Sunday, December 30, 2007

So can you teach Improvisation??

In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes!!

First of all, what is improvisation? Well, it's composition, but without writing it down. Generally, most people would agree that composition can be taught, so if composition can be taught, why not improv?

Assuming it can be taught, what does it mean to teach improvisation. Well, like anything else in music, there are a million different things to look at. There's form & harmony & theory. Then there's styles, and then there's story-telling. On top of that, you can look at things melodically, harmonically, orchestration-ally.

For me, I'm interested in styles mostly. So how do you understand one? Well, first you have to look at the scales used in the styles. Take the classical style for example, generally it uses either the Major scale or the Minor scale. So first there's this world of scales ... then from there, you have your world of harmony and triads based upon those scales. Almost every style has some kind of tension & resolution, so you can look for that as well.

Today, working with Hillary, we did a little bit with folk music (she asked if we could work on styles and I was a little thrown off... so when in doubt, I thought the pentatonic scale would work - after all, it's applicable cross-style, and the blues scale is a modified pentatonic, so that covers blues & rock as well as folk music). First we went over the basic scale, the notes, what degrees of a classical scale they would be (In this case, EGABDE - 134571). From there we went into story-telling I started the story with a one liner about an Indian (native american) chief, followed by a musical line. She then followed and we went on, basically ad libbing for a few more turns.

I hadn't really though of the story telling approach, but with purely instrumental music, it makes a ton of sense (I think) & it's basically what we do when playing classical music (part of what draws me so much to Steven Isserlis and his playing is his focus on the composer and the story they tell through the piece).

Any thoughts? anyone worked on improv. here, either on your own, or with teacher? If so, what did you do and how effective did you think it was?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Back to the Meaning of Cello!!

I played with my old hs Orchestra again tonight. I love doing it. For one thing, the music is almost always fun, and for two, I absolutely love Mr. O, he's such an amazing person. But on top of that, it reminds me of what I'm not. Especially when I get to see my old friends from high school & where they're at and how they've progressed and what they've studied. It makes me value this whole classical music thing again in a way that I don't really get to value it at Manhattanville. Recently, I've had some debate over whether or not I wanted to take time off from school, and also whether or not I actually want to do grad school. Being back home & playing gain is making me feel like I'd be crazy to take time off or not do grad school. I have so much freaking work to do though. Time to start now!!

So back to the meaning of cello. I started practicing again (finally) after seeing Steven Isserlis (I had been not playing for about a month due to all sorts of problems & being burnt out and stuff of that sort ... no complaints there; I needed to develop in other ways, and I'm so glad to have done that.) but anyway, I finaly started a bit of actual practice tonight (with scales & such. i'm finding the challenge is to focus and not lose ight of the music and sound in favor of technique. The challenge is also to play relaxed & constantly find new ways to do this. I know I need to do some callous building. I've noticed with my 3rd and 4th fingers, I don't always put the previous finger down when it would be beneficial. I also noticed that I can use the other fingers to control vibrato in a way that I haven't really done before. I also noticed that even when I'm concentrating on the left hand, my bow still has to move... I have a bad habit of stopping it, which creates tension and interrupt the music ... it seems the trick is to think about both simultaneously, and how they relate (kind of like listening to a symphony, or heavy metal - you want to be able to hear all the parts and more importantly how they all go together)

Regarding the right hand, I've noticed that I have a tendency to remove my 2nd and 3rd fingers, which serves no purpose, creates tension and reduces the tone quality of the sound. I find with both hands, I really need to think of all 4 fingers together. Also I want to quote Isserlis (not verbatim) that on a string instrument, the bow is the primary method of expression - so true, it really creates almost everything. The left hand just allows for some tweaking. I've also noticed, that after seeing Isserlis, my left hand techniques reverted more to what it used to be (getting the tapping noises on the fingerboard, and releasing my fingers in order to stop notes - instead of pressing). It's really inspiring. Once I get back in shape & get some more vibrato control, I'll finally feel that my technique is truly where it could be and that I'm actually fulfilling my potential (which so far, I've never done at school, with the possible exception of my recital).

On another note, Kodaly is amazing (Elgar too, but Kodaly really truly makes me want to push my technique further) & I can hear music more and more in ways that I couldn't before - it's so inspiring.... can't wait for the xmas eve masses. Those should be fun!!

Ostrofsky gave me a copy of the Beaux Arts doing the Dumky Trio and of his trio (when it still existed) doing Dvorak's F Minor - man did they have energy!! (and this is off the crappy internal iMac speaker). I can't wait to put that on my ipod.

Finally, I'm beginning to update my myspace ( a bit more and hope to have a few more recordings, plus some vids up there by the end of the break. Actually... last finally, I'm getting a new case: I'm so excited, especially since mine's been giving me trouble/falling apart lately.

That's all for now... might go practice some more (or go to sleep since it's 2...)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ugh, This irritates me!!

So a while ago, this kid posted on the ICS about learning cello... don't remember the original post much, but a lot of ppl shot him down for trying to teach himself/learn without a teacher (and don't get me wrong, I am always in favor of taking lessons and learning from someone who can play an instrument well)

Anyway, this kid comes back and posts this video ( going "hah, I told you I could learn" and one of the first posts in response calls what he did noise (as opposed to music) & puts him down for not learning the cello ... personally I found that really irritating.

Not only did I think what he did was really cool (musically & technically) ... I'm also not sure I could do the same (probably with a bit of work I can - just need to figure out all the things he did... plus what the source material is)... and finally, just cuz you're not into a certain type of music doesn't give you a right to put down others for doing things different from you... certainly not in a setting like that... I dunno, anyone have thoughts on the video, or the posting??

By the way, Eric Edberg recently posted some improv stuff that I haven't had a chance to check out too much, but if you haven't I suggest you do. He's a very interesting guy. Greg Sandow also has some interesting stuff...

Anyway, school's out, so I'm starting to get back in the swing of things... I saw 3 concerts last week... planning to write those up soon.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Recent Happenings

1. 2 Concerts - Orchestra & Small ensembles... After the small ensembles concert, someone added me as a friend on facebook & complimented my playing... very strong possibility we'll be forming a quartet next semester!
2. One of my teachers wrote a piece for a voice student here & asked me to play the cello part!!
3. This same teacher also asked me to come up with a working title for a piece that she will write for me ... I'm thinking of doing something with Loki, or maybe turning it into a bigger idea... like a whole mythology suite... or even different... I'm thinking of commissioning one piece from each mythology from a different composer - that would be neat!!
4. I got hired to play Amahl & the Night Visitors with my old high school in february
5. I'm done with Ear Training!! NO MORE SOLFEGE!!!! ... I love ear training & and do it all the time on my own... I *hate* solfege.

That's all for now... just trying to get through the end of the semester... it finishes with a Trans-Siberian Orchestra Concert... can't wait... anyway, need to go get food..

Monday, November 19, 2007


Teaching is amazing!

It's been a great trip so far. I now have two students & I've had a few lessons with each.

Is applying for music therapy for grad school & so is taking up cello again. She used to play regularly, but then took about 2 years off, so we're rebuilding technique and things of that sort. I'm slowly working on getting her to practice more, and she seems to want to go in that direction. I alos might tell her to go buy an actual bow (she has one of those $30 fiberglaass bows that come with beginner cellos...) at some point... But anyway, we're currently working on "The Swan" & scales & using a metronome to improve one's playing. Her left and right hand techniques need some adjustment, but she's getting there & we've been able to talk about things like breathing while playing & learning to be aware of tension... I'm just slightly worried about whether or not I'll be able to prepare her for auditions in time... gonna have to start stepping things up on both ends, I guess... We should be starting some improvisation next week...

A 13 year old with a really busy schedule, who also plays guitar. We've had 2 lessons so far. He's definitely got a good sense for music, not to mention a good sense of pitch. His orchestra program at school is only 3 days a week (it started a few years ago) & he has limited practice time, but he seems interested and I sort of figure my job is to talk as much about technique as possible & really just to inspire him & keep throwing more music at him - we've been reading some stuff out of Solo Time for Strings... speaking of which, I need to pick up extra copies of those.

So, those are my two students & teaching them is great, beacause I get to think about my own technique and go over things I do in my lessons, as well as be aware of things I don't go. I'm hoping to find another student or two during the next month/two ... I'm gonna put up flyers to that end really soon.

I also came across this thread recently:

Particularly this part of it:

So: where do you start when teaching:

1. How to sit. Stand in front of chair. Sit on front half. Legs in correct position, sitting upright so back is neither curved nor hyper-extended (arched).

2. How to position the endpin. (You need that before you can play!) Stand back up. Extend endpin so the scroll comes just under the student's nose if it's a bit up in the air, as if he/she is a bit snobby. It won't be perfect - you'll adjust below - but that trick will get you close.

3. Sit back down and show how cello is positioned. Check that the cello is adjusted to the student, not the student the cello. Lots of people seem to want to bend out of the instrument's way - which will only cause them tension and pain later. Talk about how the cello will contact the chest at the breastbone and the sides at the knees with the pegs behind the left ear. If you haven't done this yourself lately, take a look at your posture and see that the left knee is at the corner and the right knee is more on the lower bout. You'll have an easier time explaining it if you check yourself out first!

4. I teach pizz first, then left hand, as everybody wants to play a song. Experience tells me that they'll happily practice bowing open strings for a couple weeks IF they can pluck a song. So for pizz, I teach: Thumb up! Thumb down! Thumb against the fingerboard. Reach out and pluck with 1st finger. I know that sounds kinda silly, but it seems to prevent the thumb under the fingerboard trick that invariably results in plucking with the nail. (Eww!)

5. At this point, I teach the names of the strings. Top to bottom, bottom to top, it doesn't matter. I let adult students choose, actually. I think it makes them feel like they have some choices in it all!

6. Then left hand. I use pencil marks; maybe you like tape. Whatever. I mark the 1 and the 4 only; the concept is that the 2 and 3 get evenly spaced. So we do the "hold the coke can" trick and then turn the hand over and put it on the strings. ALL FOUR FINGERS DOWN AT FIRST. (If you put just 1st finger down, you'll end up with the other fingers going someplace strange. Put all four down and then learn to lift up and set back down.)

7. Practice fun little tunes like D - G (with 4 fingers) - open G. Teaches tuning 4 to the string below. Teaches getting hand into position. Theoretically, if the 1 and 4 are in the right place, it's teaching the spacing, as well. Work on making a good sound that rings, rather than the "thook" that comes when you don't have the string quite right. Show your student that squeezing harder doesn't help make "thook" go away, but making an small adjustment to the finger should.

8. Teach picking up 4th finger and playing 3rd finger. Show how 4 should hover in place, ready to play again as needed. Now you can play Here Comes the Bride: D-G-GG. D-A-F#,G.

9. Finally, teach picking up 4, 3, and 2 to play 1. Check that the hand retains its shape and isn't tipped entirely back for 1 and nothing else is in place any more. (Try it again, because it all WILL be tipped back and out of place!)

10. Now you can teach exciting things like open-string scales going down (4-3-1-0, 4-3-1-0). Once that concept is there, go back up the scale.

11. Now you can play all those exciting beginner pieces - Twinkle, Mary Had a Little Lamb, etc. How fun. All of this is Pizzicato, you realize, right?

12. Now teach the bow. I have students pick up a pencil off my palm first. They'll reach with their fingertips in a surprisingly bow-hold-like way. They also won't grab the pencil with a death grip, which is a good example of how to hold the bow! I transfer that to a bow hold - at the balance point. (Next week, we'll start moving back down towards the frog.)

13. Now you get to teach about making sound - weight, contact point, and bow speed. I usually spend 30 seconds telling adults about how these three relate, then show them how to make a basic sound in the middle of the bow, using average weight and speed with a central contact point. They can play around a bit with changing those things - and knowing about them will help them solve the inevitable problems of crunches, squeeks, and such.

14. I usually ask adults to practice for 5-10 minutes at a time. They can do 1 practice a day or 10 if they like, but limiting the time should limit the problems of sore fingers, tension, etc. I ask them to practice bowing back and forth on all strings -having picked up a pencil first to remind them of the mild grip one uses on a bow. I ask them to practice getting into 1st position - open string, 4 fingers, open string, 4 fingers, etc. on every string. Then scales downwards, a few little ditties, etc.

Next lesson, you'll fix all the problems and work on some basic pieces in whatever book you choose. I usually put hands together on lesson 2, but it depends how they look alone! Then, when you start a piece, go back to pizz. Learn the notes pizz. Then add the bow. The hardest thing is to do both at once - so don't try to at first!"

So anyway, hopefully in the near future, I'll be able to start blogging some more & getting back to talking about technique, cuz I've noticed I haven't been doing too much of that lately... I've also barely been playing lately, but that's because I've had some other stuff to focus on & am a bit behind on school work... can't wait to get back into it though... it's gonna have a new intensity that I can't wait for.

Anyway, guess that's all for now.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

7 Things about Me!

Well folks, I've been tagged by Emily Wright - - for 7 things about me, so here goes

1. I started the cello in my junior year of high school when I was 16. I had the privilege of working with the orchestra teacher (a phenomenal cellist named Fred Ostrofsky) every day & I played about 6 hrs. a day once I got into it ... man I miss those days... before that I jumped around on any of the following: keyboard, electric guitar/bass guitar, trumpet, pan flute, ocarina, flute... anything I could get my hands on... I would really love to try out an oboe someday

2. My experiences with guitar still sick with me a lot!! I'm actually something of an anomaly I think... my main musical inspiration is & always has been heavy metal. Metallica's self-titled was my first cd that I bought & from there, add in some Iron Maiden & Pantera, then some of the more progressive bands (Queensryche, Dream Theater & more) and you've got about half of my musical foundation (oh yeah, can't forget Manowar & Nightwish!). To this day, I'm way more enthusiastic about metal & its derivatives than I am about classical & to that end, I'm working on learning metallica songs on cello. One of my larger artistic goals is being in a band & really pushing the heavy metal cello thing (check out Apocalyptica & Break of Reality)... we'll see what comes of that...

3. I really need a planner!! Because... I take on too much all the time & everything gets very chaotic, and while that's often very fun, it doesn't work very well when it comes to professional obligations & school work and grades and stuff...

4. I like to draw & write poetry/song lyrics (though never any songs... I must change this in the future..). I'm also really into anime & think it's a much better medium than live action film.

