Farewell" cello part (the cellos actually get the melody for about 6 measures). It helps to hear it played out - now I know how I'm eventually supposed to make it sound. She commented that several pieces will challenge me to work on counting and a few new rhythms.

Then we picked up "The Two Grenadiers", working through it in great detail. By now, my fingers were responding better (not as good as at home, of course, but whatever). It was useful to hear her play the various 'practice parts' while I watched her fingering and bowing. I've gotten much better on this one, but I tend to rush any eighth-note groups. She gave me several pointers to work on. Then we turned to "Witches' Dance" for another detailed analysis. I did much better on this one than I'd hoped I would.

Then, rather than go back and play some of the old pieces, we turned to the LeClerc piece and played it as a duet. I played it well enough that we actually sounded pretty good! She's thinking about having a small group of her students play the piece at our recital at the end of March, rather than as a duet. This might include a viola, so my recent efforts to transcribe it won't have been wasted.

Finally, she asked if I was ready to take on "Gavotte", by F. J. Gossec (No. 11 in Suzuki Book 2). It's so fun starting a new piece. We spent a little time with the easy parts and then talked at length about how to take on the 'practice points'. No shifting, but a lot of bow work. It's going to be interesting.

I also brought my electrocello today and set it up so my teacher could play it for a while. It sounded a whole lot better than I've been able to make it do. We played around a bit with the reverb and also with the gain settings on the amplifier. One day, I'll make it sound as good as she did today.

On another note, I put on some new strings Sunday: Larsen a and d and Pirastro g and c. What an improvement! The cello sounds so much more open and resonant. Thanks to Ellen G at Cellos2Go for the suggestions. My teacher immediately noticed the difference, commenting that it appears I'd found a good match.

We had a brief warming spell, where temps went up into the high 20s for a few days, then overnight they dropped back to -10. For a while this morning, my cello really complained about the sudden change. It sounded as if the notes were being clipped or pinched. I thought I'd made a mistake with the new strings, but after a half hour of scratching through some scales (it was hard listening) the cello began to open up and I started to feel the richness of the new strings.

I forgot to add last night, that I asked about when vibrato comes up in Suzuki. She told me that it's left to the teacher to introduce it when the student is ready. Then she proceeded to give me a brief introduction and some preliminary exercises to start doing! I'm not to expect a lot yet, but just do the exercises without trying to actually do vibrato.

[Isn't this shot of a Shuttle Launch (taken from space) a neat picture? I lifted it from SendThinker who credits his buddy justin.]

You have my praise and respect for driving 70 miles for your lesson. That's certainly dedication.

Isn't Ellen great ... she set me up with my cello at her shop in Schenectady a few years ago. It was such a fun place to visit. Did you mean that you put the new strings on your electocello, or your acoustic?
The acoustic.

I've been trying to find a good set of strings for a while. It's a bit harder working long-distance, but Ellen sure makes it worthwhile. I described my cello and bridge setup, the strings I was using and my questions about the sound, etc. and she seemed to know what brands might work on my cello.

What's really great is her policy that if I didn't like these new strings, I could send them back and she'd replace them!
Which Pirastro? Permanents? That's what I keep coming back to, though I'm trying hard to like the popular Spirocore tungstens. I also like the Permanents with Evah a and d.
These are Flexocores, replacing Evah c and g strings. I really like how the new c-string opens up the bottom range of my cello.

The Evahs just didn't do much for my cello. I'd be reluctant to try the a and d. Anyway, my new Larsen a and d are a good fit.
Ah. I don't like the Evah g and c, either. Too tight, which sounds like what you describe. On my cellos the a and d have a similar warm sound to the Larsens but last longer.

I also used Flexocores for a long time. Not so powerful, but very warm. I like using the whole set, but if the a is too thin-sounding adding just the Larsen a, while keeping the Flexocore d.

(I love experimenting with cello strings, but promised my last cello teacher I would only change mine once a year, unless the sound was desperately bad ~g~.)
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