Friday, September 07, 2007
A Threshold, of sorts...
I think I've crossed some sort of threshold:
- When I sit to play, the cello feels so natural in my hands.
- When the endpin is just a little too long or too short, the cello immediately doesn't feel right against my chest, and I feel like I have to fix it.
- I'm much more comfortable with my intonation (for sure there are still a few issues - more on this, below - but most of the notes are pretty good, now).
- I'm able to shift back and forth with some sense of intention and trust in my accuracy.
- My rhythm problems from last summer are more or less under control; at least I am able to work through them quickly.
- I've learned how to learn new pieces, and I'm able to feel as if I have turned them into music, albeit played slowly still, much sooner than before.
Now, about my shoulder issues:
The first thing I raised with my teacher at Wednesday's lesson (#36) was my complete frustration trying to bow from my elbow, while keeping my shoulder relaxed. I really have tried to focus on this during practice the past two weeks. Terry's recent post on his blog, Folk Cello, brought out an interesting discussion about keeping the bowing shoulder down and relaxed. I think I understand all this. But knowing ain't doing...
So my teacher suggested we place a chair beside the wall, and I sat with my upper right arm lightly pressed against the wall. That seemed to help a lot; I was able to bow using just my elbow and wrist. Now, I'll have to figure out a way to do this at home since my practice area doesn't have any empty floor space next to a wall.
As an opening warmup, we played a D-minor scale through two octaves, up and down. My teacher commented that my second finger notes are usually spot on going up the scale, but are often slightly sharp coming back down. We've talked about this before and it's something I have to keep high on my list of things to watch.
Then we played through the Schubert Berceuse, the Lully Gavotte, the two Moon Over the Ruined Castle variations, and the Boccherini Minuet. For whatever reason, I wasn't able to play these pieces as well as I'd hoped, but my teacher complemented me on my progress on all these pieces. We spent most of our time on the Minuet, talking about the various tricky areas, and trying out suggested techniques.
Finally, we turned to the Scherzo by Webster. While I continue to work on the "elbow" bowing, I should keep drilling on the two Book 1 etudes using 16th note pairs. Meanwhile, I'll start playing it pizzicato (substituting eighth notes for each pair of sixteenths). This one is marked "Presto". Wow! Intimidating. But, I'll get it eventually, I think.
I know it's impossible to avoid using your upper arm a little when you bow, but what my teacher always focused on is "closing the window", or bringing it back into your body on the up-bows.
Wow, that Scherzo is awesome. Somehow I never got around to actually playing it, but the finished product is pretty impressive. Good luck with that, and keep up the good work!
All of these problems and issues take so much time to solve, but even the smallest bit of success on something makes it all worthwhile.
I like Musicgal's bowing imagery of "closing the window."
Sounds like you are making great progress, and, as PFS said, bonding well. What a great feeling!
As for relaxing the right shoulder, I find that leaning out to the right just a bit with the body helps as you approach the tip of the bow. The reason we want to lift up our shoulder is to compensate for the lack of arm weight at the tip. Leaning out with the body helps to keep the feeling of weight in the bow. Bear in mind that I'm no teacher, but it works for me.
Links to this post: