Tag Archives: cello lessons

Life update, Halloween edition

Lots of stuff has been going on, mostly good things!

Social: I’ve been leaving the house and hanging out with people!  Which means I need to give a few people some nicknames. (Pause…)  Done.  I even made a page for my cast of characters.  Yesterday I hung out with Zelda for like 6 hours.  Her friend Domino joined us for lunch, and we hit it off too, and then the three of us spent like an hour in Joanns gleefully shopping for 70% off Halloween decorations.  Last Sunday I had coffee in the morning with Rose for two hours, and then spend the afternoon with Zelda.  I am such a social butterfly.

Hellooooooo nurse: I’ve been contemplating having a sex life again.  I don’t want love, but friendship with benefits would be awesome.  I’ve even been flirting with people.  Shocking.

Brain Fun: doing fairly well on most days. There was a four-day depressive streak last week during which I only left the house once.  And the week before that I struggled with occasional bursts of impulsive recklessness.  Like, “if I ride my bike down this 65mph highway, it’s not like I’m actually attempting suicide, right?  I mean, it has a bike lane…”  But mostly I’m okay.

Thursday I started decreasing my Lamictal dosage.  I’ve been on 200mg twice a day for years, and I’m fed up with the severe memory loss it causes.  I’ve forgotten almost everything I learned in college.  I don’t remember most of my childhood.  The memories are still there, I just can’t access them.  (Thanks to my psych degree and a stint volunteering in a neuropsych lab, I know a bit about memory testing and have done some.  I store memories just fine; it’s retrieval that’s the problem.)  I consider this to be the best way to lose memories, as it means I have a chance of regaining access.  If I wasn’t storing them when they happened, I’d be completely SOL.

Lamictal is what prevents my mania.  If I start getting manic I’ll just sedate myself and then resume my former dose.  Easy.  I hope this works.

Therapy: haven’t had an appointment since my last update.  I’ll have one tomorrow, though.

Cycling: still doing it, although not as much as I’d like.  That whole reckless thing has made me a little scared to ride much.  I’ll talk to my therapist about it.

I’ve resumed my daily walks, though.  Because outdoor exercise of any kind helps my mental health.

Crafting: two inches left of Nephew’s pillow.  I’ve been spinning a lot.  Nothing else, though.  I’ve been too busy reading.

Reading: alllll the books.  So many books.  Mostly paper ones.  All non-fiction.  Which reminds me, I should update my Goodreads account.

Cello: I’ve stopped lessons until January, so that I can afford school and Christmas presents.  I’m sad, but I’ll be back to it in the new year.

Follow-up from last update: I had to reschedule the dentist, because I’ve been having some trouble with nausea.  The craft fair this last Saturday was fun, although it was just me and Mom.  I got a new journal.  Now I just need to keep up with it.

Upcoming plans: Hiking November 11th!  So excite!

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…

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!

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 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…

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!

Cello lesson: more composing

Over this last week I figured out a better way to hold my cello: lower on my chest, and at a more gentle incline.  It’s like magic; suddenly I’m not hitting extra strings anymore, and bowing is easier because (as Luna put it) “you have gravity working for you.”  Amazing how one little thing — like, three inches, in this case — can make such a huge difference!

Luna was pleased with my progress over the last week.  1.12 “Andantino” is now finished, having finally met with her approval (mostly because I’m no longer hitting extra strings!), 1.14 “Etude” is now finished, also because of the extra string thing.  I’m still doing 1.13 “Rigadoon” for vibrato practice — and I’ve moved up from pre-vibrato to the real thing this week, although it’s going to take a lot of practice to master — and I’m doing 1.15 “The Happy Farmer.”  It has some weird bowing that’s a bit tricky, but I think I’ll have it worked out by next week’s lesson.  She had said it was hard; I don’t think it really is, as long as I’ve got the rhythm right in my head.  (She said an earlier piece.. was it “May Song”?… was hard because of the rhythm too, but that part of it wasn’t hard at all.)  It’s got a short bit that repeats twice, and the B part is short too.  AABA and the song is done.  So I just need to memorize those bits and practice the weird bowing.

(Luna told me only one of her students has started memorizing stuff, and he’s almost a whole book ahead of me.  I feel a bit chuffed about that.)

Then we got to the composing part.  She wanted us to play the bass and melody together.  We messed around with it, she wrote it down properly on the staff, we messed around a little more, and figured out the bass part needs alteration.  (Well, either the melody or bass does; I want to keep the melody the way it is.)  Luna asked me if I’d named it.  Hadn’t even occurred to me.  Now I realize why classical composers name things the way they do; I have no fucking clue what to call it except “Composition No. 1 in D.”  Anyway, next week we’re going to record it, and I’ll post it to share if I like the way it turns out.  It was so weird to have her deferring to me about the transcription, rewriting the notes to match what I had in my head.  For next week I’m writing the sheet music myself after I change the bass part.  Although I think that, to make things easier, I’m going to write out the melody and then match the bass to it based on each measure.

