Monthly Archives: January 2016

Cello lesson: real cellos > electronic ones

Today’s lesson: C arpeggio, more work on 1.15 “The Happy Farmer” (which I just need to polish now), and Luna says my vibrato on 1.13 “Rigadoon” is really good.  Now I need to get better at doing vibrato while bowing correctly.  Hard to do both at once, right now.

We started a new piece, 1.16 “Minuet in C” (my first Bach! Yay).  I did a reasonably good job of sight-reading it, but I need to listen to the recording I have of it a few times to get the rhythm down.

And then we got to playing with my compositions.  In this last week I started using Noteflight for composing, which is an awesome tool I highly recommend.  I fucked around with my Comp No. 1 until I couldn’t take it anymore and decided I hated it, but then wrote No. 2 in A Minor in like half an hour, and that I love.  Luna said it sounded like video game music or a horror movie.  She and I played both pieces.  No. 1 sounds better slowed down and on a real cello, but I still hate it.  No. 2 sounds fucking awesome, though.  Maybe next week we can record it.  Luna prefers No. 1 because it sounds “stream of consciousness” to her.  Maybe in a week or two I’ll like it again.  I recorded her playing the melody, and it sounded so much nicer than with the fake electronic cello on Noteflight.  Which is normal, of course, but I wasn’t expecting how the piece changed so completely at the hands of a professional cellist (and oh my god, my music has now been played on a cello from the 1740’s.  Wow).

After Luna left I decided to fuck around with learning some stuff by ear.  I still want to learn “Nightfall” by Cello Fury, but I tried again post-lesson and had to face that it’s just too hard for me at this point.  So instead I figured out two Violent Femmes songs: “Good Feeling” and “Blister in the Sun.”  I’ve decided that I want to learn the bass parts for their entire self-titled album, because the reason I originally tried learning bass guitar was because of VF bassist Brian Ritchie.  I didn’t like playing bass, but on the cello his bass lines are lots of fun to work out.  So that’s a thing I’m doing.

Oh, and before lesson started, Luna restrung my D because the cold weather made my pegs loosen.  The D peg loosened so much the string came off.  She showed me some tips and that was cool.

I want to compose some more this week.  Maybe even tonight…

I bought a car.

Monday my ex-MIL told me she wanted her car back (the one I’d been borrowing since August).  Wednesday I went to the credit union and then started car shopping.  After a shitload of research and visits to a few car dealers, I wound up getting a 2009 Honda CR-V EX, white, with 92K miles on it.  I picked it up yesterday, and I’ve already (and accidentally) dubbed it the Nerdmobile because I’ve ordered some nerdy decals and things for it (like 20-sided fuzzy dice and an Avengers-related license plate frame).  It will also have cello and knitting decals.

I read somewhere that if you stick your decals to blank sheets of window cling vinyl and then cut them out, you can have removable, reusable decals to swap out at will.  So I have some of that coming in.  I am terrible at applying stickers of any kind to any surface, so this way I won’t have to worry about them being at weird angles and me unable to fix them.  Also, I am the sort of person who thinks a particular decal or bumper sticker sounds like a really good idea but hates it two weeks later.  So easily removable is best.

Today my sister and I took ex-MIL’s car back to her.  She’s 1.5 hours away from my town, mostly on an interstate, so the NM and I got to have our first road trip together.  It was fantastic.  NM is comfortable as anything, has an impressive enough pickup that you’d never guess she’s a 4-cylinder, and has outlets in the center console for both 12V power and an aux cable for the stereo.  I put a USB charger in and twist-tied the USB and aux cables together, and now I can listen to my phone over the stereo speakers without having wires in the way.  The sound system is excellent for music, and it worked pretty well for a phone call too.  She has very little road noise, too, even doing 75MPH down the interstate.  I was impressed.

