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Preview: If at first you don't succeed...

If at first you don't succeed...

...start another blog, or two, or move to twitter. Facebook? Never.

Updated: 2017-12-24T15:34:33.155-06:00


Lessons Learned


This blog is not defunct. Perhaps a step beyond sporadical, but I'll never say never again. I have closure issues, you see. And I note that this appears to be my 600th post.It's a rather lengthy post, as I've taken videos that in the past I would have strung out over a week, and instead posted them all together. I expect only the cello-hardy to remain until the end.This experiment was inspired by Owldaughter's serendipitous discovery that playing her recital piece over and over, instead of concentrating on the tricky bits, resulted in marvelous improvement. I wish I could remember who next mentioned Burton Kaplan's Technique of the First Try, (if it was you, speak up and I'll edit in an attribution), but that inspired me to use that technique to prepare for my recent recital, on which I performed the D MAJ Mendelssohn "Song Without Words."Parenthetically, my preparation of this piece was hampered by a semester of pain in my bow arm generated by a neck condition, and on which I had a surgical procedure done at the beginning of the month. Let's just say I haven't been practicing very well this semester.So here's the gist of the technique. Each day I warmed up for 10 minutes with a martele rendition of Long Long Ago (may have to make a post about that as well - it's a great warm up). I then set up the camera and the music and recorded my first play through of the day - no prior preparation. I played through a couple of more times while the recording uploaded, reviewed it, and played through 4-6 more times with attention to a trouble spot or two between. That's it. About an hour of practice each day. Three days before recital...The biggest changes were after this recording. I changed many bowings, and really started working on getting my elbow down (releasing tension) on my up bows. I'm listening to the accompaniment on my iPod, BTW, which leaves little room for tempo manipulation.Two days before recital...Still need to get those facial tics under control!One day before recital...This was the day after my dress rehearsal, which went very well. It was suggested I focus on how I wanted to shape the music. The problem I began having at this point was that the music was nearly memorized after so many repetitions (much to my surprise) and I was beginning to have difficulty following it on the page without getting lost.Day of recital...I didn't bother with the accompaniment for this run-through, partly because I was short of time, and partly because I wanted to play a little more freely.Recital...The problems with "near memorization" really came home to roost. In addition to being cold and playing cold, I kept losing my place. The worst problems were in the B section, where my accompanist did a wonderful job of helping me when I entered a loop, and with many places where my bowings were simply, shall we say, unplanned.On the other hand, I think you can see how much improved this was over my 1st recording only three days before, as well as how I lost that predicted 20% from the "best" I'd done so far, under the stress of performance.I think my primary take-away is that this is an effective technique, but should be started well before recital, not just three days. Ideally, this would be the prelude to a studio class or mock recital for friends, and the recital would be performed from memory. In fact, that's what I plan to do. I am so inspired by my imperfect success that I plan to do exactly that at an upcoming all adult recital in a month or two. Then I'll really feel like I've done the best I can with this piece.[...]

Petting the dog


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By way of explanation: Michael Tuchman says that his teacher likens the bowing in this excerpt from the Webster Scherzo (Suzuki Bk 3) to petting a dog. OK, mystified. Here's what my bowing looks like. Would definitely not pet a dog this way. Waiting hopefully for full video elucidation.

Who doesn't love a freebie?


One of my (many) little neurotic "things" is that while someone is working in my house, I feel like I must be working, too. (I would have made a terrible aristocrat in times past.) This week a very nice carpenter is here replacing the storm doors, and while he is doing that, I have been attacking the neglected filing in my music and hobby space.

OK, that's not quite fair. More accurately, I have been moving my stuff out of what is mostly DH's office space, and setting up my own space in one side of the open downstairs area. Truth be told, I have been mourning the loss of my previous closed studio to the gym a while ago, but am now ready to get over it and claim this area, even though I can't close the door on my practice time, as "mine." It's a combination music, stamping, blogging and study area. I have a table with two work spaces, moved the computer down, book cases and organizing cubes, the piano, and of course cellos, stands, and mirror.

So this week I emptied and moved some plastic file boxes downstairs and have been busily sorting, labeling and filing. I hope to get through the last four partial boxes of "stuff" today, which will then be the first time I haven't been living out of boxes since we moved here. Whoa. Major paradigm shift.

