Friday, September 07, 2007


A Threshold, of sorts...

This morning when I picked up my cello to play, the initial feel of the strings under my fingers triggered a brief, unexpected, intense sensation of pleasure satisfaction happiness contentment. I was totally keen on spending the next two hours playing my cello (indeed, today's session ran well past two and a half hours).

I think I've crossed some sort of threshold:

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.

What I've learned from my cesar therapist, who'se specialized in musicicians, is to pull the shoulderblade down and inwards, towards your backbone while bowing, especially while doing down bows. This may seem strange since your arm is going out, but it forces you not to use your shoulder but your elbow instead.
Anonymous is me.
Wow, I thought I was the only person who felt uncomfortable if the endpin wasn't *just so*!

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!
I too have more trouble with the decending scales, especially on the upper octaves on the A string. Is that because it's easier to shift upwards than back down? I always seem to be more accurate on moving my hand forward. (the aid of gravity?)

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."
Oh, that's so sweet how the strings bring a feeling of contentment. You've bonded with your cello!
wonderful! It's great to feel that sense of accomplishment and feel like you're making progress.
Wow, you really played through a lot of music in your lesson. Sometimes, it seems we spend an entire hour on six measures in my lesson. :-)

Sounds like you are making great progress, and, as PFS said, bonding well. What a great feeling!
That's the feeling that makes me play. There's nothing like picking up the instrument after a break, even if it's only a day, and feeling like you've been missing a part of yourself the whole time.

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.
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