5. I'm constantly seeking new ideas & ways to push/inspire myself. Right now, musically, that's Cliff Burton & improvising & modes ... also, jamming with friends as much as possible (including a friend who plays a Duduk - an armenian double reeded clarinet type thing that sounds more like a sax. & less like a clarinet) ... you learn so much just from being around others and hearing all the cool shit they do!

6. I like depression (to an extent) ... I mean, it always sucks to go through it, but I feel like it helps me see life so much more clearly ... it reminds me that I'm alive & it really makes me appreciate all the times where I'm happy & inspired & even the times where I'm not... plus I've just always learned so much from it... my first experiences with depression started at the end of middle school & particularly in my first 2 years of high school... I'm lucky I never saw a therapist or any of that crap, they probably would have tried to put me on pills, fuck that! I also like depression b/c it's related to creativity for me (which is cool afterwards when I get these giant bursts of energy & inspiration ... it's also kind of a scary thought...)

7. When I was young, I wanted to be Mark Hamill... well Luke Skywalker more accurately! Star Wars Trilogy is damn awesome... only thing that compares to it (movie-wise) is the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Edit: Whoops! Forgot to tag people... I tage Eric Edberg (, and Terry (

Thanks to Emily for the Tag!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Reflections & Developments

Ok, so first the recital.

It went quite well ... I got a new and different sense of the musicality of the Bach suits (1 & 2) from it & I started to hear the lines in things in a way that I hadn't before... there were some mess ups & memory slips, but not in a frantic/nervous kind of way & i kept going... still awaiting comments from the teachers about it. I've learned about a new level of intensity and of immersion with music from working on these two suites & from now on, it's always going to be the way I work on music.

The second half of it was to me the more interesting half & let me say it was so much fun!! It started off with Hindemith (cello/clarinet), which went really well... almost perfectly... I'm probably going to use one or two on my myspace. They're such cool pieces & i really want to explore Renaissance music more when I get a chance (they're written in the form of a bicenium, basically a renaissance duet). After that was Jen's piece "It Takes Two" ... I think we nailed it a lot better musically than the first time we played it, though I still think I could do more with it - it's really cool how stuff grows the more you perform it. After that was my own piece. It was a really special moment for me, since I'm the only person who's performed the piece & I really got a chance to see how much I've grown since I played it in April.. I almost played it perfectly... probably going to put that recording up on myspace as well... I really want to get it out amongst other cellists b/c I think it's got good potential & it seems to grab people when I play it. The last piece was the most meaningful for me on the recital. Not only was it a jazz piece, but it was done on electric cello, which is so important to who I am musically... the more time goes on, the more I feel my heavy metal roots pulling at me. I'm kind of itching to get into a band environment soon, or at least to collaborate with others.

So the recital was a special experience... I've got a cd of it & video files soon to come (they'd b done already, but i can't seem to get WMVs to play properly on my mac.

Next in the list, I've got a student now. Her name is Hillary, she's a few years older than me & used to really play a lot in college, but hasn't played in about 2 years. So she's pretty much the perfect student for me, because she's at a level I can teach very well & she can understand what I'm expressing pretty easily. It's great for me, because I'm learning things about how to teach & it's filling in gaps in my musical knowledge. She's applying for music therapy for grad. school & I think we work really well together, so I'm looking forward to seeing how things develop. I need to get her to develop stronger practice habits, but she'll get there if that's what she wants.

Following my recital, I made a decision ... I'm going to start learning more and more guitar music on cello & particularly heavy metal. So where better to start, but metallica? I'm working on my blues scales & on learning their songs by ear. It's so cool, b/c they're foundationally and formally simple (not to mention I have almost all of them memorized in my head anyway), but technically they're quite challenging and exciting. On top of all this, it brings me back to a day where I was even more immersed in a constantly stimulating world of music than I am now... it's so great to be heading back in that direction.

I visited my old high school as well - that's always great inspiration because of Fred Ostrofsky (my first teacher) ... his technique has always been something I try to aspire and match & it helps me drive myself. Plus, he let me play some bach for the orchestra & he put my program/notes up on his bulletin board, which means so much to me. He also told me to get in touch with the local cello teacher b/c we apparently have similar interests with the electric cello stuff.

Later that day I had a lesson with my teacher & we started talking about technique... it got a bit rocky from there... he said that for double stop extensions I need to rotate my hand so that my fingers were more slanted (he didn't use those words) & when I did this, I found that I really didn't like it & that it caused my hand to lock up... he then commented that keeping the first finger straight and extending was wrong & would raise a red flag in grad. school auditions ... I have very strong memories of my first teacher doing just that though & he has the most relaxed left hand I've come across. Then we got to bowing, and my teacher mentioned that it wasn't ok at any point for the lower knuckles on the pinky & ring finger to collapse/be lower than the other two... immediately, my thoughts went to Steven Isserlis who not only has the most relaxed bow-hold I've seen, but does just that... I think the root of some of this is that we have a different concept of the sound we want to achieve & I'm glad that we do b/c it means I'm retaining my own identity ... but yeah, kinda of a rocky area that I need to explore more... I wish I was explaining the discussion better, but it's a bit new to me...

There were other parts of that lesson that were really encouraging... he was apparently impressed by the musicality of my recital, which means worlds to me & he wants me to develop more with orchestration, conducting & electronics so that I can be in leadership positions more (putting together or leading ensembles or stuff of that sort), which should make me more marketable to schools (along with my other interests) later on... I'm glad to have had this conversation b/c essentially he's encouraging the area I want to move in... time to get that alternative cello ensemble together!!!

On a really cool note, I was having a giant music discussion with one of my friends during lunch & I don't remember everything we covered (though we did cover the similarities/differences between rock & classical... I'm lending her Metallica's S&M cd...). But the coolest part of this... she's bringing her Duduk & we're going to jam/write a piece for cello & Duduk... she's gonna introduce to me more to middle eastern music theory ... this is really gonna be quite exciting & we have months to do this (for the composer's concert in april)

On a final note, check out this interview with Yo-Yo Ma... I really learned some cool things about him & his music making from it that I was surprised to find out:

If anybody would like to see/try my piece "War of the 2 Tribes" drop me a message.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I almost want to sustain this moment in my life...

I was talking with my brother earlier, and I realized that when I go up on stage tomorrow, I'll be leaving part of myself behind... losing it... it's almost bittersweet; I almost want to hold tight to my life where it is now ... tomorrow's it though - the recital's there.

And with that recital, comes a transition... right now, I'm mike, the kid who's obsessed with the cello, who's studying it in school ... but when I walk on stage, I'm mike the artist ... it's the first time I've ever designed my own program or held my own concert ... it's the first time people are coming of their own accord to see Mike the Artist... and that may have been inspired by Mike the kid, but they're not there to see him ... they're there for the music...

On top of that... since it's a first, it means it's an experience I'll never have again... which means I'm leaving part of my life behind and journeying somewhere else... I'm looking forward to it... but at the same time, I want to hold on to what I have right now... it's kind of the last moment of peace... a goodbye, before parting ways...

Regardless off all this analysis though, I don't think anything's ever meant so much to me in my life before... at least not in this way...

It's going to be such an amazing experience...

Friday, October 19, 2007

I only wished...

I only wished
To become something beautiful
Through my music
Through my silent devotion

I had a wish granted tonight... I saw Nightwish for the 3rd time. It was quite an amazing set, though the balance was off, and the band has quite a bit of room for growth (in a really good way). They have a new live chemistry that they didn't have previously and their new material is absolutely amazing!!

It made me think back on Nightwish and their music & the connection/impact it's had on my life... and more recently, my separation from it... maybe not separation, but I feel like I'm losing creativity b/c I don't have room to breathe (largely due to taking so many music classes & working so hard at cello). But it reminded me about what I love about music & why I do it. Plus, yet again, I have another influence pushing me to want to work in some kind of band environment... I just don't know what to do about that ... I feel much more comfortable on keys than cello for something like that, but I enjoy playing cello more (usually...) & of the 2, it almost seems like I'm destined to play the cello... I just need to figure out how to incorporate that into a band environment...

In other news, I have my recital in 2 days - it will be a great relief when it's over... I've grown so much in preparing for it, though I've also become more aware of my shortcomings and I've learned a lot about what to do to prepare for a concert & how not to promote it ... the program is as follows:

Bach Suites 1 & 2
Duets for Double Bass/Clarinet by Hindemith
It Takes Two by Jen Castellano
War of the 2 Tribes by *Me*
Life Song by Robben Ford

Everything is in great shape, except Life Song, which has been quite a challenge, since it's a guitar part that I'm learning on cello... I'm worried that I'm not gonna get the rest of it in like the random hour or two of spare time I have on friday... but hey, whatever happens, happens..> I get the form/harmony of it, so I can fake/improv parts if need be...

Also, I give my first cello lesson on sunday, which I'm extremely happy & nervous about
... should be really interesting to meet my first student... I'm so worried I'm not gonna know how or what to teach though, even though i've done some before... ... I suspect this will go away when I'm actually in the lesson... I have a natural thing fro teaching.. in the same way I do for performing (which is not to say that both skills don't need to be further developed, b/c they definitely do!!)

Musical Goals for the near future:
1. Learn more guitar-oriented music on cello, starting with Nightwish. Analyze the Form/Harmony as much as possible
2. Put more time into Piano/keyboard
3. Improv my bow technique substantially, so that I can delve even further into the music I'm working on
4. Write more music

In other cool news, I've had a multi-FX pedal & a synthesizer passed on to me... damn is that cool!! I've only played with the synth twice now, but it's so exciting!! (it's a very old casio...). I'm going to learn more about it/synthesis in general when I get a chance... looking forward to december break, b/c I'm going to do a lot of musical exploration over it!!

So that's it for now... can't wait for this weekend to finish & to start working on new music... I'm already thinking about next year's recital and have so many different ideas in mind...

Friday, September 28, 2007

An Amazing Day of Music!!

So yesterday I had some quite awesome experiences. To start with, I was in Elliot Magaziner's Office during my normal time (he's the conductor, I'm the orchestra manager) & my friend comes over to chill. So we're looking through past programs and music that the conductor had. First of all, there were some amazing orchestral programs in the past (he's been there for about 40 years or so now). There were programs where they did all of Carnival of the Animals, or had Shostakovitch & Mahler on the same program... I wish we could do things of that caliber in orchestra now...

2 exciting discoveries came out of this:

1. A set of duets for cello & violin where the cello part is mostly in treble cleff. My teacher is going to coach it next semester & had a few other ideas of things we could wok on.
2. Copies of the "From the New World" When it was Symphony No. 5 (apparently they discovered back in the 70s that there were some more in between 4 & the rest...)

So that was really cool. On top of that, I had a neat lesson. Since we've gone through the 1st 2 Bach Suites in my previous 3 lessons, and the rest of the music on my recital is basically chamber music, we took a bit of a different direction this time. We worked on technique, first doing octave shifts & concentrating on alignment, then coming up with the idea of doing octave double stops, which is quite cool. Then my teacher introduced me to the "nail that pitch in thumb position" game, and said that I should do that while practicing to really solidify my pitch in that register and to develop reference points. After that (or maybe it was before all this), we worked on Popper 11, which I did pretty well on considering that I haven't looked at it in weeks. We talked about some of the harmony in it & the practice methods for it (doing it *really* slowly for intonation & hand position) & right hand technique, which involved a loose wrist, jumping off the strings with the elbow of the bow hand for string skips & having firm fingers. So basically it was a cool & somewhat more relaxed, but still instructional lesson. Now I have all this work to do on Bach, and I still need to learn my piece that I'm rehearsing to night for cello/clarinet (it's an original work by Jen Castellano)...

So anyway, here's the amazing part. My friend Andrew (from earlier) & I go up to Pleasantville to see Brian Skarstad to get our bows rehaired. To start off, he's an amazing violin maker - really knows his stuff & is quite cool. We talk about music and stuff for a bit, I recommended Break of Reality to him. Then he asks us if we want to see something cool... He pulls out a violin from a crappy plastic case & says "This is Paganini's Violin". I asked him how he could possibly know that (and of course was wondering how it's in Pleasantville, NY of all places, instead of... um, Italy!). He pulls out this book with pictures of rare violins & looks it up in there. Sure enough, it had the same markings and patterns and all that. Here's some pictures of it . So after that amazing experience, we talked a bit more, gave him our bows to rehair, and I went home & started looking up Paganini... I wish I could play some of his music, because he would have so many interesting stories for program notes... I'd say maybe I could shoot for one of the caprices for next year, but I'm not sure I'd believe it.

After that, I practiced for about 3 hours straight... well, probably about an hour/hour and a half was experimenting with alignment, which was quite productive. The rest was slow practice spent on the Allemande from the 2nd Bach suite & on technique (I'm evolving my previous method):

1. Play a barred fifth in tempo with the following rhythms - 1 Quarter, 2 8th, 3 Triplets, 4 Sixteenths ... basically working on subdivisions of 1, 2, 3 & 4 ... I'm going to add in quintuplets, sextuplets, septuplets & 32nd notes eventually, which should prove quite challenging even at slow tempos.
2. Repeat the above, only change the interval from a P5 to a M6 - great for intonation/hand position & callous building.

Afterwards, while I was reading stories about Paganini, I became inspired to start writing music & wrote the intro to what I think is going to be a suite for solo cello... I really want to start to work some writing for flute into my stuff soon too...

That's all for now... dress rehearsal that I'm not ready for today & then a performance on sunday - Then I have 5 days to have all my recital material perfect!! Also, playing at a memorial service for a teacher who passed away last year...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Some thoughts & reflections

So, I've been insanely busy lately & haven't had much of a chance to update this... not to mention, i's been a struggle to find enough practice time, which is beginning to frustrate me - it's so hard not to socialize too mcuh...

On the other hand, some other things of note:

1. Universal Arpeggio Fingerings
minor: 1 4 1
major: 1 4 2
dominant: 1 4 1 2 (change of position always on the septime)
diminished: 1 4 1 4

2. I'm going to stop showing up to lessons underprepared - I don't care what classwork I have to cut out, or how much sleep I don't get - it's extremely unbeneficial to me & the teacher, and everytime I don't practice, I lose that much more of the focus... I need to hang on to my memories of summit more vividly... it's beginning to seem distant though...

I was gonna write more... but I'm awy too exhausted...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Not Quite Keeping Up the Pace...

Wow, it has been an intensely busy week!

I had my lesson to day, and it was good/productive, but I went into it a little underprepared... and, though I've been making good progress since coming back to school... I'm starting to lose sight of the vision just a bit... though not being really prepared for my lesson, sorta kicked me into shape, and it's amazing to see the effect that technical work has been having on me...

Still though, it's been hard to practice everything I'm supposed to be working on & on top of that, I realized earlier today that I haven't actually practiced piano for the whole 2 weeks that I've been here, which is really bad, b/c I'm supposed to know this piano piece by monday (It's cool, it's a Lydian Nocturne)... thankfully, I've learned how to work on pieces and memorize them from keyboard harmony & from all my cello work since summit... it's just a matter of finding the time to put in for piano on top of finding the to put in for cello... I want to get at least a few days where I practice for 6 hrs. a day... I miss doing that...like3 hours has been really inspiring, but I know that I could do so much more with 6 & I *really* need to step things up so that I at least have a chance of making it into conservatory in 3 years.

On a good note though, my technical improvements keep making me think of Mr. O, which is incredibly inspiring, and my bow arm is getting a lot smoother/I'm playing in the string a lot more... I may be cutting off a day from work at some point since I've got so much going on...

I had to turn down what seemed like a really sweet opportunity to play in a musical... the pay wouldn't have been that great, but still, it would have been amazing... that kind of sucked, but oh well... also, I responded to an ad that was looking for a cellist to play the Kol Nidre service, so hopefully I've got that gig... can't wait to hear back from them...

I guess that's it for right now... in my last two lessons, I've plowed through Bach Suites 1 & 2 ... now I just have to technique the crap out of em & have them completely memorized & up to performance standard in about 3 weeks ... I also have to create my program notes very, very soon... that should be cool...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Immersed in a world of cello

It's getting near the end of the first week of my junior semester, and already things are off to an inspiring start.

Here's a list of my classes:

Cello Lessons
Classical Piano Lessons
Jazz Piano Lessons
Poetry Workshop
Jazz Improv.
Music of the 20th Century
Advanced Ear Training
Ensemble Playing: Jr. Recital

So in light of that, I have a million things to work on. Such as:

Haydn Divertimento, trans. by Piatigorsky (that's just cool!)
Yampolsky D Major exercises (a bit modified by my teacher)
Bach Suites 1 & 2
Popper 11
Knowing all my key signatures cold.
Learning the 7 modes and knowing what they sound like on my instrument
An original work for Cello & Clarinet by Jennifer Castellanos
An original work for Cello, Flute & Violin by Ashley Murtha

Stuff that I'll be working on a bit later:
Elgar Concerto - I'm going to enter my school's concerto competition
Seven Tunes Heard In China - Bright Sheng
Cellist of Sarajevo - maybe??
Original work by Danny Gray for Cello & 2 Violins - maybe??

On a cool note, I found Bright Sheng's contact information, so I can conttact him once I start working on that piece - can't wait!!

So far, of my classes, I'm enjoying all of them, particularly Jazz Improv & Ear Training... in Orchestration, we covered the Harmonic Series - quite cool!! I really want to learn more about the physics of music & all that... but anyway, everyone is telling me that orchestration is one of the most useful classes I could ever take, so it's quite exciting... later today I have another cello lesson (we moved the day from tuesday to thursday) & I'll have my finalized Jr. Recital list - it's going to be a combo of classical rep & original works & quite possibly some improvisation.

So everything is amazingly cool & going well ... but the coolest thing. I've made a pact with one of my friends - Ashley Murtha, an amazing flutist: Starting monday, for 6 days a week we are both going to practice a minimum of 3 hours a day (this was inspired by John Petrucci & John Myung from Dream Theater, who practiced 6 hours a day, every day in high school before going out w/ friends!!)

On top of that, I'm checking into local music events & wow is there some really cool stuff going on at SUNY Purchase!! I"m gonna be going to see Matt Haimovitz & Itzhak Perlman once I get tickets - can't wait!!

So that's all for now... I have to go do my orchestration homework & then get to practicing...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reflections on Summit

Ok, so I still have some masterclass notes to post up, but I get the feeling that those will be waiting until I actually have a working computer in my own home...

So anyway, The Summit Festival is now over. On one hand I wanted it to end, because there was lots of pressure & it was costing me a crazy amount of money (I believe I spent something like $160 in gas over the last two weeks, because my mother doesn't have a job... man did that suck!)... but anway, I met a bunch of amazing people & even got to make music with some of them... there were amazing concerts every night & even more amazing masterclasses... the things that stick with me the most are:


Julian Milkis - I've never heard clarinet *drown out* piano and violin before... plus he played an awesome version of Gershwin's really famous prelude with his son & wife ...

Emannuel Gruber - He played one of the Beethoven cello/piano sonatas & this is the only classical performance that's really come close to comparing to a rock concert for me in terms of how much it moved me... it gives me hope that one day I'll find a classical performance that does as much for me as rock/metal does...

Sergiu Schwartz -Performed a program of Jewish music, which not only was very cool, but reminded me of how much I like the Jewish style of playing (Itzahk Perlman anyone?)

Yuki - forgotten his last name, but another violinist who's playing inspired me a bit

Matt Haimovitz - If only all recitals were given like his! He played Bach & then he played two pieces that he had had commisioned by living composers... on top of this, he talked between pieces & let his baby cry at one point... it was a great performance & a great recital ...


Harpsichord - It has such an amazing sound, and it was beyond cool to hear about things from the perspective of someone who's into early music... they have a very different approach & I think it's more organic... If I had a harpsichord to use around me, I would so learn it...

Nathaniel Rosen - This was such an amazing class from the only American winner of the Tchaicovsky competition. He has a great command of the cello & really knows what he's talking about. On top of that, he doesn't try to super-impose his interpretations onto students, and acknowledges that they can have their own musical desires... great guy ... If he's there next year, I'm maybe going to try and approach him and/or see if I can play for him

Steven Isserlis - The best masterclasses I've ever been to! Besides that he is one of my favorite cellists (living or dead), his approach to music is so through and contains so much depth. He has everything memorized & can play the accompaniment to everything he plays/teaches just as well as he can play the actual part... he has such an amazing character & an amazing sense of humor... I'm really going to try and integrate his approach into my own - I think there's so much value in using it as a foundation...

Schwartz - I got to learn about Bach from the perspective of a violinist, who's playing I like... the most important things I got from it were the concepts of stylized dance & the reminder that the genius of Bach is in his harmony...

Matt Haimovitz - I only got to stay for the Lalo concerto, but he's an amazing teacher as well as an amazing performer...

People I met... (I'm trying not to forget anybody... hopefully that will actuall work out...)

David Krieger - A very nice old man... we don't see eye to eye regarding tradition, but otherwise, he is a very caring person who means well for everyone & I may approach him in the next few months to potentially take lessons... all depends on money..

Georgina - Much to say... a 14 yr. old girl from Chile, who seems much older than her age & is into finnish culture a lot (when I met her she was wearing a nightwish shirt - amazingly cool...). She was fun to be around and talk with & I got to become friends w/ her friends...

Erica - One of Georgina's friends ... didn't really get to know her much till the last couple of days..

Polina - a girl from Great Neck, NY (just occurred to me, I know someone else from there...), who goes to MSM prep. ... also one of Georgina's friends that I got to know.

