Monday, December 13, 2010

Recital is Over!

I did it -- I made it all the way through the recital without throwing up, and we ALL did awesome!  I am partial to my son's performance, which was spectacular.  He is such a brillant pianist!!

On tap for this week -- a Christmas party and playing carols before eating lots of junk food!  Oh my, how I do love playing the cello!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Recital Tomorrow

Tomorrow afternoon is my son's Senior Recital.  I had hoped to record him, but he has decided to record himself using our Church's soundboard and video camera.  I think he wants to make a professional DVD of his performance.  It is OK, really, I don't mind.  I think I am ready to play my parts:
  • An Invention by Bach (rearranged by DJ Hepburn for cello, piano, and violins)
  • Christmas Time is Here Again (cello and piano)
  • O Come, O Come Emmanuel (arranged by DJ Hepburn for cello, piano, and violins)
  • Handel's Hallelujah Chorus for piano, cello and violins
In addition to our part, my son is playing:
  1. Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor by Chopin
  2. Fantasy in D minor  by Mozart
  3. Arabesque No. 1 by Debussey
  4. Carol of the Bells (Ukrainian Bell Carol, traditional, arranged by DJ Hepburn)
It should be a great day, and I am so excited to be a part of his senior program.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Something has Changed

I missed several practices due to my work schedule at Macy's, and I was feeling so stressed about our chamber recital. It turned out that the recital was postponed due to my teacher's recent illness (she is better, thank the Lord).

I went to lesson today, and was amazed at how well I am playing now. It is as if something has changed, and I am just getting the hang of playing the cello. My son's senior recital is December 12th, and truthfully, I am not worried about it. I was deathly afraid of the chamber recital on the 28th of November, but this time, I am OK with it. I know we will do just fine (all of us!)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Great Lesson

I had a good lesson, and enjoyed playing Christmas Carol's with my teacher.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Great Chamber Rehersal

Yesterday was great! My lesson was super, and I made huge progress. I am still getting a little lost, but I was able to stick with the group, get back where I needed to be, and finish the piece properly. I am jazzed! Now to see if Macy's will give me those two Sunday's off? We will see...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Getting it -- Now just doing it?

Ok, so I am two for two on practice this week. I made the decision that I had to practice every day (as if I didn't already know that), but with working and some family tension issues, practice just went out the door. Ugh! I got back on the horse, did my due-diligence, and thankfully, I am not that off. Praying for a miracle -- our chamber recital is Nov. 28th!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Listening to a Recording

I had my son record our chamber music so that I could put it on my IPod. WOW! What a great idea! I have had some issues with timing so now I can listen to the music and practice along with it BEFORE we actually go to chamber each Friday. I am so blessed to have such a phenomenal musician in my family (who can not only play but record MP3s for me).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Update on Cello

I have had a breakthrough of sorts. I have been struggling to find my fit with cello. I am not sure why this happened, how all of a sudden, I just stopped being able to play the cello well -- but it happened. I have been trying to figure it out, almost to the point of tears, when suddenly it dawned on me. I have been trying to do something with the cello that I simply was not really wanting to do. Let me explain...I started cello study about one year ago (in November). At that time, I simply wanted to learn how to play the cello. I didn't think I would ever be able to play as part of a group. In January, I began lessons, and I quickly got up to speed where I could play some beginning/intermediate pieces. This summer I started playing as part of a trio, and I found out that I love chamber. Then this fall, my teacher asked me to come to chamber with her other violin students (5-6 year students). I have struggled to hold my own since then, and as we get closer to recital, I am becoming more and more a mess. Nothing seems to be going right for me, so I decided to take a little break and think things through a bit.


Yes, I had an epiphany. I came to terms with my cello playing and I finally accepted what it is that I really want to do with the cello. On Sunday, I attended our traditional service so that I could work at Macy's at 11. Our traditional service normally has two violins, the band, and choir. This time, the bassist played acoustic bass, and with the violins, I just knew that this is what I wanted to do. I love playing chamber music, and I love the idea of playing worship music. I have been pushing myself to get through the Suzuki books, and frankly, they are boring to me. I love classical music, don't get me wrong, but I am not interested in becoming a Yo Yo Ma. At one time, that is what I wanted to be -- a professional cellist. Now, though, I am really content just to play for the enjoyment of making beautiful music. I love the cello, and I want to play violin too. I want to play for the Lord, for His Glory, and to make beautiful music with other musicians.

Now that I have that out of the way, I realize that I need to find some other cello books to work through instead of moving into Suzuki Book 4. I love some of the sections in this book, so I will probably continue to work on the ones I like best; but I really enjoy more strings music, and so I am going to look for Book 3/4 of strings group music to see if I can find pieces that I would enjoy more than solo work.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rethinking Cello

It has been a couple weeks since I really pushed hard on the cello. I have been practicing daily, and I am seeing good progress. I have decided to make a change to my cello goals. First off, my initial goal was to play well enough so that I could perform in chamber group or at church. Then, I actually thought that I would like to play well enough to play professionally (in trio for weddings or other events). Now, though, I have decided that I want to pursue the cello simply because I love this instrument. I am no longer going to push myself to achieve a goal that would required significant practice and a dedicated study schedule. Partly this is due to the fact that I am already on a goal/path for graduate study. I am getting my MA in English Literature so that I can teach college level composition courses. Upon completion in May 2012, I plan to enroll at ASU to finish a PhD in English (Rhetoric, Composition and Linquistics). This degree will require about 4 years of additional study, but will enable me to teach at a University. This goal along with my full-time work needs top priority. I cannot do more than what I am able to do, so my desire for cello, which is still strong and important to me, will now become a passionate endeavor based solely on pleasing the One who is the Author of all Music.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Good Progress

I have spent the past couple days working on my technique, and I think I see good progress. One thing I am doing is reminding myself that I can play the cello. I know -- that seems silly, but really it is just a mindset thing. Whenever I get into this funk that says "you cannot do it," then really I cannot do anything cello-wise. If I give myself some kudos, then I feel more empowered and I find that I actually sound pretty good.

Yesterday, I played through Suzuki Book 2 again. I am amazed at how much better I can play these pieces. In fact, my work in chamber has made it possible for me to play these pieces really well. Sure, I am familiar with them -- but really, they are challenging nonetheless. And, as I struggle through Book 3, it helps me to remember that I can indeed play the cello well enough to be in this book.

I think I have finally passed Gavotte in C Minor, and I can almost play Allegro Moderato from start to finish (on my own -- not even with any teacher help yet). The Minuet is easy for me, because it is also in Book 2 (but with a second part -- new and more challenging). The two pieces I cannot play yet are Humoresque and La Cinquantaine. I love the latter, and think I actually will be able to play it. Humoresque is another thing all together -- and I don't know if that is something I will play now or have to come back around to later on. My concern is this -- if I can finish these two pieces, then I am ready for Book 4. I have heard that Book 4 is really challenging -- and I don't know if I have the technique to play it yet.

On another front -- I finally can play Allegro by Joseph Henry Fiocco and Concerto Grosso by Vivaldi. My teacher changed my part on the latter piece, and it is a bit more difficult for me now. However, I can play it (hooray) and can say that it is absolutely beautiful in chamber (with piano and five violins and cello).

I am really pleased with my performance ability -- now I just need to relax when I play in group. Oh...that and make sure to bow a bit more pressure (on my new bow), and I am set.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cello Update

Struggling with doubt and fear of failure - UGH! I have decided that it is two things: new strings and a new bow. I think my confidence went out the door with these changes to my cello. I didn't think it would that big a deal, just a better sound and ease of playing -- but I was wrong. I am struggling to play well, and I don't like it. Also, I am not practicing as much as I should -- thanks to working PT at Macy's. Sigh!

On a higher note (hee hee) -- my teacher and I practiced with the piano and violin yesterday so that I could get a better feel for my chamber pieces. These are difficult ones she made for me, and I can play them, but the timing is more advanced, and I am either too fast or too slow. More work, more practice and I can play them, I know it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Making Progress

I think I am finally making good progress on Gavotte in C Minor. With a bit more practice, I really think I will be able to finally play this piece decently. It has been a thorn in my side for about 3 months. Technically, I can play this piece -- I just am struggling to shift into 4th position, and I think that is just a matter of training and time. I will get it, I know I will.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Practicing Again

I am back to my practice schedule, but I am still not to where I was before I started working PT at Macy's. I am getting better, and with new strings and bow, my sound has improved. Today, I worked on chamber music as well as Gavotte in C Minor (from Suzuki 3). I am bound and determined to play this piece better.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My New Bow Arrived!

I ordered a new bow on Sunday, and it came yesterday! I decided to go with the Arco Nouveau carbon fiber bow. It is a good solid entry bow, supposed to keep good tone, and be fairly easy to play. I like it. It needs a ton of rosin, so I am hoping that between now and Firday, I can "rosin up the bow" and get it in good playing condition for chamber rehersal.

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Strings

I got my cello back from my teacher yesterday, and my new strings ROCK! I can tell how much better they sound; yet, I am still struggling with the bow. My teacher thinks I need a new bow too -- so perhaps this week? Perhaps!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chamber Went Well

I survived our first chamber group meeting! WooWhee! My cello teacher has given me some tough music to play, and I am really going to be challenged this year. I am excited to be considered part of her group (of young students). I love playing the cello, and I know that with some good practice, I can do this!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Practice and More Practice

I have been trying to get back into the habit of practicing cello again. I took a short break, just while I was getting used to working retail at Macy's. It is just amazing how quickly you can lose your touch when you stop practicing for any length of time. Truly, if you want to become accomplished, you must set aside the time to work towards that goal.

My goal is to be accomplished on the cello. I want to play confidently, and to be able to enjoy all types of music on the cello. Right now, I am stuck in Suzuki Book 3. I completed about half the book before I had to step back and re-evaluate. I simply cannot get passed the latter selections because they are too advanced for me. I can play these notes, and I can even sight read the pieces pretty well -- I just cannot play them on the instrument (well enough). This is clearly a technical issue for me, and I think it is just lack of experience on my part.

What I am finding is that I am able to play fiddle music really well. I like it a lot, though sometimes the cello part is boring and repetitious. I like the dynamics of playing fiddle music, and I like the notation (short and choppy). I have gotten really good at some selections like "Cripple Creek" and "Home Away with the Girls". These are fun pieces that challenge me, but don't overwhelm me.

I am working on Bach's "Allegro Moderato" from Book 3. I can play the intro fairly well, and I can work through the harder positions (3-5th) now. I am not playing up to speed nor am I playing with any fluidity; but I am making progress.

I really am not sure what to do. I continue to work on my Foundational Studies book, and I have made excellent progress here. I found it difficult to get passed the tens (etude numbers); but now am working into the twenties. I can actually play these pieces well, and at a good tempo. I really enjoy this book a lot, and think it stresses technique right where I am at, rather than pushing content that is clearly above my playing level. My understanding of this series is that if you can play the entire set (all three volumes) with ease and speed; then you can consider yourself accomplished. Well, that is a lofty goal, but a good one.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Scott Cao Stradivari Davidoff Cello

This is the cello I am going to purchase. Since SW Strings started offering payment plans on all their instruments, bows and cases -- the Eastman 305 cello is always out of stock. The Cao cello is very well known, and has a sweet mellow sound. It is an intermediate level cello, and I think it will be a good upgrade from my Kay cello (my friend, my companion, my old buddy).

I Ordered New Strings!

Finally, I was able to order my new cello strings! SW Strings in Tucson has fairly quick shipping, so I am hoping to get them here and then installed before Sept. 3 -- our first chamber group meeting. I put off ordering the bow until a later date. I really need a new bow, but perhaps will be able to get one within the next week or so.

I also found out that I can now buy a new cello outfit and make monthly payments on it. You used to be able to do this with SW Strings own brands, but now I can purchase an Eastman or Scott Cao cello set and pay installments. This helps recover from the sticker shock -- nearly $2600. I am going to do it in October, after I get hired for a new job (oh, yes -- I have an interview for a FT position at one of our local colleges!)

On another note -- I practiced today. This was the second time for me since I started working at Macy's. I am stiff and really out of practice (no pun here), so the next week will be spent working on fingering exercises and bowing technique. Can you believe that two weeks off of practice, and everything just grinds to a halt. The good news is that I didn't sound that bad -- so with new strings and a new bow, I might just come out sounding sweet!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Taking a Break from Cello

My teacher is on vacation this week and next, and I just started a new job at Macy's. Therefore, I am taking two weeks of vacation from cello. I literally do not have time to practice, and even when I want to do so, I fall to sleep as soon as I get home from work. I am getting used to working retail again (after some 25-30 years), so my plan is to not worry about cello for the next week or so, and just concentrate on learning how to work on my feet all day long.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Practice, Practice, Practice

I have been off cello for about a week, mostly due to taking on PT work at Macy's. I finally got myself organized last evening, and got my cello out to practice. I was so surprised! I thought for sure I would be rusty, but I played through my pieces pretty well. God is so good to me!

Friday, August 6, 2010

No Lesson

I cancelled my lesson this week due to family being in town. I will post an update next week.

No Lesson

I cancelled my lesson this week due to family being in town. I will post an update next week.

Chamber was GREAT!

This post is a couple days old, but here goes anyway!

This week's chamber group was GREAT! We are working on some new tunes from "American Fiddle Tunes" and they are so much fun. At first, I thought they were too hard for me. The book says it is for beginners, but these tunes are more advanced beginner/early intermediate. The music itself, is not hard to play; but rather, it is the phrasing and the quickness of the progression of notes. And, with most fiddle music, there are loads of slurs, so the violinist or cellist has to be comfortable playing slurs followed by single notes in quick repetition.

I like fiddle music a lot. It is fun, and the music is never boring. Even when I play rhythm in the group, I still enjoy it. I am also finding that fiddle music has increased my ability to play classical music. You wouldn't think it was this way, but it seems to be the case -- with me, anyway. I think it has something to do with the complexity of the rhythm, the timing, and the way the notes are arranged. I am having to learn how to play more difficult patterns, and these patterns seem to appear most frequently in Book 3 and on of the Suzuki books. In short, my fiddle playing has enabled me to learn more difficult classical pieces. I still struggle with them, but I have so much more confidence. I don't have that "deer in the headlights" look about me. I simply look at the music, and say, "Hmm...Ok, interesting." Then I give it a go. I most often can sight read it, and then play it somewhat on the first attempt. Of course, I need to really work at it to play it well; but I am able to play it right off, and I think that is HUGE!

My goal now is the same as before, though my timeline has changed a bit. I had hoped to begin playing book 4 by Fall, but that won't happen now. I am going to begin playing cello for my teachers more advanced chamber group in September, and that will slow my studies down a bit. Plus I have graduate classes and I will be working full-time very soon.

All in all, I am so well-pleased with my cello playing. I still need those new strings and bow -- oh and perhaps (winking) a new cello? Yes, a new cello would be super SWEET!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lesson 7/29/2010

My lesson today was great! My sight reading is getting really good, and I pretty much can play along with my teacher on new pieces -- first time through! God is SO GOOD TO ME! I do need some new music, though. I am getting really tired of playing Book 3, and I have finished Basic Philharmonic Fiddlers and Strictly Strings Book 2. I whined to my teacher and she graciously gave me her copy of American Fiddle tunes for cello. I am in the pink, so they say, and am happily learning some new fiddle tunes. I will be heading out to Central Music to pick up Fiddler's Philharmic and the Encore book this weekend, but for now, I am very contented to learn these new pieces.

American Tunes: This collection contains 16 traditional fiddling tunes from across North America. They are arranged in a theme and variation format, typical of American fiddling. The authentic fiddling style harmonies are written so that various combinations from solo instrument with piano to duets and trios to full string quartet/orchestra are possible. Includes cello melody (solo), cello harmony and piano accompaniment. American Fiddle Tunes for Solo and Ensemble books are written as ensemble books, so they can be played as solo books with piano accompaniment or together as ensemble.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Practice Catchup

I have been practicing for about an hour the past couple days. I am getting in good time, and can really see and hear the progress. We have shifted my sticky tab down from where it should be for first position, and it is good. It was in a good spot before, right where your thumb should be for first position, but that made it a huge jump for me to reach with my pinky -- even more than extended 4th position. I think it is a physical issue, the size of my hands perhaps. So we moved it down a bit and it put my thumb between 1st and 2nd position, but I can now reach from X1 to X4 in 1st position with ease. I am also not missing G anymore.

As a second help, we put a sticker on C# to help remind me where I need to be when I reach X4 in 1st position. I get there, but tend to sit to low on the register, so I am flat rather than sharp. This has helped as well, and I think with a bit more time, will be able to find these positions without the little references. My cello looks like a kiddie instrument with colored finger tapes and stickers -- but, hey it works.

As to practice, I spent all of last week refining my bowing. My teacher says my bowing is lovely now. I am working hard on finger placement as well, trying not to flatten my fingers out but keep them up on the tips a bit. I am sure I am not playing the cello precisely as I could, but my hands are old, and they have been through the typing wars (typing up to 100 wpm for over 30 years). I just don't think they want to stretch or sit a certain way. I think there is some arthritis (beginnings of crookedness) setting in as well. Oh well.

My pieces this week include:
  • Lully's Gavotte (book 3) - I already passed this a couple months ago, but am revisiting all of Book 3 to work on better bowing and phrasing technique. Major improvement -- major!
  • Basic Fiddlers - playing in group now, and I am finding that I enjoy the cello/bass part more than the melody. Let the violins play the melody -- they like to take first anyway. I really like my part as it gives OOMPH to the entire piece. I feel very important, even though I am mostly playing the same two notes.
  • Strictly Strings - we are playing through this entire book, and I have mostly the cello part. Again, very nice to play this part because it adds so much interest to the entire piece of music.
  • Schroeder's Foundational Studies - working on etude 10 and 14. Bowing mostly, striving for long smooth bows, and short quick bows.
Overall, I see great progress and I am well-pleased. My cello has behaved, even with bad strings, and a worn out bow. Perhaps a new cello is on the horizon? I sure do hope so!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lesson Update 7/22/10

Great lesson today. I moved my thumb down a bit (repositioned the velcro tab) and it made such a difference (hitting G). I also learned that I need to keep my elbow up a bit (I tend to slump). Working on Lully's Gavotte showed great improvement, and I am pleased. More posts later -- I have to take my son over to his lesson now.

Lesson for today

I am about to head out the door to my lesson. I finished review of Suzuki Book 2 and got stickers (yes! Can you tell my teacher works mostly with kids? I am just a big kid, and I LOVE STICKERS!!) I am now beginning to go back through Book 3, and review up to the Gavotte (where I got stuck). I am practicing more advanced bowing technique and paying closer attention to proper phrasing. My teacher's thumb trick (putting a velcro pad where your place your thumb in first position) has worked wonders. I now instinctively feel for it, and am missing less notes in all positions. Hooray for little cheats!!

Anyhoo -- I am looking foward to my lesson today, and I am feeling much better overall. I will write an update after I get back home.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Post

I haven't posted for a while, but that was because I have been focused on getting a full-time job. My years as a website developer have come to a close, and I am in need of full-time work, any work. The hunt has taken nearly nine months, and after some 30 applications, I finally have one interview. It is for part-time work, but any work is better than no work. The last week or so has required more effort in the search, so my posts have been lacking. I have been practicing -- and have Chamber today. I am ready for it, but am not sure how much longer I will be able to continue to play in an ensemble. I do plan on keeping up with my lessons, and hopefully can continue to study the cello, and work, and go to graduate school. I can do it -- I am committed to learning to play the cello well. It is a goal I have made for myself, right up there with getting my Master's degree.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Goals for 2010

Now that I feel more confident in my playing ability, I am focusing on setting some goals down for the remainder of 2010. July is a good time to do this, since we are half way through the year. My overall goal is to be accomplished, and by that I mean to be able to play proficiently.

n. Proficient well advanced in an art, occupation, or branch of knowledge

adj. Proficiently

Synonyms proficient, adept, skilled, skillful, expert mean having great knowledge and experience in a trade or profession. Proficient implies a thorough competence derived from training and practice . Adept implies special aptitude as well as proficiency . Skilled stresses mastery of technique . skillful implies individual dexterity in execution or performance . Expert implies extraordinary proficiency and often connotes knowledge as well as technical skill . (See for more information)

With this goal in mind, I have decided to chart out my path to "accomplished." I already know that to be accomplished, I must gain a thorough competence through training (lessons) and practice. I am already doing this with my cello teacher, and spending up to one hour each day in practice. I am involved in a beginning ensemble group, which has helped improved my playing and my timing immensely. By all accounts, I am well on my way to achieving my goal. But, with any good goal, you need achievable touchstones or milestones so that you can look backwards and see where you have been and forwards to see where you are headed. Therefore, this is my list of things "to do" so I can reach my goal of being accomplished on cello.

Milestone: Move from advanced beginner to intermediate cellist
  1. Progress slowly and carefully through each Suzuki Book (for music selection)
  2. Continue to play ensemble music
  3. Practice one hour or more per day
  4. Work through both theory and method books
  5. Drill on Foundational Studies
  6. Stress bowing technique (advanced)
  7. Continue to work on finger placement and learning all positions
  8. Practice vibrato

Suzuki Books

I am currently working through Book 3, but have taken the summer to drop back into Book 2. In doing so, I have found it easier to play these pieces, and am stressing performance. My teacher and I are focusing on phrasing, bowing technique, and expression. I am about half-way through Book 3, and at the point where the next grouping of pieces become much harder for me to play. Taking the time now, to work on technique, should make it easier for me to progress through the rest of this book with good success.

Ensemble Play

I am currently working through Strictly Strings Book 2 with another violinist and our teacher. This book is quite challenging to play well. I can now hold my own part along with a violin/guitar or two violins or violin/piano. Once we complete this book, we will move into Book 3 (perhaps?)

In addition to classical music, we are also playing Fiddle music as a group. We are almost through the Basic Fiddler's Philharmonic book. I need to begin Fiddler's Philharmonic soon (and the Encore book). Fiddle music has improved my playing the most, by far, and it is incredibly fun to do.


I am doing well on practice, trying not to miss more than one day at a time. I need to make sure I practice earlier in the day (now while I am not working). It is easier to get the time in and then I can spend my evenings free. Once I am working, and school begins for me, I will have to practice at night.

Theory and Method Books

I am in Book 2 of the Carl Schroder method. Book 1 went very well, and was enjoyable for me. Book 2 is so advanced, so I have taken a break from it. I will begin it again soon, and think that I can handle it now.

Foundational Studies

I am working through Book 1 of 170 Foundational Studies and have hit a road block. I think it is simply my technique, so I have taken a short break from these etudes to work on Suzuki Book 2. I will pick this study up again, and think (as with the Method book above) I can move through it now that I have some better technique.

Bowing and Finger Placement

My teacher has suggested some exercises to help with finger placement (my thumb) as well as more advanced bowing. I will begin bowing practice today, and will continue to pay attention to my thumb in various positions. Bowing technique improves the overall quality of your music, so it is well worth the time to practice these exercises (I can tell the difference now between bowing like a beginner, and a more advanced student -- oh, the piece just sounds so much better!)


I have studied vibrato (with video) for a while now. I am still not very comfortable doing it, so my goal will be to begin more serious concentration in the fall. Most of my books do not stress it, but I believe you are expected to use it in Suzuki Book 4.

There you have it -- my to-do list for cello. I love this instrument, and am finding the entire learning process enjoyable. I am finally seeing progress -- really progress (as in playing better), and it is so encouraging to me. I am willing to give the time to this instrument, and know that I will achieve my goal (some day!)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Signs of Improvement

Today, I have my lesson. I have been feeling so down about my skill lately -- lots of mistakes, brain freezing right in the middle of piece of music, etc. But, yesterday was incredibly good. Chamber practice went so well, and I actually was able to keep up (when I got behind), and I enjoyed playing my part (with the violin in the lead). We sounded so GOOD!

