Thursday, May 14, 2009

No-cello practice

When I first became an over-the-top obsessively-committed beginning cello player, I bought a Prakticello so that wherever I went, for business or vacation, I could take my cello along to practice while I was away from home. There was no way I was going to backslide because I couldn't practice with no cello available. I became quite good at setting it up and breaking it down, and it provided endless fascination for TSA checkers. But I gradually came to resent the extra hassle of flying with it, and finally, when DH and I were living in separate cities for awhile, I left it set up at "his place," and used it for practice while I was there. That was (so far) it's last trip, as when I moved out to join him I broke it down, packed it in its box, and stashed it in a corner of the new house. I know it's there if I need it.

As a more experienced intermediate-level cello player who still travels fairly often, I have gained confidence that I won't lose all of my hard-won skills and revert back to the beginning if I don't play the cello for a few days. But practicing is part of my life, something I do, and am, and I practice every day, whether I have a cello available or not.

I don't mean to write an exhaustive treatise on no-cello practice, but thought I'd list the things I brought along on my current trip, by way of answering Ten Northern's question, "What do you mean by 'no-cello practice'?".

1. String quartet by Alexander Glasunov, op. 26. I'm not actually playing this, but a friend asked me for some fingering recommendations, if I had time. Marking a part with fingerings and bowings is a great thing to do when traveling. This quartet has lots of little chromatic puzzles to work out those fingerboard geography muscles.

2. Brahms sonata no. 1 in e. I am preparing the first movement to play for T4- at my lesson in 2.5 weeks.In addition to marking fingerings, I'll totally mark this part up for memorizing, with bowings on almost every change and fingerings at the beginning of phrases in addition to on the shifts, where I usually mark them. That's so I can start anywhere on the right bow and finger when I am practicing tiny bits at a time, later. I will also survey the movement for structure and work out which parts are alike, and how the alike parts are different. Then I'll start memorizing it by singing it.

3. Duport #7. I have already re-written this etude as chords, changing it from it's written-out arpeggios into something I can see the structure of more clearly. With this, I'll mentally practice chord changes as coordinated movements. I find this quite fatiguing, so I'll only do a few measures at a time.

4. A chair. OK, I didn't bring that with me, but plan to use one here in the room. I'll tip it back toward me as I sit in another chair and practice one of my new motor skills. My directive is to develop more flexibility in my thumb mcp (left hand), particularly in thumb position. So I will pretend I have a fingerboard, and with thumb and one finger at a time observe what I need to do to vibrate with a flexible hand while keeping equal weight between thumb and finger. This is also something you can do with arm cello, but since I have a wooden chair handy I thought I'd use that instead.

I also have two books with me: Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard and Set Your Voice Free: How To Get The Singing Or Speaking Voice You Want, by Roger Love.

Here's a quote from this morning's reading from Leonard's book to inspire you:
...the essence of boredom is to be found in the obsessive search for novelty. Satisfaction lies in mindful repetition, the discovery of endless richness in subtle variations on familiar themes.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Yes, my computer is still dead, but I have delusions that I am going to try to revive it today. In the meantime, I am microblogging on Twitter, something I have been watching for a couple of years, but declined to jump in to. Finally had to, to respond to one of Stark Raving Emily's comments.

Anyway, I'm one of the quarter million people following Zoe Keating's mundane and ever-so-fascinating life log. Yesterday Wired posted a video interview, which I am now linking to here, mostly so I can easily reference it later when I can find it no other way, and partly so the few people who read my blog but don't tweet can see it, too.

This is what she says her current equipment consists of, as best I can make it out, being a dead-Windows user and not Mac (yet):
MacBook Pro
* Ableton Live
* Super Looper
* Applescripts to tie things together and allow everything to be controlled with her feet ("duct tape")
Foot controller mapped to the functions in the program(s)

I loved her analogy, likening the way she builds her music to the way a programmer builds information technology. Start small. Try things out. Build on the foundation. Perfect each bit. Scale as needed.

Thanks, Zoe, you make the impossible seem achievable. I have got to try this.