Martik - My armenian violinist - we had chamber together & discussed classic rock & fiddling and all sorts of cool stuff... the kid lives in Syracuse, but is from Russia... very cool kid ... needs to get a little more on top of stuff like being on time & writing stuff down, but hey, don't we all??

Weipeng Liu - He was my Manager for Stage Managing ... very nice guy & great technique... He opened up a lot musically during the festival...

Jeong-Bo - One of Martik's friends; a violinist. Mostly knew classical rep ... cool kid.

Akiko Maruyama - Amazing Pianist & a very nice person - for the most part, her and Riko split all the accompaniment for the whole festival - they're both very amazing players!

Katherine Harris - Amazing pianist! I got to work with her in chamber for 2 weeks and I learned so much from her. She's very thorough and has qualities that would make her a great teacher if she decided to go down that path! I wish all pianists played as musically as her ... I might like some more of the classical rep. then... On top of that, she's very open-minded & is actually aware of popular music and not just classical... Apaprently she lived near the Trans-Siberian Railroad (she's from Russia)...

Hannah Tarley - Jewish violinist from California. Her and her mother were both very nice people & on top of that I liked her playing quite a bit.

Yuki - Like I said above, amazing violinist ... one of the older students I actually got to talk to every now and then... very nice guy... I threw him off on the last night, when I said that I liked his playing a lot even though I don't usually like the violin ... what can I say... everyone's got their prejudices...

Matt Dunnoyer - One of the few black musicians studying classical that I've actually met. I got to know him while he was outside smoking, he works at MSM & is into jazz as well, I think. Cool kid.

Sean Cotty - When I first saw him, my reaction was that he was probably a soccer kid... I was dead on. Good pianist too... played some Bach Prelude & Fugue that reminded me of Billy Joel's "Pressure"

Sam Lavery - I think I met him for a bit, but didn't get to know each other too well... seems like a cool kid though...

Katya - A french-canadian girl who plays violin... very nice, though she has extremely conservative views about music ... Plays very well though... we both like Kodaly quite a bit (or at least the performance we saw)... he's definitely one of my favorite composers ... he uses the pentatonic scale amazingly...

Bong-Shin Ko - Amazing cellist, has definitely mastered her instrument, though we feel music pretty differently. She was my chamber coach for the Haydn & I learned a lot from working with her

Richard Clark - My other chamber coach, also conductor of the senior orchestra & a freelancer... While I didn't always agree with his way of doing things, I learned quite a bit from him & am certainly going to keep a lot of what he taught me with me at all times...

Allan - Cool violinist who's into alternative styles ... particularly techno... has a seeing device to help him see music, was fun to hang out with...

Umm, I think that should cover most of the people I met (particularly the ones I later got in touch with through facebook)...

So now for a general reflection... the past two weeks were beyond amazing... Like I mentioned, I met people from all sorts of places & the cool thing is that most of them played so much better than me. I feel so priveleged to have had the opportunity to do a music festival in the first place & am quite grateful to Prof. Kuan for pushing me to do it. It was amazing to be around music all the time, though it was tiring at times too... I wish classical people would incorporate ethnic and folk music as well as electric instruments some more. But either way, it was an amazing experience & I learned so much, plus for the first time got to see what the level of playing actually was for people my age. It was amazing to see their enthusiasm (in most cases) for what they're doing too. I learned so much from it & will definitely do it again next year... I can't wait for it again ... For once I'm going to have plans for something exciting to do over the summer! Plus it might be at Manhattanville next year, which would be phenomenal (speaking of which, I can't wait for our new building to go up... it sounds quite exciting...)

Now I have to go get to work on the things I need to prepare for my fall recital...

Db Major

So I've been working on fill in the gaps of my scale knowledge & consequently I went after Db major, with it's 5 flats... it's such a cool scale... there's something deeper about it then a lot of other scales...

My technique is finally starting to get back to where it once was (though still not there yet...)

I still have to post reflections of Summit... but my time at the library is up...

I need to start teaching myself...

So, I'm on the ICS Forums and I saw the following post:

I really need to start finding some students of my own by the fall... I think it's safe to say my technique is sufficient to be teaching younger kids (elementary & middle school) & maybe even some high school kids ... plus I've got the business cards... I go for my road test tomorrow, so if all goes right, I've got my license ... I really need to get that moving then by fall, cuz man do I need money! Plus I would *love* to teach...

I think I need to come up with a set of goals to complete before going back to school, so that I can actively work towards those...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Notes From Steven Isserlis Masterclass

Just got out of the Steven Isserlis Masterclass, which was of course, beyond amazing!!!

His knowledge of the music is unbelievable (to the point where he knows and can play every orchestra part to all the concertos he taught on the cello from memory & he even knows every dynamic & articulation marking in the music)

I'm still amazed by his bow grip - I've never seen anyone else with the same technique & he's got such a relaxed/free character, always insistent on listening to the music... anyway, here are my notes from it:


Haydn D

-Smile w/ opening
-play long notes like a keyboard (with dimmuendo)
-Question & antecedant
-What are the important notes? Always know the answer to this
-Sentences & clauses - always head to the main word
-Dance & Laugh
-"Not work, just a conversation"
-You must enjoy what you're playing for the audience to enjoy it:
-This means you can't worry about technique
-You must listen (both to your own playing & to the orchestra) to achieve this
-Quest for the dominant
-[observation: he always has a narrative for what's going on]
-"We don't want to know you've practiced scales"

-Main way of phrasing on string instruments is bow speed
-Listen to the "heartbeat" of the orchestra
-Isserlis thinks it's a love song
-What does an accent mean? (Isserlise thinks it means vibrato in Schumann)
-If any note is not beautiful, you diminish the whole phrase
-As musicians we have to be detectives
-[Look for the form within the music]
-Question & Answer
-Listen to the Bass
-Different Characters: Introvert & Extrovert

Saint-Saens Concerto

-Romantic Temperamnet, but classically written out
-First phrase is one line headed straight for the next thunder crash
-Come down in dymanics in spots, but don't lose the articulation
-[observation: on 3rd finger vibratos in the upper register, he lifts is 1st & 2nd fingers off of the fingerboard & puts his 2nd over his third for a wider, reinforced vibrato]
-Create variety with bow speed
-Match vibrato & bow speed - Especially in lighter/lyrical passages
-"We don't want to know you've practiced"
-[In points w/ chords, examine the harmony & melody]

-We have to listen to what we play
-We achieve this by always focusing on a point out in the audience (for example, an exit sign or a cute girl) [observation: this causes the spine to be straight & basically achieves the same thing as the Alexander Technique... It dramatically improves the sound too...]
-Note the use of the Neapolitan in the harmony
-The Beatles often used it
-"As far as I'm concerned, If you've looked down, you've missed the note anyway, because you're not listening"

It was an amazing class ... I'm going to take some time to integrate his approach (in-depth knowledge of the score & harmony, coupled with always listening & being aware of the other voices & themes) into my playing...

For now though, I have to go practice before rehearsal... It's the very last day of summit... I still have a few more masterclass notes to post up & then at some point, I'll also post reflections, as it's been an amazing journey through 2 weeks...

