Category Archives: music

Cycling, therapy, cello, etc.

Cello: I have cancelled my lessons for the month of October.  I need to go to the dentist instead.  Joy.

Therapy: Today’s lesson dealt with some unpleasant shit from when I was a teenager.  It was kind of awful.  Afterwards I went to the Harn Museum of Art to make myself feel better.  Except, parking was $4 and I had no cash.  Sigh.

Depression: The Sunday before last I decided to try to get a part-time job, just stocking shelves at the grocery or something.  The stress of putting together my resume made me suicidally depressed for the next three days.  So that’s not really an option.  I’m trying to volunteer for Hillary’s campaign, but haven’t gotten a call back yet about when to come in.

Crafting: I’m knitting a pillow for my youngest nephew, and knitting three washcloths for my ex-MIL as a birthday gift.  Both projects are by request.  Today I set up a spreadsheet for planning weaving projects, and I really need to warp for my black and green tunic.  And do some sewing.  Can’t focus on anything that requires brain cells at the moment.

Reading: I’ve been so scattered I haven’t been able to read anything, even slash.  Annoying.

Cycling: padded bike underwear are awesome.  They feel like wearing a overnight-strength maxi pad, but because of them I’ve been able to ride two days in a row.  Nine miles yesterday, at the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail, and seven miles today, around my part of town.  It helps that it’s been in the low 70s in the mornings!  More about biking under the cut.

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Cello, crafting, and other updates

When I made my last post (August 8th, ouch) I was doing well and had some energy and… I hate medication changes.  My Trintellix dosage has been titrated to half of what it was, and I think maybe I need to go back up.

Today (technically yesterday, it’s 1:30am right now) I had my first cello lesson in a few weeks.  I hadn’t played since my last lesson.  Bad Switch, no cookie.  But it was good.  Toward the end we were doing a duet of the Jenny Lind Polka, and my conscious mind was just gone.  It was an odd feeling.  I had been lightheaded, and I just… see note, play note, no thinking.  It’s not like I was lost in the music, but rather the opposite; like autopilot.

Overall I’ve lost ground, and have to have tape for my fourth finger position again.  On the positive side, it helps me get into second position, although much to my amusement I did better at shifting once I stopped looking at my fingers.  Yay for having a good ear.  She decided that since pretty much every piece I’ve played in the Suzuki books lately has been bouncy, I get to do something more legato.  So I’m on the chorus from Handel’s “Judas Maccabaeus.”  I think I’m going to throw in some vibrato.  I haven’t practiced that in a while.

Oh, and last lesson we worked on the Peter Murphy song.  I need to finish it, still.

Crafting: I had started knitting an afghan for someone but changed my mind three balls in.  So I sent the yarn back and have been focusing on the green and black shirt.  It’s going to take a while: size six needles and a 54″ chest.  Yeah, it’s a long-haul kind of project.  Also doing some spinning.  Haven’t used the sewing machine in a couple of weeks.  Too much effort, given my emotional exhaustion.  Knitting is as easy as picking up needles. I keep my spinning wheel next to my chair in the living room, and it requires no other tools.  For sewing I have to clear the place settings off the dining table, get all the sewing gear out, make the thing(s) I want to make, pack all of it back up, and reset the table.  I understand now why people have “sewing rooms.”  I have three projects I want to do, two little ones (zippered change purses) and a big one (tote bag for my mom), and I think I can get all of it done fairly quickly if I can find the energy for setup and breakdown.  But when I spend a week trying (and failing) to get up the spoons to go to the grocery store, sewing is just too much.

Other stuff:

I’ve been disappearing into daydreams involuntarily, even more than usual.  Yesterday it was so intrusive that it was exhausting and I had to sleep just to shut my brain up for a while.  Ugh.  Hopefully I will improve soon.  I’m tired of not being able to focus on anything else.

I had signed up for a college class, like I said I would, but because of money issues I dropped it.  I’ll start putting extra in my savings account so I can try again in spring.

I’ve done the research I need for my novel, but see above re: spoons.

Okay, bedtime…

Cutting you up on cello

I feel awesome. This morning I started arranging Peter Murphy’s “Cuts You Up” as a cello duet. I mentioned wanting to do it a couple of weeks ago, but I finally started working on it.  On staff paper with a pencil, plucking my cello because it was too early in the morning to play with a bow. Which was fine, it was easier to write while not holding the bow anyway.  I have loved the song since the album came out in 1990, but the synth cello always annoyed the fuck out of me.

And then in 2000, Murphy released a live album — aLive Just for Love — featuring stripped-down versions of his songs.  The only instruments were a violin and a guitarist.  That hugely influences the way I’m arranging it.

