Monthly Archives: November 2010

Moving On

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For the past few weeks, as I’m sure you all now, I’ve been working on the Bach minuet in Feuillard. I’ve greatly enjoyed having a single focus for my cello practice and going far more in depth with this song than I have with any other. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s Bach. I could listen to the same Bach song all day long indefinitely and never get tired of it — even if it’s a minuet played badly by me. Or even a single phrase in said minuet being worked on for hours. Somehow Bach’s Bach-ness always makes me happy.

I think my teacher picked this particular song for me to spend more time on because she’s like me and simply loves Bach. She seems to have particularly enjoyed teaching me as much as she can about this song. At the beginning she said we would work on this song until I can “play it the way I want to.” Of course, I think her idea of what I want and my idea of what I want are on opposite sides of the planet. She speaks often of the rather large gap between my musical ideas and my ability to apply them in my playing. Her apparent goal is for me to be able to consistently express those musical ideas, even if done less than ideally. Whereas I would prefer to keep working on this song until I sound nearly as good as she does. Preferably without working on anything else so that I am not distracted (after all, I never grow tired of Bach.)

So… guess who is now working on a new song! I do get one more week of this wonderful minuet, but then she wants to move on. Of course, what she wants me to work on this week is much more difficult than the previous weeks’ goals. Which makes me want to spend even more time on the song. *Sigh*

That being said, I really do like the new song. I’ve neither played nor listened to anything by Haydn before and am finding myself quite enjoying it.

And that being said, I really wish I didn’t have this song to distract me from Bach. It’s so much more gratifying learn a new song because it sounds so much better so much more quickly. Which is seriously irritating me, because I feel a compulsion to work on it rather than the Bach song, which currently requires much more in-depth technical practice and less progress at the moment. I relish it when I have nothing else to do, but any progress, if any, is so slow that if I have the option of instant gratification I take it. (And my husband wonders why I am always so frustrated about being human…)

I’m hoping that I quickly get through the instant gratification phase of the Haydn song so that I’m left with technical Bach practice or not-knowing-what-else-to-do-with-Haydn practice.

Reflecting on all this, I’ve realized a shift in attitude. I used to feel impatient, wanting to quickly move on from whatever I was doing. Before the Bach minuet I was feeling frustrated that I was stuck down in 4th position. Now, I wonder what the point is in learning the higher positions when none of it sounds how I want it to. Can’t I stay here for a while until I’m a better cellist? Yes, yes, I’m a far better cellist than I was a few weeks ago when I started the Bach song. It has amazed me how much I have learned with this song. Maybe my compulsion to move through the first have of Feuillard was because some part of me knew that I would learn well from Bach. I saw this song when I first got the book and couldn’t wait to play it. I counted down the songs left until I got there. I would practice hard to learn one, sometimes two, songs a week just so I would get to Bach faster. And now that I’ve gotten there, I’ve no desire to move on.

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Recording Myself

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At my lesson on Sunday my teacher told me she wanted me to start recording myself, which I have been doing for the past couple days. Despite the fact that recording devices don’t lie, I still keep hoping that my particular one actually does. The shock of first hearing how I sound recorded was pretty awful. However, it has been a helpful tool. Today, after warming up, I played the Bach minuet and recorded it. I listened to it to determine what I thought my weakest points were and worked on those. Each little area I worked on I recorded once, worked on it, then recorded it again until I could hear improvement. Despite the end result still sounding awful, I could hear a lot of improvement in a short time. I realized how easy it is to convince myself that I’m improving while practicing when I’m not getting any better at all. It’s like I hear what I want to be playing, not what I’m actually playing. Thankfully, the recording device prevents me from deluding myself.

My Cello is Back

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I got the cello back on Monday night. He fixed the parchment on the bridge and apparently found an open seam, which he glued back together (Does anyone know: Is it normal for a new cello to have a seam come unglued that quickly?) The cello sounds much better (and LOUDER) than before, but the wolf is still slightly there. And only shows up about 10% of the time on the G string and maybe 1% of the time on the D string. I’m planning on talking to my teacher about it on Sunday to see what she has to say. At this point it’s playable and I’ve been able to get some good practice time in, even if it’s a little frustrating at times. On the plus side, the Bach minuet is actually sounding like a Bach song now!

No Cello :(

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I went into the music store and of course they didn’t have much of a selection of eliminators, by which I mean they had one. And not what I was hoping for. However, for the first time they were actually nice and helpful. In the end I took the advice of their only cellist and took it into our local luthier. I was able to meet with him today and I’m definitely glad I did. This morning when I took it out, I noticed that the parchment under the A string on the bridge had come loose and actually turned. Plus the string was off by about 2 mm where it should be. I mentioned that to him and also asked him about how far down into the groove the D string was, and he said it was too far down, so he is going to file the bridge there and put new parchment under the A and D strings (the D string didn’t have any before.) We’re hoping getting those things taken care of will fix the problem because everything else looked in good shape. Unfortunately, I’m without a cello until the problem is fixed. He said the repairs should take a couple days, which isn’t too long, but if they don’t get rid of the wolf tone, it could be quite a while longer.

My Cello Hates This Weather…

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… and it’s letting me know with a lovely wolf tone on the F natural. On both the G & D strings. Worse on the G string when I play softly and worse on the D string when I play loudly. Which is, of course, exactly what I need to do in the song I’m working on. You know, the minuet that’s in F Major… And it sounds just like those “this is a really bad wolf tone” videos I’ve seen on youtube wondering just what one was before the seasons changed. While I contemplate just which eliminator I’d like to try, my time spent practicing has taken a serious nose dive, down to about half an hour a day. So: which eliminator to try? There isn’t a decent string shop anywhere around here (the closest is 1.5+ hours away) and the local music shop tends not to be all that helpful even when one of their string players is around. Thus, I have scoured the internet for as much info as I can find and think I would like to try the lup-x, assuming the local shop has one. I’ve kind-of been avoiding the whole thing, but this lack of practicing is getting to me. The question: does my distaste for going into the music store outweigh my desire to practice?

Today’s Lesson

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So, I’ve started this post and deleted it several times. Sometimes I just don’t know what to feel after a lesson. They can be both motivating and discouraging at the same time. Motivating because I always leave hopeful, even certain that I WILL learn to play the cello beautifully. But sometimes, often when I’ve made a breakthrough, she pushes me even harder than she had been before. Which generally results in me realizing, even more than I did before, how far I have to go. Somehow it seems that the more I learn, the more I have to learn, as if my eventual goal is always getting farther and farther from where I am. Granted, she has expressed concern that she pushes me too fast, but I’ve told her to always give me more to practice than I can and push me to learn faster than I can. So when I feel this way it’s totally my fault. Thankfully, she announced that with my new song we are going to spend more than my normal two weeks working on this song and it will be the only song I work on for those two weeks, unless of course I choose to review previous songs, but she doesn’t expect that and feels that I’ve learned as much as I can from them for now. The piece is a minuet by Bach. Which minuet, I don’t know. The book is pretty vague about things like titles and/or composers. Go 1950’s French method book that’s also 1/3 in German and 1/3 in English and 100% confusing! I like the song, because I like everything Bach (so does my cat for that matter…) But gah! It has the craziest shifts! (The book does say that it’s a review of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th positions…) Here’s to hoping this song goes well!