Anyway, off to the practice room...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Summit Day 9

Hmm, not really much I feel like writing today... 3 things:

1. I've discovered that my strength in chamber music is as an interpreter... sort of a peace-keeper or something like that... I'm good with understanding peoples' ideas and relaying them to other members ... I guess because I place so much value on listening and trying to understand...
2. I had almost forgotten that music always has to be from the heart & should always be done with the purpose of having fun... not to play it more right... I guess the word would be spirit... the inspirations would be Ma or Rostropovich or DuPre
3. I get to watch a performance of the Weber trio I played last semester tonight... plus Emmanuel Gruber is playing cello... that should be fucking awesome...

That's all for now... really frustrating day otherwise...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Summit Day 9

Today was really eventful... my self-confidence is still a bit shaky, but it's improving & my technique is getting closer to where it should be, which is absolutely great... I miss Ostrofsky quite a bit & I can't wait to get back to school and have regular lessons...

So anyway, I had my usual chamber rehearsals, but a million masterclasses/events in between... it basically went:

Haimovitz Masterclass (I only got to stay for one piece - next year, I'll have to make sure that rehearsal doesn't interfere)
Harspichord Masterclass at Westchester Conservatory
Aaron Rosand Video
Concert (was a bunch of chamber music, all the ensembles had cello ... Nathaniel Rosen is not just an amazing cellist, but also an amazing communicator)

The Haimovitz Masterclass was really cool & he wish I could have stayed for all of it/that he didn't have to leave right after it... I'll post notes for it, probably at the end of the week

The Harpsichord Class was also really cool - it has such a beautiful sound & we talked about early/baroque music & basso continuo & improvisation ... the presenter, Jean Newton, mentioned a lot of Early Music texts that I've seen cited before... I think I'm going to check them out sometime in the future...

The Rosand Video, I didn't find too interesting & talking to him afterwards, I noticed the same thing that I've noticed of other teachers his age... his mind is unorganized (except for his method of teaching, in which case, it's rigidly structured) & he can not synthesize information from others very well ... also, he was so negative, it was really uninspiring ...

The concert was amazing, though I wish I hadn't got to stage manage... but hey, apparently Tchaicovsky can write something cool... his trio op. 50 in A minor... tomorrow's concert should be super-amazing... I need to go practice now & then I really need to get to sleep...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Summit Days 6-8

I don't have time for a proper post, so all I'm gonna say for now is that depression is a great motivator & I get to see Matt Haimovitz play in a few minutes... can't wait!!


Ok, so now for a full post:

At this point, I've forgotten Friday... I think the gyst of it was something like this: 2 chamber rehearsals, then work...

Saturday, similar idea, except I got to watch the concert instead & there was a cello masterclass...

Concert:The first half was the junior orchestra, which played the best student orchestra performance I've ever seen... almost makes me excited to see what the senior orchestra will do... It made me miss being in orchestra in high school... it's so communal. The second half I got to hear a Brahms Quintet & Barber's Adagio for strings... I think the adagio maybe could have been done better, but it was pretty cool...

The Masterclass was with Bongshin Ko ... I really didn't get too much from it... she talks about stuff I already know and doesn't seem to speak about the mechanics of playing, which I don't think is a very good quality in a teacher... (In other words, she might say "this sections needs to be lighter" without actually explaining how to (physically) make it lighter

Sunday I wasn't there at all...

So, that brings us to today - 2 chamber reherasals:

Haydn - boring, but we got work done... I really don't find that trio inspiring at all... I also don't think we work as well as a group as we could... there's a bit more that I want to say, but won't since this is a public journal...

Emil Paul - Awesome piece, by awesome composer. The other two members of my ensemble are way better than me. One on hand, this is really inspiring... on the other, it's kind of depressing. Before, when I encountered people who were good technically, their playing usually lacked soul ... In this group (and at the festival in general), the opposite is true. It's good for me, because I've grown so much from working with them, especially the pianist, Katherine Harris, she has a very good training/understanding of things... I think she'll make a good teacher some day...

But anyway, after that rehersal, I was more than a bit depressed b/c I feel like I hold the group back & I feel like I can't progress at the rate I need to in order to work with them ... very frustrating... so that led me to practice & I had a couple of breakthroughs...

1. Every note has a shape
2. For fast passages, I need to keep my middle two fingers flexible...

I didn't care so much for the student recital, which was all violin/piano (I find it's very rare that the violin can actually inspire me - at least in classical)

I got to see Matt Haimovitz play though, which was absolutely amazing ... the printed program was completely screwed up, which I found really funny.... Anyway, he played the 3rd bach suite & he played the way I feel it should be played (by that I don't mean that I had the same interpretation, but he played it freely and in an improvisatory fashion, similar to the way Casals or Greenhouse or Mr. O [My first teacher] might approach it) ... After that it was two original works that he had commissioned some composers for... "Mark Twain Sez", which had quotes from Mark Twain in btwn. movements & "After Reading Shakespeare". I'm going to try and get a copy of the music ... anyway, it was really cool... he talked between pieces & even let his baby cry in the middle of the concert & I got to talk to him after for a bit... very neat...

His masterclass is tomorrow, so i've got a bunch of questions for him, and I'm sure I'll learn a whole lot.... can't wait... anyway, I have to get those irritating fast passages in shape...

Friday, August 3, 2007

Summit Music Festival Days 4 & 5

Didn't get a chance to post yesterday because there was so much going on here...

Day 4
The day started with breakfast. I ate w/ the girl I met the other day & then with my armenian friend... cool company in both cases... it's interesting how I seem to have connected more with the younger crowd (high school age) than the older crowd (college age). But that doesn't surprise me much... all the college kids are super-busy working on stuff and probably keep the themselves a lot (I guess I kind of do the same thing...)

So anyway, at 1:00 I got to watch the masterclass with Nathaniel Rosen... that was amazing!! Here's my notes from it:


-Lift the bow to avoid hearing extra notes
-Control width of vibrato to match the feeling you're trying to create
-to narrow vibrato, touch the thumb lightly to the neck
-you have to control it w/ your ear

Shostakovitch Concerto 1 Mov. 2:

-Floating the bow on top of the string = waste of resources. Remove the word floating from your vocabulary [side note: for me, this was the most powerful thing he said in the whole class]

The Bow has 3 axes:
1 - Vertical Pressure (z)
2 - Proximity to the bridge (y)
3 - Speed (x)

[I added the variables in, but that's basically what he was saying]

-Think of the number of beats for each bow (Budget the bow)
-"Imagination is one of the ways you increase your technique"
-The closer you are to the bridge, the more slowly your bow drags [more friction, resulting from increased tension]
-Bow speed can replace increased force in heavier sections.

-Change bow before "A" harmonic to avoid slop ..
[I didn't write anything else down for that one...]

Tchaikovsky Rococco Variations:

Beginning - While listening to piano introduction, do nothing. Then as it finishes, take your time ... you want to send the message 'this is easy' to the audience. [Interestingly enough, Stephen Isserlis made this exact same point when I saw him give a masterclass... he's going to give a masterclass next week, as well as Matt Haimovitz...]