I just finished practicing for my lesson, and have a boost of confidence to send me on my way. I have been working on keeping my thumb in the correct first position hold (thanks to a velcro tab placed there by my teacher). She asked me to play through as much of Suzuki Book 2 as I could with my thumb firmly planted in it's correct spot. I tend to float (as do most new students -- on violin and viola too). It is a common problem and it causes misplaced fingers especially on the critical notes of F# and G on the D string (on cello). I am either flat or sharp, but not when I need to be (make sense?)

Oh my, what a difficult exercise, but with practice I am getting better at keeping my thumb put. Also, when I shift into 2nd or 3rd position, I am more careful to plant my thumb where it belongs. It has helped me be more accurate in placement, and therefore, I am hitting less missed notes (Hooray!)

So, I am off to my lesson in about 10 minutes, and am excited about the prospect of it. I am doing so much better, and I am finding such enjoyment now in playing with other people. Truly, there is nothing better than playing as a group. It is fine to play solo work, but group ensemble play beats it by a long shot. I am glad for this experience and I know what I have learned already will benefit me greatly when I play at church or for another event. Yea!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Frustrated with Cello

Okay, I seriously need new strings. I tried practicing last evening and my sound is awful -- I mean really awful. I have chamber reheresal today and am dreading even going to it. Sigh! I am going to see if I can purchase new strings from today -- perhaps they will come in the next couple days? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cello Update

Time for a cello chat. I am now seven months into my cello lessons and have successfully played through Suzuki Book 2 and about 1/3 of Book 3. I had hoped to be further along by now, but realize that it is OK to take it a little slower through Book 3. I am focusing on playing well, and on trying to replicate the CD. My teacher says not to expect to be able to play well for a long time, and I am sure she is correct in this (after all, she has been teaching violin for almost 50 years!!) Still, I cannot imagine not playing well right away. I mean, why even try, why even practice, if you only will play marginally well. I don't want to be marginal at all; I want to play well. So there you have it, my goal is to play the cello well.

I have learned a lot over the last seven months. I can now play fiddle music -- and let me tell you -- it is a lot harder than it sounds! Oh my goodness!! Fiddle music actually has helped me play the cello better -- whether it is classical music or for ensemble. It has helped my timing and my rhythm. I am glad I stuck Basic Fiddler's Philharmonic out, and didn't give up after failing on "Oats, Peas and Beans!" LOL!!

Some samples for posterity!

Note: My cello really needs new strings, and you can hear it on these samples. Plus, I was nervous and made many mistakes. Oh well...enjoy and in three or four months, perhaps I will listen and think "WOW, I am really getting better at this cello thing!"

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lesson 7/1/2010

My lesson today was so-so. I did OK on the pieces I practiced, but failed miserably when it came to sight reading some harder works. I think my brain is on summer holiday -- it is 113 after all -- and it is very hard to think and do anything else when it gets this hot!! LOL!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Practice was GOOD!

I missed two days of practice due to sore fingers (one had a hang nail; and the other, got a back cat claw right through the knuckle - ouch!) Last night was the first night both fingers were well enough to practice.

I was surprized at how well I am playing through my pieces. My teacher told me to pick some pieces from Book 2 and concentrate on performing them well (for this summer). I am still working on Gavotte (Book 3), and the chamber pieces from Strictly Stings Book 2 (about 2-4 selections where I play the bass/cello part for violin and piano). For my "performance" pieces, I am concentrating on Schuman's "The Two Grenadiers" and Schubert's "Berceuse" (pictured left). Both are slow pieces, which will allow me the time to play them with more concentration. I do better with the slow ballads, though I do love the runs through many of the selections in Book 3.

My goal is to be able to play Book 1-3 really well, as well as possible. My teacher is wanting me to slow down, and while I understand that, there is part of me that loves the challenge of new pieces. I just am not the kind of student who can play the same piece over and over and over again. I like to play it for a while, then move on. Oh well!

Yesterday was another really good practice day, and my next lesson (Thurs) and chamber day (Wed) will be this week. I would really like to "impress" my teacher, and show her how hard I have been working these past two weeks (she was on vacation last week -- so I got extra time off).

Friday, June 25, 2010

Practice 6/24/2010

Another really good practice session today. I am gearing up to begin playing along with the Suzuki CD. I have tried this before, but the CD cellist is too fast for me. My teacher thinks they record all the CD music at too fast a pace for students (she says the same thing is true for Violin and Viola). My teacher has me play at the correct tempo whenever possible, so she never can understand why the Suzuki player doesn't do the same thing. Oh well!

I have picked out two songs that I think I can play along with the CD:

The Two Grenadiers by R. Schumman (Book 2)
Berceuse by F. Schubert (Book 3)

My goal for the rest of this week (until my lesson on next Thursday) is to learn to play these along with the CD, paying close attention to phrasing and the subtle nuances of the performer. I think I can do it, and have been listening to the CD, then going and practicing to duplicate his intonation and style. I am getting better, just not perfect yet. I hope to start working more closely, playing along with the CD on Friday (today).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Practice 6/21/2010

Practice went really well today. My cello seems to have appreciated the work up my teacher gave him, and today he was just singing away! I am now thinking that I might be able to change the strings without investing hundreds of dollars into them. I found a set of Super-Sensitive strings for $45. I am used to playing on steel strings, and have tried D'Addario Helicore and didn't really find them easy to play on (my teacher uses them on her cello). I like steel strings, so I think I will just stay with them for the time being. I am also going to invest in a new beginner bow. My bow is bent (warped), and I have been using my teachers bow. It needs rehairing, so I think I will just buy a student bow (about $35). With new strings and a bow, I should be able to continue to play my Kay cello for a while longer. Hooray!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cello and Practice

I picked up my old Kay cello from my teacher's house. She removed the pegs, cleaned them, applied some special stuff to help them move better, and then cleaned everything up for me. The good news -- I am in tune; the bad news -- I need new strings. This cello was given to my son as a gift from a dear elderly man. It had been sitting in his home for over 14 years. He had tried to play it, but suffered from tonal issues (hard of hearing). He never could learn to play it correctly. I was blessed to have received it, and it has served me very well. The strings, however, are in bad shape and then do need to be replaced. The cost of strings, wholesale, will be nearly $100. I am having a hard time factoring that in because this cello is plywood and is really old. Is it worth the investment? Probably not.

So, I have been playing my teacher's cello for the past week. It has nice sound, but is setup awkwardly, and I have a lot of string crossing issues. I have to really apply myself and I am not sure it is worth playing her cello for much longer.

With that, here is my dilemma -- I need a new cello, a fairly decent one that will last me a while. I don't have the cash for one, and am not in a position where I can make payments. I am stuck, at the least, until the Lord brings me a new cello.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Practice Thursday

More practice notes -- my teacher's cello and I are becoming friends. I will admit that I am partial to my old Kay cello, but her's has a nice sound and I like it. It is different than mind, the bridge is set higher, the strings a bit farther apart. I have to be more deliberate with my bowing -- but heck -- when is that not a good thing? I also am finding that my finger placement is better on her cello than mine. I tend to go sharp or flat and with hers I hit the right note more often than not. A very good thing, says this cellist!

I am off to my lesson in about 10 minutes. I have to take both cellos -- she is going to try and fix my D string and work on getting my pegs not to slip so much. I am just glad to be having lessons today. I was at the vet most of the am, then got back home and knocked out some practice before I head to her home.

Cello woes -- gotta just love the cello and stringed instruments! I do!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chamber 6/16/2010

Hey, a new post! Today was my second chamber meeting. I am getting the hang of it. I am the slowest of the bunch and often am behind on my timing, but I am getting better. Today was MUCHO better than last week -- and I was playing a different cello. My Kay cello bit the dust recently -- needs new strings I think -- so I switched to my teachers cello. Her cello is not quite right -- set funny -- but still sounds good.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Practice 6/14/2010

I practiced for about an hour last evening. I spent the entire time playing through my Suzuki Cello Book 2. My focus is on playing these songs well, and I am seeing very good progress. The more I play through them, the easier they are to play well.

