Wednesday, April 02, 2008

 

Between the notes


Much of today's lesson (#48) was spent on La Cinquantaine. I've just started this piece in early March, beginning by learning one measure at a time and then grouping them into six or seven distinct passages. Each day I've worked on one or two sections, trying to isolate the tricky parts (usually some of the shifts, but there are also a few rhythmic issues). I told my teacher it feels like it's "there" - just beyond my fingertips. I can play most of it in isolated segments, and they sound good; but when I try to put it all together it doesn't work yet... still, I can "almost" feel it.

So I started the lesson by playing each of these groups one at a time. Then we stopped to go back over some of the rough spots and discuss the various issues. The pianissimo parts should be played with long full bow strokes close to the fingerboard, using only the edge of the hair, with minimal pressure - just enough to draw out the sound. She demonstrated the shift from a half note in third position slurring up to an eighth note on the harmonic and then dropping back to fourth position after an eighth note rest. I also learned that I'd been playing one sequence of four eighth notes as a slurred set when they are supposed to be articulated - all on the upbow.

All in all, my teacher was very complimentary about my progress on this piece and commented that I just needed to keep working at it - that my learning approach has been pretty effective.

We turned next to Mooney's "Position Pieces" - I've been working on the "upper third" section. I commented that these have been surprisingly hard to learn to play nicely. What seems to be holding me back on many of them is the string crossings. These Mooney pieces seem to have a lot of awkwardly placed notes - intentionally it seems.

As we talked about string crossings, my teacher commented that a lot of what we do on the cello goes on "between the notes" - changing strings, changing positions, changing bow direction, circling the bow, breathing, and so on. Knowing what needs to be done between the notes and learning to do them quickly and seamlessly - seemingly effortlessly - is the key to improving quality. It is critical to properly "manage" the bow to allow these actions between the notes. And, of course, holding the bow loosely and comfortably is the key to managing it effectively.

Then we turned to some of the pieces I brought in from our Cellocracy group. We will play three pieces together one week from Saturday along with five pieces with our Orchestra. This will all coincide with the conductor's class recital. My teacher gave me some useful suggestions about fingering and bowing for these pieces, which I'm anxious to apply during tomorrow morning's practice.

Comments:
That "between the notes" comment is spot on. It takes no time at all to learn to play one note nicely. The trick is to play it nicely, and play the next one nicely, too. It sounds so deceptively easy.
 
BTW, what are your funny little nocturnal laughing creatures? I must be up too early, because I can just imagine them lying in wait under the bridge between two notes, ready to snag the unwary bow and destroy the transition!
 
You've been working very hard! It sounds like you know exactly what to do, the trick is to do it. Good luck with your recital!
 
Those critters sure are bizarre, aren't they. I like your image of them lying in wait to snag that transition.

I don't know exactly what they actually are. I found the picture on Avi Abrams' wonderful site, Dark Roasted Blend.
 
The little critters are some kind of shrew. They look tame.
 
Good job on the piece. My teacher just gave it to me, and I was like OMG! its the piece that Guanaco was talking about!! NO way!!! Sweet!
 
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