We all know that practice is the only way to improve. And yet, how many times have you had an avalanche of work to do and not known where to start? Maybe you simply don’t have time for that four-hour practice schedule your professor in undergrad told you was essential to career success. Maybe you’re juggling work, life, and fifty other things and finding it hard to carve out time for yourself. Maybe you feel so overwhelmed you end up not doing any of it.
It’s easy to deal with a massive to-do list when you’re having a good day, but what about all the other days when you feel sluggish, resentful, cross, sleepy, and grouchy?
Today’s Cello Thought for the Day comes from my very dear teacher, Natalia Pavlutskaya. One of the very first things she said to me when I started studying with her aged 18 was this: “Good technique is the easiest way.”
Once, when I was a student, I brought a piece by Brahms into my lesson. It was in patchy shape because I hadn’t achieved mastery, but was trying to pretend I had. I hashed through the entire movement at breakneck speed even though there were parts I simply couldn’t play yet. (In one of those ironies I haven’t quite figured out yet, a lot of people rush in the hardest spots of a fast piece, and I’m no exception.)
Sometimes it’s tempting, especially when learning a new piece, to decide to “just play” it and worry about all those big, messy emotions of interpretative expression later.
The problem is, this two-step method is ineffective because you then have to unlearn mechanical habits in order to find your voice.
Why not let the emotion — your most passionate voice — dictate how you’re going to move your fingers from note to note and your bow from string to string? Emotion is the wellspring of meaning, not a bunch of random bowings and fingerings.
Even when you don’t have all the notes or all the bowings, you can still play with your absolute best sound. It will drive you to places your second-best sound can’t.
The one good thing about being at home a lot (besides not having to drive anywhere) is that there seems to be more time for reading. What’s more, who doesn’t need a bit of escapism right now? In that spirit, I thought I’d write another post about what I’ve been reading.
I’ve written a lot about remote teaching and Zoom, a modality I enjoy. Today I learned that the latest update includes some goodies especially for those of us who teach and learn music via Zoom. Here’s what you do:
1. Go to the Zoom website and download/install the most recent update, 5.2.2.
2. Open the Zoom app and start a new meeting. (A meeting for one, that is.)
3. Go to Audio Settings -> Advanced -> and select “High fidelity music mode.”
I’ve already noticed a big improvement. How have your experiences been?
The last time I put gas in my car was March 2, 2020. Then we went into isolation and I only drove it once every three weeks to a supermarket ten minutes from my house. I still have a quarter of a tank.
There’s simply nothing more fun than playing cello ensemble music. The cello’s range is vast — bigger than those of the other members of the bowed strings family — and when you get a bunch of cellists together, you can have the highest and lowest voices of an ensemble at the same time as that glorious all-cello tone.