Now, based on the title of this post, I didn't start typing here in order to tell you all that, but rather to tell you what I found. I'm "pre-filing" the stuff from the boxes, sorting them into piles on the floor, and ran across a Shar flyer. It says that they have free sheet music downloads available, so I checked it out. Looks like they post something new every week, and this week it's the parts and score for a Mozart string quartet, k458, "The Hunt."

I love free sheet music. Did you know they were doing this? Great way to get folks to visit your shop every week.

And even better, now that I have blogged about it I can discard the flyer. Hehe.

The sound of one hand practicing


Just getting in under the wire - one more day, and August 2009 would be the first month without a post in almost two years.

August was a funny month. Between my travel and T4-'s I had half the expected number of cello lessons, plus I was building back up in practice time in fits and starts after my longer travel period in July. I'm up to an hour pain-free, but still lack the desire to work daily. I think it's coming, though.

Two weeks ago I initiated the "what am I going to do this semester?" chat with T4-, and I'm excited about the plan:

Set Allegro Appassionato aside in favor of Squire's Tarantella. I'll have many of the same bowing and fast-playing issues to be worked out in a slightly less complex piece of music. That was a relief, as I had reached the point of discouragement with AllApp. Now I can look forward to revisiting it with a new and improved skill set in the future.

Suite #3, beginning with the Prelude. This will be my first pass through this suite with a teacher, so I'm excited. I love the expansive joy of the 3d prelude.

We're going to spend some time on orchestra excerpts, which are important both as rep (I'm far more likely to play in an orchestra than to give solo recitals) and as an etude substitute. We're starting with Mozart Symphony #40 and Beethoven Symphony #5, which are the usual audition pieces for amateur orchestras in this area. Fun.

This is still a little up in the air. I'm continuing to work on Popper High School #1, and may look at the pre-high school book. Not sure about thumb position stuff yet, but for now I'll use the scales in Offenbach Grand Duo Concertante, which I am working up outside of lessons.

T4- doesn't seem big on scale routines and checking on them in lessons, so I'm a bit on my own. I can play all 12 major and 12 natural minor keys in 4 octaves at the drop of a hat, using Duport fingerings, so I've been choosing a key of the day and practicing elements of articulation or bowing from my pieces using either a standard 4 octave or Galamian 3 octave scale as the substrate. That seems good for now.

The impossible dream
Haydn Concerto in C. Yes, I'll probably get to start it later in the semester, and I'm thrilled.

I spent three years with T3- developing flexibility in my bow hand, so it's a nice change to focus more on left hand flexibility in order to play fast. At my last lesson on Tarantella we discovered that when I finger the notes without using the bow I make no sound. My project for the week is to observe my left hand while playing without the right hand. When I achieve the right degrees of flexibility, floppiness, unrestricted expansion and contraction, and balance the notes sound as I play them.

Very cool.

End of June


My, that month went by quickly. It's already time to look back and see how I did with my practice goals this month. Drumroll, please...

And the answer is, very well, and very badly. I practiced 18 hours and 5 minutes over 19 days, which means I reached my total time and frequency goals handily. But I had a deuced time with the sit down behind the cello for 5 minutes before noon goal. I did OK for the first 6 days, missed a couple, tried again, and just gave up.

Turns out I am completely unable to sit down behind the cello without a goal. What I found myself doing was getting to the cello at 11:55 to start an hour's practice, not my intent at all. The biggest question I am left with is why I thought I wanted to do this in the morning.

Good reasons to practice in the morning.
1. If I practice in the morning, well, then it's done. Works for exercise, so I thought it would be a good idea with practice.

2. Morning is both an introspective and a focused time for me (but do NOT talk to me before 9am OR before coffee, whichever comes later). Seems like the energy requirements should coincide.

3. I used to practice for 30 minutes before work, with the benefit of starting the workday feeling relaxed and virtuous.

Possible reasons it didn't work.
1. I also got back on the morning exercise bandwagon this month. Ran every day (but 3) for 10 minutes with 10 more minutes of walking, PT, and stretching. Doesn't seem like much, but a huge breakthrough as I am still trying to recover from knee surgery.

2. I like to sleep late, now that I can. Thirty years of being up and at 'em before 6am was plenty long enough, and since retirement I have resumed my more natural night owl rhythms.

3. I love to spend my first barely-conscious hour drinking my coffee and catching up on the overnight blogging and Twitter activity. After feeding the cats, of course.

4. I don't have to, and no one can make me.

Sleep late + coffee/blog time + work out + breakfast and the morning's over.

I guess that's the bottom line. There are other ways I would rather spend the morning, and much as I like practicing, it just gets squeezed out. And you know what? It's not really important. I reached my time and frequency goals with no problem, and the practices I had were of good quality. So I guess I learned an important lesson this month. Just because a goal seems like a good idea doesn't mean it's right for me.

June practice goals


That last post has been up on top 'way too long. To move it down a notch, I thought I'd post my practice goals for this month, as per my CelloBloggers Practice Club commitment:

Lots of things changing in my cello life right now - new teacher, new piece, fewer things in active progress, (which simplifies my practices and therefore seems to make me less resistant), integration of physical focus and learning music (which makes practice more pleasurable). But, though I have some intermediate performance goals, my primary practice goal for June is practice consistency.

My resolution: at least 15 practice days AND 15 hours of practice in June, PLUS at least 5 minutes of sitting behind my cello in playing position and doing *something* every day before noon.

There is method to my madness. I know I will face incredible resistance if I try to "practice every day." This allows me to take off on lesson and performance days without guilt. Plus I can plan practice lengths day to day, with a shorter practice on one day compensated for by either a longer practice later or an extra day of practice during the month. And I'm sneaking up on the goal of more frequent practice days by that very innocuous sitting behing the cello every day thing. Tee hee. I'll let you know how it goes.

[My first 5-minute deadline was very successful. Today I sat down at 11:53am, with time running out, and proceded to practice for 80 minutes.]

No-cello practice


When I first became an over-the-top obsessively-committed beginning cello player, I bought a Prakticello so that wherever I went, for business or vacation, I could take my cello along to practice while I was away from home. There was no way I was going to backslide because I couldn't practice with no cello available. I became quite good at setting it up and breaking it down, and it provided endless fascination for TSA checkers. But I gradually came to resent the extra hassle of flying with it, and finally, when DH and I were living in separate cities for awhile, I left it set up at "his place," and used it for practice while I was there. That was (so far) it's last trip, as when I moved out to join him I broke it down, packed it in its box, and stashed it in a corner of the new house. I know it's there if I need it.As a more experienced intermediate-level cello player who still travels fairly often, I have gained confidence that I won't lose all of my hard-won skills and revert back to the beginning if I don't play the cello for a few days. But practicing is part of my life, something I do, and am, and I practice every day, whether I have a cello available or not. I don't mean to write an exhaustive treatise on no-cello practice, but thought I'd list the things I brought along on my current trip, by way of answering Ten Northern's question, "What do you mean by 'no-cello practice'?".1. String quartet by Alexander Glasunov, op. 26. I'm not actually playing this, but a friend asked me for some fingering recommendations, if I had time. Marking a part with fingerings and bowings is a great thing to do when traveling. This quartet has lots of little chromatic puzzles to work out those fingerboard geography muscles.2. Brahms sonata no. 1 in e. I am preparing the first movement to play for T4- at my lesson in 2.5 weeks.In addition to marking fingerings, I'll totally mark this part up for memorizing, with bowings on almost every change and fingerings at the beginning of phrases in addition to on the shifts, where I usually mark them. That's so I can start anywhere on the right bow and finger when I am practicing tiny bits at a time, later. I will also survey the movement for structure and work out which parts are alike, and how the alike parts are different. Then I'll start memorizing it by singing it.3. Duport #7. I have already re-written this etude as chords, changing it from it's written-out arpeggios into something I can see the structure of more clearly. With this, I'll mentally practice chord changes as coordinated movements. I find this quite fatiguing, so I'll only do a few measures at a time.4. A chair. OK, I didn't bring that with me, but plan to use one here in the room. I'll tip it back toward me as I sit in another chair and practice one of my new motor skills. My directive is to develop more flexibility in my thumb mcp (left hand), particularly in thumb position. So I will pretend I have a fingerboard, and with thumb and one finger at a time observe what I need to do to vibrate with a flexible hand while keeping equal weight between thumb and finger. This is also something you can do with arm cello, but since I have a wooden chair handy I thought I'd use that instead.I also have two books with me: Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard and Set Your Voice Free: How To Get The Singing Or Speaking Voice You Want, by Roger Love.Here's a quote from this morning's reading from Leonard's book to inspire you:...the essence of boredom is to be found in the obsessive search for novelty. Satisfaction lies in mindful repetition, the discovery of endless richness in subtle variations on familiar themes.[...]



Yes, my computer is still dead, but I have delusions that I am going to try to revive it today. In the meantime, I am microblogging on Twitter, something I have been watching for a couple of years, but declined to jump in to. Finally had to, to respond to one of Stark Raving Emily's comments.

Anyway, I'm one of the quarter million people following Zoe Keating's mundane and ever-so-fascinating life log. Yesterday Wired posted a video interview, which I am now linking to here, mostly so I can easily reference it later when I can find it no other way, and partly so the few people who read my blog but don't tweet can see it, too.

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This is what she says her current equipment consists of, as best I can make it out, being a dead-Windows user and not Mac (yet):
MacBook Pro
* Ableton Live
* Super Looper
* Applescripts to tie things together and allow everything to be controlled with her feet ("duct tape")
Foot controller mapped to the functions in the program(s)

I loved her analogy, likening the way she builds her music to the way a programmer builds information technology. Start small. Try things out. Build on the foundation. Perfect each bit. Scale as needed.

Thanks, Zoe, you make the impossible seem achievable. I have got to try this.

Tactile intonation


I think I might have had a breakthrough at my lesson last night. I was playing the g minor scale, and we had stopped to work out the intonation of the IIF# to IIIEb. After trying it a couple of ways involving different combinations of fingers and strings, T- asked me to feel with the bow whether the note was in tune. A bit of Zen Cello. To my amazement, I caught the gist of of what seemed to me a ridiculous directive, and played with that concept through the rest of my evening activities (Irish fiddling and cello quartet).

I am totally psyched. I think I have finally opened the conduit so my energy gets all the way from my back down my arms into my fingertips and to the bow.

That was the best kind of day - but you have to wait until tomorrow for a kitten update (Mama and all 8 babies are doing well).

State of the Bow Hold, 2009


It occurred to me that it's been a year since I recorded what my bow hold looks like, a year of steady focus and (I hope) change. I asked DH to help me record another few clips, so I can take stock and figure out where I'm going from here.

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For comparison, this is last year's video:

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I am very pleased to see my thumb nicely curving and extending - much better than the locked out version last year. I think my down bow motion is actually a little sloppy - perhaps my finger tips are a little too loose? And I can finally see an up-bow motion that is happening in response to the bow change, rather than because the bow is slipping within my hand in anticipation of the change.

I also suspect the motions are a little exaggerated because I am playing an open string and can thus concentrate on making my bow hand as relaxed as possible. It will be interesting to see what that hand is doing when my left hand and brain are also occupied. Partially to that end, I filmed some "cello trial" clips, since I switched out one loaner cello for the other this week. As I post those you can see my bow hand in action while helping me to decide which cello to keep.

Cognitively complex


"...whatever it is that an IQ test measures, it is not the ability to engage in cognitively complex forms of multivariate reasoning." That last phrase is not one that most of us use very often, but it's actually a very good description of what most of us do every day in our working [and cello-playing] lives, and what the best performers do extremely well. You just don't have to be especially "smart," as traditionally defined, to do it.

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else(image) (Geoff Colvin, 2008)
p. 44



I see it's been almost a month since I last posted. Where has the time gone?

My friend D- knew I was still missing Frankie, so she kindly lent me these two four-month-old monsters to occupy the void in my heart for a week or two. That's laid-back Brad on my left and squirmy little Angelina on my right. She has the barest of white tippy toes on the left side, along with one white whisker and one white chin hair. Adorable.


And I have another loaner in the house today - a cello. In the continuing saga of the exploding cello from last winter, my new replacement cello developed a crack in the top of the top just as I was getting ready to take it in to have a new bridge made and some adjustments done in the hopes of making the playability more to my liking. I have been more and more disappointed, because this wasn't the cello I would have bought if it had been one of the candidates in my search.

Though the shop that I bought the cello from won't simply refund the money (which I completely understand), they have always been willing to trade the cello at the original purchase price for another cello. So that's what I'm (finally) doing. And I must say, even though I don't need another cello at this moment, having two perfectly good ones (and two cello-shaped objects, CSO's), it is always exciting to try new cellos.

But that's all I'm going to write about that now, because I want to go practice some more.

Weekly practice review


Yesterday, I welcomed Daylight Savings Time by sleeping all afternoon, after being up early to play for church, then succumbing to insulin toxicity induced by the carbohydrate load of the apple fritters I consumed at a local dining emporium.

Why do I mention that in a post about practice review? Because I slept all day, I didn't start to practice until after 8:30pm, which is fine for me, but DH has a weekday 4:30am date with the alarm clock, and our house is very open. So I didn't want to practice more than about 30 minutes. I did that, however, instead of skipping it because it was the last day of the week and I wanted to report a good practice week, 5 days out of 7. Thanks, Practice Club.

The funniest moment of the week happened just as I came to the end of my 30 minutes. I was playing the first four bars of arpeggiated chords from the Sammartini Sonata in G (Suzuki Book 8, 1st mvmt, p3) with my eyes closed so I could concentrate better, when DH stopped by on the way to bed and kissed me on the top of my head. Oh, my! I nearly jumped out of my skin! Then dissolved into laughter as my heart rate returned to normal, and asked him to please, never kiss me when I am playing the cello with my eyes closed.

How romantic is that?




I think that many things would be easier to learn if the tutorials were written by true beginners.

Example: I started trying to learn ABC for creating graphics of music snippets several years ago, collected a ream of instructions, got bogged down in the details, and gave it up to go on to something else. Yesterday, Michael blogged about creating his first ABC project, and eureka, I knew just enough to start.

Here's my first project. Well, really my second, because I had to do it twice after I lost my first file when ABCedit timed out because I hadn't fed it the (free) license code in time. Oh, well. You know what they say about practice.


This is my current etude bugaboo. Maybe I'll write more about it later, and scare off the last remaining readers of my sporadic-in-2009 blog.

(BTW, that took about two hours. Can I count it as practice time this week?)



Today I am inspired to make a quick video response to a couple of questions Michael asked recently on his blog, Cello Practice Smackdown. Or maybe I am inspired to avoid my own practicing. Either way here you go.

The first comment was

Another curiosity question - why does my hand drift out of position so easily when I play cello but not recorder? In both cases, I have my thumb in an easy place for reference. Oh, I know that with cello I do move my thumb slightly to maintain balance, but that doesn’t explain the total letting go that I see myself do.

My response is that the thumb starts in an easy place for reference, but is then continually moving, even when you are just staying in first position. You can't see it so well in the video response (note to self: record thumb while sitting on a piano bench in the future) but trust me, the thumb is constantly in motion unless you have developed the very bad habit of gripping the fingerboard. Get used to "re-referencing" your landmarks!

The second question:

On to my question. In Kummer #7, in the first measur e of the second line I have to shift from IV(F#) to III(A), which is a fairly large shift (for me). I’m not sure I see a way, if there even is a way to walk from one to another without giving up the fingerboard.

See the video for my take on extensions, and two ways to practice this particular pair.


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Something New


Okaaaay... One big, fat post for the month of February. That's what I call taking a break.

I credit the Practice Club on CelloBloggers for helping to maintain my interest in practicing in a month filled with taking care of my mom post-op, administering meds to cats to finally resolve the diarrhea issue, multiple kitten adoptions (the Vanalikalikes, Spud and Jo all found excellent homes), the return of Pi due to an unsuspected heart condition and his subsequent diagnosis and ongoing treatment. Actually, it was a busy month, but knowing that I had committed to reporting my practice time every week to a handful of faithful peers was just enough motivation to get me to my practice room.

This is my other inspiration this month:


I have been keeping a rudimentary journal in a weekly academic appointment calendar, but decided that something a little more colorful might increase the fun quotient. Sort of like stickers for adults. So I bought a dry-erase board with daily divisions and a space for lists, along with a pack of multi-colored dry erase pens. Now I have the added incentive of covering the board each week.




The hairiest part about last night's concert was getting there.

