Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Four Years

Another year, already: a year of progress; a few new skills learned, a couple other skills improved on; a new method to learn new music - which works for me; getting reacquainted with my metronome; finding out about certain physical limitations; an unexpected invitation to play in the orchestra, along with a sober realization of how far I still have to go before I'm ready to do that again; and changes in Cellocracy - we are now a duo. Probably the most interesting (and frustrating) thing this past year was finding out about certain personal limitations, and eventually realizing that a considerable amount of work will be needed to overcome them.

After revising my process for learning new pieces earlier this past year (which I've blogged about previously), I really thought I was ready to take on all the new pieces for the KPO Halloween concert. I wasn't. I spent more than 150 hours preparing for that concert - at the cost of any regular lesson work during that time. But although I was able to learn nearly everything well enough to play them more-or-less accurately - at home, on my own - I really wasn't ever able to play them fast enough for the concerts [with the exception of "In the Hall of the Mountain King"!!!]. While it was gratifying to be invited to play along, I was more frustrated than anything else at my inability to keep up.

Still, I do believe that I will eventually reach a point in my studies where I can reasonably sight-read through a new piece and be able to quickly come up to speed along with the group. All that, and be able to incorporate all the last minute additions and deletions to the playlist in the weeks ahead of the concert.

This also marks four years for this blog. This entry is #524. I only posted 66 entries in the past year (the year before it was 95.)

Goals Carried Over From The 3rd Year

Here are all the goals I had listed for my third year (and carried over into the fourth year) of playing the cello. More and more my goals are becoming an narration of the various skills that I want to improve.

Learn vibrato - Every day for almost 8 months during this past year I did vigorous vibrato drills with the metronome - ten to fifteen minutes at a time - gradually increasing the metronome speed every few days. But I guess I overdid it. This summer I started experiencing severe pains in my left elbow. My doctor and my teacher suggested I stop these drills for a while and see if it improved. Within a few weeks, the pain was gone. I'm definitely on the right track with my vibrato technique, but I need to work on integrating vibrato into my routine playing.

Finish Suzuki Book 3
- I'd already "finished" this in Year 3, but I spent several months in the past year reworking several of them.

Improve bow hold
- I spent time focusing on finger pressures (how the fingers control the bow on up and down bows). I find it easiest to concentrate on this while I play my daily scales.

Relax bowing arm
- My recent focus has been on controlling my forearm and pivoting elbow as I play out towards the tip.

Improve sight-reading skills
- There have been a few (rare) times that I've been able to sight-read and go with the flow, but mostly this is still a struggle.

Improve intonation
- Not really a serious issue anymore in the lower positions; I continue to work on intonation in the higher positions.

Develop an awareness and control of breathing
- No progress; I really haven't spent any time thinking about this, yet.

Start playing in the "upper" positions
- Coming along OK.

Learn thumb position
- Not yet.

Tenor clef
- This is coming at the end of Book 4; I presume I'll start learning this piece in a few months. I spent a little time working with flash cards, etc., but the biggest benefit so far came from working on the Bizet piece, "L'Arlesienne", for the Halloween concert.

Experiment with the electronic cello
- I didn't do much with this in Year 4.

Practice 1,000 hours in Year #4 (working toward that 10,000-hour goal)
- I practiced approximately 800 hours in the last year, for a total of about 3,000 hrs so far.

Growth with the Central Peninsula Community Orchestra
- Yes! I look forward to our weekly rehearsals, and our occasional concerts are always fun.

Growth with Cellocracy
- This past spring, our first cello decided to stop playing cello. After that we spent most of our time prepping for the KPO concert at Halloween; now we're working on Christmas duets.

Join the Redoubt Chamber Orchestra (eventually)
- I recently decided not to play with them for their 2009 Christmas concert; I still don't feel I'm ready...

Join the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra (some day)
- I did play with them for the 2009 Halloween concert, but at this point, I'm not ready to become a regular player in this group.

Specific 4th Year Goals (Listed 11/2008)

Complete 2/3 of Position Etude Book - I've only completed about 1/3.

Complete 1/2 of Mooney's Double-Stops Book - I haven't worked much in this book in the last six months.

Rhythm studies (do clapping exercises from Music Theory book) - Nothing; although since I've started working more regularly with the metronome, this has become less of an issue.

Play faster with accuracy - This is my biggest stumbling block in orchestra.

Relax while playing - I've got a lo-o-ong way to go.

Increase stamina - The orchestra preparation was helpful.

Improve overall quality of sound - This is hard to measure; I "think" I sound better...

Music theory - I took classes last winter and spring; but haven't done anything since then.

Improvisation - Nothing here, yet.

Specific 5th Year Goals

Finish Suzuki Book 4

Complete 2/3 of the Position Etude Book

Return to the Double Stops book

Work on playing faster

Improve sight-reading skills

Use vibrato while playing

Continue learning Tenor Clef

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