Sunday, March 22, 2009
Why I'm not posting much anymore
Several times, I've opened GoogleDocs and sat here looking at the blank screen; then after a time I close the window without writing anything. A few times I have written down a sentence or two. But whatever inspiration that got me started evaporates, leaving me empty; and I end up exiting without saving it.
Some of this may have to do with my awareness that one or two people actually do read this. While that initially was good for the ego, at the same time it has become a little intimidating. Rather than write what's going on in my head, I end up worrying about what you few readers might think about what I've said, and then I start censoring myself. I obsess about not offending people, or worse, simply boring them. I've ended up pulling my punches, leaving out any strongly-held feelings, avoiding controversy.
I started writing this blog to document my experiences as I learned to play the cello. At first there were a lot of wide-eyed impressions to record as I struggled with each new technique and surprised myself with new and better sounds. Each lesson was a fountain of topics to report on as I tried to dissect all the minute adjustments and patterns I was trying to learn. But gradually my lessons and my practices became less eventful and more routine. There are only so many ways I can write about practicing the same technique or passage over and over and over and over until at some point I finally get it. Sure, every time that I realize I've finally gotten there is a victory; I guess I've run out of adjectives to describe them.
There's a bigger issue, too. I've been feeling as if I've run into a wall; that I'm not ever going to be even competent at this. I am rarely satisfied with my playing, and am constantly frustrated at not feeling able to improve. When I sight-read a new piece, I fret so much about intonation and fingering that I'm not able to think about the rhythms and timing. After I've worked out the fingerings, I am eventually able to start trying to concentrate on rhythms. Rhythms, aargh...
Nevertheless, I continue plugging away at my two-hour a day practices. I do see progress as I move through the etudes, but seldom in the Suzuki pieces - where improvement is so agonizingly slow. Today, I did realize I had finally made a significant step-change on that eighth-note run up the A-string (A-B-C#-D#-E) and back down the D-string (B-G#-E) in "La Cinquantaine"; my last major stumbling block on that piece. This week I returned again to the Boccherini "Minuet". There still plenty of room for improvement, but it does seem a lot easier to come back to than I thought it would be. I am really struggling with the Mooney "Double Stops" book, but I still work on it daily.
I recently read an article by Alex Kelly in the December issue of "Strings" about harmonics ("Harmonic Convergence", page 30). I started spending a few minutes at the beginning of my daily warmup finding the harmonics on each string and playing them "meditatively". That's as far as I've gotten with Kelly's method, so far; but it makes so much sense. I think these basic harmonic points (1/2, then 1/3, 1/4, and eventually 2/3 and 3/4) should be taught very early.
as for the nothing to write issue...I face(ed) that problem as well, and lately i have been kind of using the blog as a means to get myself to do things to write about...I know, its kind of lame to plan my life around my blog...but it does get me to do different things!!
One other thing: I used to say to my teacher, "The more I practice..the worse I sound". And he replied..."Are you getting worse or is your ear getting better?" Since then, I've kept that in mind and it has helped me a lot.
So, for example, last night I did E-flat major for 20 minutes, a thing called "Cantilena" from my method book for another 20, and then "Danny Boy" for another 20. (The latter has been my "me time" piece for just under a week, for the obvious reason :-)
Putting aside some time to really work on stuff that wasn't set by my teacher really worked for me. And I've been amazed at how hypnotic playing scales can be -- it's sometimes hard to force myself to stop and switch to the study...
Another thing you might find interesting, if you haven't read it already, is a book called "The Art of Practicing" by Madeline Bruser. I've been reading it recently, and while it's a bit more "new-agey" than I would normally like, it's got some ideas I found quite inspirational.
I know what you mean about the blogging thing, though. It would be so much easier if no one read what we wrote - but then we'd miss out on the comment crack!
As for blogging talk about anything, it's all interesting, gee, after all, you live in Alaska!
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