Thursday, September 09, 2010


Finding the tracks again

On the internet the other day, I saw a bunch of pictures of trains travelling through the streets of some eastern European city; not commuter trolley cars, but real trains. It got me to thinking about where I've been the past few months with my cello. Without the discipline of regular lessons, I've been wandering somewhat aimlessly all over the road, generally going in the right direction, but drifting off through the occasional side street and even running out of gas a couple times.

My biweekly lessons are my tracks. I need these tracks in order to ultimately get where I want to go.

With so much else going on this past month, my cello has been sadly neglected. I was lucky to find even 30 minutes a day to practice: ten to fifteen minutes for scales and the rest of the time for "Danse Rustique", (if I had an extra fifteen minutes I'd work on parts of the Verdi piece). I focused on just the first page, and was able to play it at yesterday's lesson quite well. We spent the first part of the lesson working on some of the downshifts - nothing new, but a reminder of techniques we'd talked about many times before, things I'd simply forgotten in the chaos. The rest of the lesson we devoted to playing through the second page, highlighting any tricky sections.

It looks like it will be another month before my next lesson, so I guess I'll be trying to drive on my own for a while. Of course, somewhere down the road I want to be able to deliberately steer off of these tracks once in a while and explore new directions with my cello.

One interesting note. Upon returning home after a week, the first time I picked up my cello, I was struck by how nice it sounded: rich, deep, large, whole tones. And my intonation (according to both my ears and my tuner) was quite good. Although I hesitantly played that day through my current pieces, they sounded so nice! At first I attributed it to the cello drying out - since I wasn't home to change the dampits. But my teacher suggested that more likely I was hearing myself with fresh ears and that "maybe... [I'm] actually a better player than I've been giving myself credit for."

I am seeing a doctor tomorrow to see if I can figure out what's going on with my left thumb.

On the homefront, we are all slowly adjusting to our new lives. We're not there yet, but eventually we'll get used to our new reality.

Hi, I wanted to message you directly but I'm not sure how this blog thing works or if that's possible. I'm 25 and have never played cello before in my life but I've always wanted to ever since hearing Peter and the Wolf as a kid. When I googled to see if I could find anything about the cello bits in Peter and the Wolf, your blog came up. It seems that that part of our stories is similar! I've just started reading your blog and have finally gotten up the guts to email a local cello teacher. Any advice to an enthusiastic newbie?
Thanks for writing such an engaging blog and thanks in advance for any insights you might have!
Hi Jenny! Welcome to the cello. It's been a long time since I wrote about that "Peter and the Wolf" concert...
I don't really feel qualified to offer any advice since I still feel like such a newbie myself, but here goes:
Practice EVERY day, even if for only a brief period; be patient - don't give up, even if it feels like you're not getting anywhere; progress will not really be noticeable on a day-to-day basis, but you are actually getting better each time you practice. In short, enjoy the ride!

Good luck!
I LOVE me some Danse Rustique. That's one of my "go to" pieces when I'm frustrated with new stuff or just want to rock out.

And I get the time issue. I'm a Elementary Music teacher and I have a hard time after all of my other musical endeavors finding time.

Keep working hard, rest that thumb occasionally. No hitchhiking! :)
Hi. I've been having left thumb pain as well. I've been working on keeping my 1st finger straight when in extended position and I think I'm straining my thumb in the process. Was wondering how your doctor visit went and if you arrived at a diagnosis?

Thanks. Nancy in Atlanta.
My doctor's appt. was cancelled at the last minute. I'll try again in a week and a half...
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