Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Fine Tuning

A lot is going on this week, musically. Three rehearsals, a lesson (#38), and then the concert Saturday. Whew! For me, at least, this is an intense effort. I've been reading other cello bloggers who are busy with fall concerts and I have to wonder... I've been working on my paltry few pieces for months and months, and I only feel marginally competent. I just can't imagine how they manage learn so many new pieces in such a short time. I'm hoping *fingers crossed* that one day, I'll have progressed far enough to be playing at a similar level, but I sure can't see it from here.

Cellocracy has one more rehearsal Friday, at the church. It has been interesting watching how far we've come together. Tonight we were discussing such minutia as whether we should add a small pause at this repeat, and should we slow down the tempo just a little bit after that measure... We identified two or three minor timing issues which we carefully dissected, played out slowly, and then reassembled for a clean play-through. Then we spent some time discussing possible dynamic alterations in case the church hall swallows our sound. We're modestly confident.

Bow Trial

I got three trial bows in the mail on Monday. The scientist in me started out with a detailed chart listing all the visible attributes of each one (this one is arched more near the tip than these two, etc.). Then I weighed each one (79g, 81g, and 82.5g) and found their balance points. I carefully rosined each one using the same number of strokes, etc. Using a pencil as a thickness gauge, I tightened each one to the same point.

Then I began my warmup routine... I played each scale through two or three times with each bow, alternating the order of bows. I played the long bow open strings routine (see Blake Oliver's blog entry Mastering the Long Bow - more on this, later) alternating bows. Then I played through several of the Suzuki Book 1 pieces one time per each bow, and several Suzuki Book 2 pieces, and so on. After each segment, I paused to write down a rating of which bow felt and sounded better on that particular piece, and why. After a few hours, I had already realized that one of the three stood out significantly from the other two. Accordingly, today's session was much less structured, I just switched bows every ten or fifteen minutes.

At first, I included my own bow in the rotation, but then I stopped using it, because it came in last every time.

Tonight I brought them to the Cellocracy rehearsal and traded off with another trioist, who was doing a bow trial of various Coda bows - the new Diamond bow hadn't yet arrived. One of her Codas was better than the other, but didn't come close to my current favorite. I will spend a few more days in my "formal" trial and then let her borrow them for a few days. Next week I'll send two of them back to Cellos2Go and ask Ellen to send me two new ones.

I've been doing Blake's long bow exercises every day for almost two weeks, now. I'm still working on 12-beats-per-bow, but I have noticed an improvement in my ability to sustain an even clean sound along the entire length of the bow. This has also helped me focus on the contact point and on the angle across the strings.

At today's lesson, we talked a lot about the bows - my teacher also liked the same bow I did. She commented that one of them (the more expensive one) seemed to lack springiness. We also talked about a-strings. After I complained about the quality of my open A, she tried my cello using several of the bows including her own, and agreed that my a-string sounded pretty bright. Something else to work on...

We played through the cello trios, and she pointed out a few timing issues to work on. Finally we spent a lot of time on the Gavotte and Minuet in Book 3. We worked on several "issues" - a string crossing from the g-string to the a-string combined with a shift to second position, and a d-minor scale run, etc. Then we turned to the Scherzo... *sigh* this is a tough one. She told me that next time we'll focus on this. As I expressed my frustration, she suggested that I remember what I was stressing/obsessing about just a year ago, and how far I've come since then... That helped.

These past few weeks I've spent all my "free" time on a couple consulting projects that have been challenging and interesting. My only gripe, I guess, is that it has left me with no time to blog. The money is nice, though.

I enjoyed this blog. Do you know what wood the trial bows are and are any of them synthetic? I can't remember the wood which is meant to be the best of all for springiness in a bow. Something originating in South America, I believe. My teacher spent all last Summer trialling and choosing her new bow last year. It is made of this particular wood.

By the way, keep your eye open for an update on 'Not really a blogging cellist'. He hasn't posted since April, but I have only just discovered him and sent a message asking where he is.I really enjoyed the few blogs he did. Very useful. He apparently felt there were enough of us out there who were better at it than he was. I beg to differ!
All three bows are pernambuco, which is the wood of choice for bows. It's funny how bows that appear to be so similar, can perform so differently...

Which leads me to wonder, how do they come up with prices for bows?
I feel so envious reading about all the minutae you're working on with your teacher. Darn, I really want to have lessons again!

It's exciting that your cellocracy group is coming together so nicely. Will you be able to put up any recordings?
Good luck with the bow evaluations.

I really enjoy reading your blog. I find myself celebrating with you, groaning with you, and totally relating to the struggles and triumphs you write about!
Scientific indeed! Wow. Enjoy your quest for a new bow.

Ditto what cellogeek said above about celebrating and groaning. In response to some of my complaints about my progress this week my teacher was talking about the fact that as we improve and continue with our studies our standards become higher and so we become even harder on ourselves. I guess we should all keep that in mind.

Lots of good wishes for Saturday!

I have the same cello as you (Haide Ruggeri) and use a Larsen Solo A and D, Spirocore Tungsten G and C and it sounds great. Maybe a string change will help your bright A...
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