So the drive down was spent listening to podcasts: My Dad Wrote a Porno (which is hilarious) and Sawbones.  Sis drives faster than me, and we agreed to meet at a parking lot outside of XMIL’s neighborhood.  Sis stopped at Starbucks as we left our town, and much to my amusement came up behind me as I was driving into XMIL’s town.  So we went to a gas station instead, so XMIL’s car wouldn’t be empty when we gave it back to her, then went to her house.

I had asked XMIL and my ex to have a few things ready for me to take home with me.  I put those things in the car and found that they took up less than a quarter of the cargo space.  So XMIL and Sis chatted while I went upstairs and collected more stuff.  Ex followed me around, talking to me and finding things she thought I might want to take with me.  All in all I fit a floor lamp, two large three-drawer craft storage bins, two medium ones, one small one, three big boxes, a small fire safe, a bag of knitting, some clothes… and still had a little room left.  And didn’t pile things on top of things, so my rear view wasn’t even slightly obstructed.  I was amazed at the amount of cargo space in the NM once the back seats were folded away.  I love my car.

As Sis and I left town, it hit me that I didn’t owe anyone there anything any more.  The only reason I need to go back to that county is to finalize the divorce, and I still have a few things there that I want to get at some point.  I don’t owe them anything now.  I plan on keeping in touch with XMIL, but I’m not in her debt anymore.  Freeing.  The drive back home was great.  It’s been many, many years since I enjoyed road trips; now I want to kidnap Sis and just go… somewhere.  Anywhere.  And my mom and I used to travel some together, for long weekends; maybe we can go somewhere too.  The NM is excellent for road trips.  I wasn’t expecting that.

I’m not thrilled about having monthly car payments for five years.  It’s a bit frightening, actually, to commit to that.  But I need a car, and it makes me feel more independent to have my own.  Two years ago I decided that I needed to have good credit in my name, in case anything ever happened to my spouse and I needed to be able to manage for myself.  At the time it had been so long since I’d owned or rented anything in my name that I had no credit anymore.  So I did a “credit builder” loan at a credit union, got a secured credit card through them, and did a good job of paying things promptly.  I’m so glad I did, because now I have a halfway decent credit score.  Mom had to co-sign for me, because I don’t have much income, but this will help my credit too.  (Mom co-signed for a car for Sis during Sis’ divorce.  Family tradition, now?)

So anyway, that’s the story about the Nerdmobile.  I’ll take pictures of her after I get my decals and things put on.  My only problem with her is that she’s white.  Someday I’d like to get her repainted.  But I love her to pieces.  A friend was the one who recommended the CR-V to me.  After I got mine and ordered decals, She told me hers is also white and also has fannish decals on it, although her fandoms are different than mine.  So we match now, much to my amusement.  Next time she’s in town I want photos of the two cars together!

 

 

Cello lesson: removing tapes, and co-composing

I have to buy Suzuki book #2, because there are only two pieces left in Book #1.  I didn’t even notice until Luna told me yesterday that I need to get it.  Woo!  (There are more pages after the final piece, which is why I didn’t notice.  Turns out they’re workbook type pages and not actual music.)

We started with more 1.15 “The Happy Farmer”.  There’s a particular way of bowing it calls for, and I hadn’t been getting it right.  (I had the rhythm down, just not the bowing style.)  Luna told me that it should feel like a small bounce of the bow on the eighth notes.  We went over it a bunch of times and I got better at it.  Still need to practice more.

Then it was back to 1.13 “Rigadoon” — vibrato practice.  I did it terribly the first time but smoothed out when repeating it.  I still suck at the vibrato, but I just need to keep practicing.

And then Luna said she thought I was ready to remove the tapes on my fingerboard (which were at 1st and 4th finger positions).  I agreed to remove the 4th but didn’t think I was ready for the 1st yet.  So I took off the 4th… and proceeded to be far better at using my 4th finger than I ever have been, because I was consciously making sure I was stretching my pinky enough instead of looking at the fingerboard.  Awesome!  I think I’m going to remove the 1st tape this week.  I can always put a new one on if I need to, after all, but the idea of being without visual cues is kind of exciting. (I’ve been without a thumb position marker for like 3 months now.  So I’m missing that indicator too and haven’t needed a new one.)

After all that, we got to the composition I’ve been writing.  It is so, so much easier to play a duet with an actual second musician and not just a recording.  Go figure.  There are like 4 notes I want to change.  (Well, I still want to scrap the whole thing, but whatever.  Maybe I’ll just build on it and make it into something cooler.)  I had a thought, as we were playing: I have that drone app on my iPhone (iTabla Lite), and I can use that when trying to find a good harmony note.  Set the drone, then try out melody notes that fit over it.  Yay technology.

Oh!  Speaking of technology, Luna told me about Noteflight, which is online composition software.  She swears by it.  I intend to try the demo today.

Once we’d been through my piece, she thought we should try composing something together, just so I could see what it felt like to work with a partner.  We did a melody and bass line, just four measures in 4/4 time, just to give me a taste of it.  And that was fun.  I think I prefer composing alone, though.  I’ll keep working at it and then get Luna to play with me at the end of our lessons.

There’s no lesson next week, as Luna’s going on vacation, so I have two weeks to a) improve my technique, and b) compose something more interesting.  Let’s hope I can manage both by the time I see her again!

Car shopping required. Ugh.

I did a lot today. Exercised twice (total of 6.5 miles walked), went to therapy, went to the auto parts store to see why there was a light on my dashboard (answer: cold weather fucked with the tire pressure and they needed a little extra air), downloaded the latest version of YNAB and made myself a workable budget, ordered a kickass coat that was only $10 more than an Amazon return I’m making so I’m not out more money, worked on composing (see previous post), and cleaned up my hard drive (and got an extra 50GB back, yay for 1TB external hard drives). Go me.

Bad news: my ex-MIL has decided she wants her car back ASAP, even though two weeks ago she said she’d sell it to me. Frankly, if she’s going to be flaky I don’t want to buy it from her anyway. So Wednesday I’m going to the credit union to talk about a car loan. If I can’t get a decent one and/or a decent interest rate, Mom’s offered to co-sign for me because her credit is fucking beautiful. I kinda hope I can do it myself, though. I’ll be 40 next month and it would be nice if I had something I could do on my own.

And then there will be car shopping. Ugh. I haven’t done that since 1997. Luckily a friend is really good at playing “bad cop” with car salespeople and is willing to go with me. I’m not even slightly picky about what I wind up with, as long as it’s reliable, is big enough for my six-foot self, has really good air conditioning, and can fit my cello in the back seat. (I’d prefer a small SUV/crossover, but it’s not worth spending a ton more money on.) I figure I’ll pay for a month of Consumer Reports and look at their database from the car lots.

Would it be weird to take my cello case to the dealer? I don’t need to take the actual cello, just its case. To see how it’ll fit. I think I’ll do it even if it is weird. Because it’s a requirement, not an option.

I am soooo not looking forward to this…

Composing 101: FLAIL

I officially hate this composition forever.  This morning I was like, “screw the bass part, I’m replacing the whole thing with low D half-notes.”  This afternoon I bought a cool app for iOS called Music Studio, which lets you design multiple tracks with multiple instruments and such.  It’s been described as “GarageBand for the iPad.”  I’ve never seen GarageBand in use, but thanks to this app my bass part has accidentally turned into a full-bore harmony instead of just a bass line.  Argh.  I mean, awesome, but WTF, self.  And of course I’ve been playing it multiple times and now I never want to hear it ever again.  So of course tomorrow is my cello lesson, where we’ll be playing it live.  Ack.  Hopefully I will like it more when it’s not MIDI instrument sounds, and I can actually put some life into it on the cello.  The app is really helpful, though.  Otherwise I couldn’t have written my harmony so easily.

I still hate it, though.  :D