Friday, July 30, 2010


Finally, a lesson!

Since my last lesson at the end of April, I’d focused on learning the last two parts of the Vivaldi Sonata in Book 5, and I was hoping I could play them at Monday’s lesson without messing up. Although that didn’t happen I was pretty satisfied with how well it went. First though, we talked about my ongoing left thumb pain and possible causes. My teacher suggested a few changes to my left hand and thumb posture, including raising my left elbow more when playing on the C and G strings and altering my first finger extensions. These already seem to be helping.

After a half hour or so on those two sections we turned to the next piece in Book 5, “Danse Rustique” by William Henry Squire. It’s a fast light piece; the rhythms aren’t too complicated, but there are several shifts up to A and Bb. I’m sure glad I’ve been working on my Bb scales this past year. I began working on the opening section - pizzicato at 80 bpm (per eighth) - playing it over and over, steadily increasing the metronome step by step up to 120.

I’ve been surprised all week at how quickly I’m picking this up. Then I slowed the metronome back to 80 and started over again using the bow. At the same time I moved to the next segment (which opens with several interesting measures played with a D-string drone). After four sessions, I’m already bowing the first 28 measures at 92 bpm.

Have I mentioned before how much I enjoy learning a new piece from scratch? How each phrase comes together, and how it then fits in with the one before it and the next one? I appreciate how important this first step is - if I take it slowly and carefully, spending lots of extra time on those tricky parts now, here at the beginning, I’m sure that I’ll have a whole lot less trouble with them later on.

Every once in a while I get an anonymous comment, most likely from fellow cellists who happen to stumble across this blog, referencing my attempt to record my cello journey here. I forget sometimes why I started writing this in the first place. I do remember being overwhelmed at how hard it sometimes felt, how slowly I thought I was progressing, always doubting my ability to stick with it long enough to ever really “get” it. But today, more than four and a half years later, as I was playing through the first section of the Squire piece, I realized how far I really have come. Not that I actually see a light at the end of the tunnel, but maybe I’m sensing a dim glow up ahead there, somewhere.

well done! Keep it up. I must say I've not touched the cello in months and months, spending too much time on Chinese, blogging and supervising my children's practising! I have half a hope that when my daughter starts with her new Suzuki teacher I can secretly try and keep up with her with my own practising!
Squire should wrote some fun stuff. 28 bars, hmmm.... I hummed it to myself and counted it out. Oh yes, I remember that sticking point. A tough spot, but I'm sure it will yield to your persistence soon.
Hello Guanaco,

This is my first greeting at your blog.

I started getting cello lessons 6 years ago in my late 40's.

I sometimes visit here and read articles with deep interest. Actually, you always are ahead of me.
In my case, "Since my last lesson at the end of June, I’d focused on learning the last two parts of the Vivaldi Sonata in Book 5, and I was hoping I could play them at September’s lesson without messing up." (^^)

Your practice method, use metronome and first play by 'pizz' then with bow, is very good hint to me. Steady speed is always problem. Thank you for sharing this.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Where did summer go?

I took advantage of a recent three-day break in the rains to paint about half of my house - the hardest half. I don’t like heights, and the higher those 2x12 planks are on the scaffolding, the narrower they seem to get. By the time I’ve climbed to the top rung of the third scaffold level, it felt like I was standing on a tightrope. Then, to paint under the top of the eaves, I had to tape the brush to a pole and blindly reach up over my head as far as I could. Although it only took a few minutes to get that area painted, it felt like hours. Whew, the worst is over.

The next day it started raining again. I’m going to need another three days to finish the house and at least a week (or so) to dry out and paint the deck. I’m not so sure we’ll get that this summer. Too bad I can’t send some of our rain and 50-degree days to the east coast in exchange for just a few 70-degree days.

So how come after a judge sentences someone to 90-days in jail, the jail gets to decide to let her out after only 14 [oops, now it’s down to 12] days? Makes you wonder who’s actually in charge, doesn’t it? For that matter, how come when judges sentence someone to [say] 120 days in jail with 110 days suspended and after that person is released and is arrested again for the same crime, he doesn’t have to go back and complete those suspended days before serving a full second sentence? In my area, the judges never reimpose that earlier suspended sentence and then they go ahead and suspend 90% of the second sentence as well. What a system! I guess that’s why we need so many lawyers.

While I’m on a roll, how come when TV cops approach a suspect to arrest him/her they always announce themselves far too soon, leaving the guy plenty of room to run? Why don’t they wait until they’re close enough to grab him?

I’ve worked through the rest of the Verdi piece in Book 5, and now I’m working on tempos. My teacher cancelled today’s lesson - it would have been the first in almost three months. It’s been hard to keep at it every day without the motivation of a pending lesson, but I’ve managed, more-or-less, to keep on track. I’ve kept my focus by stepping back occasionally to rework the trouble spots, and then returning to my tempo work. I have slacked off a bit with my etudes, but I have been working on several new orchestra pieces that we picked up a few weeks ago.

Z leaves for college in just over a month... sigh.

You REALLY don't want the East coast weather, you really don't. I guess the only good thing is that we have tomatoes in mid July this year, but only with irrigation to prevent wilting!

I learned that Vivaldi piece on my 4/4 cello and struggled so with it. I went back to it last week with my 7/8 and found that is much more fun when I can reach the notes. Sorry you have missed that lesson you had been working towards. I really need lessons to keep me from repeating mistakes. Hope you can reschedule it soon!
Your journey as a cellist is inspiring! Thank you for sharing your progress.
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