Has it really been 6 months?!?!?

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Hi guys! Holy Cow! Somehow life got crazy and six months slipped by without me even signing on to my WordPress account! During this time I have gotten many new subscribers and a surprising number of comments. Not to mention the visitation to my blog is higher than it ever was while I was actively blogging! So, I thought it was time to start blogging again, to let everyone know what has been happening with me, and to respond back to all you awesome people who keep reading despite my lack of recent posts.

I am trying to think of where I was six months ago with the cello and it is hard. Every day that I practice I still think I am making no progress at all, that everything sounds just as awful as always. I think you guys all know about this problem. You’re so entrenched in what you are doing that it’s impossible to see the big picture, even when you try.

Laurène asked in a comment if I’d started vibrato yet. Goodness yes! A year and a half ago! This got me thinking about where my vibrato was six months ago. What a struggle it was!!! But now, it’s so natural that I don’t have to think about it! I hadn’t even noticed until now because it had become such a non-issue that I was freed up to think of other things instead of having to work so hard to achieve a mediocre vibrato. What a difference six months makes!

What else has happened? I am done with Feuillard. Finally! I miss it, to tell you the truth! What a wonderful book to learn from. I am working out of the Schroeder etude book. I also have been working for quite a while on a sonata by Breval. This one!

I had been wishing for so long to be working on a longer piece since that was never offered in Feuillard. I certainly got my wish. My teacher doesn’t ever let me just go through a piece and learn it quickly. Her instruction takes forever. Sometimes we won’t even work on it in lessons because she is refining some aspect of my technique (usually bowing) that she feels is holding back my performance of the piece as a whole. I got to perform the first part of the piece at a recital in December and will probably perform the whole thing at our next recital, which is usually in May.

Goodness, what else has happened? I took the second semester of music theory at the community college with the same awesome teacher I had for first semester. I decided not to take the third or fourth semester classes at this point because I’d gotten what I wanted out of the theory class – and more – which was to have a good foundation for what my teacher was talking about theory-wise in lessons. Also, the commute to class was getting a big cumbersome and I found it was eating away at time to practice. Plus, during these last six months, I’d gotten into cycling, got my first ever road bike, and have been busy bicycling my butt off! There is only so much time in the day and it’s impossible to fit in working, taking care of my mom, cello, class, cycling, and still have time for my husband! So, something had to give, and it was theory class.

For now, this is all. I am hoping to be a bit more active blogging, although I plan on updating every week or so rather than several times a week. Thanks again for all your readership!

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12 responses »

  1. It seems that the bike riding has caused some male pattern baldness and increased testosterone levels based on the appearance of the video.

    btw. That you have gone through Feuillard and are working on Breval after only two years of playing is completely impressive to me. I started 3+ years ago, and we just finished book 3, and are doing the Bach Minuet from Suite 1 that is in book 4. We are starting to work out of my Classical Pieces for Cello Intermediate and Advanced Level, and I’m sure we’ll take many detours.

    Still working through the Kummer Etudes.

    • Yes, I always wondered why there were so many male cyclists and so few female! Now I know! It certainly changes a person!!!!

      Oh, and as for pieces… my teacher is thinking to start me on the suites after Breval!

  2. Impressive! Really great piece and I’d love to hear you play it!
    I started my lessons last year in the spring, so I’m not officially one year yet… but I feel like it’s moving so quickly… I’ve just started 3rd position in the Feuillard book, and to be honest my brain hurts after working through 2, 3, and 4th position. We’ve skipped most of the beginning because it was basic stuff that I had already ‘mastered’ while learning with the suzuki method back in the States (I’m in France, where musical instruction is very very hard to find for an adult). As for vibrato, I haven’t officially started, because my teacher said “it’s usually around the 3rd year of instruction”. But to be honest, I’m kind of afraid of it…. I have so much to think about already, I don’t think my brain can handle another form of coordination!

    How often are your lessons? How often do you practice? How long did it take you to master the first 4 positions…? in terms of movement and reading (my theory level is pretty low). I try to get in an hour a day, but living in an apartment it’s not easy, (neighbors hate me) plus work, kid, boyfriend (who I refuse to play in front of much to his chagrin), etc…. Luckily I don’t have a heavy work load, but there are days that I know I could play my cello all day, and do nothing more… I get so frustrated when I can’t play or when I feel like I haven’t advanced.
    It’s really great and inspiring to know that there are other motivated adult cello players. Love your blog!

    • I have lessons every week from the teacher I started with on day 1. I’ve been playing two years now and couldn’t have made it half as far without her help, encouragement, and kicks in the butt. I practice most days. Sometimes an hour, sometimes more. Also, sometimes less. It really depends on what I’m working on. Right now I’m working on (once again) breaking down my bowing technique and rebuilding it. It’s truly exhausting and sometimes I can only manage 20 minutes before my brain just doesn’t work anymore. We’ve been working on this for a month or so and it’s difficult and frustrating and I’m not playing anything new in my piece during all this. So, since what I’m playing is familiar and I’ve worked out a lot of the musicality, it’s a matter of technique and exercises to improve the technique. This can be difficult at best, discouraging usually, and sometimes makes me want to give the whole thing up. When it gets like that, I just stop playing. My teacher says this is normal and she goes through periods like this also.

