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

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 ( 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:

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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The broken record playing in my lessons

My lessons as of late focuses on a few select things:

1) Keep bow *in* the string. Sounds logical enough but so hard to do. When I sound bad, I can almost always pick it out to be this particular problem. I used to think that keeping the bow in the string should be an easy enough task but I think it's actually harder than it sounds. It takes a certain amount to strength to keep the bow in the string...strength that is built over years.

2) Related to #1 - don't pick up the bow when crosing strings. Sounds obvious enough but I cheat on this in the most subtle ways. Just the tiniest of lifts when crossing strings will throw the sound off. arrrrrggghh

3) Slow down the bow changes. If your left hand needs to move fast, it doesn't mean that your bow changes need to be fast as well.

There you have it! The three things on the broken record playing in my lessons. I'm happy that I can pick out three things to correct whenever I sound bad. What about you? What's on your broken record? Do share!