Today, I need to work on my pieces for chamber (tomorrow) and then my lesson on Thursday.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Practice 6/13/2010

Practice today was OK. I am feeling down about my progress. I know I am doing well, but I don't sound like the CD at all. Not that I should at this stage of the game, but I thought I might at the least sound "a little" like the person playing on the CD (slower than actually performed). What I am noticing is that Book 3 is incredibly difficult for me. I can read the notes, and even play them, but I am having trouble playing them correctly. I know this is because I have only been playing the cello for six months, and this is a 3rd year course. What do I do? I don't know. I have dropped back to Book 2, but I pretty much can play these songs properly. I am replaying them, focusing on musicianship/performance, but still, I am getting bored and depressed. I guess I need to just keep working on Book 3 and push through this period, knowing that in time, it will all work out for me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lesson 6/10/2010

Lesson was Ok today. I didn't get a chance to practice, but I went any way. I did pretty well, considering the week I have had. I decided to focus on my performance ability, and over the summer, concentrate on playing the cello well, rather than trying to continue move up through the Suzuki performance books. I am about half way through Book 3, and my playing is just so-so. I really would like to play these pieces as they were written to be played. So my plan for the summer is this:
  • Review Book 1 and 2 material and begin playing along with the Suzuki CD for vols. 1-2
  • Continue to work on Book 3 and listen to the music (without attempting to play it -- unless I feel confident I can do so well).
  • Do the same with my Basic Fiddlers music -- work on performance and presentation skill

I think that by focusing on my performance skill now, I will be able to progress much faster once I get into Book 4. It is more difficult to be precise on harder pieces of music. The easier ones will afford me the opportunity to play them well, get enjoyment from the process, and hopefully build confidence in my ability to play in group or solo settings.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cello Hunt - Update

I think I have finally decided on getting an Eastman 305 cello. This is an intermediate cello, one that is known for it's ease of playability. Though I would like to get a more expensive cello (advanced), this one will serve me well for a while.

I can get this cello at any number of strings shops, but will probably drive down to Tucson and purchase it at Southwest Strings. It is a fair price, and comes with a hard shell case and a Codabow NX. It will be a good next level instrument for me, and should last me a couple years.

Practice 6/8/2010

Practice was much better today. I figured out my issue -- it is my bow. I am using a cheaper bow, and with all my fiddling, I think it is just worn out. I used my old bent bow, and was able to get clearer sounds -- so a new bow is in order. I will wait until I can get a new set -- cello, case and bow. For now though, I am glad the issue was not me! LOL!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Practice - 6/7/2010

Well, I have been off practice now for a few days. My MIL was ill and in the hospital, so I really ran out of time each day (what with hospital visits and taking care of my FIL). She is on the mend, and I am trying to get back into my normal routine.

Today was pretty good. I think I need a new cello. I have wanted a new cello for a while, even looked at some online; but now I really THINK I need one. My cello is just not performing well enough for me, and the more I play it, the worse it tends to sound. At first, I thought it was just me. Now, I am pretty sure it is the cello.

Oh well...until I can afford a new one, I am stuck with this one.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lesson 5/28/2010

Ok, lesson was good. Funny thing was...I didn't get time to practice much between Wednesday and Friday. We found an abandoned kitten, which took over our entire day and night. I did get some practicing before, so today's lesson went well. I am really getting the hang of playing the cello. In fact, my teacher is impressed that I can play along with her (on violin). I am impressed too -- I never thought I would be able to do that so quickly.

More practice this weekend for sure, and then just one lesson from now on. I am ready to concentrate and meet once a week. She has gotten me to the point where we are really learning new pieces and where I am confident to try just about anything. Oh, she is the BEST teacher ever!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lesson 5/26/2010

I finished my lesson for today and it was good! I really am getting so much better on the cello. My teacher thinks I have excellent tone -- so do I. I can hear myself now and I sound so much better!!

My new pieces for this week include:
  • Rondo by Henry Purcell (Strictly Strings Book 2)
  • Gavotte in C Minor by JS Bach (Suzuki Book 3)
  • Devil's Dream (Memorize -- Basic Fiddlers Philharmonic)
  • as well as and Etude by Carl Schroder
Oh yes, I am also writing an Etude in G Major for Friday (I need to work on that one today).

Overall, I am really so pleased to be progressing this well. I see great improvement each week, and I am coming to love playing the cello more and more.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Violin and Cello

My son is asking me for a violin. He has had one before, twice actually. We still have his 3/4 violin, but it cannot be played (unless you have really tiny fingers). We sold his 4/4 violin to help offset the cost of a guitar. We should have kept that one, but who'd of thought he would change his mind three years later (me -- I should have thought that!)

I was surprised at how well he played the little one last evening. His fingers are too large for it, so it was next to impossible to really play it. But, he did OK.

I will try and find a good used violin for him to mess with -- I don't think he wants to focus on it. He is pretty settled on guitar and piano (oh yes, and drums, and saxophone and now trumpet!) LOL!

Just blogging about our musical interests here...I am still plugging away on cello, while my son is playing every instrument he can get his hands on! God is so Good to us!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stiff Fingers

I took Saturday and Sunday off, just to rest my fingers. My third and fourth finger of my left hand is getting stiff. At first, I noticed it just when I would get up in the morning, but by afternoon it was fine. Lately, my fingers are stiff even in the evening. I decided they needed some rest -- so have been off cello for two days.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lesson 5/19/2010

Happy Birthday, MOM! Just a quick shout out to my Mom, who is having a birthday today!! She is my best friend, and my biggest supporter! Love and hugs!!

Lesson Stuff

Today's lesson was GREAT (as Tony the Tiger says!) I passed everything with flying colors, and even wowed my teacher with my playing of Devil's Dream (a fiddle tune). I did it, I did it, I did it!! Hooray!! I honestly didn't think I could pay it because it is so durn hard!! But, with some perseverance and determination, I did it.

Still working on Beethoven's Minuet in G -- hopefully will be able to play it relatively well by next Friday. Other than piece in Strictly Strings, and another Etude to work on. Good stuff, Maynard!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Practice -- Stressing Good Form

Practice today was focused on good form. I have been stressing my bowing and also making sure I hold my half notes longer. My teacher tells me that I rush through and play half notes as quickly as quarter notes. Today, I worked on this, paying more attention to holding my notes and trying for consistency. A noticeable difference, simply with a little more attention to detail. Good practice!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Practice

Practice today was good (again!) I worked through all my selections slowly, paying close attention to the details. Good progress. I think I will do well next week. Not much to report, other than just a good practice, good outcome, and positive experience. I am pleased.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Practice Times Two

About 9:00 tonight, I decided to go and play the cello. Weird, huh? I had already done my mini-recital this afternoon, and practiced for next week. I don't normally play more than once per day (fingers and all), but I just needed something to do -- so I did it.

I am not sure if this a good thing or not (I think so), but I guess it means that I am getting good enough to want to play for enjoyment. Before, I was just practicing and trying to learn my new pieces. Now, I find myself wanting to go and play cello. I think it is like my son and his guitar. He always has that thing plugged in. He just plays guitar all day long. He is really good, too! I think this must mean that I have turned the corner from struggling beginning-intermediate cellist, to a cellist that enjoys playing for herself.

I played through all my pieces again, but this time, just played them for the enjoyment of playing them. I listened to the music, worked on intonation and bowing, and just simply enjoyed the sound the cello was producing. I think I need to get some more cello books, perhaps contemporary music, just things I can play fairly easily and enjoy.

As a side note, I finally have gotten the tricky part of "Turkey and the Straw" down. Oh, that was so hard to do, but I got it, and it sounds right now. Fun -- I like playing fiddle music.

Practice Makes Perfect

After my informal recital today, I spent time practicing my new pieces for next week. I was really pleased with my performance, and see now, that if I take it a bit slower, I will actually do better. I am always in such a rush -- don't know why -- but it goes much better (practice, I mean) when I focus and slow down. Words and food for thought!

Informal Recital

Whoo! I survived my first recital! Actually, it was an informal recital for family, but I was still nervous about it. I played a couple of my older pieces of music, and did OK. I was nervous which showed up in my bowing, but other than that, I did OK.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lesson 5/12/2010

My lesson today was very good. Actually, it was satisfactory; but, my practice beforehand was outstanding. I am not sure what is going on, but I played the cello like it is supposed to be played! Hooray!!

