Hand position

On my left hand within the same position,  I have been coached to try to keep a reasonably constant shape so that I don’t have to re-find it time and again.   I generally need to work on some constancy in my left hand, since my intonation is suffering.

Practice Logs

Still working on my 2d position shifts, which I need, but feeling frustrated by the elementary pieces.  I cannot deny that focusing on easier pieces so that I can work on my rhythm has made me a more confident player.  But I still think I should be tackling harder material, so I pulled out my “easier” kummers and ‘harder” scales and got back to work.

The new glasses are AWESOME.  This is the first time I can ever remember seeing my notes from 18″ away without any eyestrain whatsoever.  De-LIGHT-ed.  Yes, pun intended.

I also rented a newer cello, an Eastman 200, to use to see how I feel about it. I do like some aspects of it, although I still think if I buy a new cello it will need to be a grade higher – like a 305 or equivalent.   Stempie sounds great, and I need to make a photo, but outside of minor adjustments, any money put into it will not be worth it.  That same money could be applied towards a new cello.

Still, don’t want to stop playing Stempie, because the sound is great, but for now it’s good to have two for comparison.  And in that regard, the Kummers make much better test pieces, and they seem more satisfying to play when testing out new instruments.

Still considering putting my electric NS-4 string on the market.  Not using it as much as I thought.

Cello Playing in Retirement



I wish I were ready. Part of my reason for taking up cello playing in middle age was to enjoy it in retirement (as well as the present).

 Of course, we’ve all heard some version of the proverb “Man proposes, God disposes”, but I prefer Eisenhower’s dictum: “Plans are useless, but planning is essential”

I’d love to hear your stories and plans for retirement, if actively playing your instrument a factor.

  • Roughly, where do you see yourself retiring?
  • How much cello playing are you planning to do in retirement, assuming health permits?
  • To what extent does music figure into your retirement plans, including going to concerts and/or playing in ensembles?
  • Will this figure heavily in your plans, or is it more of a “cards fall where they may” type of thing regarding music?

I’m not nosing after anybody’s specific plans, but would love to hear your more generic ones.  [Of course, if you all wanted to purchase a cello playing commune, I wouldn’t protest.  Might even invite some violists for variety.]   For instance, my own wife prefers to live near the coast, preferably in the South.  If we’re near the sea, that’s not a particularly friendly environment,physically speaking.  If we’re too far from a city, that may be a culturally isolating place to be.

I might need do save up for a carbon Fiber cello.  And in the event of a flood, I can use it as a flotation device!

It occurred to me that part of my second act could actually include teaching at some level.   Of course, there’s a lot to think out there, but not completely out of the realm of possibility. Ideally, I’d like to play in a community orchestra or even a smaller ensemble if one is available.  So, if that’s my choice, a 55+ community would be a better choice than a windswept cabin on the Outer Banks.

Eyesight update – good news!



I went to my optometrist today, and we discussed reading music.  I had always joked about reading a staff instead of the usual list of letters to test my eyesight.  I didn’t get that, but He was able to find a combination of lenses that optimizes intermediate distances, like the distance to my music stand, instead of the traditional book reading distances.  I tried it out tonight – I can read my music without reading glasses now!

Also, forgot to mention: we had a major bow hold adjustment at our last lesson.  My teacher observed that I was trying to control the bow from the front and back  (using my fingertips), rather than the top (using my top knuckle)  and bottom . I had been getting tired on very simple passages, with my thumb locking in, even though I knew better.

Technical Question on recording



A poll for you.  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

When you record yourself playing, what equipment do you use- if you use a smart phone,what do you typically prop it on and with?  I’ve had a hard time getting my viewing angle just right.

I plan to start making more recordings starting this week.

update: I think I’ll try to use a card table as a stand and use the iPad since I can prop it up.  Probably will take some adjustment to get the right visual, though.  I am particularly interested in elevation of the camera as well as distance to the cellist.  I suppose I could enlist the kids to video me, and once I have the distance set up, I’ll report back.

Lesson Update


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Key points from most recent lesson (and also orchestra).  Teacher said we were very productive, which of course, made me feel good.

1. Focus on right and and notice elevations – I am to do the seven string exercise where I am gradually going from C to A and back, with double stops in between, noting the elevation of my elbow.