I had planned well, I thought. I went to my 4pm lesson in concert black attire, with dinner (Zone-friendly string cheese + 2 slices luncheon ham + medium honeycrisp apple + walnuts and roasted squash seeds) packed in my bag. I figured if I left by 5:30 I could make my 6:30 call, as it is usually 30-40 minutes in rush hour.

Lesson was great, BTW. The student before me ran over, by design, I discovered. There was no student after me, as T- planned on running over with me on the other end. So I had a half hour of observing one of T-'s old students who had come back for an advanced brush-up on Haydn C. Then I had a little over an hour for my lesson, G major scale concentrating on intonation in the upper 2 octaves, and revisiting Lee #1. I've been working on memorizing it, a topic for another post, and it is amazing how much new technique gets overlaid each time I have a lesson on this etude.

Anyway, I left the lesson room at 5:20, and was exiting the parking lot by 5:30. Then I ran into one nail-biting back-up after another. The details don't sound as exciting today, but I was sweating, and grateful to end up only 10 minutes late for call. We have had horrible traffic since the snow started seriously falling last week. I surely hope people remember how to drive here again, soon.

The concert was anticlimactic. DH caught this pic, so I can show you the set-up. The orchestra is in a pit formed by surrounding elevated walkways, where speakers, singers and dancers moved above us. You can see the front row of cellos on the big screen - my head is in the leftmost corner.

Morning paper


Last night's rehearsal did indeed end after 10pm. Much to my surprise, we have a beefy string section, expanding from 2 or 3 to 5 in each section. It feels a bit odd to be a volunteer in the midst of a professional, or at least paid, section.

Two new pieces were added, one a cello obbligato and piano accompanying a child's recitative with choir. Very nice, and handled by one of the pros. It was by no stretch a dress rehearsal for us, as we were hurriedly marking in bowings and dividing parts throughout, not to mention sorting through pieces and discovering who was missing what. At least being busy keeps things from getting tedious.

One thing I noticed was that orchestra members have much better discipline than choir members. It was no problem at all for us to sit quietly in our own thoughts while other performers were being rehearsed, while the choir couldn't seem to help chattering when it was too long between singing. I wonder why that is?

I slept in quite late this morning to compensate for the late night last night, and in anticipation of another one tonight. The black-and-whites joined me while I drank my morning coffee and, well, tried to read my e-mail and morning blogs. Sometimes it's hard to see around the crowd at the screen.





You just know that Frankie would be the little boy in class whispering to his neighbors, throwing spit balls and pulling pigtails.

Music schedule


You might not know it from reading my blog recently, but I do still play the cello. After taking two whole months off over the summer, but still feeling slightly burnt out, I cut back my schedule significantly this year.

What I am not doing:
Flute trio
Piano trio
Piano lessons
Vocal ensemble

What I am doing:
Cello lessons, weekly +/-
Voice class, also weekly
Cello quartet, weekly, with a coach
String quartet, sporadically, every few months
Church orchestra, weekly rehearsal and 1 or 2 services, 3 of 4 weeks

Plus a Christmas performance, which is this week. So we have a dress rehearsal tomorrow night, scheduled for four (4!) hours, and concert on Thursday night. I also simplified my life by scheduling everything at Music School on one day, which happens to be Thursday. So this week I'll go straight from my lesson to dress rehearsal, and miss voice class and cello quartet.

I am annoyed that, even with having cut back, my scheduled elements are stepping on each others' toes.

Soft cello case storage


I have a soft cello case that I use on occasion when I need to transport my cello but have weight or size issues that preclude using my usual hard case. As much as possible, though, I avoid using it in winter, because it offers very little thermal protection. I don't have a great option for storing it when it's not in use, so I am sorry to say that since last winter it has laid in a balled-up heap on my basement floor.

It occurred to me that there was a better option to using it as a litterbox-challenged cat attractant - I could hang it up in a closet. Amazing really, how long it takes me to come up with these brilliantly obvious ideas.


I never do anything here without the aid of my able assistants.


Yes, everything must be carefully inspected to meet exacting technical specifications.


The hanger is secured in the wide bottom of the case by closing the opposing zippers, meant to accommodate the endpin.


And voila, a storage solution that will foil all but the most determined cat.


Blond, brunette, and redhead



Cello as accessory.

