Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Through the wall

After several weeks of growing frustration at my lack of progress with a feeling that I had hit some sort of wall on the Allegro Moderato ... and on everything else..., today I finally played it through intact, without stumbling or stopping. After warming up on scales for half an hour or so, I started out playing through the piece pizzicato while watching (and thinking) the bowings. Then I went back through the tough sections, playing them pizzicato, slowly, a bunch of times. Then I played these with the bow until I was satisfied...

A short coffee break and a few minutes wasted commenting on a couple blogs (I know, I shouldn't be scanning my feed reader while practicing, but I do...), I then sat down to play the piece start-to-finish. I played it slowly and evenly, planning ahead for each shift, preparing for each bow change, easing through each tricky part, and finishing with that final run into fifth position with nice clean ringing tones. Yeah!

Next, I went back through the previous four or five pieces in the book and was reminded that success is fleeting. These older pieces still need a lot of polishing. I'd neglected them somewhat these last few weeks, and it shows.

I continue to struggle with the various Mooney "Position Pieces". Currently I'm working on the Third Extension group which includes a couple of pieces using that weird harmonic diamond notation. I know, they're supposed to improve intonation (you can't get the harmonic without the exact intonation), and it probably does help in that context. But what's frustrating to me is that the sound doesn't match the note - especially the relative steps from one note to the next. These harmonics don't follow that logic. So while I might be able to play the harmonic, when I look at the score and put my finger in the right place and get a note that just doesn't "fit" the previous note, I stumble. I feel as if I'm having to unlearn just a bit some of my music reading ability - that part where I hear what I see. I am getting this, but slowly.

Today, I ordered Mooney's "Double Stops" from Cellos2Go, along with replacement Larsen A & D and Jargar G & C strings.

Our cello trio had a good discussion last night about what we'd already "learned" from our first coaching session and what we hoped to get from future sessions. Our biggest problem will be simply coordinating schedules as summer activities, visitors, and vacations intervene. We warmed up with our set pieces from our last performance and then turned to one of our new pieces. We decided to play each part together several times until we all got a good sense of how each part was supposed to sound. Then we combined the parts and played the whole piece several times with a noticeable improvement.

"Our" lake finally broke up this week. Sunday the ice started to separate away from the shore. Monday evening there was just a few small patches of rotten ice way out in the center with a bunch of seagulls gathered on it. Tuesday there was clear water all the way across. Spring has officially arrived! - only about two weeks late.

It's these kinds of breakthroughs that keep us going.

Glad to hear about the ice progress too.
I just had a sudden flashback of figuring out that piece right hand only, all on open strings to get the bowing down. Ugh, it was an ordeal that sounded nothing like what it was supposed to sound. But useful! Since then, on certain hard things, I work on them some right hand only, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that it really is possible for me to bow the thing reasonably well.
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