Well, that was interesting…

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This entire week I’ve been playing horribly — not being able to get through a single octave of C major without messing up kind of horribly. I’ve hardly been able to sleep or eat lately, which has made me really spacey — spacey to the point of forgetting what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I literally couldn’t get through a single one of my pieces this whole week practicing because I couldn’t even pay attention to where I was even with the music right there in front of me, which is sad because the pieces are short and I have them memorized. So, I pretty much thought it was a given that I’d screw up royally at the recital. Not out of nervousness, but out of spaciness.

So what happened? Other than a couple of bumped strings it was actually the best I’ve played the songs. Go figure.

But this isn’t the point of this blog post. Really.

You see, my teacher’s house is small and I ended up having to sit exactly to the side of everybody when they were up playing so that people could all fit. This allowed me a fantastic view of everybody’s bridges, specifically a nice view of Eleanor’s crazily tipping over bridge. It started driving me so crazy that I could hardly pay attention to people’s playing. Really really really bonkers. I wanted to grab her cello in the middle of the piece and fix it first but restrained myself until after everyone was done playing. Then I managed to get my hands on the girl’s cello. Stupid little crappy 1/2 size cello that hasn’t seen a luthier in years. Not only was the bridge practically falling over, but a piece of it has broken off (seriously) and it’s missing its parchment. Plus, the string grooves are waaaay too deep. And the strings are ancient and the winding is unraveling. I got the bridge upright, which helped a lot and convinced her family that she needs new strings. However, I couldn’t convince her family to take it into the luthier for any of the rest of it.

So… guess who is going to be calling her luthier and asking him what she can do to fix this poor uncared for cello since these people absolutely won’t take it in because she knows he’ll understand how crazy it is driving her to see a cello in such frustrating disrepair! Poor unsuspecting guy is going to get a phone call tomorrow with me on the other end sobbing “PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO FIX IT BECAUSE IT’S TEARING MY HEART INTO A MILLION LITTLE PIECES TO SEE A CELLO IN THIS AWFUL STATE OF DISREPAIR! PLEASE!”

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8 responses »

  1. This is a horrible diplomatic problem to be in. It’s obvious you want them to do more for their daughter but they won’t for reasons of money.

    Maybe when she gets a 3/4 size, the problem will fix itself. Maybe we can get 30 people to contribute 30 dollars and we can buy /rent her a new one?

  2. It could very well be that the cost of repair will be greater than a new cello, but perhaps we can steer them towards a new rental? It’s impossible to know since I am not there, but I sense that an indirect approach at solving the problem of getting her a working cello might work where a direct attack might fail.

    Good luck; my prayers are with you.

  3. I think they’ve just been waiting until she sizes up. Unfortunately I’m not sure that will ever happen. She hasn’t grown the entire time I’ve known her (a year) and she’s in a 1/2 size cello at the age of 13. At the rate that she’s (not) growing, she’ll eventually need to have a custom cello made for her that’s decent at whatever the max size she can handle is. :/ Thus me wanting to fix her cello up as much as possible since it looks like she’ll be lucky if she can ever play a 3/4 size cello. What’s really awful is that they own this cello because at least at the local shop there’s a maintenance plan that covers most of the cost of all repairs (which on the rentals happens a lot so it’s worth the money — it has saved me hundreds of dollars already.)

    It’s just hard because her absolutely awful cello is really holding her back and she deserves something a whole lot better. I know it’s been hard on my teacher too because she’s always having to say things like “on a good cello it will actually sound different if you do this v. that. I know it doesn’t sound different on yours, but you still have to practice it that way.”

    So, this is why I think I should figure out how to fix as much as possible for her because I don’t think there is another solution. At least I convinced her family that her totally trashed 2+ year old strings need replacing… That plus having a bridge that makes proper contact with the cello will go a long way.

  4. *sighs* Hard choice. I played on really crappy school instruments until I got to college, and even then the cello I had was a relatively crappy one. Sometimes you just have to make do and hope you don’t give out before you can take the step to getting a decent instrument. 😦

    • What’s really frustrating in this case is that with proper maintenance her instrument would sound a whole lot better. I know for my own cello, it isn’t the greatest thing in the world, but my luthier pointed out that most of the problem was the set-up and details of the construction. After everything he’s done to it, it’s actually a decent enough instrument. Granted, it isn’t exactly a cello I’d pick as one I’d really love to play, but it works well enough that I can learn correct technique. Whereas poor Eleanor has a cello in such bad shape that a cello-shaped object would actually be an improvement. :/ Honestly she’d be better off using a school instrument (I know that every summer they all go to Devin to be looked over and fixed up, which is far better than her current cello.) It’s just really maddening because correct technique doesn’t really work on her cello (sometimes it actually makes it sound worse!) But, at least I got her (broken) bridge sitting flush with the cello and convinced her family that several year old unraveling strings need to be replaced… It’s good to know that in the long run, at least, people can be just fine having grown up playing on horrible instruments. Unfortunately, I have noticed that the kiddos with better instruments tend to learn faster (after all, it sounds good when they use good technique!) *Sigh*

      • That goes back to Malcolm Gladwell–any little push early in the game can make a tremendous difference! Having a better instrument at a younger ages means not having to learn compensatory techniques which have to be modified or completely re-learned later in age. And in many ways, the compensatory techniques makes learning certain things take much more time that it would take with what is usually a more efficient standard technique. And that head start can make all the difference in many cases.

        • Yeah. I’ve watched this in Eleanor. There are so many issues with her cello — well, her set up — that she’s spending all her time having to work around its wonkiness rather than learning correct technique. The cello is actually made of decent materials but it’s set up horrendously. If she got a new bridge, her string height was lowered (it’s about 8mm on all strings on her tiny little 1/2 size cello!) and got some more flexible (and not broken) strings on there, she’d really have a much easier time of it.

          As much as it sucks having gotten a couple-decades-late start, I’m really glad to be in charge of my instrument’s maintenance because it means I have an instrument that is far more comfortable and easy to play and thus I can learn rather than compensate. It’s amazing how much of a difference having a shorter string length, lower string height, and (now) lower tension strings makes — for me it’s the difference between having a tense and relaxed left hand!!!

          • In the end, there is so much variation that, as I said in the previous comment, the experts will not know how to deal with them. I come across this all the time when discussing non-Western Art music with Western musicians. They just can’t conceive of another style of music that has reached the same “heights of human musical evolution” as the music they are used to (it’s only marginally better with the Western Pop Music side of things).

            Sometimes, the institution itself can get in the way of genuinely helpful comments despite the above when they think they are truly being helpful.

            It’s the same thing with technique–in the en, it depends on what you are trying to do, and that is in conjunction with having the most relaxed and efficient body for doing whatever it is you are doing!

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