Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Back to earth...

Finally, my dissertation is finished. It's at the binders, and I am handing it in on Friday. Phew. It has been a long summer, and a very enjoyable one, but I am looking forward to getting back to normal life.

I just picked up my cello today to play for the first time in 2 weeks. I had been putting it off, because I couldn't face spending any more time in my study that I already was, and as such I approached it with some trepidation! I was worried that I would have forgotten everything, and it would sound horrible. It did take me a few minutes to refamiliarise myself with the stuff I had been working on, but once I got into it, I'm sure it sounded just the same as before!

My fingers have lost a bit of their strength unfortunately, and my arms ache a bit now. It's amazing how quickly it all goes. I am looking forward to a practise tomorrow, I'm going to go over some old stuff and see how it feels.

Glad to be back.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Lesson 10: New book

I had my lesson on wednesday afternoon. Having it at 5pm instead of 4 has meant that my teacher always goes on for way longer than half an hour, which is really good for me, but I feel a bit guilty, but i don't wear a watch so i don't know what time the lesson should finish when i am there, i always just realise afterwards that we have gone way over time. I hope it's okay with him.

Anyway the lesson was good, but at the moment I feel we have done more or less the same thing every lesson for the last 3 lessons, so it doesn't feel like there's much variation. However, I do have a new book to work from (which looks amazing): "Playing the Cello" by Hugo Cole and Anna Shuttleworth. It's British which, to be honest, I really prefer compared the the American book I have been using before which calls everything half notes and quarter notes instead of crotchets and minimes etc. It was confusing reading one name for a note and having my teacher use another. And I prefer the British tone of the book!

Hopefully the new book will give us something new to work from in the lessons. Also I explained how difficult I am finding it to keep a rhythm so we are going to work on duets in lessons which will be fun!

Anyway less talking about cello and more playing to be done - I am off to crack out the new book!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A little history lesson...

Unrelated to cello, but incredibly interesting:

A few facts about living in Britain in the 1500s

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water..

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying It's raining cats and dogs.

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house.. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, Dirt poor. The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of woo d was placed in the entrance way Hence the saying a thresh hold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat.. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old..

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, bring home the bacon. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat..

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days.. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer.

A friend sent this to me, no idea where it came from, but it's so interesting!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Sore thumbs...

After being oh so pleased with myself for my hour of practise on friday, I woke up on saturday with a SORE left thumb. I don't think it hurt while I was playing, although I did feel a bit achey afterwards. It was seriously painful until about lunchtime today, but has subsided almost completely since.

I am thinking that I will leave it until tomorrow to try playing again and see how it feels. If bad, I will have to cancel my lesson on Thursday.

*sad face*

Friday, 12 June 2009

Simple things...

My teacher suggested that I try slurring the scales while I was playing them, two notes at a time. It took me a little bit to get the hang of it, but it is surprisingly fun!

I just did an hour of practise, and a good half of it was spent on scales. Then I started being silly and playing the entire scale up and down on one bow as fast as I could. Fun game, but probably not the point of the exercise...

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Explanation for the name of this blog

When I started playing my husband bought me this tshirt as a present from It is hilarious, and it made my cello teacher laugh a lot when i (accidentally) wore it to my lesson! There was also an amazing one that said "say cello to my little friend", but it was more gruesome that this one!

I also like "i'd rather be playing the cello" a lot:

But you can't go wrong with "I'll be Bach" (said in the Govenor of California's accent, obv)!:

other funny cello things at

Punk music is a joke, it's really just Baroque

@fddlgrl posted this on Twitter today, and I had to put it here because it made me laugh. Lots. As I said to @fddlgrl, this piece has BAD OMEN written all over it. It reminds me of divorce and funerals.

Having said that, I was pleased when I could play it after only playing cello for about a month (which kind of just confirms what this guy is saying...!).

"Punk music is a joke, it's really just Baroque"

Lesson 9? 10?

No idea whether yesterday was my 9th or 10th lesson (I hope 9th or I need to start saving for lessons again)..

I explained my confusion with the whole key signature/when to do extensions/not really understanding music conundrum. My teacher was partly reassuring - he said to not worry about it for now, and just play up the the place in the book that I can do, and make sure I am confident with what I am doing. The book we are working from apparently moves very quickly, and assumes that you have prior music theory knowledge - i think it's basically a book designed for adult leaners playing cello as a second instrument.

Which is all fine and good but I am going to need to learn it at some point, and it is frustrating me that I am (in theory) able to play things, I just don't know how they need to be played.

I think I need to stop being impatient with myself, and remember that learning to read music is all part of the learning experience! I have a bad habit of always wanting to do the next thing, but I need to consolidate what I already know.

So, a week of consolidation lays ahead of me!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Bow Grip update

Forgot to mention - I have completely and totally changed my bow hold. I knew it was really wrong before, but I just wanted to play, but in lesson 8 my teacher suggested we do something about it. It now resembles slightly more a proper grip, and I am pleased with it for now. It has made all the notes sound smoother somehow, less strained, and has given me much more flexibility in my wrist so I can play the whole length of the bow.

Will double check it again with my teacher tomorrow.

A long break! (not from cello though!)

I can't believe the last time i wrote was 14th may. ever since I started my dissertation, things have been crazy busy, and I haven't had time to write. I have however had time to practise, and things are going well. I was inspired to post today after reading @Michael_Tuchman's blog, and decided that I would review what I had been doing recently.

Since lesson 7 I have had 2 more lessons. Both of them were lovely, as usual. My cello teacher and I are getting quite friendly, which has made me slightly less apprehensive before I go into lessons.

I am currently playing a few things:
  • Every now and again I am playing a few pieces in 4th position. They are easy to play, yet they sound so horrible! Going to keep going back to those.
  • I am also playing 2 long pieces (much longer than usual) which I am enjoying, but am finding a struggle to get through the whole thing before my left thumb starts to ache. I also find it difficult to play something wrong and keep going, so have started tackling one line at a time which is helping loads.
  • I am having real trouble with pieces with complicated key signatures. I can (sort of) do extensions, but I have no idea when I should be doing them. I think the problem there is a fundamental lack of any knowledge of music theory, and it is holding me back.
So in my lesson tomorrow I am going to talk to my teacher about what the hell any of those key signatures mean, and ask him to give me a music reading lesson. Until I get that sorted I pretty much can't play anything else in the book, so I really need to figure it out.

I might get a book on music theory too, but not sure what type of thing I need.

Will update after my lesson tomorrow.