It’s been surprisingly easy.  And much simpler to do it on paper than in Noteflight.  I’ll be posting it there when I’m done, because proper sheet music is easier to read than my scribbled hand-written music, but the actual transcribing and arranging is easier on paper.  I may try composing something original that way; everything I’ve written myself has been done in Noteflight, and I think my music will sound better if I’m writing it on a real instrument and I know how it truly sounds.  I needed NF before, because I hadn’t memorized what fingerings went which what note names and what sharps were in which key, so it was easier to do it electronically.  Yay for musical growth!

I also arranged an Irish jig, “Haste to the Wedding,” for two cellos.  That was easy in NF — change the clef to bass, drop the melody down two octaves, and done.  Not “arranging” so much as “transposing,” really.  I haven’t played it yet, but will be trying it today.  This last Wednesday my teacher brought a jig she’d arranged as a cello duet, “The Swallowtail Jig,” and it was surprisingly easy and fun.  In retrospect, it makes sense that there would be jigs that sound complex but are easy to play; back when most of them were written, there was no recorded music, so people had to make their own, and most fiddlers were amateurs.  So dance music that didn’t take a lot of skill would have been in demand.  That’s my theory, anyway.  I could probably google the history of jigs, but I’m feeling lazy.  My arrangement of “Haste to the Wedding” is mostly played on the two middle strings, the crossings are only between strings next to one another, and only one note is an extension out of first position.  Should be pretty simple.  (Hopefully those are not famous last words.)

Music is awesome.  <3

No cello lesson this week. Sadface.

My lessons have moved to Wednesdays!  But Luna is sick, and my house smells like beer thanks to a minor kitchen accident.  So no lesson this week.  I thought I’d write about my playing, though.

I have found two new uses for my iPhone’s tuner app.  The way the app works is that it shows what note is being played, so you can tell if your instrument is in tune.  But I have two better things to do with it.

  1. Humming songs I want to learn, to see what the notes are (roughly).  I hummed the bass line for The Cure’s “Lullaby” while watching the app, and between that and my ability to play by ear, I was able to pick it up very quickly.  (Note that this will only work for songs I know well enough to hum in tune, and where the notes are within my vocal range.  Ooooh, that means I can do The Smiths and REM.  Yessss.  I will play ALLLLLL the 80’s alternative!  Woo!)
  2. Making sure I’m hitting the right notes while doing etudes.  As I mentioned last week, I’m learning second position.  We’re starting on just the A string, since it’s the outside string.  It is so, so much easier to learn how far to move my hand when I can see the pitch on the screen to make sure I’m hitting it right.  In the beginning I looked at the screen while moving my hand.  Now I look at it after, while I’m playing the note, to see if I hit it right.  It’s helping tons.  It’s also helping improve my first position fingering, too; I’m getting more accurate, as I sometimes wind up a quarter-tone off in my hand position, and that’s when I’m just playing first position only.  Luna just took my thumb marker off last week, so I need the help in remembering precisely where my thumb goes for first as well as second.

Isn’t technology useful?

The Mozart is going… meh.  (It’s piece number 2.2 of Suzuki.)  I can play it if I go slow, which is an improvement over not being able to play it at all, but it’s a energetic little piece so I need to pick up my speed.  If I’d had my lesson today, Luna would have just told me to keep working on it for next week, so I’m doing this week what I would be doing even if she’d come today.

I just had a thought.  A really good thought.  Some years back, Peter Murphy did a two-disc live album called aLive Just For Love.  The show was stripped-down versions of his works, which are frequently badly arranged (IMO) — the only instruments were a violin (played by Hugh Marsh, whom I know from Loreena McKennitt albums, among others) and a guitar (played by Peter DiStefano, who was in Porno For Pyros).  The album is absolutely beautiful.  And I’m pretty sure I could learn the violin parts on my cello.  Because “Cuts You Up” neeeeeeeds a real cello, not the synthesized one on the studio album.  Yesssss.  I have a new project!  And this one I actually want to play along with the recordings, because the arrangement is so minimalist that I can clearly hear what I should be playing.  AWESOME.

I wonder if I can write a cello duet arrangement of “Cuts You Up.”  I bet I can.  Luna will have to play the melody, though.  I think.  Hmmm.

So happy together…

My cello teacher, Luna, arranged The Turtles’ “Happy Together” for two cellos.  I played the melody.  Mostly by ear; if I know how a simple melody sounds, I don’t need to check the sheet music very often.  Luna can always tell when I’m doing it, too, because I don’t hesitate the same way as when I’m sight reading.  So that was fun, and I got to learn how to extend back into a flat — which wasn’t hard, although I want to work on muscle memory with my drone app, to make sure I’m getting the right pitch.