      As for mastering 1st through 4th positions… hahaha! Never! That won’t happen! Not ever! At first, it was wickedly uncomfortable and sounded awful. It got where I could do it, but I had to concentrate like crazy to shift. It was hard, frustrating, and my teacher never seemed to let up on my technique. Then it became comfortable. I still had to work at it, sometimes study how to get where I was going, practice certain shifts for hours on end, but I could do it and after enough practice, it felt comfortable. Then there was some transition, sort of like happened with vibrato for me, where I didn’t realize it was happening, but one day I realized it had become natural. Sure, sometimes I have to think about it, but certainly not for very long and it easily gets to a point where I don’t have to think about it. It’s more at a point where I need gentle reminders to shift properly. I know how, but sometimes forget. Then once I remember, it’s natural again. For the most part, however, it’s a non-issue. I can’t give you a timeline. It’s all on a spectrum. Ask me again in a year and I’m sure I’ll laugh about how awful my left hand technique was on Feb 15, 2012 and wonder how I ever could have perceived what I was doing as being natural compared to how I feel in this future now.

      Cello is like that. You keep learning and growing and changing. It’s never at a point of being finished. It’s one of those things where the more you know the more you realize you don’t know. There is no perfect technique. And most likely your ear will develop faster than your technique. So you will perceive yourself and being a worse player than you are. It’s normal. Frustrating also. But it’s normal and you are doing better than you think you are. Every week at my lesson my teacher asks me how the week went and before I can answer prefaces it with “and don’t try to tell me you didn’t make any progress.” Which, believe it or not, is an improvement. She used to have to tell me “and don’t try to tell me that you got worse this week. You get better every week!”

      One more thing… and this is an IMO thing… your teacher thinking that vibrato shouldn’t be taught until the third year is just plain old bullshit. My teacher started teaching me at 6 months in. Did I have a good vibrato? Not at all. I dubbed it “failbrato” because it sounded so bad. Actually, it was more like “barfbrato” because it sounded like my cello was queasy and was about to regurgitate her sound post. It was truly awful. She gave me exercises to help with the motion. We discussed it every lesson, but not for very long. She had me practice the exercises for five minutes a day, no more. It took a couple months, but I developed a real vibrato. Granted, it didn’t sound very good and it took a lot longer to work on the different colors of vibrato. But she took the time to teach me early on and it paid off. Even though I am not that advanced, I have a really great vibrato for where I’m at. I can use it as expression however it pleases me because that’s now in my color palette. Just like with everything else, it certainly could use improvement. That’s the nature of being a 2 year old cellist. But I am happy with where it’s at at this point in my cello playing adventure. I can’t imagine not having it as part of my toolkit and needing to wait a whole other year to start working on it. It sounds to me like that’s just anxiety producing and not helpful. There’s no reason that new players can’t start working on it once they are comfortable in first position (around the same time people start venturing out of first position too.) For some reason vibrato gets built into this really big deal thing and I don’t know why. People measure their worth as a cellist by how good their vibrato is or if they can even do it at all. Really, it’s just another tool in the tool chest that can be pulled out when needed. Sure, we can all improve it and make it into something that gives us more the musical feeling we want, but it is a tool, not a measure of how good we are as cellists.

      • You are so right – vibrato is just another tool in our tool-kit, but I can’t help feeling so frustrated with it 😦 It’s like the bane of my existence. One of the curses of being an adult beginner is that we know how we should sound and get impatient with not getting there as quick. And it’s even more annoying that some folks get it so quickly and for others, it may take upwards of 10 years. Anyways, I am so gad that you feel good about your vibrato 🙂 Wanted to know – what is the speed of your vibrato? I can’t seem to get mine to be fast – mine is slow, but consistent. But I get frustrated that it might be too slow…especially when I see how fast others seem to be able to do it. If I do it faster, it sounds inconsistent and uncontrolled – cant seem to control it! Anyways, I should probably just feel happy about my slow vibrato (around 3 pulses per 60 beats on metronome; or every eighth note). But just wanted to know what makes you feel content about yours. Thanks so much!

  3. This is a very good post…. How come you didn’t post it as a new blog entry? 🙂

    And I must say you seem so much more at peace with your cello playing versus 6 months ago… I’m glad that you are in such a good place now…

    • I just meant it as a reply and it got out of control! I didn’t mean to get so wordy!

      In many ways I am more at peace with my playing than I was 6 months ago. It has its upsides and downsides (mostly that I don’t have the same driving force to practice that I used to. However, the time that I do practice is more effective.) I have been working with a therapist on my life long anxiety problem and it seems to have spilled over into the realm of cello playing. Hooray for transferable emotional skills!

  4. Hi I just found your blog and I really like your sharing of your journey 🙂 Please keep blogging (and playing) 😛 Don’t mind if I link it up in my blog as one of my “musical reads” in my sidebar?

  5. Hi I found this site by accident and can identify with many many of your points. For what its worth I started the “study” of the cello about one year ago primarily because I love the voice of the cello and I needed something to do. Needle Point did not seem like an option. I am 73 years old and I’m having a blast.
    Where am I at the present time? Well I working on pieces that run from 1st through 5th. position. My intonation is not good, me thinks, and my vibrato stinks in a word. I have gotten this far with self instruction, the internet and various books of stuff.
    Hopefully things will improve at a quicker pace as I just recently acquired a cello teacher.
    Now as long as arthritis does not set in I will keep at it.

  6. Hi, I just found your blog when I was looking for help for my awful cello vibrato! It seems we all go through the same struggle with it! Will it really get better? I’m still in the “my cello is going to puke” stage. I don’t know if you’ll see this comment as I noticed you haven’t updated for quite awhile. But nevertheless I have been enjoying reading your posts and I can totally identify with them. I don’t have a teacher at the moment so I’m relying on youtube instructions. There are some good lessons there. I am actually a violinist and music teacher who mistakenly thought that if one can play the violin, then cello would be a piece of cake. I know now that other than having four strings and a bridge, they are not the same animal at all.

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