Why? Because nobody can contact me on one of these.
New 100 Day Challenge Group
Been spending much of my time over at this facebook group. As you’ll recall, this blog started out as a 100 day practice challenge, and as I needed some motivation and community, I tried this group out. As much as I love it, I also need to post my practice logs here as well. Tonight I worked on just one shift, primarily on the metronome, and wasn’t a stickler for perfect intonation. I plan to refine this tomorrow. I’m under a great deal of job stress right now, but I also need to keep making whatever progress I can.
I have been posting my progress to a Facebook group, and it’s been hard to worry about keeping the two in sync, but I’m going to populate this blog with some of those posts, and then maintain from here, evermore.
Gigue from Suite 1
Sounding more even, now work on giving the notes character. Think about rise and fall of each phrase. Crescendo towards the middle and decresendo towards the end. On the first trill, just work on a smooth upbow afterwards. And give yourself some credit, you’re doing some things well.
Baccarole (third position piece)
When there’s a lot going on, start with small chunks and get the intervals right, then the shifts, and watch for a delay in that first shift! A metronome will help, and I can always ask for help from somebody, to tell me if they hear a delay or record myself. Get that G-F# shift down before you move on.
We reviewed posture – the left leg is more critical than the right, which really doesn’t play any role at all. Angle the cello and make the endpin comfortable and then see if you can hit the notes (finger 4 on each string) comfortably.
Do more bow exercises on the open string, and think about on releasing tension in the right hand. I can always do the pinky probation exercise.
Part of the teacher’s job is to show us how and what to practice. We worked on a practice plan for the position piece as an example.
Lesson last night focused on the Marcello Sonata and the Gigue from Suite#1. On the latter, he suggested that I get the rhythm, then the notes, then the bowing. For the bowing, use the metronome to get those fast first down bows and the notes in the first slur to be equal length. Also, analyze the piece and ask what are all the bowings and rhythms needed to learn this section or piece?
As far as the lesson itself goes, I didn’t show well what I learned, except perhaps in the position piece. I recommitted to doing things in the standard order, and making a separate practice session for the orchestral pieces.
After Action Report:
Tomorrow’s practice will be better. You absorbed more than you thought. I was so prepped for my lesson, and so surprised when it went south on me. But a few positive that are obvious need to be repeated
Specific comments on things to do for next lesson
- Scale was good – time to move on to a new one, although this time, do enough so that you leave yourself for some new bowings and rhythms. Do the usual review of the important notes as well.
- Upcoming e-minor scale: For e-minor, those would be E-G-B. You have C,D, and G natural (on the descending part) , and will ring. You also have the high E harmonic so you know you’ve arrived correctly at the top. Interestingly, the third octave goes precisely through the middle one-third of the A string. It starts at the 1/3 point, and moves to the 2/3 point. Both sound the high E harmonic.
- I’m back on the metronome, set on eighth notes for the Marcello Sonata. My focus today is on dotted eights + sixteenth and subdividing that beat. The other is to make sure I’m keeping the same pulse across the rest after the first line.
- For the Bach – get the notes, add the bowing, add another bar and play the entire thing as a phrase. Use “robot arm” on that downbow plus slur on upbow.
Why do we practice melodic minor and not natural or harmonic?
General Comments after a tough lesson
- You did not literally do “everything” wrong, or the piece would be utterly incomprehensible.
- Your lesson went better than you thought, and you absorbed more than you thought.
- Since you can’t have a do over, be content with small victories.
- You have more skills for diagnosing problems and checking yourself than you used to have.
- You are going to make yourself more nervous by criticizing yourself. Can you put the criticism, even if deserved, on the shelf until later. Don’t be unbelievably positive (I can’t stand that), but can you just wait to talk about it to yourself later?
- Do not ask “how did this happen”. Save that for the “after action briefing”. The answer is always, “you emphasized other things in practice”
- It will sound better tomorrow.
- Learn to relax the right side of the right hand. The hand shouldn’t look like it’s trying to suspend the bow in mid-air.
- There are certain notes that should not only be 99% in tune but 100% in tune. Really go for that maximal ringing.
- This is particularly helpful on the lower strings where one has more overtones to hear.
- F major is in pretty good shape going down, but work on making it habitual
- Start working on D minor
Mooney Position Piece (3d pos. Waltz)
- Make sure all the A notes ring,
- Play with a pulse
- Still needs work to find the notes, and I’m a long way from making it sound musical.
