Category Archives: music

Cello lesson #3

I’m a little bleary, having not slept since I woke up early yesterday morning. But I powered through a cello lesson anyway with encouragement from Luna.

(I think I’m mildly hypomanic, despite taking my meds regularly. Hopefully it’s a fluke. Staying up *checks clock* going on 30 hours is never a good idea. And I’m still wide awake.)

Anyway. Right before the lesson I sat down to tune my baby. I happened to be sitting on the edge of my chair instead of all the way on it and leaning against the backrest. And holy hell, I sounded better.

I mentioned this to Luna as soon as the call got going, and she looked gobsmacked. “I didn’t teach you that? Why didn’t I teach you that?”

Glad I figured it out. Made the whole lesson better. More comfortable.

I played the “Long, Long Ago” variation, and then it was on to Mozart’s “May Song.” The rhythm is weird, but it’s a lot of fun. Very whimsical. I enjoyed it.

Because I picked it up quickly, she started me on Bach’s “Minuet No. 1”. This is a big deal, because it’s the first time I’ve shifted my fingering hand. I started learning to go from first to second position and back. I did a decent job sight-reading the bulk of the piece, which felt good.

We also spent a few minutes with the Vivaldi. I was getting worn out by that point, I’ve got to admit.

So my homework is practicing scales (and Luna is having me purchase a scales book), the Mozart, the Minuet (with emphasis on the shifting parts), the first eight notes of Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1” (continuing from last lesson), and playing the Vivaldi with a metronome at assigned speeds. It’s a lot, yeah, but I’m happy for it. I have two weeks before my next lesson, and I enjoy having a wide range of things to work on. Keeps me from getting bored.

(I still can’t believe I’ve been sitting wrong this whole time. Sigh.)

Cello lesson #2

I am officially done with Bach’s Minuet in C, which I feel a little weird about because it doesn’t sound perfect yet, but I have to remind myself that perfect is not a thing. Especially for novices.

I am now on “Long Long Ago” in C (hey, it’s Suzuki Book #2, exciting!) and its variation. The variation requires a lot of string changes, but as Luna plans to make me do part of Bach’s Cello Suite #1 soon, I need the practice.

We also worked on Vivaldi’s “Spring”, the dumbed-down violin part converted to cello here. Luna had me put in a bunch of bowing on the sheet music, and I’m doing some fingering notations on my own (wherever I slow down). I can sight-read this piece pretty well, since I’ve been listening to Vivaldi since I was tiny, but baroque bowing is hard so I’m getting distracted by trying to emulate Luna.

So I have tons to practice, which makes me happy.

She said my bowing elbow is doing better, by the way. So yay.

Cello update

I’ve been practicing almost every day since my lesson. I missed two days because the antibiotics for a sinus infection were making me exhausted, but as soon as I finished the bottle my energy came back and I got back to practicing.

I’ve been very concerned about how my body is when I play, and I had a breakthrough tonight. If I hold my cello about 3″ higher on my chest, with the top of the body sitting about where the button of an open-collared shirt sits, everything feels more natural and comfortable. I wish I’d known this years ago. In this new position, it’s easier to keep my shoulders relaxed and my left wrist level. It’s also easier for bowing from the elbow and not the right shoulder.

I feel stupid for not figuring this out years ago, and mildly annoyed at my teacher for not helping me get it right back then. Ah well. Better late than never, and better now when I’m relearning muscle movement than after it got ingrained again.

I sound so, so much better with the cello repositioned, too. Less like I’m strangling a large furry mammal. Yay for practicing.

The app for sight reading is fun. I didn’t use it tonight, as I was focused on mechanics, but it scores me wrong if I don’t get the pitch right on the cello. So it encourages not only sight reading skills, but good fingering. Yay.

By the time I quit tonight, the Minuet in C sounded like a song. Kind of gritty, still, but more like music than hamfisted sawing.

(By the way: yesterday Mom slept through my cello practices. Both of them. Napping in her recliner, six feet away from me, as I played. I was shocked. And no, she wasn’t dead, I checked.)

Recently I started listening to some Romany music, and the violins are just, yum. Since I already enjoy doing Irish music on cello, I want to do Romany violin parts too. Because why not? Maybe Gogol Bordello will hire me. (Kidding, kidding. I doubt I’d ever be good enough, even if I wanted to be in a punk band.)

Ooooh. Pogues songs. Yes. I want to play Gogol Bordello and Pogues songs. Folk punk cello.

It’s good to have goals. Even strange ones.

First cello lesson in 4 years

Cello lesson was great! Wow I need to work on my mechanics. Turns out I’ve been bowing wrong for years, so it’s maybe a good thing that I stopped playing for awhile and am restarting. Teacher certainly thinks so. By the end of the lesson I sounded a million times better (although still objectively terrible) and I’m committed to working on my bowing style daily. (Subject to health changes, naturally, but if I’m capable I’m going to do it.) I have muscle memory in both hands/arms to build up before I feel comfortable doing anything fun, which is fine with me.

Amusingly, my mom slept through the lesson, in her bedroom with the door mostly closed. When I went to let her know I was finished she was snoring. And here I was worried about annoying her…

So my homework for the next two weeks is lots of bowing practice, some fingering drills, and a bit of Minuet in C if I feel like it. But mostly it’s about the mechanics.

I also found an app that helps with sight reading, which lets you play the notes on your instrument itself. The app hears you and tracks your score. I’m going to play with it a little, but again, my focus is getting my body moving the right way.

I’m glad I’ve restarted lessons. This is good for me.

Busy day!

