First Post in Two Months

I’m going to try to post more regularly, but for now, here is what I am working on – the Bourree I and II from the third suite.  The excerpt is from a copyrighted score from Cello Classics,  19 Pieces by 14 Composers, (c) 2008 by G. Schirmer, excerpted for fair use for the purpose of discussion.  Still working on getting the rhythm in my head, and keeping the  rhythm going through the shifts on the first line.

Bourree I Suite 3

Schumann & Beethoven

I’m pledging to practice 30 straight days to get back in the habit.   I’m also pledging to have a clear, but modest, goal for every practice.  Today’s practice was the minor section (of the #2 Pieces in Folk Style, op. 102) and getting the shift from G to Eb on II sounding right.  Then I walked through the rest of the section with just the LH.  I’m so glad to have Stempie back.  It feels like singing and less like work now.  I’m amazed what a difference a few repairs make.  There’s so much to explore now. It’s not nearly as much work to make music now.  My next goal is by the end of the week to make a video of the first half.

Outside of the cello, I have been taking the Beethoven Piano Sonata coursera, and enjoying learning about the structure of music and a little bit more about how Beethoven stretched the idea of sonata almost to a point where the word lost specific structural meaning.  My next step is to listen to the Sonatas for Piano and Cello and see how they intertwine with his development of the sonatas for Piano Solo.

Sonatas Op 5 Sonatas #1 and #2 for example, come right before his publication of the Piano Sonata #4, for instance.  A complete listing of Beethoven’s work in Chronological order can be found at Wikipedia.  Maybe it’s just trivia, but I find it fun to peruse the lists and see which pieces are nearly contemporaneous with others in different genres.

Oh, and starting a new job and dealing with moving the family very inharmoniously are major themes in my own life right now.  Which is why I’m glad I can once again feel good about playing.

Quick thoughts on the electric cello


I have been playing with my new NS cello for about a month now.  I like that it’s durable and I don’t have to worry about it excessively.  I’m still learning the ins and outs of how to set up gain and volume, so I don’t want to make any definitive statements about quality until I remove myself as a confounding factor.

There are a few things that make it easier to play and one thing that makes it harder.  There are markings on the neck so I can see where the notes are.  Since I was told to learn by ear and not use marking tape, this is like a video game cheat for me.  There is also no reason to use thumb position since the cello does not have a belly.  Nonetheless, I am still going to practice it anyway because I will be returning to my Stempie as soon as he returns.  The one hard part is that the tripod mount gives me no body contact with the instrument.  When I play some passages, particularly in the Prelude to Suite 1, the tripod tips over towards me.  Likely this is my fault and not the cello’s, but before I compensate for it, I want to see if I have a parallel problem on the wooden cello.  If I do, then I need to make sure whatever new habit I use also works on Stempie.   In summary, my concern is that the electric cello is a different instrument, and I’m concerned about picking up non-transferable habits.

 There is a traditional endpin mount with a body contact bar that makes it feel more like a traditional cello.  I may wind up getting that. 

All and all, it’s fun, durable, and although not a substitute for a wooden cello, it is affordable and easy to maintain. 

Bunch of Good News

Put in an order for the electric today – the lower end of Yamaha’s electric line but at least I’ll have a practice instrument I can travel with.   I considered Nussbaum’s prackticello but I was concerned about my ability to take it down and reassemble it reliably.  Also, I like the idea of plugging it into headphones and playing silently.

At the lesson, talked about the Schumann Pieces in Folk Style #2 – first two lines and how it was important to see how the shift to pp requires that I stay on the D string and not move to a brighter string.  Interesting to see how dynamics affects these choices.

In left hand, realized that my Vibrato motion on 1 needed help.  I thought I needed help with 4, but that wasn’t all.   My vibrato was too rotational on my wrist.  Glad we caught that.  As we are both going through changes – I with a new job with more travel and he with a new addition to the family (that isn’t a new cello), we’re trying to find ways to keep the teacher relationship moving forward in some way or another.


Traveling Man – Electric Question

I may be traveling a whole lot more, and of course, I don’t want to put my cello down.   Of course, I’m not letting Stempie anywhere near an airport, so I’m considering buying an electric. Any ideas – thoughts?  I only know that I definitely want a 4-string.   I don’t want to re-learn LH and bowing angles that would come with a 5-er.



New Year’s Resolutions


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I’m a big believer in New Year’s resolutions.  Regardless of how many times I fail, I know I’ll be back next December 31 with new ones.  Willingness to evolve, even in the face if repeated setbacks, is very important to me.  I tend to structure my new year’s resolutions so that I get partial credit.  They are my resolutions, after all.

Cello Related

Post four recordings of my current progress in 2014.

Practice 300 hours at a minimum during 2014.  This is more ambitious than it sounds if I have an ambitious travel schedule.

Re-set long term goals by January 15

Focus on skills that will help me play with others.

Non-Cello Related

Focus on really getting to know what makes my kids tick.  Know when to withhold judgment, and when to let them know they could be wandering off course.


The usual (blog) birthday post

As I go into the fifth year of this blog, I once again need to re-think whether I want to continue the blog or not.  Amidst a move and a new job, I’m happy to just find time to practice.  My cello teacher also had some changes in his life, and that has made me wonder if I should consider making this our point of departure.   These points are in open discussion between him and me.  However, since I won’t be physically moving for a few months, this isn’t the time to announce anything drastic.

My thought is that my everyday musings at this stage are of little interest, but if I’m going to do this blog, even on a reduced frequency, I need to let people know what that frequency will be.   There are still some big ideas in the future that are worth blogging about, including a visit to CelloSpeak (although I’m not sure if this will be in 2014 or 2015), whether to try to study online with an instructor while I try to find a new instructor in the Bloomsburg area.

I also have a feeling that my bow articulations are very crude, and I’m not really paying enough attention to my RH.

Practice Log 12/14


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Each time I play the Prelude to the first suite, that fourth measure gets the tiniest bit more comfortable.  Meanwhile, I pushed ahead and played through the first half (up through the fermata D) with the LH only.  This was about 40 minutes of practice.  Need to greatly increase the practices now.  I keep forgetting how fun they are until after I start.  Goes to show that doing is, for me, the most powerful motivator.


Schumann 5 pieces in the Folk Style, Number 2



Started playing this one again. We had started it but I lost the score!  I’ve since bought another.  Challenge – should I go F to F on the d string as marked, or use i(F) for the time being.  Seems that there ar e a lot of shifts and substitutions on just that first line.  [note: After reviewing some live performance, I see that just about everybody plays the F on the A string even in passages marked II.]

Bach (Suite #1, Prelude)  is going better, but still not getting comfortable on that fourth measure.  Right now I’m reviewing tapes of my past lessons to see where it’s discussed.

Scale for the week is Melodic E minor (Because Dotzauer #4 was in E minor) and the shift from F# to G is tricky to measure.



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