The November Cello Recap…

50,000(plus) words, in the bag

Well with NaNoWriMo fading in the rearview mirror I’m back to cello blog land. (Of course, now I have to edit the darn thing I just spent a month bleeding over, but that is another story for another blog)

A couple of fun things to report in November:

1. Kaia held another recital/master class before Thanksgiving. I spent much of the week before working up Andantino for my solo. I’m also very proud of myself for volunteering to go first after our group warmup. That’s so not me (I’m comfortable smack dab in the mediocre middle) but I did ok aside from a few flubs and it made me totally relaxed and able to appreciate all the other performances.
We also played Scarborough Fair as a group, which was so much fun I took the music home and have been working on it on my own for the last month. I love the melody and find myself singing along sometimes as I play. It was also a blast from my past: I used to have two bottle baby kittens we named “Parsley” and “Rosemary.” This was pre music days, and I remember somebody saying “like in that Simon and Garfunkel songs” and looking at them blankly. Duh. Well now I’m full circle and singing “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme…” as my fingers climb the notes.

2. Enter Vibrato. A couple of months ago, Kaia gave me an intro to vibrato. The actual technique scared me silly and I managed to divert her for a couple of months. She caught up with me a few weeks ago though, and now I am on strict Vibrato practice. In fact my goal is to sound like a “cello siren” and I’m hearing a lot of “waaahwaahwaah” coming out of Cecelia these days so I must be on track.

3. I’m also playing Rigadoon, which is so tantalizingly close to the end of Suzuki one I can taste it. However I keep tripping over the counting, which goes from 1and2and to 1e-and-a2e-and-a and makes me feel like I’m stumbling over my own feet. I’m forcing myself to count because I’m trying to really learn to read the music -not just listen to how it sounds and repeat it – but at the moment I’m just trying not to bang my head on the music stand too much.

It’s also getting to be the holidays which means that my cello time is being encroached upon by other things – three days at the Seattle Salsa Congress, a weeklong escape to a cabin in the San Juans and, of course, the start of ski/snowboard season. And coming up, I’ve got a wedding and two weeks at Whistler. I’m wishing now more than ever that I had a prakticello (It’s very high on my X-Mash list this year) because at least I could take my practice with me when I’m away from home.

Consistency is so important when learning to play any instrument, especially one as complex as the cello, and I always feel like I slide backwards when I miss more than a day of practice. It’s my own fault — being the writing, cello playing, salsa dancing, snowboarding freak that I am — and undoubtedly why I’m still trudging through Suzuki one after a year. But I need to have a balance between physical activity and the the more intellectual and creative pursuits to stay sane.

Also, the luxury of being an adult beginner is that I can set my own goals and am responsible only to myself when it comes to my progress. I’m not under pressure to get good fast – either academic or parental. And that’s not to say that I’m a slacker – I’ve always been good at putting myself under the thumb to get things done – but my life is full of a lot of different interests. I’m happiest when I’m juggling these pursuits and achieving a state that makes me feel balanced.

“All things in moderation” has been my motto for a long time, and this too is included!


About Eddie

Watch what happens when you give a writer a cello.
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12 Responses to The November Cello Recap…

  1. elysiajoy says:

    I really like your attitude about progress. I’m always feeling like I have to make up for the years I lost not starting as a child. Thanks for reminding me we really are here to have fun! 🙂

    • Eddie says:

      Thanks I can be a total overachieving perfectionist if I’m not careful, which makes being interested in so many diverse subjects challenging. My motto with the cello from the beginning has been “if you’re not having fun you’re doing something wrong.” and I’ve tried my best to stick with it.

      But yes…sometimes I wonder what kind of cellist I would be now if I had started as a little one!

      • elysiajoy says:

        I always get this feeling that most people who play the cello are overachieving perfectionists, at least the ones who stick with it.

        I often think about the “what if” scenario, but then I realize that most people I’ve known who started when they were children stopped loving it as adults, even if they kept playing. I’m actually grateful that I am learning now because I have control over the process that a child never does — no parents forcing me to practice, for one thing. Also, I get to structure my life around the cello instead of having to learn cello while being in school.

        And the greatest thing is that I have enough life experience as an adult to really appreciate how wonderful this process has been for me.

  2. Les says:

    Agree with Elysia and Eddie. Having done the kid-learns-instrument-gives-up-as-a-teen thing, I’m loving the process as much as the playing too.

    Sounds like we’re at a similar level. I’m just finishing book one but my teacher hasn’t done any vibrato yet. Something to ask her about after the holiday break.

    Thanks for mentioning the prakticello – that’s one for the Want! list.

