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!"