April 2 Lesson Notes

| posted in: lessons 

Tonight was my first lesson in three weeks. Between spring break and our trip to New York City I haven’t had a lesson since March 12th.

The timing of our trip to NYC was such that I had just three days after our return to refresh the pieces I’ve been working on for today’s lesson. I always feel a bit off after a week (or more) away from my cello and my practice sessions this past weekend were no exception. I was as frustrated with practicing as I’ve ever been. Being an adult student I know what is wrong with my pieces but I can’t always make them “right”. The gap between where I am musically on any given day and what the piece should sound like is filled with frustrations.

Number 27 has given me fits for several weeks now. The goal is to play it faster. I am capable of playing it at a nicely measured pace, but when I try to go faster it falls apart. A huge portion of my frustration the past few days was not knowing how to increase my speed without losing control of the piece. In my lesson today I asked, “how do I practice to play faster?” There were two answers.

First I am using too much bow. I am trying to use the same amount of bow when I play fast as I do when I play slow. At some point this becomes physically impossible and things break down. In order for my right-hand to keep up with my left-hand I need to use shorter bow strokes. In a way this is counter-intuitive – but it works.

The second thing to do is what David calls “add-a-note”. We picked one passage where playing faster ends up in the weeds. He had me play the first measure – just 4 notes at a slow pace. And then again a bit faster. And again a little faster. When we reached a good performance tempo he had me add one note to what I was playing and he had me return to the original slower tempo. Again we repeated the now 5 note passage gradually playing faster and faster. Once it was fast enough you add the 6th note and start over again. And so on. Laborious, but very effective. In just a couple of minutes I was playing one of my nemesis passages considerable faster.

For next week he wants me to work on #27 with the goal of faster using less bow and playing add-a-note where necessary to build the skill necessary. He also pointed out that from one day to the next there will (initially) be some slippage. What I was able to do yesterday will take a little effort to regain and surpass today.

Schröder 28 came of beautifully today. I can always tell when I’m playing something well as David tends to get up and wander around the studio while I’m playing if I’m doing it right. I got a star for that piece.

We worked on La Cinquantaine for bit and ended by playing the piece together. Playing with his cello accompaniment is always a challenge. Tonally it is hard to hear my notes against his, and it immediately reveals where I am not playing the correct rhythm. I actually did a fair job of keeping up with the tempo. What needs a bit more work here is landing the shifts correctly.

I also played Allegro Moderato for him. We ran out of lesson time before we could really work on this piece. The areas I need to work on are the extended trill in the middle of the second page, and the ending. This will be the first piece we work on in my next lesson.

As luck would have it David is the conductor for a youth orchestra. In six weeks time they are holding auditions for students to place them in one of three orchestras. He would like me to audition for the intermediate level orchestra this year. In addition to playing C: and F: two octave scales, you need to preform a piece equivalent to the end of Suzuki volume 2, and sight read a piece at the audition. I am very much looking forward to this opportunity as it will be my first ensemble experience since the 7th grade (when I only lasted a few weeks before quitting).

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Mastodon.