My new pieces for next lesson include:
  • Minuet in G by Bach (1st two lines only)
  • #21 in Schroder Foundational Studies
  • More work on Liberty, Turkey in the Straw and Devil's Dream (Fiddlers Philharmonic book)
  • and one piece from Strictly Strings Book 2 -- I can't recall the name right now
I am really happy with my progress today, and feel like I am finally getting somewhere. I passed my Scherzo piece, and my two Handel pieces, as well as Jenny Lind Polka. So far, so good. Next lesson is Friday and I am ready to move on!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesdays Practice

I returned to my regularly scheduled practice time, and it did help. I have been scheduling time in the mid-day for practice, and then got a bit behind and moved it up to evening. I am just not as fresh in the evening anymore.

Today's practice was good. I am working on several pieces for lessons this week:
  • Scherzo by Webster (Suzuki Book 3)
  • The Two Blacksmiths by Handel (Strictly Strings Book 2)
  • Bouree (from Water Music) also by Handel (Strictly Strings Book 2)
  • Jenny Lind Polka, Mississipi Sawyer and Liberty (Ok, Turkey in the Straw too!) from Basic Fiddlers Philharmonic
  • Etude 20 by C. Schroder (Alwin Schroeder Foundational Studies)
I've got the Scherzo down except for shifting from 1st to 2nd to 4th in rapid succession. Oh my -- that is the tricky part -- I still stop and start there (slight break -- not terrible, but not as it should be). The Handel pieces are coming along well. The Fiddler pieces are a challenge to me. This book, for beginning ensemble players, is so difficult. I am glad I bought the beginner one and not the more difficult one. The Etude is always fun -- I love Schroders Studies book -- and feel like I make great improvement the more I play these pieces.

Other than squeaking, which I see now is more position and crossing my A string when I am play G on the D string (it happens at this exact moment), and the buzzing (which is me turning my bow too far and touching the wood to the strings), I am content to know that the noises are not really Satan in there, and just me practicing with bad form! LOL! I was getting pretty depressed the other day, but then last week was pretty hellish for me (kidney stone, my elderly cat needing to be put down, etc.) A bad combo and then add in awful noises from my beloved cello -- and well -- you can fill in the rest. I was ready to pack in the whole gig!

Better today, a good practice under my belt, and am now enjoying some fine Yo-Yo Ma music (Cello Concerto in G Minor by Kabelevsky). A good end to a good day.

Monday, May 10, 2010

UGH! Practice was deplorable!

Sigh! Four days of not practicing really does do a number on your psyche. Oh, my goodness! I was sick all last week and didn't practice as much as normal. I went in to practice today and it was like cats howling -- just awful. I am sure the weather changes are the cause as well -- but I factor in there too. Oh well...continue on, plod on, and keep on keeping on. There really isn't much more to say than that.


Ok, I didn't give up, and after my practice earlier today, I went back and spent more time going over my lesson pieces. I fixed a few mistakes I was making (bow holding, position, etc.) and then tried again. This time things went much better, less squeak, and overall a better session. Hanging in there...Tomorrow will be better!

Been under the weather

I have been off this past week -- no real practice and cancelled my lesson on last Friday. Today, I am back in swing again, so I hope to be posting more progress reports soon.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Practice May 4

Yuck, yuck, yuck. Why will my fingers not cooperate with me? I tell them what to do, but they will not do it. I tell them to move in a particular order, but they tend to want to go where they want to go. It is so frustrating for me. I am about to quit (no, not really), but I feel like that is what I want to do today. I am thinking that I will never get past this point, that I will never play like a real cellist, and that I will always so sooooo crappy! I think this is why most teachers say that it is much easier to learn as a child. Children are far more patient than adults, and they don't take it quite as hard when they sound bad. They just accept it and move on. Adults know what sounds good, and when they make screeching sounds -- well -- no one needs to tell them just how bad they really sound.

Sighing and feeling so blue. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Fiddle-de-de; Fiddle-de-da!

Lesson today was GREAT! I did well enough to pass Andante by Mozart (very tough for me). I also spent time working on my fiddle pieces (from the Basic Fiddler's Philharmonic book). I passed Oats, Peas and Beans and Sour Mountain. I am still working on Arkansas Traveler, which is a little harder for me to play. Overall, I love playing Fiddle music!!

Next week, I have some ear training to get caught up on as well as finish up Boccherini's Minuet (from Suzuki Book 3). I am feeling very confident today, and am just beaming. I can do this -- I really can play the cello!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lesson 4/28/10

Today's lesson was so-so. I was disappointed with my nervousness. Some days I go to my lesson and am calm as a clam. Other days, I just am jittery and nervous. I read on a blog today that lesson times can bring on performance anxiety, and I think this is correct. I shouldn't be nervous -- I love my cello teacher -- it is just that I practice so hard, and I want to show off what I have learned. Oh well...

On the other end, I am starting to play fiddle music. My cello teacher suggested that I learn some basic fiddle tunes, just to keep my practice sessions fun. I have been working on classical pieces only, so fiddle music is a nice change of pace. It will also help me with my rhythm, and stress new skills. Overall, I am still happy with my progress (even if my cello was being very squeaky today).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Practice was SO GOOD

Last evening, I had a wonderful practice session. Oh, I am seeing such good progress, and it is exciting to me. I am still working on my assigned pieces, and am still struggling through Schroeder's method book 2 (ugh!); but, I can see my hard work paying off. The method book is very difficult, much different than Book 1, which consisted of scales and etudes. This book does have etudes, but they are all in Tenor Clef (not there yet). The beginning pages are shift exercises and they are so darn hard. I can see, though, that with continued practice, I am getting more comfortable shifting back and forth and also I am getting faster -- which is a bonus. The second book I am working through slowly is also a Schroeder Method book. This book is by Carl's brother, Alwin, and consists of 170 foundational cello studies. I am only on #20, but it is runs and runs and runs of scale work. I have seen huge progress in my ability to run through notes simply because of the etudes in this book. For example, I am learning Boccherini's Minute (from Suzuki Book 3), and there are three sections where I have to do a very lively run. I used to play these parts in stop-fashion (four notes, stop, and then the next four). Now, I can play through the entire run, AND still pay more attention to the longer held quarter notes. It is all of dynamics, and it is finally happening for me. I am getting to the point where I can multi-task without a brain overload (hooray!)

Anyhoo -- just gushing because I ended my cello practice with a big KISS (for the cello, that is). I love playing the cello, I just love this instrument. I love that I am getting better, more able to play these pieces, and that while I still get frustrated, it is not like a brick wall type of frustration. It is the "my fingers won't do that" kind of frustration, and I know that is overcome with more practice (and not trying to scale an impossible wall!) I am jazzed, psyched, and geared up to really, really take off here -- any day now! Cello, I love you!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Good Success - 4/23/2010

I had a very good lesson today. I am making great progress on my new pieces:

Minute by Boccherini
Nocturne by Mendelsohn (I actually passed this one)

I got over my issue with note reading and am back to playing well again. Now, I just need to work on my intonation and rhythm (always rhythm).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Practice Today was GOOD

Finally, a good practice day. I spent about 35 minutes working on my lesson material (for tomorrow), and am reporting in that it was a good session. I did everything assigned, was able to do it with not a whole lot of frustration, and I generally am feeling well-pleased! Hooray for a good day of practice!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Revisiting Bach

Ok, so now you know it...I am hard headed and stubborn. I simply do not give up that easily. I really got fed up with Bach's March in D. I tried, tried, and tried to play this piece, and no matter how many times I worked through it, I simply couldn't do it. I rather pitifully gave up on it today. I whined to my teacher, took my lumps, and passed through it. I felt like a total failure for being such a wimp about playing this piece.

I have been thinking about it over and over this day. I have decided to not let it go. I am not going to allow this piece to win. I am going to keep on playing it until I AM SATISFIED that I can play it. It might not be good or even worth the time, but I am not giving up until I am ready to give up on it.