It's almost time


My bout of severe cello avoidance, over two months long now, may be coming to an end. This week I thought about playing my cello. I watched a couple of cello videos on YouTube - The Chicago Cello Society has posted all twenty performances from their recent Popper concert in honor of Janos Starker - and indulged in a little retail therapy. I am trying on ideas for what I might like to play this year.

This is what I bought:

Possible solo pieces
Goltermann Capriccio, Marais La Folia (arr. Gendron), Vaughan Williams' Six Studies in English Folksong, Bridge's Four Pieces for Cello and Piano. I am also thinking that I would like another pass at Goltermann Concerto #4, to get the fast parts fast, and still would like to start Haydn C Maj concerto.

Chamber Music
Dvorak American Quartet. It would be lovely to be able to play that on demand, and it has lots of juicy technique. For the same reason, I want to work on the von Weber trio (flute, piano, cello).

For violin and cello: Lee Duet #2, Op 125 No 2; Gliere 8 Duets Op 39, Berg 16 Duets; Bartok Hungarian Folk Melodies. One of the violinists in the quartet I read with has expressed interest in playing some duets, and I really had nothing in my library.

For flute and cello: Villa-Lobos The Jet Whistle. The flautist from my trio would probably willing to play with me. I don't even know what it sounds like, but I'll bet it's fun.

Movie Scores
Music from Titanic and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, arranged for cello and piano. A totally uncharacteristic purchase, but I'm longing to be able to take simple tunes and make compelling music out of them. I thought this might be fun.

Fun. The operative word is fun. The last three years with T- have been so worthwhile, but somewhere along the way I forgot how to have fun.

Last week at church the orchestra played for the first time without prior rehearsal (and I played for the first time in a month). At one point during the read-through before the service, the choir director dashed over to me (while still conducting), bent over, ear to f-holes, and said "I think you're a little sharp." Yikes! I didn't think I was, but maybe my chops are flabbier than I think, and my hearing has even deteriorated.

I think it's time. Maybe next week I'll touch my cello.

Enumerating News


OK, OK. In response to a complaint that two weeks of seeing the Clik a Pad on top of my blog is more than enough, I am writing a new post.

News for July:


1. I got a new set of four bottle babies last Monday, 3-4 weeks old. For the past week I have been very busy feeding, pottying, cleaning, and weaning. My bigs are wonderful, every so often going in to check out the babies (as Sharae is doing here) but leaving them alone to squirm and wrestle in the Nursery. They're not very interesting yet, unless you are their Mom.

2. Finnegan and Fergus have gone to their forever homes. While not together, they each have a new big sister, are adjusting well, and their new people love them.

3. Molly had a family visit last night, but not the right one for her. I will be very sorry to see Molly leave, even though she is going through an adolescent phase of overturning trash cans, scratching the couch, and suckling at 3am. She's a dear.

4. Sharae, Seri, Dolly, and Molly all went to an adoption event at a local Petco last weekend. The verdict is unanimous. We all hate them.

5. My Board review course was very interesting, and very long. My hip still hurts from the week of non-stop sitting, now several weeks ago.

6. I got in three good days of clutter work at the DC house. Four huge paper recycling bins filled, but the bulk of the work was moving the clutter to a more organized and out-of-the way place. Sigh.

7. I've started participating in a new workout program called CrossFit. I am doing the version scaled down for us Buttercups, and even with that have been marveling at how long it's been since I felt like puking after a workout. The barbell work came in very handy with #6, as I found I could easily lift a 40 lb book box over my head using a clean and jerk technique.

8. I started #7 after I found out in PT that the reason I haven't been able to run without pain yet is that I don't actually use the muscles around my knee during stance to push-off. That has gotten much better with the squat strength-training. I also stopped jogging, and started running as far as I can (about 200 ft ) then walking in intervals. I hope I can run 2 complete miles by winter. Reconditioning is so much harder when you're 50. Sigh.

9. I have had one adventure in travel, getting stranded for an extra day in DC because of weather the day before I was supposed to fly home. I've never been delayed a whole day before, and was glad I was in a place where I had somewhere to stay.

10. I have played my cello four times since my last concert in June. I don't know what happened; I've simply lost my desire to play. And now I have also lost much of my finger and thumb calluses, and if I just jump in to play for fun I aggravate my right tennis elbow. It's not looking good on the cello front right at this moment. And I haven't tried to play the piano since June.

