Lesson Day

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This week has been a bit odd for me. A couple minutes before I needed to leave for my lesson on Sunday my grandfather called wanting to plan out a very brief (ie. six hour) last minute visit to California. So, this coming Saturday I will get to see him, although I still need to figure out all the details of his rather short visit. Then I arrived late-for-me to my lesson (basically, right on time) which kinda threw me off, but I was actually quite okay with my playing (and so was my teacher.) Maybe I need to get thrown off more often?? Somehow during the lesson every time she had me try something new I did it just right every single time. Usually when I do new things I fail for a good while before making a barely noticeable amount of progress and then I am usually able to make significant progress at home and she helps me refine it over the next few lessons. But Sunday was just weird with me just kinda getting it with everything.

Now I keep getting the feeling that something ominous is about to happen cello-wise. Things just shouldn’t be this easy! I’m working on a new song now which is in A-flat major. She warned me that this song was quite tricky to get the intonation right and it is in many ways much harder than anything else I’ve done. So, of course, over the last couple days of practicing my intonation has been gorgeous in this song. Not just good, but most of the time dead on without having to correct, as if my fingertips have been being magically pulled to just the right places on the fingerboard. I keep feeling like I must be doing something wrong, although I know I’m not and really am playing this song better than I’ve played my other songs in the past. But, being me, I won’t just enjoy the ease of my current progress. Instead I have to remind myself that this won’t last and that usually times like this precede a great deal of difficult, not just in cello but in life. So, now I’m waiting for the other cello shoe to drop.

My teacher has also been talking to me a lot about intonation. Not in the normal sense of things, but to tell me to stop worrying about it. She pointed out, correctly, that I have a terrible fear of bad intonation (actually, it’s more like a terrible fear of even slightly imperfect intonation.) She told me that I absolutely have to stop worrying about it because it’s getting in the way of my musicality (again, she’s right.) So maybe I’ve been succeeding at not worrying about it so much this week and as a result my intonation has been better and so has everything else in my playing? I’m not sure.

We also talked about my pesky inflexible fingers and my lack of patience with them. She keeps trying to get me to be okay with the fact that my fingers are not yet where I want them to be, pointing out that it took her years of constant (as in hours a day) stretching and she even told me that it took her teacher about 10 years of playing before her fingers were comfortable extending. She keeps trying to point out that I’ve only been playing a year and have made faster progress than anyone else she’s ever known so I really shouldn’t worry about it. I, on the other hand, can’t help but think about my extremely late start and how good she will be at 27 and how good her teacher was at 27 and, ridiculously, use that as a standard. She really hasn’t caught on to the the fact that I’m completely determined that my couple-decades-late start isn’t going to mean that I won’t be as good of a cellist as I could have been had I started as a child.

And with that, I’m off to take my mommy to the doctor…

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7 responses »

  1. Define “late start.” I was 48 when I started, and I’ve been playing for 18 months now.

    As for intonation, Pablo Casals said that every day he had to find “E”, meaning that intonation is something that will always be and issue. I have good intonation days and not so good intonation days.

    And, not to be too nit-picky, but if the music has lyrics it is a song. If it doesn’t it’s a piece.

    • Haha–my sister in law, who just had a baby who I’m going to meet in the morning–told me when we re-connected that the one thing she remembers vividly about me (she played cello in the same youth symphony I did) was that we play pieces, unless there are lyrics–then they are songs! πŸ˜›

      So when I start my world music orchestra you’ll be ready to accept a full time position playing cello in it, right? πŸ˜‰

  2. As your hand slowly stretches out, you will have to adjust to the change. That alone will be a source of variations in your intonation – i.e. good and bad days. I have them all the time due to how stretched out my left hand is while playing. It’s interesting… If I fully stretch out my hand prior to playing, then play for a bit, it would have tightened up some once I’m done playing… So I’m sure my intonation gradually changes even during a “piece” πŸ™‚

    I’ve been lucky with how much I’ve been able to stretch out my left hand so far. For awhile, I didn’t think it was doable and debated about altering my left hand to more of a slanted hand position versus square. Like your teacher, I’m constantly doing stretches throughout the day….

    My teacher actually advocates a gradual approach with regard to stretching, but I was little more aggressive with it…. She actually doesn’t think you should experience much hand discomfort/pain… I’m probably lucky that I haven’t injure myself yet….

  3. For me I’m either not stretching or it’s painful because of how naturally inflexible my fingers are. I find, however, that being more stretched out invariably improves my intonation because it allows me to keep my hand more relaxed (also I’m mentally more relaxed about it, which I think is an even bigger help.) It’s just a very difficult process because I have absurdly sensitive skin so even a small amount of stretching causes me to form scabs and calluses between my fingers. So they end up more flexible but my hands sorta feel like they’re on fire. :/

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