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

Thursday, September 27, 2007

New member

I made the local orchestra I auditioned for on Monday. Honestly, I think they would have accepted any cellist brave enough to audition but....whatever. I opened up one of the pieces we're playing for the first concert (Barber's Adagio for Strings) and saw treble clefs. hmmm Hopefully I survive the year.

When they gave me the audition details, they told me that the audition was just before the first rehearsal of the year. They were having a potluck dinner and they said that I should plan on joining them for the potluck after the audition. My first thought was..."What if I don't make it?" It would be a bit awkward to sit through a potluck with them if they rejected me! However I didn't want to sound unsure of a good audition so I asked if I could bring something to the potluck. I did have a funny thought of me having a bad audition, not making the orchestra and having to walk back to my car dejected with cello and plate of food in hand. Good thing it all worked out and I didn't have to eat by myself :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lesson Notes 9/22/07

Great lesson! When crossing to an upper string, arm should 'push forward' and bow will pivot. I think Emily Wright talked about this in one of her Podcasts. I have been lifting the bow and placing it on the new string. Instead keep weight down and push forward - kind of like shifting in a car. Mentally, this is really hard to do but the times I did get my arm to do it, it instantly sounded better. I need to work on this more.

Also, I've been hearing breaks in tone. This is caused from me pushing into the string. My cello does not like to be pushed. The very first time I played on this cello, it complained when I started getting tense. Seriously! If I relaxed, the cello relaxed and rewarded me with beautiful tone. As soon as I started getting nervous and tense, it started whining. Pushing is bad habit anyway so cello wins this time.


I have an audition for a local orchestra tonight! I will play:

1) Popper Etude #11
2) Vocalise, Rachmaninov

The Popper is not feeling so great at the moment so I will hope for the best for that one. Vocalise feels pretty good. I'm really proud of getting Vocalise up to performance level. Last year, I went to see a cello performance student's grad recital at Emory. As I listened to her play Vocalise (beautifully!), I remembered thinking that I should add to this to my lesson repertoire. It sounded out of reach at the time but I wanted to play it badly.

I have studied that piece on and off for over a year! The notes in this piece aren't particularly hard but creating the smooth lines was really difficult for me. I had to dissect this piece up and practice minute sections at a time concentrating on constant bow arm movement that is fluid. This was also the piece I started thinking about breathing while playing. At places where I had faltering intonation, I had to practice those areas a few thousand times. Note to all: When you practice something a few thousand times, you actually do get to a point where you can do it right consistently! I never thought I would have the patience to slug through a piece like this for so long. Even if Vocalise doesn't turn out well tonight...I feel pretty good at the learnings I got from it. I hope this is an inspiration to those who are currently on a plateau with something they are working on.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Coming from an Asian background, a lot of was expected of me. Asian parents tend to push their kids to 'succeed' with a lot of force. This is both a good and bad thing but sometimes more bad than good.

I've always had a huge drive to "do well" - a drive that was well nurtured by my workaholic parents. As I got older, this sometimes became a bit of a problem. My definition of "doing well" gets further and further out of my reach the more I "do well". Love what you have, friends have told me, but how do I do that when I don't have enough?

At my lesson one week, I finished playing an etude and commented to my teacher that I hear more bow noise when crossing strings. He told me that I am not creating more bow noise than's just that my ear is getting better and I have become more sensitive to the way I sound. My expectations are growing....and that I should keep those in tact. I should not let the noise of expectation come into my practice.

I realized how true that is for everything in life. I once read a little piece on how to meditate. The first point made in this article was to let go of all expectations of the practice of meditation and what it will do for you. What a great perspective! When you are not bound by your expectations, you have......freedom.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Lesson Notes 9/01/07

I'm still recovering from this lesson. Total frustration! The more I get deeper into this, the more I realize how impossible this instrument is. However, I know it's not impossible because I've seen plenty of people of YouTube doing it!!!!

This lesson was Haydn C major concerto. All thumb position...thumb all over the finger board.

Things to remember:
1) Thumb must be locked..especially in positions.
2) Wrist should be below the knuckles.
3) Weight from thumb should come of the shoulder...not originate from the hand.
4) Fingers should be curled.

I welcome any suggestions for practicing these runs!