Sunday, October 11, 2009

A little bit a day

Mathew had me over for a very productive joint practice session today, more so for me, as usual. I missed last Wednesday's rehearsal because of a conflict with the band, and in my absence, the subject of me came up! Our section leader asked Mathew to go over proper position with me, so he had me over for tea and cello playing.

Some things I learned:
  • I hold the cello too high up on my body.  The cello should be at a 45 degree angle with the grooves just above my knees and the right-facing pegs at my neck.  I should sit at the very edge of the seat with my back straight.
  • I hold the bow like a violinist, go figure.  I should hold the bow like I'm making the number four with my hand; my pinky (or ring finger) on the dot in the frog; my thumb bent into the space between the hair, stick, and frog; and my pointer finger somewhat curled around the wood.  My pointer finger and thumb should bear the tension.  Having gotten home and attempted this, I have no idea how I managed to do this at Mathew's house.
  • The arm holding the bow should be relaxed, but not too relaxed (great!).  My entire arm should move when bowing a long note.
  • I also press the strings like a violinist.  This, I think is the hardest to correct.  My elbow should be out and my wrist rotated to the front.  My fingers should be curved and the tips of my fingers should press the strings (some of this is actually the same for the violin.  When fingering the second or third note on a string, all subsequent fingers should also be down (all four fingers should be down when fingering a fourth-finger note on a string).  I should practice with the thumb not touching the neck.
  • When plucking, I should pluck out, not to the side, and not rest my thumb on the side of the fingerboard.
Mathew gave me an exercise to work on, and he said I should pick an easy movement of a Bach Cello Suite and work on the first four measures or so, just to give myself something enjoyable to play (while I muddle through the mundane exercises and scales, and the difficult orchestra music).  Learning good position is better for me at this point than working on the orchestra music, as everything will be easier once I get the basics down.

When I got home, I did the exercise he taught me on three of the four strings, and then worked on the Menuet from Bach's Cello Suite no. 1.  I didn't practice for very long, because I'd spent the whole day playing the cello, and my roommate's family was in the living room laughing up a storm.  But the whole point is to practice at least a little bit a day.  I should be able to squeeze some practicing in tomorrow night and possibly Tuesday (I have a house guest which complicates things) and then rehearsal is Wednesday.  I leave for San Francisco on Thursday, but I'm taking a half day so if I get my packing done, there may be time to practice.

So, the goal is a little bit a day.

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