I’ve stopped blogging about every lesson, but this one made me super happy. I told my teacher via email a few days ago that I’d been working on Christmas carols, so I could play for my family a bit during the holidays. I mentioned that once I got the first few notes down I could do it by ear, without looking at the music. So we did The First Noel without the sheet music; I’d played it a couple of times with the music, days ago, but she told me the key and tonic note and I did it from memory. Then she turned around so I couldn’t see her playing, and she did Away in a Manger. Which I then proceeded to replicate almost immediately just from figuring it out by ear. She was impressed. I’ve always been pretty good at figuring out music by ear, and it was nice to have her confirm that. Part of my homework for the week is to play along with some recorded music I like without looking up the score for it.
We also figured out that I’m a much better cellist when I’m not looking at the sheet music. When I’m reading notes I stop paying attention to what my hands are doing. I played a piece from Suzuki (1.12 “Andantino”) from memory, and sounded a million times better. And then we started working on the 1.14 etude and I was able to play parts I’d memorized even better with my eyes closed. If I’m not looking at anything I’m more aware of what my hands/body are doing, and how I sound.
When I was starting to learn cello, I made the comment that the muscle memory would be like when I learned to spin yarn. Apparently that was more accurate than I’d thought at the time. When I spin, I mess up if I watch my fingers. It’s easier to do it with my eyes closed, or, as I got better, while looking at other things. I need to play more with my eyes closed, and as my body gets better at playing from touch only then I’ll be able to read the sheet music more easily.
I told my teacher that I’m one of those people who can’t watch a movie if there’s subtitles on it. I have to read the words, if they’re there. Sheet music is kinda doing the same thing to me. I can’t pay attention to the playing because I’m too busy reading. So yeah, I’m going to do a lot of stuff by ear this week, preferably with my eyes closed. I need more body awareness, and this really seems to help.
Other things from the lesson:
— I’m doing… I guess you could call it “pre-vibrato.” There’s a piece (1.13 “Rigadoon”) that I’m playing with exaggerated vibrato motions on the half notes. I’m doing it right, she said, and she’s pleased that I’m leading with my forearm instead of doing it from just my fingers (which is the wrong way). I’m to work on this more. More muscle memory!
— I was also assigned my first arpeggio, which is cool. C/E/G. I did not ask if there’s a name for it; all I know is that it’s thirds going up from low C.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that I’m now doing three weeks of hour-long lessons and skipping the fourth week entirely. I originally thought about alternating between half-hour lessons and hour lessons, but half-hour lessons don’t allow us to dig into the technical stuff too much. They’re rushed. I’d rather have three good lessons than two good ones and two rushed ones. Teacher’s totally happy with it.
After the lesson was over I started trying to figure out songs off my phone. My problem is that I tend to focus on the vocals rather than the music underneath them. But I can do a bit of Nick Cave’s “The Ship Song” now, some of the Pet Shop Boys’ “Always on My Mind” (which is, IIRC, in a different key than the original), and some of Bush’s “Glycerine” (because hey, it’s got a cello bit in it). I played the theme from Angel (off YouTube, not on my cello) and told my teacher I have the score and want to learn it; she said she can teach me, but that it requires a position change, and I haven’t learned any yet. So I told her it can wait a bit.
I wonder if I can figure out Cello Fury’s “Nightfall” by ear. I’m going to go try!