Thursday, December 04, 2008


We talked about vibrato

First, we talked about vibrato; we talked about double-stops; we talked about position etudes: I'm making good progress with my vibrato but feel as if I'm stuck on the double-stops, so my teacher offered a few suggestions to approach those from a different perspective. I was relieved to find out that she didn't expect me to play the (current) page-and-a-half long position etude without stopping - especially since my hand sometimes cramps up. Better to work on a handful of lines at a time focusing on relaxation and keeping my hand loose.

Next up in Lesson #63, was La Cinquantaine. A few times at home, recently, I'd begun to feel as if I'd finally somehow gotten inside this music - where I felt as if I were flowing with it, with plenty of time to produce each note's intonation, style and duration, and plenty of time to get ready for the next note, to calmly "reach out" and pull it into the piece. These were no more than fleeting zen-moments that nevertheless left me startled and a little breathless. This morning's practice wasn't quite like that; this afternoon's lesson was nowhere near that.

Finally we spent a lot of time talking about controlling the bow. She showed me how to firmly set the bow into the string and then push the bow and let the tenuto notes taper off, then immediately setting it into the string for the next note, and so on. This led to a review of the hooked upbow sequences in the Breval Sonata. As with my previous lesson, I left with several new fine-tuning techniques to focus on for the next few weeks.

It seems that Lynn Harrell is playing in Anchorage this Saturday night, but I can't go - our cello group has a gig playing background music for Santa on Saturday, and then Sunday we're on the card, briefly, at a high school Christmas concert. Maybe next time...

Speaking of double stops: For me, the big 'ah ha' moment was when my teacher suggested concentrating on the lower note, not the top. Be able to sing the lower line as well as the top line. Then finger the double stops with your left hand, but only play the lower note with the bow. Then add the upper note, but play the lower note much louder, as you did playing it alone.

Even if you play the lower note louder, the listener will perceive the two notes as being equal in presence. It will improve your intonation and make the harmony much richer. It works in chamber music too. For parts in thirds, sixths or octaves, the the lower part should always play out more than the top part, and the player with the top line should follow the lower player with the lower part.
Thanks for the tip, Blake. I'm looking forward to trying it out.

That Blake is a clever guy. Totally right about those double stops. Anyhoo, I just wanted to say that it's a good life when you miss Lynn Harrell because you have a gig. :)
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