Monday, December 13, 2010
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
- 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
- Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor by Chopin
- Fantasy in D minor by Mozart
- Arabesque No. 1 by Debussey
- Carol of the Bells (Ukrainian Bell Carol, traditional, arranged by DJ Hepburn)
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
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
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
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
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
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
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
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
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
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
Friday, August 13, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
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
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
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.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
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
Friday, July 9, 2010
n. Proficient well advanced in an art, occupation, or branch of knowledge
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
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
- Progress slowly and carefully through each Suzuki Book (for music selection)
- Continue to play ensemble music
- Practice one hour or more per day
- Work through both theory and method books
- Drill on Foundational Studies
- Stress bowing technique (advanced)
- Continue to work on finger placement and learning all positions
- Practice vibrato
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.
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.
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
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
Monday, July 5, 2010
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!
- The Dreaded "Oats, Peas and Beans," An American Folk Song (WMA file)
- Finale from Surprise Symphony by F. Haydn (WMA file)
- Berceuse by F. Schubert (WMA file)
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
Monday, June 28, 2010
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
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
Saturday, June 19, 2010
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
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
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Today, I need to work on my pieces for chamber (tomorrow) and then my lesson on Thursday.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
- 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
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.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
- 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
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
- 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
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
- 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)
Monday, May 10, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
- 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)
- 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)
Sunday, April 18, 2010
- 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.