By the way, she said she was surprised at how advanced my piece was; she was expecting more like drones for my bass part.  To use D&D levels as an analogy, if Bach is level 90 than I am level 2 where she was expecting level 1.

Speaking of Bach, I get to play a minuet of his soon. Squee!  Luna told me (before we started working on my composition) that it’s her favorite piece in this book.  I told her Bach and Vivaldi are my favorite composers.  Turns out Vivaldi is her favorite too.  I told her about Ofra Harnoy recording all of his cello concertos in one multi-disc CD set.  She mentioned Du Pre, and I said I liked her Elgar, and Luna gave me this look and said, “You know, that piece isn’t that hard.  It’s got some high parts, but it’s pretty slow.”  My first thought: “OMG GROWNUP MUSIC!” Second thought: “And I can see how much worse I am than Du Pre!”  Heh.

As we were packing up I asked her if she ever listened to the Violent Femmes.  She said they’re her favorite band.  I brought it up because the way the bass is the lead instrument is exactly what I have in my head for what I want to do, musically: low notes as melody.  She totally got it.  (She, like me, owns a bass guitar, but it didn’t really take for either of us.  We’re both planning to sell ours when we get around to it.)  And, actually, the piece I composed is all on the bottom two strings except for one note, an open D.  I suspect there won’t be any A string notes in my future pieces, either.  Or at least not many.

It’s strange to have her be so happy about my little composition.  It’s so very basic, but I guess she wants to be encouraging.  Maybe it’ll sound good as a duet…

Cello lesson: composing 101

Fucking awesome lesson today!  It’s been two weeks since the last one.  I was depressed as fuck last week…  Anyway.

When Luna (new nickname for my teacher, from her BBS handle back in the day — we were on the same one in the early 90’s) got here, she told me as we were setting up that my ability to play by ear is “superb.”  She tried teaching a couple of her other students (almost all of whom are farther along in the Suzuki books than me) to play by ear, and the results were pretty bad.  She said a couple more complimentary things, I forget what, but I thanked her and couldn’t help grinning like an idiot over the compliments.

We started with the C arpeggio from last week.  Then we did 1.12 “Andantino” again; I’ve been doing this one for a few weeks because I’m having a really hard time doing staccato, but today she taught me a visualization to do for the bowing and it helped a lot.

The real fun started when she had me play “Away in a Manger,” which is what she’d taught me by ear last week.  I had completely forgotten it but figured it out again in one go.  Then she asked about my playing along with recorded music.  I told her I’d learned Nick Cave’s “The Ship Song,” which she’d never heard. So I played the recording (the Live Seeds version, which is my favorite), and as she listened she started figuring out the tune herself.  The thing is, though, she wasn’t doing what I was doing, where I’d been playing along with the vocals.  She played the bass part.  Then she started explaining how a lot of pop/rock songs are predictable, and it wound up turning into a discussion of music theory and 1-4-5 chords.  She told me that with my ear I should be good at composing.  She wants me to compose a bass line for next week’s lesson, and then she’ll improvise over it.  Then she had me improvise over a bass line she played.  It was really, really simple stuff, her playing the lower two strings very slowly while I tested out what sounded right on the upper two.  It was delightful, actually.  And she wants me to be the one playing over my recorded bass part next week.  So I’m composing a two-part piece!

Then we went back to the regular lesson stuff.  I said I was having trouble with the etude #7 she’d given me (photocopied on loose paper, not Suzuki).  She started playing through it, and about 8 notes in I told her to stop, because that’s where the problem was, because it sounded so fucking dissonant.  Her (paraphrased) response: “It’s your ear again.  Etudes are purely technical; you’ll have to grit your teeth and bear it.” She had me play some of it, and I got it.  It still sounds dreadful, but now that I know it’s supposed to sound that way, it’s easier.  And actually, my bowing overall suddenly became better.  A couple of months ago I wrote about it was like having a switch flipped in my brain that suddenly made me sound a million times better.  Well, the switch flipped again mid-lesson and I sound even better.

We ran through 1.13 “Rigadoon”, my first vibrato piece.  She seemed surprised at how well I managed the vibrato, and that a couple of the notes were “beautiful.”  It’s the first time she’s ever told me something I did sounded beautiful.  My silly grin came back.

At the end she made some remark about the #7 etude, and I said that the Suzuki etudes were easier, because they’re more melodic.  I played it through a couple of times using the sheet music, then started playing it by memory and she immediately commented on how much better I sounded.  She had me do it with short double notes (two for every one in the book) and she told me that sounded even better.  She’s decided that I need to do as much from memory as possible from here on out.  So I think that before I play a piece I’m familiar with, I’ll skim the sheet music to make sure I remember it and then focus on playing without it.  I can totally do that.

So yeah, another great lesson.  Oh, and I sent Luna to YouTube to look up Lindsey Stirling and songs from Steven Universe.  Hope she likes both!

Cello lesson #?

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!