I am so frustrated today. I went to my lesson, after a rather awful practice session. My entire attitude was not good, I was feeling blue, and really didn't even want to be there. I gave it my best, but the result was awful. I feel so ashamed because I love my teacher, and she is doing this for me as a favor. I need to show up with a good attitude each time I meet with her. Sigh!

Ok, enough of my whining...I will not do this again, because I know better, and I am a responsible adult. I know enough to shape up and pull myself together. Ahem.

Some insights:

I finished the Gavotte and am now working on the next peice by Bocherini. It is a good piece, and I have played it through before. I am struggling all of sudden to read notes. Not sure where this came from, because before I started on that awful Bach piece, I had no issues reading notes. I think it has messed with my mind -- so I have to give it up and take back the control and tell myself that I can read the notes!!

I am also working on shifting exercises. I am rethinking whether or not I should continue with Schroeder's book 2. It is really, really hard. I am wondering if there is an easier method book to use.

Well, that is all for now. I passed my scales, got my Kit Kat bar, and have since devoured it. Chocolate actually makes me feel better, so there cello!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Better Practice Today

I had a pretty good practice session today (so I am feeling better). I have decided to make sure to end each session with something positive. This way, while I may have struggled through some tough things, I will end on a high note (pun intended!)

My current study materials include:
  • 170 Foundational Studies by Alwin Schroeder
  • Violoncello Book 2 by Karl Schroeder (brother to above)
  • Cello Book 3 (Suzuki)
  • Strictly Strings Book 2 (Alfred Music)
My practice routine is as follows:
  • Method Book: #57 and #58 shift exercises (scale work in 1-5th positions) - playing through each one 3xs to become comfortable with shifting positions.
  • Scale Review for above: Review of C Major and D Major so that I remember finger placement - 1x
  • Foundational Studies Book: exercise #14, played several times through until I can do it well
  • Suzuki Book 3: Gavotte by Lully, played 10-12 times, various sections. Focusing on good intonation and finger shifting (especially 2/3rd string)
  • Strictly Strings Book 2: March in D by Bach, played 2-3xs to get more comfortable with sight reading (no numbers) and stressing reading notation for 1st and 4th finger (D and G String - which I always reverse)
Normally, this entire process takes me about 45-60 minutes each day. Today, I did much better on the Gavotte and made it all the way through Bach with minor errors. I ended my practice with Suzuki Book 2 -- replaying some easier pieces (Musette by Bach, Two Grenadiers by Schumman, and Gavotte by Gossec -- the last being much easier now!) It was a great reminder to me that I am making good progress. I was able to play these pieces from Book 2 fairly well, and some even with greater ease. I am well-pleased for the day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thinking this through...

Ok, so I had a rough day of practice yesterday. It was like I went in and "just did it." There was no joy in the effort, no real sense of learning at all. It was "grind, grind, grind." When I started playing the cello, my goal was to play for myself (and the Lord). I wanted to learn how to play so I could enjoy the result --making beautiful music. I didn't think much beyond that goal. It was a pretty lofty goal for me, considering that I had no musical ability at all. I couldn't play a note, couldn't read a note, and the thought of actually doing two things at once (fingering and bowing), well was simply wishful thinking (to this one who cannot go anywhere without walking into a door or trip up a curb).

Today, as I sit here quietly reflecting on my practice session as well as my goals, I am confronted with the reality of the situation. Playing the cello is not a cake-walk. It is not as easy as 1, 2, 3 and rest. It is hard work, and it requires diligence and perseverance. I have attempted to learn the cello on sheer determination. I have stuck it out, chosen to overcome obstacles, and I have made very good progress. I have studied hard, approached the subject as though it was something I could simply attack with logic and reason (my chosen approach).

Now, that I have had some time to think back on my approach, I realize this: if I am going to really learn how to play the cello, then I have to dedicate myself to the study, regardless of the outcome. Logic dictates to me that "if you work hard enough, whatever you seek will come to pass." There is never any guarantee in that belief -- you can work really hard at becoming an Olympic swimmer, but there is no guarantee you will make the Olympic team.

I may want to be a professional cellist one day, but there is no guarantee that I will do it. I can work very hard towards that goal, but I have to be satisfied with the journey, the process of it, and not fixate on the goal. If that is all I am doing, then when I get there (if I do), what is next?

No, the journey, the learning process has to be what motivates you onward. That way, whether you arrive at your goal or not, you will have satisfaction in the process. You will think, "I made it," not because your goal was achieved, but because of all you overcame and all you learned along the way.

My new thinking is this:
  • My goal to complete Book 3 is valid, but no the be-all-end-all of things
  • My goal to improve steadily is valid, but cannot be measured consistently. There will be good practice days and poor practice days. Persevere.
  • My goal to play professionally is valid, but may not come to pass. The better approach is to play as a professional would -- seeking to be the best cellist I can be.
  • My goal should be to master the cello, to play with proficiency and grace. My goal should be to make beautiful music, for me and for others, but not to be like any one particular cellist.
My goal is now to be the best I can be, to study hard, and to persevere in the work necessary.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Perfecting Bowing

My teacher wants me to practice making nice connecting bows (I tend to stop and start). I have given it a go, and frankly, I sound terrible. I think the issue is with bow pressure (not even). Today, I practiced my Gavotte (better and now at about 80BPS). The March in D (Bach) sounded more like I was torturing small furry creatures, so I gave up on it. It is such a difficult piece -- all 1s and 4s (first and fourth finger) and combinations of them in odd patterns. I am not really giving up on it, just decided I needed a break. I want to play this piece through because it does challenge my weakness -- 1st and fourth finger changes on the D and G string.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Art of Playing Cello

The Art of Cello Playing by Louis Potter
Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. (1980)
ISBN 0874870712

I am going to purchase this book next week. I read the review on Amazon, and think it will be beneficial to me. I am a book-learning type person (give me a manual or method book, and I pretty much can teach myself!) I am ready to really dig into the art of cello playing, to look at it from a technical standpoint.

I am a puzzle-solver. I like putting puzzles together, and taking them a part. I actually prefer to deconstruct things, and use this method to help me learn how things work. I do this with just about any thing I need to learn: I study it, I analyze it, and then I start taking it a part. Once I have the pieces identified, then I put it back together. This entire process helps me see the individual parts as well as the whole picture. It is how my brain is wired, and how I do just about everything.

I think my cello study will improve once I can deconstruct the nuances of technique. I realize that practice, practice, and more practice is the ticket to good success; but, I also need to really "see" how something is done (how a move is made) before I can learn how to refine it.

Anyway, this is my plan. Just another book to add to my list of reading!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lesson 2

Today's lesson was great! Oh, I think I am making progress, for sure!!

I came prepared to play Lully's Gavotte and Bach's March in D. I also passed my scales (my teacher is having a scale master's contest). I did C Minor instead of G Minor (reversed them), but still passed. I have just G Minor to finish and then I will have learned all the scales in my method book (hooray!)

My teacher played her violin on Lully's Gavotte, just to help me with timing. It really helped. I find her playing along with me to be beneficial (plus it just sounds so GOOD!) I love the violin and cello together -- they complement one another so well.

I really struggled on the March (it is such a hard piece -- from Strictly Strings Cello 2). I will need to practice it more this week, and hopefully can put it "to bed" by next week (Friday, perhaps).

I also watched a really good video on You Tube before my lesson, and got some good instruction on practicing vibrato. Violinists do vibrato differently than cellists, so my teacher wasn't quite sure how to show me. I will watch this video again, and start practicing the suggested technique over the next few weeks.

All in all, a very good lesson. I am thinking now that I will record myself playing Lully's Gavotte sometime next week. I will post it on You Tube as a record of my actual playing ability. I want to wait until I can play it without too many errors (and at a relatively moderate speed -- now I am about 60-76 bpm; I would like to be at 100 bpm).

I am excited about my learning, and feel very confident that I am going to play the cello really well. Now, on to more practice!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Ok, I am challenged...I mean really challenged. I have no sense of time, I mean it. Actually, my son says I am just an 1/8 note off, but it is like swimming up stream in concrete boots, just to figure out how to do two things at once. He wants me to keep a steady beat with my right hand, while tapping out the music I am playing (Lully's Gavotte) with my left. Oh, it reminds me of grade school dancing in the gym. I was miserably off, always stepping on my partner's toes -- I simply have two left feet (er, hands!)

