Thursday, April 26, 2007

 

I didn't give up


Although I admit a little part of me thought maybe it was time I wised up.

Last night I scanned through my blog archives and read several old lesson reports. By far the majority of them try to document what went on at the lesson, what I played, what tips and techniques I learned, what issues I needed to work on, and my general impressions of how I was doing. A few reports though, were like my last one - frustration, almost despair, failure; as if I were just wasting my time.

So, another low point.

But, yesterday morning I forced myself to pull the cello out of its case and tune it up as usual. Due to an appointment in town I only had an hour, so I quickly worked through an abbreviated warmup and turned to a few of the pieces that I had so painfully flubbed the day before. I focused on the weak segments and worked through them slowly and repeatedly. No breakthroughs, no new sense of accomplishment, but also, no sense of failure either. Today, I returned to my full two-hour practice routine, again concentrating on the tough parts.

With the warmer weather (finally!) and higher absolute humidities, I'm again getting frustrated at my cello's sound: raw, scratchy, sort of wolfy, some notes booming. I'm not ready to start fooling around with strings, and such, although I've been adjusting the wolf eliminator. I'm going to have to just play through it. Unfortunately, I don't have too much confidence in the luthier in Anchorage. I really didn't feel as if he cared one way or the other, and was almost dismissive of my concerns...

Meanwhile, for a change of pace, I'm going to spend a little time with my electric cello. I bought some new strings (Helicores) for it, and I'm curious to see how they sound. The nice thing about the electric is that although it lacks the warmth and timbre of the acoustic, it is a lot less susceptible to ambient conditions and there is no wolf.

Comments:
Whenever I'm feeling a low point on being able to play an instrument. I like to go back to pieces that I personally enjoy and get back to basics. I play for personal pleasure rather than trying to achieve any technical proficiency.
 
Yes, most luthiers I have met could use a tune-up in the bedside manners department.

Weather changes are just hard on cellists. What I find helps is to fight my tendency to tighten each time I hear a bad sound and instead try to make the bad sound worse with a lot of sloppy gooey weight into the string. Amazing how much better it sounds.
 
I do tend to tighten up when I hear a bad sound, as if holding the bow more rigidly would somehow improve things. Hmm...something else to work on.
 
Hi,

Totally understand when that happens....I even have a name for it-"chop." It's when you feel though although you've been working hard nothing seems to work anymore. It's normal...even professionals go though it once in a while. :) It used to scare me but then I realized that after the "chop" period, my technique would improve most of time. Basically it's a case of your body catching up with the new things you're learning.

Some things that have helped me: Taking a couple of days off (a rest period) and doing something non-playing. Playing through old pieces or even reading through new ones. Focusing on a different aspect of techinique. (ie bow patterns instead of left hand) And my favorite....chamber music party!
 
Try to enjoy the tiny bits of progress and hang onto that hope of someday sounding halfway decent. That's about all us poor cellists can do for the first few years.
 
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