Treating ear worms


The best way I've found to treat an ear worm is to replace it with another one. Today I'm trying a different tack, actually spending more time with it in the practice room, and as a by-product creating my first dual track Audacity project. Hasn't worked yet, but I'll let you know.

This is a song we played in church last week. It has a simple cello ostinato line that is quite addictive. We started our pre-service rehearsal with both of us playing the ostinato introduction, but didn't like the effect. Two string instruments playing in unison is the most difficult combination. So between us, we decided that it needed to be a cello solo. Usually the other cellist plays the solos, and I am happy in my role as Cello 2. But somehow, she passed it off to me, just before we went live.

I wasn't too distressed, as it's not difficult - just exposed. And I'm quite proud of my performance anxiety management - when I caught myself thinking "Now don't screw this up and get all tense" I immediately changed that tape to "This is a beautiful line and I am going to release any excess tension and play it warmly." I don't know how beautiful it was, but it felt pretty good. DH commented after the service that the cellos had a big part, and that it sounded nice. Good enough for me.

But that simple ostinato has been caught in my ear since Sunday. Today I wanted to just play something fun to start my practice, so I looked through my Suzuki books, having heard that La Folia is in there somewhere (variations on the ostinato theme). Unfortunately, whomever I overheard must have been talking about the violin books, because I didn't see it in the cello parts. So I decided to record the ostinato part of the song from last week, and then the other cello part, which Cello 1 played, and mix them together in Audacity. A fun little project.

You'll hear that I am not quite exactly aligned, but well enough to get the gist of it. Think of all the duet options...


Ostinato mix

Highs and Lows


It's been an interesting musical month. If you read my practice blog, you may have noticed that I listed the sessions I attended at two professional music teachers' organizations. My head is filled with new things to try this summer, the makings of my own personal music camp, since I'm not attending anything formal. Heck, I'm not taking lessons, and my scheduled play dates are not for rehearsing.I've had several performances in the past month.Current Orchestra. Played the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, Vivaldi Spring from the Four Seasons, and the Bach Double featuring violin and oboe on the solo parts, plus a variety of pops selections. Fluffy program, but the audience enjoyed it and we played well.Cello Trio. I thought this was going to be an adult chamber music recital, but it turned out to be "All School," and we were the only adults on the program. Due to a last-minute schedule change we played right after a group of 7 or 8-year-olds having their first quartet experience. Adorable, and a hard act to follow. Went well, though, and we were so well-rehearsed that I still can't get the music entirely out of my ears. It keeps popping up in quiet moments.Old Orchestra. Last weekend I was in my old hometown for a long weekend that happened to coincide with the last scheduled concert of their season. They graciously allowed me to sit in, and I learned Schumann's second symphony and a von Weber overture in four days. I alternated focused technical practice with play-throughs accompanied by John Eliot Gardiner and the Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra, my favorite recording. The tempo was faster than the Old Orchestra played, but it was an excellent exercise for learning context, designing faking strategies, and pointing out exposed parts that really needed to be mastered. Plus, Current Orchestra hasn't played a symphony in two years, so I had great fun. The other good news is that the Mendelssohn-like Scherzo has partially supplanted the Cello Trio ear worm, probably a side effect of the total immersion approach.So, what's the low? Those all sound like highs to me.Yesterday I met with my flute/piano/cello trio for the first time since our Mother's Day performance. We read through arrangements of several Handel suites, and Beethoven: Op. 20, an interesting piece that was originally scored for a rather unusual septet that included clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, and bass, but was so popular that Beethoven made arrangements for a number of other groups, including the flute trio. As an aside, we listened to parts of the septet recording near the end of rehearsal, and I liked that arrangement much better.Anyway, I hung in for the rhythm and tempo, but anyplace that requires fast shifting or Trouble Clef still sounds pretty awful while I'm reading. I know, I know, sight reading only gets better by doing it, but I really expected that there should be some carry-over from working on more difficult music. I was feeling discouraged when I left yesterday.But buck up, today's another day, and writing about it takes away the sting. I see that I need to include sight-reading practice in my summer program. And my apologies to those who read my blog for the cat pictures, but I need to do some more thinking aloud about practicing.[...]