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

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hynotic cellists

Some cellists do not look good when they play. They could play beautifully but something about the way they play is not enjoyable to watch. I remember seeing a cellist perform the 6th Bach suite and although she played it beautifully (she was a student of Starker's so she's obviously GOOD) I was nervous the entire time I watched her. I kept feeling like she was going to miss notes. Every shift looked like an effort. I remember another cellist a couple of months ago who was so rough on the cello that I felt sorry for it! Enjoyable to hear but a little nerve racking to watch.

Then there are the cellists who hypnotize you when they play. There's no worry in their playing. Every note is as if their hand was built to reach it and every phrase looks as if it was built for their bow. I remember watching Matt Haimovitz play a few years ago and it was such a lovely experience. It looked easy! So easy that I felt I could go home and do it too, at which point I am reminded of how NOT easy it is. Today I saw a recording of David Starkweather, professor at UGA, performing a Schumann piece. Very hypnotic because it looked like he was meditating on the music. I could stare at him play all day.

One day, I hope to make it look easy.

Back at it again!

It's been a few weeks but I am officially out of 'I hate cello week'. I guess it wasn't a was almost a month.

I've had some good lessons during this time though. Here's some notes on the breakthroughs:

1) I picked up Popper #2 again a few weeks ago to see if I made any progress since working on it 2 years ago. Not a hard piece but the etude has long bows. During the lesson, D noticed that I was pushing and pulling throughout the entire draw of the bow creating excess junk in the sound. He told me that once the bow is drawn, I need to let go and not keep drawing throughout the phrase. The action is at the beginning of the down bow or up bow but after I start the initial draw..I need to let the bow move without forcing it. This worked wonders for me! (I'm not sure that I'm explaining it very well)

2) Still working on Bach 3 Prelude and had a major breakthrough here too. This month...I focused on not clunking down on the string when I changed get as even of a legato sound as I could. At the last lesson, I played the whole thing for him and he said that I was torqued the entire time I was playing it. I needed to find places to release tension. I am still having bow issues and working too hard at it. D had me pick out certain spots in various phrases where there was an increase of tension with the bow and then we picked out where I would release that tension in the phrase. This increase/decrease in tension sets up my phrase. He used the visualization of a top spinning. I would draw the bow (similar to pulling a string to get a top spinning) and once the bow moved, let it spin on its own (decrease of tension) for the rest of the phrase. I tried it with a few phrases and the change was astonishing. It's funny how visualizing something like this can help. Not only was my tone better, I felt so FREE. I haven't been able to get that feeling back this week in practice but I feel like I'm really close. I understand it much better now. I see how the breathing plays into it. The breath in is really the increase in tension and the breath out is the release of that tension.

Geez...I hope one day I don't have to think about it so much. The visualization helped a lot! I asked D if he had think about it like this all this time. He said he used to but he doesn't have to's second nature now. So..there's hope for me yet! I hope some of this is helping somebody else out there. I felt so good when I nailed it in the lesson that I threw my arms up in the air and exclaimed, "Yay!!!!"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Down on practice

The last few weeks have been low on practice for me. Teacher says that if you practice through those times when you don't feel like practicing, those are usually the times when you will grow the most musically.

Ok...I'm ready for that growth now...and for me to want to practice again.