Cello practice, days 2-3

Day two was a bust.  Well, not entirely, but I hadn’t taken my morning meds, wound up sobbing because I felt overwhelmed while practicing, and it ruined the rest of the day.  I was supposed to hang out with Mom and Awesome Niece, and then go have smoothies with my friend S.  (I really need a nickname for her for my blog.  Hm.  I think I’ll call her the Butterfly, because she loves bright colors and is delicate-looking.  S, if you’re offended or want something different, let me know.  And if she’s Butterfly, her spouse should be the Dragon, because it will make Butterfly laugh even though it’s not quite perfect.)  I wound up falling asleep, exhausted from sobbing my eyes out, and didn’t wake up until like seven.  So I stood everybody up and felt awful about it.

However!  The day was not completely a loss, cello-wise.  I realized that I was probably holding my bow wrong, because it shouldn’t be painful after 5 minutes.  So I hit up YouTube.  Learned that I was right about holding it incorrectly.  I also learned how to curl my left fingers better on the strings, and I found a few exercises to strengthen the fingers and make them more flexible.

Because of the videos, today’s two practices went much better.  I warmed up with finger stretches.  I worked on curling my fingers properly, which made it easier to splay my hand wide enough to hit fingers 3 and 4 on my without moving finger 1 out of place.  It’s still a struggle, but less of one.  I also experimented to get the bow hold right, and knew I’d gotten it (or at least close to it) when I stopped having to hold it in a death grip.  It suddenly felt natural.

My mother, who was in the room on her laptop as I practiced for the second time, actually helped me with a couple of things.  She mentioned being sad about Yo-Yo Ma’s back pain, which reminded me to sit up straight, and she asked me if I should try turning the cello very slightly because I was having such a problem bowing the A string (which is the furthest away from my bow hand).  Both these things helped immensely, and I felt more comfortable.  AND she started humming along when I played “The First Noel” without me telling her what I was trying to do.  Woo!  So it was a really productive practice session.

I hope I’m getting everything a bit more correct now — cello angle, bow hold, finger positions.  I’ll find out at my lesson Tuesday.  It was so nice for things to feel a bit more natural, enough so that I could play a simple song without sounding too dismal or off-key.  I was slightly concerned about how rushed my first lesson felt, but maybe Teacher felt it was best to give me lots to do just to get me excited?  I’ll have to ask her.  At any rate, I’d like my next lesson to go a bit slower and really focus on how I’m holding my body and hands.  I feel a great deal calmer about my potential as a cellist now that I have seen a bit of progress already.  So maybe that was her goal all along.  I know I have a ton of stuff to learn, that I’m only just beginning, but I feel like maybe it’s possible for me to get reasonably good.

Also, remember this post about the pessimism I was seeing in an adult beginner cellist community?  I had a counter-argument from an acquaintance that made me feel a bit more optimistic.  Adult learners have better fine motor control and the ability to focus more than a child beginner.  According to her (and she’s an experienced pianist), adults can actually learn faster than children in some ways.  What trips adults up is frustration — feeling like you should be better than you are because you put pressure on yourself.  Which (she says) is why adult learners should take more breaks while practicing, in order to keep from feeling overwhelmed like I did yesterday.

And, thinking about it, a lot of the people on that cello forum were saying things like “I’ve spent $1500 on lessons, I don’t sound good enough to play concerto solos so why am I even bothering?”  Ummm… that shouldn’t be the point of learning.  Goals are good, but isn’t the journey supposed to be fun?  Can you really say “I should reach level X by the time I’ve spent Y on lessons?”  I had a delightful time today trying to problem-solve as well as fucking around with a Christmas carol.  I feel I’m better than I was yesterday, and shouldn’t that be the point of practicing?  And I expect some days to suck like yesterday did, but with luck I’ll have more sessions like today.  I’m… happy.

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