Temporary Insanity: Be a cellist

This is a diary of my love affair with the cello.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Popper #26

I've been on this one for a while..making very very tiny improvements. This etude has been forcing me to be honest with the thumb and what note it is on. I've always been told that when you're in thumb position, the most important thing is what note the thumb is on even when it isn't playing. The etude proves that to be a true statement!! If it's in the wrong place...everything is off. Still haven't finished it because most of what I have done sounds dreadful. I'm resisting the temptation to move on to another one. I haven't started memorizing it but reading on my previous posts on memorization helping with the Poppers, I think I will start memorizing small sections in an effort to improve muscle memory.

Not much to report other than the fact that I've been slugging through this one on and off for 2 months now. A couple of upcoming gigs and intense orchestra concert schedule slowed the progress. It's hard to get into the mode of working on Popper when your mind is in a million other places. I think this is a good one to make a deadline for myself. I say 2 more weeks to work it up to a reasonable shape.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Popper #27

I started this at the beginning of January. It was a pretty quick study. Not overly difficult and although the number of notes in this one was intimidating at first, I even memorized it within a week. I impressed myself! (rare event)

Not much to report on this one. It's an etude on half steps all over the cello but once I got going, it just went.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2.5 weeks

Two and a half weeks without a cello. I love traveling but I need to find a way to have it with me. I'm gone for over 3 weeks this month and could go for longer if I had my baby with me.

I miss my cello!!! And I even miss struggling with Popper #19. The agony of Popper would really balance out all the fun I'm having.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Popper #19, continued

This is meant to be the post from last week but in a scramble to get out of town for vacation, I didn't get it out.

Two weeks into Popper and I'm still struggling with it. Memory issues but I think most of it has to do with the bow. The spiccato is really starting to mess up my memory which sounds really odd so I have to reevaluate whether I really know it. In a push to finish it, I think I have glazed over the whole thing a bit too quickly. Lesson learned that the so-called 'short cut' is really a waste of time. I should just spend more focused practice on smaller sections and get it really solid in my mind as well as fingers.

And then I had to leave for a vacation so the whole thing needs to go on hold. I'm currently on vacation and was catching up on my blogs when I saw that I got a mention on The Cello Etudes blog. Thanks to you for the inspiration. I am not an undergrad at Georgia though although I wish I was. Just an amateur cellist who has a cello obsession. My pace will be much slower than the cello etudes blog so I hope it won't be too boring.

More on the Popper when I get back from a 3 week vacation. Basically means I need to start over. It's just as well because my last attempt at #19 before I left for vacation left me feeling like I need a do-over on this one.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Popper #19

Still trudging through Popper #19. I've been working on this etude for a couple of weeks now. Spiccato definitely adds to the difficulty. I started learning this etude the same way I've been attacking the other Popper etudes - learning the notes slowly and then incrementally building up the speed. After a week, I started reading a blog of a cellist's study with the Popper etude (http://celloetudes.tumblr.com) and decided to change my approach a little bit. Mainly, I decided that I was going to memorize the etude. It's been very enlightening to add memorization to my etude study. Here are the things I noticed:

1) Firstly, I memorize music pretty easily. I've been working on the Brahms E minor sonata and I pretty much have all three movements memorized. Not intentionally but it just gets in my ear and not before long, it is memorized. However, the Popper etude has been a pain! I'm about 3/4 of the way through the etude and I have it in my memory but it's pretty shaky.

2) Making myself memorize it changed my approach to learning the etude. I was forced to learn the 'road map' of the etude rather than just read the notes. The surprising thing is that this is a quicker way to really learn it. Having the pattern in my memory took away the extra step of reading the notes and then getting my hand in the position to play them. This makes the speed of this etude a lot more doable.

3) I made a lot more marks on these two pages than any of the other etudes. This was because I was making notes to myself of the patterns so that I could remember them. With the other etudes, I just read it. This time, I circled the patterns to give myself variously landmarks so that it helped me know what came next.

I'm almost done learning the whole thing. I've been playing it at a slower tempo- about 72 for the quarter note. By the end of this weekend, I hope to have the whole thing memorized and playing it at 84 or so.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shaky and nervous

I've always known that my vibrato is shaky and nervous but I had very few ideas on how to correct it. I'm ok with a few slow notes but it starts to get very jerky when the tempo goes up and it involves shifts. This video by Alan Harris is the best I have found on Youtube. I'm pretty excited about incorporating some of this.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Etude Project

Yesterday, Mike posted a link to the blog of cellist who is documenting his practicing on etudes for the next few months. Check it out: http://celloetudes.tumblr.com/

Very interesting stuff and I wish more cellists would do this. This guy (can't seem to find a profile on him) is far beyond my current playing level but I was able to get some very useful ideas from his experience with his practice of the first etude, Popper #8.

This Etude Project has him performing an etude every 2 weeks with practice every day limited to 45 min. on each etude. By the 4th day, he had memorized Popper #8. I was pretty shocked by that. I've worked through about 6 or 7 of the Poppers now but the thought of memorizing any of them was never a possibility in my head. It was always hard enough for me to play them well much less try to memorize it. So as an experiment, I started the task of memorizing the current etude I was working on, Popper #19- the Lohengrin.

I'll document the practice I've done in the past 2 weeks on this etude as well as the results of the memorization effort in the next post.