Friday, September 25, 2009

 

Faster, Faster


Today I played through "Pirates...", "...Marionette", and "Hungarian Dance #5" without any mistakes. I've finally gotten their fingering and rhythms sorted out. I'm not yet consistent with "...Hall of the Mountain King", but I should be there in a couple days. While my tempos really aren't "that" slow, I've got a LOT of speeding up yet to do. I'm not really sure how I'm going to do this in the few weeks remaining before the formal rehearsals start. At least I've finally learned to practice with the metronome.

I've been practicing about three hours a day, focusing on the nine concert pieces. Every third or fourth day, I try to run through my lesson pieces a few times to keep from getting too rusty.

I've scheduled a few extra extended lessons over the next month along with my stand-partner. This past week, we played through several pieces together, each of us taking a different part where needed. It's always an 'ear'-opener for me the first time I hear all the cello parts together, and for whatever reason my own playing seems to stumble a bit until I get used to my part in the bigger picture. The first full rehearsal with all the other strings, and the horns, etc. will probably be a lot worse.

This has been quite a change for me. Normally, I practice every day with no particular goal in front of me. This is not to say that I don't have my practice goals, but these are usually internal to whatever piece I'm learning - this rhythm, that fingering combination, those shifts, etc., and I work on them until they're good enough to move on. Progress is usually hard to measure.

But now, I have a distinct deadline: October 30 and October 31, along with three full rehearsals before then. I want to be able to hold my own, to be a smooth part of the group. I want to not screw up, to not play that awkward loud note when everyone else is holding a rest, to not be the one who makes it all muddy by playing off tempo or out of rhythm, to not lose my place and fumble for a re-entry in a panic. [I've done all these, BTW, at one time or another in my beginners' string orchestra, so I know what to expect.]

I've taken a different approach to learning these. Since a lot of what I'll be playing doesn't really sound like what I'm used to, I searched YouTube for videos of other orchestras playing these songs, and downloaded them to my iPod. I spent quite a bit of time listening to them and then started trying to follow along in my score. Also, I concentrated on counting the rhythms to myself [this is another area I need to work on.] It took a while, but I finally began to place the cello parts, and started to hear how my parts fit in with the whole.

As I tentatively and slowly played through each piece for the first few times, I flagged the trouble spots for separate study. I spent a lot of time on these (playing pizzicato, slowly). Each day I picked out a different area for extra attention as well as playing through the entire set - still slowly. As I got more comfortable, I started varying the tempos - trying to move ahead in any areas that weren't too hard. Some days I work on playing through at a more rapid tempo with less attention on accuracy; other days I attend to fingering and intonation - usually at slower tempos.

The challenge is to put this all together...

Comments:
As if you don't have way too much cello music to play and learn, I've emailed you a new Christmas arrangement that you might have a chance to look at. It's not written in stone yet, I'd be receptive to comments and proposed changes.

It is written for 4 cellos, but could also work with any instrumentalist or vocalist on melody, and 3 cellos.
 
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Friday, September 18, 2009

 

"Aargh!"



Walk Talk like a Pirate Day!

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

 

Learning the repertoire


I've spent most of my past two weeks practice sessions working through the seven pieces for the KPO's Halloween concert - picking up the rhythms, sorting out fingerings, and stepping through the trickier shifts and string crossings.

Once in a while I'll "uncover" a familiar passage, which allows me to calibrate myself to the piece as a whole. I've not started worrying much about tempos, yet, although I do work with the metronome, slowly tick-tick-ticking beside me. Once I've worked these out, I'll begin picking up speeds.

I've taken a more haphazard approach than I usually do to new pieces, concentrating on just a few lines or even a few bars at a time, and then moving on. So far, it seems to be working.

In my excitement at learning these new pieces, I'd let my lesson studies slide somewhat. A few days ago I returned to the critical parts to avoid getting rusty - also, I do have a lesson next week...

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

 

Movin' On Up


The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra's next concert will be at the end of October. As part of the bill, our community beginner/intermediate string orchestra will also be playing three pieces. But on top of that, I will be sitting in with the KPO for their set - along with a few other members from our strings group. We'll be playing "Pirates of the Caribbean", "Funeral March for a Marionette", and "The Hall of the Mountain King", among others.

This is a huge step for me - I'm going to have to double up my practice routines over the next eight weeks if I want to be anywhere near ready. I'll be scheduling extra lessons over the next month to work on some of the trickier passages with my teacher (who is principal cello).

Of course, that little guy on my left shoulder is already hollering at me: "no way...", "you're nowhere near ready...", "maybe you should wait another year...", etc. But my teacher was very supportive and told me that although it won't be easy, I'm definitely ready for this.

I'm really looking forward to this. Grieg's "Pier Gynt Suite" has been a favorite since my early teens; and I particularly like "The Hall of the Mountain King" (along with "Anitra's Dance"). I can't believe I'll actually be performing it with my cello!

At today's lesson (#73) we played through the Marcello "Sonata" and the Bach "Minuets" from Suzuki 4. I've progressed rather well on both these pieces, and we identified a handful of areas to fine tune as I continue to work up to speed. She commented that my rhythm and timing were really quite good [A first!].

Primary issues to pay attention to:
1) accuracy of shifts - identify the target note for each shift, even if I won't actually play that note; slide my fingers along the strings to the appropriate note instead of throwing my hand in hopes of hitting the right place;
2) relax thumb pressure - try playing those tricky parts without using my thumb at all;
3) play with all my fingers closer to the strings, watching for sloppy hand "shape";
4) practice appropriate thumb movement during extensions;
5) relax and breathe - play with less tension, don't stress so much about hitting the right notes, etc.
6) start listening to Tchaikovsky's "Chanson Triste" on the Suzuki 4 CD; and follow along by reading the music in tenor clef.

Comments:
Hi. I greatly enjoy your blog! Wanted to encourage you about the music in your orchestra. We played both "Pirates" and "Hall" in my orchestra and they were great fun-especially Pirates! One part is extremely cello challenging- play what you can and enjoy the rest!
 
Way!! Performing with limited practice is a great thing to learn, and performing real music with an orchestra is a great step. Sometime I'll scare you with my horror story of joining my first orchestra and sight-reading the finale of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony the next day. It was terrifying--but exhilarating.
 
it'll be hard...but the only way to really learn is to just immerse yourself!! you will be fine!
 
Wo0t! I am so excited for you! I am actually doing the reverse: playing with a really good amateur orchestra every now and again just to rehab my numb hands. The fear is the same: Beethoven 9 is on the menu for this concert. But the great thing is that you can practice and rehearse your way up to a whole new level of competence. I am really looking forward to hearing from you the day after the concert. Double Wo0t!

Your word verifications are always the best. Today is "drolt". Indeed.
 
Congratulations! Sounds wonderful.
 
Your notes from your lesson sound like mine! I think we're paralleling. :)

Peer Gynt was great fun indeed when my orchestra played it. The cello absolutely drives 'Hall'. I'm most fond of 'Ase's Death'; it's a good challenge to see how quiet you can get, and the mute adds such a unique sound.
 
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