Schroeder #36 (also Dotzauer #5) : needs a lot of intonation
- Same comment about the A
- Keep your hand in position
- Play difficult high passages in the lower octaves first, then try to keep that sound in your head while you work out the high ones
- Worked out fingering for mm 67-70 in John Henry
- When deciding on which passages to practice, ask “where will the cellos be heard?”, and focus on those
- Sometimes you can just move up and down the strings and just be at the top or bottom on time.
Playing the Cello Well
According to my teacher, playing the cello well consists of two things:
- Nice tone and intonation (those are the same, basically)
- with a rhythm
Tone and Intonation
Low D needs to be your home base #1 on the cello. You should know when you hit it right and imagine the note ringing with all of its overtones. You know, this is the note Pablo Casals said he practices every day, just to make sure he has the hang of it. Seeking it out and getting the reward should become a Pavlovian response.
Find the trickiest part of each scale; work on the shift need to make notes in tune. If you make a mistake, correct after, not “in flight”.
For practicing, Say “1 and, 2 and, ” shifting during the “ands”
Idea for each position is to quickly find the target note with the correct finger, and be confident in arrival there. For extended third, this means 2 is on E,A,D,G for I,II,III,IV
Back to the beginning – play with a rhythm – make sure I am in a crescendo to the final note in each group. When I get to the B-flat in the 4th bar, hold it for its proper length but don’t hold the note after it. Then, ensure all those 16th notes that finish the phrase get the same length.
For next week
#36 in Schroeder – pay attention to the most important note and make sure it’s in tune. –
Position Piece: Waltz
From the mooney book – extended third position.
Things I learned in Orchestra. I will eventually group these into logical subsections. Also, I am aware that some of this is in the first person, and some in the second.
- Hardest lesson (still very much in progress): trust your body and don’t overthink.
- Harder than I expected: keeping a rhythm while doing the same thing for twenty or more measures in a row (thank you , Saint-Saens and Sibelius)
- you don’t always have the melody, you have to contribute anyway
- you don’t have the luxury of not showing up. An orchestra is like a mosaic; every tile needs to be there to get full color (hat tip to Kelli Bertnshaw for that analogy)
- You have to think in real time and learn how to “jump in” to a passage
- in rehearsal, you don’t have to play all the notes (but you shouldn’t fake play any notes either)
- mistakes are bad, but the audience cares less than you think if you make a mistake; you must keep playing.
- your mistakes are less audible than you think
- in a fast run, you don’t have to play all the notes. It might not always be possible (Wagner)
- never be late to rehearsal. I never was, but came close once. It helped me be on time for other things as well.
- pizzicato has to be perfectly in time. Also, be bold and obvious about it with your body.
- our bodies communicate
- finish strong, and together.
- mistake management!
- The conductor’s mood will improve when the piece does. Don’t take comments personally. He has to tell you the truth about your playing, because the others depend on you.
- Don’t be afraid to go for it and make mistakes during rehearsal.
- after you hear the music, it will make more sense.
- be very aware of entrances; study the score to know what to listen for to indicate.
- make sure you really “play the rests”. This is easier if you have the playing instrument’s music in your ear.
- double flats are aren’t evil, but they can be scary to look at.
- a beautiful chord makes it all worthwhile
- of course, you must be in tune, but rhythm and dynamics are also critically important.
- Be ready for the final note and hit it. Then work backwards.
- Slow passages with long notes are actually harder. They must be in tune, with right vibrato and dynamics, because you will be heard if you mess up.
- Use third position more, especially if you’re seeing lots of Ab, Bb.
- Keep my fingers closer to the fingerboard for fast passages
- Get comfortable with sixth and seventh position as well. Both the G and A (on the A string) are ringing notes. That A became a home base for me.
- How you act onstage is as important as the music you play
- your relationship to the audience is formed based on what you do between pieces, how you respect each other and the conductor.
- in service of this ideal, don’t focus so much on dignity that you come off like a Dour Dudley. You are privileged to be be able to share something beautiful with your audience. Rejoice in it.
These pieces are kicking my ass, and I can’t seem to play them at tempo unless I totally ditch intonation. They’re just runs. Maybe I should just quit, after all. It’s just pointless over the hill stuff and I should stop pretending.
Tomorrow’s practice :
- m.52-92 review
- m. 122-140 new
- Rehearsal J-K
One thing I have to say is that this is really forcing me to focus my time. There are 200 measures in this piece and if I take chunks of 20 per day, I should be wrapped up in 10 days, leaving the rest to polish.
RHYTHM and TEMPO must come before pitch. Then pitch,then put it all together.