I am getting better, though, and I do see a light at the proverbial end of this tunnel. I know that it will come in time (no pun intended). When my son was beginning piano, I remember his teacher being really concerned about him. He simply could not keep correct time (too fast, too slow). Now, he can play the most magnificent pieces (new piece is by Rachmoninoff). It is so amazing, so many notes in one measure, and he (my son) plays it well.

I know that I will get this soon, and that I just need to keep trying. It will click for me too. I also need to remember that my son was in 3-4th year piano studies when this clicked in -- I am just in my fourth month of cello (with no previous music experience). It will come in time.

So for now, I will just keep on practicing and trying to get on the beat. I can do it, I know I can.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lesson 1

Today was my first lesson in Book 3. I tanked. I cannot explain it, but even with some practice, I just froze and forgot everything I learned last week about postions 3-5. Oh well, good thing my cello teacher is so sweet. She is SUPER and so very kind. I just love her, love her, love her.

I need to work hard on practicing for Lully's Gavotte and also Bach's March in D (from Strictly Strings, Book 2). Both are pretty difficult pieces to play. I am getting better, but slowly. Oh, I am so impatient. Why can't I play better NOW (with my very best Varooka whine -- from C&TCF a la Gene Wilder)!!

Just Some Fun

Me in 4th Position

Me Practicing "I Love My Cello"

Me - Scales G Minor

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New Blog

Hi friends! I decided to create a new blog that will be devoted to my journey learning how to play the cello (at age 47). I have posted a number of times on my regular blog (, but thought today that it would be really fun to keep a daily practice journal so that I could look back and see how much I have improved over the course of several months (and potentially years.)

My History

I am not musical. I was raised in a musical family, but the joke was that everyone seemed to get some special talent, except for poor little Carol. Truthfully, I was a pitiful sight. I was scrawny and very skinny, with buck teeth and big Coke bottle glasses. I was glumsy, often falling up stairs and over cracks in the sidewalk. I regularly walked into closet doors! LOL! I was pretty pitiful (it is Ok, I can admit it).

My family was pretty talented. My dad sang Barber shop quartet in college, and my mother played the piano fairly well. My dad also played the organ. My brothers all played guitar (though one took piano lessons too). This was the rock and roll 60s' so we had a garage band going every day. I tried piano lessons and flute lessons and simply could not make my fingers work in sync. I couldn't play two hands on the piano, and I never could learn anything other than Mary Had a Little Lamb (on the flute). When I was in high school, I tried to play guitar (like my brothers) and failed at that as well. I simply couldn't strum and finger the chords.

I pretty much gave up any hope of playing an instrument, and simply settled for singing in the car and loving to watch/hear others play.

I have loved music since I was a child, often sang off-key (loudly) and never once stopped singing, even when people covered their ears. I simply loved all kinds of music and I longed to be able to play some of it myself. I contented myself with the fact that I wasn't "cut out for music" and that God had gifted me in other areas (art, for example). I decided that it was OK to enjoy music -- to listen to it and to watch others perform it.

Years later, after my son was born, I made the decision to make sure that he was exposed to music and that he had the opportunity to learn to play some instrument. In 3rd grade, he took up violin, though he really didn't connect with it. He played it, learned how to read some notes, but other than that, it was just something he did with the other kids in his class. In 4th grade, he started bugging us and asking for a piano. I am not sure where this came from, but he was so insistent that he became a broken record. He would plead with me, beg me, then tell me that he would just die if he didn't get a piano to play (yes, he was that dramatic).

We scraped enough money together to get him a small keyboard and made sure he took lessons. Well, he and the piano just clicked. It was kismet, it was fate -- it was God-given talent! Our son took off and started to furiously learn to play the piano. In less than one year, he was playing like a 3-4th year student. In three years, he was playing like he had studied piano for 5-6 years. Now, six years later, he plays college level piano and is seriously considering studying music at college.

As he explored music, he also has learned violin, guitar, cello and drums. He now wants a saxophone to play.

Music and my son are a dynamic duo. It has been such a blessing to have music in our home. I have learned so much about classical composers (thanks to my son's teacher, but also to Ambleside Online -, which includes composer study right from Y1), and have come to appreciate the finer details of music.

Last year, my son's teacher asked if he would be willing to play the cello on a couple Beatles' songs (for the fall recital). He said yes, and brought her cello home to learn how to play it. It took little time for him to be able to play the songs and when the recital came, I was so moved by his performance. I must tell you that of all the instruments I have tried (or longed to play), the cello is the one I would have chosen first. I have always loved the cello's voice and have loved to hear it as part of a symphony or in solo performance.

Once my son was finished with his performance, the cello was sent to the corner of his music study. It sat there for a good month, just waiting for someone to pick it up. I would go in there each day, get books (it is also our library room), and see it. Once or twice I thought, "just pick it up, Carol. Try it out." But then, I would walk back out of the room. It was maybe another month after (October), when those thoughts kept coming back around to me. It was like this little voice in my head wouldn't stop saying to me, "Go and try it."

One night, when I was home alone, I went in and got the cello out of its bag. I held it, picked up the bow, and plucked the strings. I thought it was the most beautiful thing ever. I even managed to bow it a little. The next day, I asked my son to show me "how to play it." He gave me a couple lessons, but I was lost. I sat there thinking, "Oh no! It is just like before. I don't understand it, and will never be able to play it."

Not long after that, perhaps another couple weeks, a friend of our family presented my son with an old Kay Cello. It has belonged to this man, and he had tried to learn to play it some 15-16 years before. He said he didn't know how good it was or if it even worked well. We gratefully accepted it, after all it was free. I thought, "well, perhaps my son will want to play it again." We took that cello home and it sat in the corner for a couple days.

I finally pulled it out and thought, "this is a pretty crappy cello." It was dented and dinged and had a big mark right on the front. It was dirty and looked SO OLD. I set it up, bowed it and it was out of tune. Thankfully, son came to the rescue and tuned it for me. I started bowing again, and I thought, "Ok, not bad. It has a decent sound."

For the next couple weeks, I got the cello out of it's bag and bowed it. I didn't know how to make notes or even read notes. I spent an entire month just learning to hold it, to hold the bow, to make nice sounds. Then in December of 2009, I pulled out the method book that came with the cello. I opened it up and said, "Whoa, I don't get this at all." It was by Carl Schroeder and it was an old book ($2 original price). It had illustrations that were hand drawn inside. It also was all notes, hard notes, and lots of information that was well beyond my ability to understand.

I took a couple days and went out on the Internet and looked up beginning cello lessons. I found several good You Tube videos and watched them. I also found several sites that offered free lessons in note reading (Bass clef). I started to read notes using very simple pages. I practiced a correct bow hold.

It was right before Christmas when I pulled the Schroeder book out again, and unbeknowst to me, it was much clearer to me. I actually looked it through and started on page one and worked my way through to the scales at the back of the book. I wasn't playing them correctly, mind you, but I was playing them. I first learned how to finger the A string. The I moved to A and D. Then A,D, and G. Finally, A-C.

After Christmas, I decided to ask my son's piano teacher if she would be willing to give me basic music lessons. She is a very fine violinist and pianist, so I figured she could get me started. She agreed to give me some free music lessons, just to help me learn timing, rhythm and such. Oh, how I am thankful to her for her gift of music and of teaching. In just three short months, she has taken me through the Method Book 1 and through Suzuki Book 2. I am now playing the cello and beginning Book 3.

I went from not being able to play any instrument to being able to play a 2-3rd year cello book. This is where I am at now, and this is the beginning of my cello journey.

This Blog

My purpose in keeping this blog is to chronicle my journey as I begin Book 3 of the Suzuki series. I thought it would be helpful to me and fun to record my efforts as I learn to play more difficult pieces. The next level is a big jump up in skill, so there is much to learn. My hope is that I can work through this book with my son's teacher and then transition over to a professional cello teacher.