Time is getting short



I could not help notice the following on a very addictive game I play, and have asked myself some very hard questions about why more of hose hours are not being assigned to the cello.  I’m not suggesting that 100% percent of my spare time be cello related.  That would make it hard for me to have conversations or common experiences with most other people.  But still, that’s a lot of time I will never get back.


I could blame the accident, but that took only three months out of my life, 90 days at 3 hours practice a day equals only about a tenth of the above.   Anyway, this is not intended to be a fair comparison, but just to provoke questions; am I making good use of my time?

That being said, I’ve been putting in some serious practice hours in April, and I’m again happy with my progress.  But I’m going to make myself accountable for practicing every day.  (For days I cannot take the cello with me, I’ll find some way to practice while off the cello).

As you may know, I am retracing quite a bit of ground that I covered in year 3. There is indeed a fair amount to remediate, including a flying pinky,  a consistent left hand position, and a tendency to squish my fingers, creating problems with intonation.  I do think it’s worth the time to focus on tempo and general musicianship.  It has helped me feel more confident.  (Thanks, Nelson).  So, today’s practice was

  • D major 2 octave scales
  • Some left hand “jumping jack” and string crossing exercises to promote a steady C position (within reason)
  • Schroeder exercise #16, but no metronome.  Focus on some tricky measures getting my LH comfortable.  Still a lot of wood-shedding to be done here.
  • Beethoven Minuet #2 in G, trio section
  • Hunter’s Chorus – focus on not resting on notes I shouldn’t be accessing.





Performing! Also Systems vs. Goals


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Our Music School is doing a recital for all of its students.  It’s a mammoth 3 day affair – I’m going on April 2 with one of two pieces in Mooney’s Position Pieces for Cello.   It’s a duet, and I will play with my teacher.  We’ll switch parts at some point in the piece.

I will have videos made (my sons have to earn their allowance somehow).

I’m excited, and I will be nervous, but I’m going to give it my all in terms of dedicating all of my spare time to it.  Other practice pieces will also take a back seat.  I need to play as though not only kids and their parents are there, but pretend my colleagues are as  well.

They’re not terribly difficult, so I can focus my effort on knowing it cold and making it musical.   The March we worked on extensively in February (but not much in March).

I would very much like to make more progress in the upcoming year, then the previous one, which means I need to put in the I hours so that I’m not  working on the same etude for three months.  Some of the etudes have a lot in them, so I shouldn’t feel too bad, but I need to remember my goals (play the Kol Nidre, as well as build my musicianship in general).

I was reading on LinkedIn this week about systems and goals.  According to this article, written by Scott Adams (of Dilbert Fame)  Goals  (favorite pieces) can be frustrating and arbitrary, but day to day the focus can be on systems (steady practice, scales and arpeggios)  build steady improvement and are more conducive to success.   I think we need goals too.  Systems are fine, but  you can be set adrift and survive.  Systems by themselves are the mantra of the bureaucrat.  The goal needs to be inspiring enough to keep you going, so it has to there to encourage you to take larger and more daring steps in that system.

As for the piece itself.

  1. Don’t dawdle on the first D.  It’s not a resolution.  Keep moving and honor the time value of the notes.
  2. Try to get that F# to D slur working nicely.  The left hand still feels cramped.





Until I post again (Early March 2016)


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My life is under a bit of reconstruction right now, but I will be back blogging in early March, starting with some videos.

Not related directly to cello, but I did buy some interesting books this past weekend, which I hope will help me improve my musicality.

Copland, A. What to listen for in Music

Wooten, V. The Music Lesson

And for the conspiratorially minded:

Dublin, R. How ET destroyed Harmony and Why you should care

The book has already turned me into a bit of a tuning geek.  All for the sake of a major third.



Right hand on Lee


I’ve been focusing on the Etude from Lee op 70 #6 from the Wohlfahrt book, just trying to isolate my right hand and get the angles right.  It’s been a successful approach, but I had to get used to focusing on the bow and ignore that I was only hearing fifths.

I’ve also been working on the Moody position pieces book, “March”, with both the top and bottom parts.

Also, been somewhat frustrated with WP lately, as uploading audio has not been seamless.  What I was really hoping for was to be able to record right from my smartphone and have the audio file automatically appear in my media library.


Current Work Log

Mooney – March

  • Work chord from bottom up
    • Tune octaves, notes with open strings
    • Fill in remaining notes
  • Work top and bottom parts, but focus on bottom
    • Mechanics
    • Rhythm
    • Intonation

Bach – Minuet #1 – Suzuki

  • Clap out by metronome before playing
  • Play bow to metronome (no LH)
  • Play pitches

Schroeder #14

  • Work out how LH seems to be creeping low (in pitch) just before the phrases starting with E

My challenge tonight


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Arpeggio Practice

Arpeggio Practice – from Brown, p. 7.

Trying to get from that C# on 2 to that F# on 1.  I can do it using the tape on the cello or some form of visual inspection. The interval is a perfect fourth, so I should be able to work it out aurally. But right now, it does not feel automatic or natural. Feels like I’m guessing every time. I’ll work it out, but this is the problem I’m working on now.

[The reason this is tagged “A minor” is that it is part of an exercise that begins with A minor, then moves to A major, F# minor, D major, then D minor. It’s on the A minor page of her book]

Yesterday’s Practice


Thoughts on the Schroeder #14:

I’m messing this up right and left – no pun intended.  First thing to work on is the tempo.  I’ve been sustaining the low A on each phrase longer than needed, but really I need to keep it going; it’s not a finale.  So, yesterday, rhythm was king.  Today, I’m going to focus on the EFGAGA parts and try to get those string crossings smooth.




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).


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