Ten years of this

“Do you think you’re profiting from these lessons,” my cello teacher asked me the day before yesterday. I was a little gobsmacked. I mean,  I’ve been wondering the same thing, but why was he asking? Does he want to break up with me? Is he being contrite? I didn’t get it and said something vague.

But the truth is that my improvement has been marginal ten years of this and I’m still absolutely musically clueless. My technique is bad as is everything else. I have a nice cello, though, in a nice red hard case.

It is somewhat frustrating. It would be more frustrating were I to have actual musical goals I was wanting to accomplish, but when I try to visualize a goal all I get is haze.  Maybe there’s a kind of musical dyslexia and I have it.

That would be nice, because it would be an excuse, rather than insufficient practice and impatience. Largely, though, I guess it’s pretty much mea culpa. A few brief, unfocused practice sessions per week doesn’t cut it. My teacher hasn’t been much help, he’s been pretty nice and patient and forgiving until now, whereas what I probably needed part of the time was a mean little old Russian lady with a willow switch making me play scales until my fingers bled.

I’ve bought a book of etudes I’m trying to work through. I bought a book of scales I’m going to try to work on, although, I am ashamed to admit, I am still shaky on the whole concept of key signatures and other basic music theory.

Also my bowing sucks and my breathing is ridiculous. I’ve started hatha yoga and that ought to help with the latter.

My intonation is okay. So-so. Second and third fingers a little close together, but if I concentrate on that it’s okay.

I say ten years.  I do think so. Ten years is a long time.

On my end of the process, I would have to guess that insufficient practice and a lack of any sort of vision of what I really want to do are my main problems. My original goal was to find out how a cello works. So what now? I blindly stumbled into playing in an orchestra. Maybe playing competently in an orchestra? Playing specific pieces competently?

Understanding what the hell is going on? Maybe that’s asking too much.

9 responses to “Ten years of this

  1. mig

    It also occurs to me that part of the problem is my being okay with stasis, or glacial change. Change at a glacial pace, I mean, not change in actual glaciers, if by that you mean melting.

  2. Mig I hear you. I have an unfortunate love affair with stasis -glacially paced change of the not melting variety.

    What interests me is the ten years. Does it seem like ten years? Does it seem like forever?

    Why, when I so obviously require the “mean little old Russian lady with a willow switch” do I receive affirmation and grace? Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that I must be “special” and I have not been in on this “special-ness” for most of my life. Everyone is just so delighted I’ve stopped screaming and can feed myself I suppose.

    I observe change. I rarely feel myself make it. Whoa…that sounds like me at 15 full of angst and impatience. I have become ever so patient. Unfortunate.

  3. I know what you mean, Mig. I think most of us need the “mean little old Russian lady with a willow switch.” Like me, for instance. Even though I fell in April and broke a bone in my foot and was forced into relative inactivity, by which I mean I couldn’t walk very fast nor very far (still can’t), did I spend my time studying to improve my German? Well probably I spent a few minutes most day, “brief, unfocused” periods, but mostly I lay on the couch with my foot on a pillow watching reruns of NCIS. I vow to do better!

  4. Oh, and as a corollary to all the NCIS watching, I have decided, and my sister Adrienne agrees, that the world would be a better place if all women were just like Ziva David! (I am, of course, referring to a woman’s ability to defend herself.)

  5. mig

    hope your foot’s better now, jann.

  6. Thank you, Mig. Actually, the part that broke is fine now, but the treatment for that damaged my ankle somehow, (I knew I shouldn’t have listened to the foot and ankle surgeon when he insisted that the unna boot was *not* too tight around my ankle); so now I have PT 3x/wk to try to fix my ankle, which was not originally injured.

  7. I tell you Mig, I have been a composer for 17 years and a flutist for 26, and only in the past few months have I really learned how to pay attention when I practice. I guess I’m a slow learner! What I can recommend is to take several steps back in terms of the difficulty of what you’re practicing. Then set a timer for a small amount of time (5 to 7 minutes). When you’re “on the clock” you’re liable to pay more attention. And 7 solid minutes of only drawing the bow on your open D string, slowly and smoothly and evenly, and really listening to the sound and your body and how those go together, will produce results. I’ve found that practicing really fundamental things with intensity will make the harder stuff easier, but not the other way around. My seven pence.

  8. mig

    Thanks, Kyle. i’ll give that a try this week.

  9. mig

    PS I really like your compositions.