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.

No comments: