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Time to Practice

September 4, 2008

Symphony rehearsals started back up last night.  Kindermusik classes for the boys were supposed to start this week too, but the dance studio where classes are held is being remodelled and won’t be ready until next week.  I’m so glad.  I can only handle one change to the schedule at a time.  We’re in our fourth week of school and I’m finally starting to feel like our schedule is doable.  Not that I’ve stuck to it at all faithfully, but we seem to be fitting most things in every week and I don’t feel like life is barreling forward without me quite so much lately.

But I seriously need to practice. More.  A lot more.  I was surprised I made it through almost three hours of rehearsal last night without any serious pain or exhaustion.  What little practice I’ve done recently(plus a lot of exercise, not to mention ibuprofen) has helped.  I’ve felt the tingling sensations in my fingers that I had last summer to some degree again.  I don’t know if I still have a pinched nerve somewhere, or if summer just means too much computer along with too little cello and it’s finally manifesting itself.  Exercise has been wonderful though, the giant knot in my right shoulder has greatly diminished and practicing, strangely enough, also helps my arms feel good.  I was afraid there for awhile that I would have to give up all computer activity (which is connected to feeling pain or tingling), which did not make me happy.  I depend on the internet for a lot of things–bill paying, homeschool research, shopping (not that I do much of that outside, but it sure beats taking three boys into a store), not to mention blogging my life and keeping in touch with friends and family.  Plus I’m an information junkie and I turn to Google frequently  (an understatement!) when I want to know something.

I’ve been exercising faithfully lately and now with orchestra starting again, which means I have something to practice for, I want to start practicing more faithfully.  Orchestra is a good motivator, it’s hard to get excited about practicing when no performances are coming up.  Technique work is all fine and good, but not necessarily exciting on its own.  Not that cello parts to symphonies are always exciting either, but there’s an end goal to look forward to.  Or if the music’s really not that great, there’s motivation to get it learned so you can turn it back in.  When I get solo opportunities, it’s nice to throw something new into the practice routine as well. 

My biggest goal right now is to build up endurance (which is why I was surprised last night, I didn’t think I’d have that much!) so it’s back to the technique workout I’ve devised for myself.  I’m at a point, finally, where all those years of scales and etudes are paying off.  I don’t have to approach every new piece of music from scratch as long as I keep my technique at a certain level.  And it doesn’t take as much to keep it at a certain level as it used to.  It’s really nice! and really fun!  Playing well is fun.  (I wish I could sell some of my students on that concept!)  It’s taken a while to get here though. 

So here’s my practice routine:
          (not that most of you will know what half of this means)

  • My own scale routine which is setting the metronome (at 58 currently) and playing a 4 octave scale with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 notes per beat, separate or slurred depending on my mood (and 5 notes per beat is a real mental treat, let me tell you.)
  • Yampolsky Violoncello Technique–I love this book, I refer to it as the scale book I’ll be using until I die.  There are that many variations of scales, arpeggios, broken thirds, thirds in double stops, broken thirds in double stops, sixths in double stops, octaves, tenths, arpeggios in double stops, scales in chords, etc. with different rhythm and bowing variations for every key, which are then to be used with every other key.  It’s crazy.  I think I’ve played through about 5% of the book in the years I’ve had it.
  • Etudes–I love etudes.  I’m currently playing through Grant’s Intermediate Etudes in the Positions and Charles Krane’s New School of Cello Studies, Book II, for speed.  When I need a new etude to actually learn, I like the Dotzauer etudes and Piatti caprices.  I hate Popper.
  • Sevcik–I was introduced to these transcriptions (from violin) at an ASTA workshop about 10 years ago.  They’re great.  I like the Opus 8-Changing the Postions and Opus 3-40 Variations.  When I haven’t practiced for awhile, I always start over at the beginning, and I hope one day to get past #29.
  • Klengel Daily Exercises (or if you prefer the German, Tagliche Ubungen fur Violoncello) Book II, the bowing book. 
  • And if I’m really feeling sadistic towards my fingers, I’ll pull out the Cossmann studies and Mooney thumb position book. 
  • And of course, the Bach solo suites for cello.  Like Casals, who played Bach every morning “to sanctify the house,” I love to play through these (what few I can without mutilating.)

OK, secretly I really do like technique!  And I like my practice routine.  It’s not monotonous as I add something different from each book each day to what I did the previous day.  And it keeps me in shape.  Now I get to add Tchaikovsky’s second symphony in and a piece by Crawford Gates, Ballad of the Prairie State, tone poem for orchestra, which I didn’t find all that exciting last night, but sure has some wicked spots to practice.  Although at rehearsal last night, I kept thinking, “After Mahler, this will be easy, I can do this!”  Now I just have to remember to cut my fingernails before next rehearsal.  They were embarrassingly long, which is always telling.  I apologized to my new stand partner about how I’d sound, but we didn’t do too bad at all.  He’s one of two new cellists in our section (which we desperately needed) and it should be a good concert in a few weeks.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2008 11:05 pm

    Wow! You’ve got me thinking about what I should be doing. I haven;t practiced piano for a very long time. I enjoy playing it and play all the time but not practice. There just isn;t anything to practice for. I play when called upon for church etc. but never any recitals. I don’t think you’re weird for liking technic. I love playing scales and other exercises on the piano.

  2. September 11, 2008 6:06 am

    Wow- your practice schedule is exhausting- I just started up on the piano again, since the kids are taking I thought I bet start playing. My fingers have been killing! I too, went through a tendon problem in my left hand, I could barely type- I was so depressed thinking that I would not be able to use my computer. Isn’t it funny- how much we rely on them to run our lives. I am attached to my macbook and frequently use it to look up grammar and math questions throughout the day! Hey – who says you have to be a teacher to teach homeschool?

  3. September 11, 2008 2:19 pm

    you are amazing.
    in other thoughts, you might see a chiropractor about your hands. my husband could fix you up if you didn’t live so danged far away.

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