  3. Yee says:

    Do you find that counting, measure by measure, has helped with your rhythm? I keep fluctuating back and forth between counting measure by measure versus counting each note individually as I encounter them. Just trying to find something that would help me improve in that area. So frustrating at time 😦

    • Eddie says:

      Absolutely. I’m a counting fiend! I ususally start by counting out the measure based on the shortest note. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will also cite the metronome as vital to getting it right. My timing always benefits after a session playing with my metronome.

      • Yee says:

        I tried counting using the 1e&a2e counting system. I also tried the Eastman counting system when I would get into mental stutter saying the 1-e-and-a-2-e… in my head. Sometimes I get lazy and just play the note that gets the beat and count longer notes as I encounter them – my semi-counting approach.

        So you don’t do the 1e&a2e method anymore? Simpler to use shortest note?

        I’m still trying to find the best approach for me. My wife is a choir director and she says to count the beats in a measure which I find to be the hardest to do.

        There’s also that weird takadimi counting system which I refuse to try…

        Using a metronome right now is just harder for me because it’s an external beat. I try to tap my foot and count which helps and then I’ll try to sync my foot tapping and counting with the metronome later.

        But I think I will need to give in and always count versus my lazy semi-counting approach…. Thanks

      • Eddie says:

        I do use the one-e-and-a-two-e, but really only if i have shorter notes in the piece (say Rigadoon in Suzuki 1, where there are a couple of measures featuring eighth notes) if there are only quarter notes in say a 4/4 piece, i just count one-and-two-and-three-and-four. One thing my teacher is working on with me is helping me to be more flexible in my counting, so I’m not tied to one or the other. Makes sense?
        From the start my teacher really impressed on me that counting is essential to playing the piece properly. Sure you can mimic timing by repeating someone, or listening to the Suzuki tapes and repeating, but that will only get you so far. I’m finding now that playing pieces out of Schroeder (you can find some online but most don’t have recordings) my counting skills are getting put to the test – if i don’t count it out, it won’t sound as it’s written.
        Do you want to play with others? Since I joined the orchestra I’ve come to understand that I just can’t get by without the counting. Otherwise if I miss a note or lose my place I’m totally lost.

        All of that is to encourage you to push through the challenge and really get the counting thing in your toolbox. It’s just another step in acquiring the language of music. You’ll thank yourself later!

        (If it’s any comfort I totally hated my metronome at first. Using it was a massive focus disruption. But I would also encourage you keep working with it, even if it means practicing older stuff that you know fairly well already at really slow beats so you learn to associate playing the note with the beat. Or try using it while you play a scale – something where the notes are predictable. Even with counting, I find that if i get to a really difficult measure my counting will ‘slow down’ to accommodate. Playing with a metronome really forces me to be consistent and points out spots where I’m lagging or need to get more consistently up to speed!)


  4. Yee says:

    Also, I don’t think you can look back and think about what if’s about starting as a child. I think lots of us who have started as an adult, with little or no musical background, probably have some musical longing which was needed, but missing, in our lives. I know I did and it’s this desire to fill that void is compelling us to work as hard as we are now.

    • Eddie says:

      I understand what you mean, and what ifs are hard to avoid. The trick is to not let them inhibit (or continue to inhibit) the attempt, but rather to use them, as you mention, to inspire our adult progress.

  5. Yee says:

    btw… Reading your blog (as well as others) helps with my progress, as well.. My wife says I shouldn’t be comparing my experience to others, but I think it’s helpful. I gives me inspiration to know others are going through the same issues…

    • Eddie says:

      I feel the same way – mostly. Sometimes I get discouraged with my own progress reading blogs of others who practice more or have made the cello more of a primary activity in their life. (To be totally honest, cello is probably secondary or even tertiary in my arc of interests) If I’m not careful I will beat myself up about having three hour practice sessions, or how I ‘should’ be much farther along at this point in my music, or that i have a crappy student cello setup and it motivates me to play less. Some days I feel like I’m driving a pinto in the slow lane where everyone is doing hot laps in formula one cars.
      But if I change my focus (less about me, more about others) I really find the other bloggers doing this thing inspirational. It’s fun to see people’s hard work paying off, and know it’s possible to make big leaps with an intense amount of commitment and time. Also, it’s great to have resources when I’m having trouble with a technique, or can’t see the value of a skill that my teacher is pushing me to aquire. As you say, it’s great to know others who are there, or have recently been there. Very encouraging.
      People are social animals, and cello can be a solitary pursuit. I think having a little community of bloggers has kept me coming back to my cello many times when I’ve been ready for a long break. Glad my little blog world is helpful to you, thanks for stopping by!

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