Cello During COVID

September 28, 2020

Unless you’ve been living under a rock on the dark side of the moon, your life has been impacted by COVID. Every aspect of life has been altered to some extent.

My practicing has varied from trying to tread water to actually making good progress on new music. From one day to the next my motivation, cognitive ability, musicality, and general mood vary from “I should just put my cello in its case in the closet” to “Music sets me free and is a good thing”. And I don’t always know where on the spectrum between these two extremes I am until I start trying to practice. I’ve learned to be gentle with myself; some days I just walk away from practicing or even playing, so as not to taint the experience with the stresses of times.

These are the pieces I currently have on my music stand.

There’s a Goltermann Nocturne I’d like to learn because it’s a beautiful piece of music. But that may or may not happen this semester.

Over the weekend my wife and I recorded ourselves playing an arrangement she made for cello and piano. The piece (originally a piano only piece from her studio) is beautiful. Neither of us was particularly pleased with the sound quality of our recording. The cello in particular sounded thin and reedy - not at all like it sounds in real life.

I was dismayed at how variable my intonation was. Whereby variable I mean awful at times. I have resolved that I need to video tape myself regularly and watch the video and make changes to my playing. Making a video of every practice would not be constructive - trying to watch every practice would double my time commitment. My idea is to record some of one or two practices each week. Pick a passage or etude, play it on video, and then dissect it and work on one or two things for a week, then record it again. Hopefully I’ll see improvements. And over time I hope to improve across the board.

And I’ll continue to give myself permission to not always be in a good space to practice every day.

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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 Twitter.