I started learning second position.  Awesome!  I have an etude for that to work on.  I’ll also be using the drone app here.  I need to learn to sight read higher notes, way above the lines.  Otherwise it gets too confusing when I try to remember which position I’m supposed to be in.

And we started a cheerful bit of Mozart, too.  I don’t have a problem with the rhythm, but the bowing is a bitch to learn.  Alllll the slurs.  Slow ones.  Fast ones.  Ones with three notes, ones with two…  I have a feeling it’ll be easy to play once I get the bowing down.

So: excellent lesson, and I’m sad that it’s been four weeks since my last one.  I’m already looking forward to next week!

Max Richter by ear

Max Richter has long been my favorite modern composer.  His “On the Nature of Daylight” is so beautiful that I always want to cry, despite having listened to it god knows how many times since the early 2000’s.  I was listening to it yesterday and thought, “hey, the second violin part would be crazy easy on cello.”  So I tried it by ear and it sounded right.  I checked Noteflight to see if I could find it written out, and they had it for piano in Ab major, but I’m too lazy/inexperienced to remember four flats so I transposed it to C and voila, it was what I’d been playing.  So I had my intervals right just playing by ear.  I am pleased with myself.  :D

Here’s the original piece, which is transcendent.

 

Practicing cello technique

I practiced cello three times today, about 20 minutes each time.  That’s about how long my left hand could take before it gave up.  As I said in my last post, I’m working on first-position extensions.  All my practices today were focused on that.  No trying to play music, just pure technical work.  Scales, over and over, D and A.  Focusing on posture, breathing, exactly where I’m putting my fingers (as my pinky has a tendency to splay out flat instead of landing on its tip on the string), making sure the bow is in the right place.  Paying attention to what my left shoulder’s doing and what it ought to be doing.  I even wrote down a list of what movements to focus on.

It was sort of Zen after a while and I enjoyed it more than I used to.  For a long time now “practice” has meant “playing the piece I’m learning until it sounds better,” when I should have been doing more for my muscle memory.  I think over the course of the day my left handspan has felt a little wider — the extensions feel a bit easier, and when I spread my hand out it feels nice and stretchy.

I think maybe the break from lessons has been weirdly good for me, because I’m regaining my commitment to playing now that the break is over with.  I want to get better, not just be able to play the assigned pieces.  I want to sound better, have a better form, really dig into it.  I hope this desire lasts and isn’t killed off by depression again.  I’ve been less depressed the last couple of weeks, and I hope that lasts too.

Cello lessons have resumed.

Today I had my first cello lesson since April 5th.  Yeah, seven weeks and two days.  And it felt so, so good to have a lesson again.  I’ve been practicing more lately, but it’s much easier to push myself with my teacher sitting right there. The last time I saw Luna she’d arranged Pachelbel’s Canon in D as a cello duet.  That day she had me play the bass part.  Today she started me on the melody.  It’s tricky, because I only just started learning first position extensions, and there are a lot of those in the melody.  But it’s great fun, and definitely more interesting than playing the bass part (eight notes that repeat over and over for the whole piece).  We’re doing that as my etude for a few weeks.  And then we went over the last piece in the Suzuki Book One, and then she had me play the entire book as review.  I am done with book one!  At last!

Next lesson, two weeks from now: proving that I can do the D scale in two octaves (as assigned this week); more Canon; and the first piece in Book Two.  AWESOME!

Cello practice: back on track?

I used to have cello lessons on Tuesdays at 4pm.  My teacher, Luna, got a summer gig playing on Tuesdays, so she wanted to change me to Thursdays.  It took a little while to get that straightened out, and I’d already missed a couple of lessons before that due to either depression (mine) or gigs (hers), so it’s been like 6 weeks since I’ve had a lesson.  I was supposed to start again today, but I’ve got a chest cold and am exhausted.

But!  I just practiced my cello for the first time in like a month, between the depression and illness and discouragement over the change in my lesson schedule.  It felt really good, and I actually sounded reasonably good. Well, good for me. Good for an amateur student at the end of Suzuki book one.  I was pretty happy with my playing.  My right thumb got a bit tired, having not held a bow in a while, but I think my intonation is better than it used to be?  I used to not press too hard and be timid about it, whereas I’m supposed to be playing louder and with confidence.  I did that today.  For several minutes I just did all the scales I know (C, G, D, A), and then worked my way through the Suzuki book from the beginning to piece #14, at which point my right thumb announced that it wanted to stop bowing for a spell.  There are only 17 pieces in the book, so not bad.  (Understand that all the pieces in the book are under a minute long, so it’s not like I was playing for hours.  Half an hour total, maybe, including the scales.)

Sometimes practices feel like they’re working, and some days it feels like everything’s wrong.  This was a good one.  I’m happy.

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…