2. Work on not locking thumb in the bow hold – this has been bothering me all week.

3. With the Left hand, make sure you maintain hand shape as you reach for C strings.   Think of the soda can.

4. New Etude- Schroeder #12 (a/k/a Lee Op. 70 #4). Smooth string changes, keeping right arm at correct elevation.  But i also want to avoid looking like a chicken.  I don’t want to give up my finger driven bow changes where appropriate.

Reminder that improvements to technique are worked in gradually.  Don’t beat myself up for, say, getting through an orchestra piece with my existing technique. But do notice, and try to incorporate.

On left hand, the theme is still making confident and accurate shifts between first and second position. Moving forward in the Mooney book to page 5.

Enjoying my New Strings orchestra still.  The music is not a huge challenge, so I can focus on listening and on some of the practicalities that come with playing as a group.

Also, “new” piece.  Start again in book 2 with the Long, Long, Ago and variation.

Follow up to last week’s posts

I think I’m going to bring my music to my optometrist for the reading power tests.  I can just see it now, “so tell me when you see only one note.  Tell me when you can determine whether it’s on a line or space”.  That said, I think I have the right power on my current readers.  I hope my prescription won’t change too much.

On the subject of wearing body parts, I’m also eager to get some good news on my hip so that I can keep playing.

Still working through my orchestra pieces, trying to make sure my bowing matches the markings, and my C major etudes. All of this is rather simple, but I’m working this hard.

I’m not playing as many pieces on the edge of my technique any more (my etudes aren’t really pushing me right now) so I’m reviewing some of my Dotzauers as well as all of my old pieces, but especially the Kol Nidre.

Stempie Update: Looks like next week will be the appointment; sent pictures to the new luthier.  I’ll be curious to hear what he has to say.

Oddities: In 3 years, nobody in meatspace has commented on my license plate.  Well, in PA at least, BWV 1007 is free for another cellist now.  I did not re-register it when I bought the replacement car.

QotD: Did any of you play in any Easter related or spring related concerts lately?

and Finally: If you’d like me to link to something of yours, and I haven’t already, please let me know.  Sometimes I get around to things,and sometimes I need to be nudged a little.

Issues with playing cello at middle age

I’m spending a fair bit of time thinking of the big five-oh.  I thought arthritis in my hands  would be my biggest challenges, but it turns out it is my eyesight.  This weekend Had the worst lesson of all time because I could not read the music at all because I had left my reading glasses at home.  I couldn’t tell the difference between D,E,a nd F easily, nor was it easy to to see the difference between low F and low G. That’s how blurry things got! Reading glasses: my best stand partners They are no longer optional!   Having a bright stand light also really helps.

It also helps to have as light a cello as I can get away with that still sounds good, and I’m starting to think it would make a good investment to get a carbon fiber case.  The combination would save me about 5-6 lbs of weight, which would be huge when I have to carry my cello up the stairs, as well as later in life.

Having Father Time lurk around the corner is also a blessing, since I realize I must make the best use of my practice and lesson time.  My feelings aren’t easily hurt because I need the most useful feedback as quickly as I can make use of it.

I still think that taking up the cello was one of the smartest moves I have made, both for the enrichment in terms of musical development and in terms of interesting people.  

Shifting Practice

Nothing terribly exciting to write about, but it’s all been shifting practice from first to second position, and making sure I have that motion hard wired into my brain again. In this regard, I feel a bit peeved that I have to do this again, but my shifting is becoming more confident.  The other thing I am focusing on is keeping my left hand position firmer (but not rigid) so that my thumb can lead the shift accurately.  I had acquired the habit of aligning my thumb to 1 in all positions, not just fourth.

When you’re having a horrible, no good, very bad practice session do you


  1. Bail, so you don’t ingrain a bad habit
  2. Focus on what went right
  3. Blame the weather and low humidity
  4. Blame the cello, and take it in to the luthier
  5. Blame self, for practicing while tired
  6. Play something easy that does not hit on your sore points (really, a form of #1)
  7. Write it all down, so you can look back on it and laugh,but also to see if there is an adjustment that may not be obvious.

Sore points:

1. Not getting good contact with G string on C or D string on E – especially on the long note

2. No plan for where the bow should be.

3. Tense bow hand

4. New pieces sound like note soup.  Part of the issue is not wanting to play them.

What went right

Second position target practice is going better – today harmonic G/4 on II/2 on II – they should all sound the same.  Really need to start recording myself, although today was not the night to start that.


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