I chatted with an online acquaintance last night before going to bed, about spiritual stuff. As I was falling asleep I had some ideas related to that, so wrote them down before trying to sleep again. Woke up at 6:30 this morning, fed the cat, back to bed until 7:30.

Paid my bills online, went to Walmart for grocery pickup (just a few things), then picked up a yarn purchase from the driveway of my local yarn shop’s owner. (She’s doing orders over the phone, putting the purchases in sealed bags, and then leaving them in her driveway. Contactless way to support a small business I go to regularly, yay!) Came home, put away food, ate some lunch, had a nap, then did another virtual knit meetup — this time with women from the weaving guild I’m a member of.

After that I read tarot for some people in my fave Discord server, caught up with my brother-in-law online, did therapy over Zoom (didn’t talk about anything serious — my head hurt and I wanted the human contact more than digging into my issues. She says she’s getting that a lot right now), did some more tarot. Someone I know is struggling and needed an in-depth reading. Which helped them, I think. The cards told them something they knew already but needed a kick in the butt over. I like those kinds of readings.

I am so proud of today’s cello practice. For a few notes there I actually sounded like I was playing and not sawing, and I was so happy! And then I got so into that that I messed up my fingering. Ha! So my bowing was good but my notes were off key. This is why I practice! Still doing etude #1 and Minuet in C, using the tuner app to tell me how my fingering is.

Did more tarot (it was one of those days), and now I’m ready for bed even though it’s not bedtime yet.

By the way: I love paying bills. Not the fact that I owe money, and I don’t like not having money after, but there were a number of years I couldn’t pay my bills, and there’s a satisfaction to be able to do it now. Gives me “responsible adult” feels. Heh.

I am almost done with singles #3 of my current spinning commission. Yay!

Okay, my head hurts. Bedtime.

Where to start?

I’m going to talk about things other than COVID-19. Because I think we’re all stressed about that lately.

My biggest stressor at the moment is related, admittedly. My city government decided optical stores are non-essential, and I’m trapped with the wrong glasses prescription for the time being. I had gotten progressive lenses for the first time, and they don’t work for me. I ordered single-vision lenses to replace them… and the store got closed indefinitely. So I’m suffering horrible headaches while I wait for either them to reopen, or for Zenni to send the emergency order I placed as soon as I found out the local store was closed. I don’t even know if the mail will still be coming in two weeks, which is the earliest the Zenni glasses will be here.

Small in the scheme of things, I know, but constant headaches and an inability to read books really suck. Especially when I normally would be devouring books as escapism right now. Eyesight being considered non-essential is ableist as fuck, for the record. Screw you, city government.

Let’s talk about something happy.

My mom retired at the end of August 2019, and since then she’s been relaxing a lot. Which is cool and awesome — she deserves it after 32 years of working for the same employer — but we’re roommates, and she’s home a lot. Which isn’t a problem at all, except that I feel really self-conscious playing my cello around her. Silly of me, I know, but when I’m playing non-musical technique stuff like etudes and scales, I feel I must be driving her crazy. (Cellos are loud, folks; she can hear me even in another room.) So I stopped playing.

Today I was feeling a bit better, thanks to Tylenol (I don’t take it often, because I have enough liver damage already — not from alcohol either), and I’ve been wanting desperately to play my cello since I saw Cello Fury live in February. (They’re my fave cello band. Check them out if you dig original rock compositions.) They were fantastic, and they played “Nightfall” — my fave song by them — and I finally figured out what key it’s in thanks to watching their hands during the performance. And I got to meet them and get their autographs and it was amazing.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to play, and my cello teacher Luna and I are Facebook friends so I know she’s doing lessons over Skype right now. I contacted her and asked if I could start taking them with her again. I had stopped in, uh, August 2016 (ouch) for financial reasons (read: major dental work that I just finally paid off two months ago), but she’s happy to take me back and I’m excited. I told Mom she can just wear headphones while I play!

I asked Luna if there was anything I could work on while I waited for my first lesson (Tuesday the 7th). She recommended a couple of things, so I practiced some tonight. Not too long, my bowing wrist got cranky from disuse, but it was fun and it felt so nice to play again. Everything I did was bowing. Didn’t even get around to fingering. Just bowing open strings with the whole bow, for like 10-15 minutes. One of the things she gave me to practice was Bach’s “Minuet in C” from Suzuki Book One, a piece I’d played back when I was doing lessons before, but my wrist gave up before I got that far.

(I did look up bow holds after, and figured out that I’d misremembered it slightly. Probably explains the angry wrist — my thumb was slightly off so I had the bow tilted weird.)

I want to get back to where I was, playing Irish music. Jigs are awesome. An acquaintance obsessed with Viking stuff and I were talking, and I realized Nordic folk tunes were a thing, and now she’s after me to learn some. I told her to give me a few months. I haven’t played in seven months, and before that I wasn’t all that great anyway!

Let’s see, what else is up… I’ve been writing a good bit of code, in hopes of picking up some programming work. (Anyone need a Python developer?) I wrote a couple of Discord bots in JavaScript before the eye strain got bad, too. (I have a third one I’m beta-testing, but it needs work and my head hurts too much normally.)

I haven’t been knitting/weaving/spinning. Requires working eyes. But I have projects in progress I really want to complete.

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts. I recently got hooked on Ologies, which is mostly science, and Word of Mouth, a weird BBC language show (episodes topics include the words we use for numbers; how brand names are developed; words that aren’t words like humming… it’s strange and wonderful).

That’s about it, really. Lots of laying about in a dark room. But I’m luckier than some, right now. So I’m focusing on that.

Damn. It’s really hard to not talk about COVID, isn’t it?