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.




I need to get organized.  For various reasons, this is a psychological block for me, but that’s a subject for another day.  In a nutshell, I viewed organization as the antonym of inspiration.  I’ll get over this by focusing on benefits.

The benefit is that I will know how I really spend my time.  Although I have never been able to implement David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system completely, I do agree with him that getting things out of my head and onto paper can only help, especially as I get older!   So, if I go in and my etudes are weak (or strong!), I’ll know how much time was put in, and will adjust.  It also helps me know what I got for my practice time.  I also am doing this more at work as well.

I’ve enclosed a practice log, which I am going to keep from now on, so there is no more “but it worked well at home” kind of lessons.

JPG image of my practice log format

JPG image of my practice log format

Below the log, I keep notes about what actually happened, but I think it would be easier to summarize those at the end of the practice week.  My lessons are on Saturday afternoons.  My first lesson, I forgot where I put my car, so I was wandering the back alley parking lots wondering which snowy lot had my car.  Another argument for patience and organization.

None of this is groundbreaking to anybody.  What was new to me is assessing what I’ve accomplished in the last five years, and what I want to accomplish in the next. If I act as a dilettante, I’ll get nowhere.   The challenging part is consistency and execution.  I’ve tried hundreds of organizational schemes that did well the first three weeks and petered out somehow.

So, how do you organize your practice time?  What has worked year-in and year-out? 

First Lesson


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We’re reviewing some basics, including confident shifting.   I was reminded to lead with my thumb and not with the other fingers.

Much of my plan will be a step back in time for me, but the difference is that there will be performance opportunities, and the emphasis will be in playing with others.   I’m a little embarrassed to tell you what I’m working on, since you might think this is too basic, but going back and relearning will be good for me, particularly with a goal of freeing my right arm, and playing relaxed without scrunching my face.

But it’s Schroeder #9, and a few duets from AppleBaum’s duets for 2 stringed instruments.  I was given a new scale pattern to learn and to work it on C major for now.

One issue about taking up the cello late in life is reading the scores.  I need good reading glasses and a bright stand light to avoid blurriness.  And to keep from losing all those pieces I had been studying, I will apply the basics I’m relearning to my Kol Nidre and to other favorites.  I don’t want to put my Bach aside during this period.

New Era! First real post since October MVA.


I’m starting lessons again, and we’re going to need to backtrack to earlier material to get my right arm moving fluidly.  I’m grateful for finding a teacher in this area of the state, and there’s even a music school with some opportunities to do recitals.  I think the pressure to perform might focus my practice, as well as prepare me for the CelloSpeak workshops this summer.

I must confess that during my trial lesson,I was guilty of all the classic cello sins. First, I didn’t really practice, even though I thought I had been.  I said the dreaded “but it worked better at home”, which means I was in denial on how I sounded.

But, lessons!  I’m not going to post any information about teachers or colleagues until I build some trust and get their permission, even pseudonymously – if that’s a word.

And I’m starting tonight to re-tag my blog because I want to reference my trials with my pieces.  And the usual promise to post some sound files is in force as usual.

I hope people who were following my blog in the past will start reading again.


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