As I’m sure all you guys know, I’ve been wanting new strings for a while but have been absurdly indecisive despite all sorts of awfulness coming from my gnarly old ones. Then our local music shop announced a big sale starting today which includes absolutely everything in the store. So guess who was there this morning buying herself new strings!
I decided to go with Dominants, contrary to everyone’s advice. It turns out that I made a very good decision. They’re super super SUPER easy to play, they are more focused than the Jargars (people kept telling me they would sound unfocused and muddled on my cello) and (seriously) sound twice as loud AND they have absolutely delicious overtones. Oh, and my wolf is almost entirely gone! Really. I just put them on, so they still sound un-broken-in but I get the feeling that they will just sound yummier a few days from now…
So why am I sitting here blogging instead of playing? Well, they keep stretching and I keep having to get them back up to pitch. Thought I’d let them sit a while before doing it again. C and G are pretty stable but D and A are being a bit pesky. Just giving them a break while they settle in. Hopefully they are more stable by my lesson later today!
Also: the winding on each string is different and the colors form a rainbow. How cool is that!! Now I get to look at a rainbow when I look at the winding!
Hopefully I continue to enjoy them and I’ll let everyone know how they do over time. 😀
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!”
Well, the title of this post says it all. I always used to be excited about recitals but this time I’m pretty much dreading it. I’ll be playing that pesky little piece by Haydn that always makes me feel like I don’t deserve to have the cello I’m playing on (poor cello– she’s stuck with ME!) Plus I’ll be playing a short piece by Gluck and one of those many mystery pieces which has almost no identifying information. I’ve been super stressed and tired the last few weeks so my playing has just been abysmal. Of course, I wasn’t really looking forward to the recital before all the stress either…
My teacher keeps telling me how impressed she is with my progress but I swear each bow stroke sounds worse than the last.
I still haven’t replaced my strings even though a couple of them are making all sorts of wonky sounds. I’m being weirdly indecisive about it and will likely just leave them on there until they’re unplayable.
I’ll write a post about the recital tomorrow night most likely, but no there will be no video. Thankfully my teacher has an aversion to cameras also.
Obviously. Not sure how it happened though. Life has just seemed busy even though I can’t really think of why it has seemed so much busier than usual. I hardly practiced this week, although I did manage a decent amount today. Actually, now that I think back, I remember that my grandfather flew into town at the last minute. Really, I didn’t just forget about him coming and visiting me for a day. It just seems like it’s been far longer than a week. I played for him and it certainly wasn’t my best. I got the impression that he was thinking a year of cello lessons and THIS is all you have to show for it??? It left me rather blah about the cello and I just didn’t have it in me to practice for the next several days. So, I guess that’s what happened.
And now I’m going through another one of those phases where I wonder what the heck I’m doing trying to learn to play the cello and feeling convinced that I will never be anything but awful at this. Ugh…
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…
One of the themes of my lessons and practice is the focus on what I’m not doing. This is actually pretty fun and generally relaxing if I’m actually succeeding. Unfortunately, I really did have to stick the Jargars back on since the other strings really just aren’t playable (loose winding is never good!) Now the Jargars feel stiff and like they are just fighting me, making it super difficult to relax and not fight back. I’ve only been able to practice for a few minutes at a time because I just get so frustrated at how the strings feel under my fingers and bow and wind up doing all the things I’m supposed to be not doing. Ugh…
Yesterday as I was working on relaxing my left hand I thought to myself if only I had some lower tension strings this would be so much easier! and then I realized that I did — the strings that came on the cello. While they were a pain to bow I figured that they would give me an idea if having lower tension strings actually makes a significant difference. It turns out that 1. it made a big difference in how relaxed my hand is (pesky weak little girl fingers!) and 2. The strings are a hell of a lot easier to bow than they used to be. Plus, they are waaaay more mellow than the Jargars! So, I’m thinking I need to replace my stings — the Jargars are now intollerably bright and these strings are pretty shot. I think I need to find a real string shop within reasonable driving distance that let’s you try out whatever strings suit your fancy to find myself a more ideal set.
It was interesting practicing today with the different strings (except the A is still a Jargar.) The strings are in bad shape (winding coming undone and giving me all sorts of funky false tones) I actually enjoyed playing on them. They really point out my faults, which NOW is a good thing, unlike during the first six months of playing during which I had no hope of making them sound good. I spent quite a while bowing open strings and working on nuances that the Jargars never really forced me to think about. The results were quite nice despite the condition of the strings.
Now I need to find a string shop (hopefully in the SF bay area) that will let me try out all sorts of strings!