Installing a mirror on the wall near where I play was one of my best cello moves in a long time. However, it now seems that all this time I thought I was drawing the bow horizontally, really I wasn’t. It looked more like a 30 degree angle!

As a result of this distressing revelation, I now am watching myself in the mirror, trying to train my RH to draw the bow horizontally across the D and G strings. In my frame of reference, it feels like I am moving my hand in an arclike pattern, but my bow at least is moving horizontally. I wish I had done this earlier.

Status update



On both the Schroeder #14 (Lee op. 70 #2) and the Bach Minuet #1 (Suzuki Book 2), the left hand technique is basically there, so I need to add the next layer. The next layer is conceiving of the entire piece and playing it through at a consistent tempo. Only then will I start to really hear the relationships between the parts. What I need to avoid is playing it like a series of excerpts. The same goes for my Arpeggio studies (A minor).

Is it possible to spend too long on an etude?



A period of backsliding can occur

Graph of etude progress over time

My teacher and I were discussing this, after I realized I was making steady negative progress on an etude that I was on the verge of owning three weeks ago.  Is there such a thing as too much time on an etude?  Certainly, there is always more to be obtained with more diligent attention and study,and equally certainly, I have not mastered it.  When is the right time to move on? We agreed that the best course of action for Schroeder #12 is to move on, since I was messing up my bow angle and a number of things that I had really started getting a command of.  On the other hand, I have been on this etude since May.

The verdict was to come back to it. In retrospect, an ever better solution is to move on but include it in practice once every few days, but not every day, just to make sure I don’t forget.

We’re starting two new pieces – Schroeder #14, and Suzuki #2, “Minuet #1” Fun times. Anyway, in the Bach, the first idea he had was to get the shifts down by isolating the notes before and after and really hearing the intervals (ignore the open string note during shifting).

What do you think?  When is the right time to move on?   What factors influence your deicsion?


At our last lesson, we reviewed angle of the bows, since I kept coming down too hard on the strings during the Schroeder study.  The main focus was on the back.  You need to think of your back contracting like a butterfly and the rib cage expanding. To practice this, I have new exercise to practice double stops using this method.  WE also discussed keeping the bow moving along a straight-ish trajectory, using the angle of the arm to maintain.   And to avoid an angle that was too sharp, or hurting shoulders, tilt the cello towards the right slightly.

Above all,remember shoulder goes BACK, not up.  Having the mirror should definitely help.

Final Stempie Post



With some trepidation for the safety of the cello making a cross country trip,  I decided to continue the chain of goodness that Shirley started with me by gifting me Stempie back in June of 2009.   Stempie arrived safely in Oregon, and thanks to the people at David Kerr vioilns, both cellist and cello are looking great.  I hope to hear and see more good things from Stempie, since I know he’s in good hands.

Picture used with permission.

SW with cello

Stempie’s New Owner, Sara Whatley of OR

So, this happened


Picture of my hand

I was reaching into my basket to get some scissors when my LH 3 chanced upon my five blade razor, facing up. It took about an hour to stop the bleeding, and after that it’s been too tender to play with, although I’m going to try again with the band-aid on it.

Why do I encounter such mishaps.  ADHD plays a role, sure.  But, would a real cellist take such a risk with his or her hands?  On the bright side, there is time to type this blog, and I’ll be doing some stuff with open strings this week, and maybe a few position pieces where I can possibly work around not having to use 3.   It might even force me to be creative about devising alternate fingerings.  I’d never really put thought into how fingerings worked.before, just assuming that so long as the fingerings I was given worked, I’d just use them.

Did you ever have an injury situation to work around?  How did you approach it?  And for those of you who make open strings practice part of routine, what do you typically work on?

[update; teacher suggested extended position exercises.  Good thinking!]

Anyway, I expect all will be playable by mid to end of week.  Just a bit discouraged though.

PSA – be careful with those hands, people.

Lesson update – when we’re 95% there for 4 weeks in a row


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Basically, got the “get out of my own head’ lecture – left hand is in good shape for my etudes – just need to relax and use slighter wrist motions.  Just enjoy the right arm and focus on what it’s doing.

Stop doing entire playthroughs – play the scale transitions with the measure after, then stop.  Jump to the next set and its next measure, then stop.

Start thinking about phrasing, so things aren’t boring.  Still, I’m amazed at how much juice we squeezed out of #12.

For #13, phrase to emphasize the top and bottom of each run, and solfege them.  Make sure to de-emphasize slightly the notes leading up.

May Time

Make sure the notes marked for three beats actually get them.  I also need to make it more dance like and less lurching.  He asked me to walk around the room to the beat of the music, which certainly made me think of the music in a different bodily way.   It was hard!

Beat Subdivision


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I’m starting at the very slowest metronome setting and trying to practice subdividing a beat into 4 equal parts.  What I’m finding is that when I try the 1-e-&-a subdivision, I’m still rushing the first half of the beat.

Also, on A melodic minor, having trouble confidently reaching fifth position with 1. It’s something i used to do naturally, so I suspect it will come back.  But I need to practice until I can’t miss it.

Holy bleep, it’s been 5 weeks, or Playing the game of Metronome

Has it really been 5 weeks?  The summer is just flying by.  One highlight of July is that I recently got to visit  Andy Fein in St. Paul, who let me play his top of the line cello. Just to have a chance to experience what the next level might sound like was quite motivating.  I lack the words to describe the buttery sound that cello made, and I’m sure I didn’t come close to getting all I could out of it.    I had bought a bow from Andy some time ago, which I am still using, and really enjoyed meeting him in person.

Anyway, this is beginning to sound like a free ad, so I’ll shut up, but I am grateful to him for showing me his studio and trusting me with his instruments.


Returning to PA :

Lately, I’ve been working on the following pieces

  • Schroeder, etudes #12 ( Lee op 70 No 4) #13 (Lee Op 70, #5).
  • Mozart, May Time – working my way back through Book 2
  • Scales – Susan Brown scale book. C major and A Melodic minor.   The latter was more ‘shifty’ than I remembered it pre-accident.

I’m amazed at how much mileage my teacher helps me squeeze out of each etude – even when I think I’m done with it, I see there is far more.   Lately, the name of the game has been metronome. When I can keep tempo, I notch it up and try again.  When I fail, I drop it down two.   My range on #12 is supposed to be 69-84, and now I can handle 76.  one thing we’re doing is marking the beginning of every beat of the music in tricky passages (tricky sometimes means ‘easy’ – where I stop paying attention because the section is very scale-y).   This helps me know, in the absence of a teacher, if I’m hitting the beat on each click.


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