Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Moving along

I brought several questions from my orchestra pieces to today's lesson (#26) to review with my teacher. I've worked on the fingering enough to be ready to start worrying about the bowings on Ashokan Farewell. We also went through most of the tricky sections and discussed some fine tuning of fingerings. I'll spend the next few days focusing on these target areas, but the orchestra is moving ahead with it - we played through it Monday (sort of), so I need to get cracking. On Monday the conductor added another piece to our upcoming concert, You Raise Me Up, by B. Graham and R. Loveland (Josh Groban's hit). I get to play some tremelos! There's also another cello solo in it. I'm pretty sure I'll have plenty of questions on that one by the next lesson.

Another issue I've been struggling with is a really nice piece called Painted Desert by Anne McGinty. We've been working on it since September, and I am pretty comfortable with my fingering and bowing and lately even with my timing. Being the sole cello (sometimes another cello shows up, usually not), in one or two places, I'm the only person playing, so I've started worrying about my "sound". There are eight or nine bars where it goes from a downbow dotted half note B on the g-string to an upbow quarter note F# on the d-string. Back and forth, back and forth. For whatever reason, this B and F# combination sounds pretty lousy on my cello (no ringing tones, for sure). That upbow F# really screeches as I try to recover enough room on the bow to play the next long downbow B. I tried every trick I know, even reversing the bowing - actually this gave me the cleanest tones. It's interesting that I don't have any problem with how this sounds on my electrocello.

My teacher suggested that I bow that long dotted half note B slowly right at the fingerboard using just the upper third of my bow, then the upbow F# should be played softly, using just the side of the bow - lightly, still at the fingerboard. After trying it for a while, it began to sound pretty good.

We played through some of the pieces for our upcoming students' recital. I'll be playing some of the harmony parts and some of the bass parts. So, I've got a little work to do...

We played Bach's March in G. For some reason my inner demon (Self 1) wouldn't let me play this one properly (the small shift at measure 22 and the eighth note runs before and after it). Lesson anxiety, I guess.

We talked more about my timing/rhythm challenges (I generally tend to speed up my eighth notes, and cut short the half and dotted half notes). My teacher suggested that I work on this by playing through each piece with separate eighth notes (for each quarter note, play two eighths, and four for each half, etc.) Playing it near tempo forces me to pay careful attention to the full value of each note. Then, when I go back to playing it normally, I should be more attentive to the full value of these longer notes. I like this, I think it will help.

Finally, she asked if I was ready (!) to start on the last piece in Book 2, G.F. Handel's Bourree. Yay! another new piece! It's always so fun to begin the next piece. She talked about how it was organized and pointed out several teaching points. We discussed the shifts and some bowing particulars.

When you have a pattern like that (long downbow followed by short upbow, or vice versa), I usually just do my best not to move my bow too fast on the long bow (saving bow), then on the short note, I use less pressure and more speed to get back to my original starting place without making the short note louder than the long one.
Hi Jennifer, you're back!?

That's exactly what I need to learn to do. If only it weren't these two particular non-ringing tones... That upbow F# sounds so raw that I'd been trying to make it sound even quieter than the B (my teacher suggested that was actually part of my problem).

I sure have missed your blog these past few months...
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