-Fast vibrato + lifted bow gives the note a "ring"
-Don't go structurally out of tune from E to G# (this is in 4th position on the A string)
-More bow on repeated "ups" removes "icks" from the sound
-Practice String crossings as double stops

Haydn C 1st mov.:

Do the sextuplets/triplets in the middle of the bow... just let it bounce (flat hair, find balance point) [this was referring to the fast section in the third page, but probably also applies to the fast section in the development...]
-loosen bow grip
-it's as if you're playing timpany

-For the C to D/E trill on the A string consider this fingering: C1 D/E24 D/E13
-This avoids the slide from C to D [Personally I really like to play it with the slide]
-In the opening phrase, lift the bow to get the ringing sound.
-For double stops, you don't have to roll them if you play closer to the fingerboard, just use more speed [Essentially the idea was to play on the middle string and allow the sympathetic vibrations to do the rest of the trick... I personally don't really like this approach, but the player was also using two downbows, while I prefer up down]
-Have fun! [his point was that there are of course a lot of lighter and ornamental parts in Haydn]
-You can't bounce the bow at the frog
-For the cadenza-like passage in the development, playing the triplets closer to the fingerboard gives it a nice, darker sound [just something I observed... not sure if I'd play it like that...]


The Student Gala Concert at 5:30 was a real treat... over half the program was cellists and for the first time, I was pretty impressed by a violinist at the very end...

The cello pieces were:
Krumb Mov. II & III
M. de Falla Popular Spanish Songs
Shostakovitch 1 Mov. I
Haydn D Mov. 1

The violin piece was Maurice Ravel's Tzigane played by Yuuki Wong ... was absolutely amazing...

The 8:00 concert was a little less interesting for me, but I think that's just because I was really tired out between all the practicing and watching... anyway, it was basically a Milkis family concert:

Nina Koga - piano (wife)
Daniel Milkis - violin (son)
Julian Milkis - clarinet (father)
Igor Raykelson - piano/compose

The 2 really impressive things about the concert were the playing of 14 yr.; old Daniel Milkis & his father's playing (I've never heard a clarinetist who can project and match with piano and violin, let along drown them out)...

the first mostly featured daniel playing Dvorak, Prokofiev & Kriesler. His father played Hasse & the three played together Gershwin's Ballade for violin, clarinet & piano, in which the clarinet player drowned them out at the end... it was nuts...

the second half, the played pieces by the pianist (Raykhelson) ... guy's got a very cool background... did classical and jazz... I might try to find his cello sonata at some point...

Day 5...

Had breakfast again w/ Georgina (this is the nightwish girl) ... found out that she's actually 14 yrs. old (I thought she was 17) & that she wants to be an orchestral musician (which is the exact thing I don't want to do...)

Other than that, I've got rehearsal in 15 minutes for Haydn & the coach got switched (it's a cellist instead) & then rehearsal for Emil Paul at 2... plus I have to write an email to the president of my college, and I have work later... a little nervous about the rehearsals... wish I could stay for the concert tonight, but even if I could, it costs $30 b/c it's a benefit....

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Music Festival Day 3

Last night's concert was amazing... the violinists were kind of boring, the I discovered yet again that Ernest Bloch is an amazingly cool composer... but anyway, Emmanuel Gruber & Riko Higuma played Beethoven's Sonata for Cello & Piano in g minor... it was a pretty quirky piece - I guess since it's one of his earlier ones but man, I've never seen such raw emotion and energy in a classical performance before... it was great... probably the best classical performance I've ever seen... I told the pianist that I'm not usually moved by classical performances, but that I was really amazed...

In other news, I've met a bunch of really cool people here & gotten a pretty strong insight into what the life of a commuter is like... really wish I had had the money to board b/c I'm missing out on meeting so many people & then I could get free (well pre-paid) meals... either way, it's a really exciting place to be.

I asked Mr. Krieger (the head Director guy) if I could maybe sign up for one of the master classes next week. He said that if there was room he'd let me (It's supposed to only be for students who are there for the whole program - I'm just there for chamber) ...

Anyway, tonight I get to stage manage for a bit... should be interesting... tomorrow, Nathaniel Rosen gives a masterclass ... can't wait to watch...

I should probably get the email addresses of the people I meet here before I go...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Music Festival Day 2

Alright, so Day 2 of this music festival is significantly cooler than Day 1... had 2 chamber groups ... one w/ a teacher I've already studied with and playing Haydn. It's a boring piece, but the violinist is pretty cool... a kid named "Marti" who happens to be Armenian & is into rock music...

The second is w/ a teacher who's name I didn't catch, but the other 2 kids in it were way better than me, so I'm like super-intimidated & have a crazy amount of practicing to do... I know I've gotten better already just from the work I've done up here so far... and the teacher was actually able to talk about bowing during our session - it's exciting to get coached by a string teacher...

Plus, on my way out, I met a girl who was wearing a nightwish shirt... super cool!!

I tried to get into Orchestra, but they had way too many cellists... oh well.

Alright... gonna waste some time on the internet & then I've got loads of practicing to do...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Summit Music Festival

Just started the summit festival today... don't really have much to do as of just now, my rehearsals seem to be on Tuesdays and Fridays and I may have to be here some of the other days of the week, but otherwise, it looks like I have an almost light schedule, but lots of practicing...

I'm thinking of joining the orchestra here, but think I'm gonna skip so that I can have a lighter schedule, b/c I kind of need one right now...

Dunno will figure it out one way or the other... gonna go get breakfast...

Sunday, July 1, 2007


alright... so now that I haven't practiced in about a week and a half, I'm back into the swing of things!

First thing I've noticed: I'm less out of shape than I expected, which means that routine I was working on is gold, because that's about the only thing I've worked on in the last few weeks & it's kept me where I am ... which has led me to a revelation that my technique is sorely lacking in the fundamentals and that this is holding me back tremendously...

but anyway, I called the post parallels, and there's 2 reasons for this:

1. Technique first, expression afterwards - I came across this in Emily Wright's blog (Stark Raving Cello):

They are both adult beginners, and have trusted me with my policy of Technique First, Sound Second. Of course, a week into this new bow grip, their sound caught up with them, and is more radiant and polished than it ever was before. Just like mine was when Ron Leonard unceremoniously dumped my bow grip and gave me a new one...on our first lesson. It took me about 2 months to regain my sound, but he is directly responsible for my current approach, and my faith in technique uber alles.

I then came across the exact same sentiment/idea in the essays here (a must read for anyone in volved the arts by the way, amateur or pro...):

2. In an interview w/ JK Rowling (which I can't link to because mugglenet is down due to the release of the movie today), she mentions that when she writes she doesn't share it with anybody until it's finished because the energy dissipates, then I come across this interview with Jordan Rudess (, where he says the following:

It is very important to be very involved personally. It is also very hard, I think, for many people these days to balance business and family and art. You know, it's the challenge of modern life. For me, it's hard, especially with email and all that, it's really tempting and interesting to go and look and see what the communications are - you can kind of get a lot of things going and a lot of relationships, and I enjoy that. For instance, what happens with me, when I was creating this solo album that has yet to come out, it's called "The Road Home", and I guess we'll talk about that a little later, you know I have to stop the world a bit.

Anyway, I think those are both amazing points & one of the things I've been doing lately, that parallels with this, is spending less time on the computer ... it's a great tool, but it takes up so much of my energy at the same time...

Now, back to the music stuff.... A few insights I gained while practicing today:

1. Intonation: When doing 5th double stops, always secure the root & then the 5th will follow
2. Bowing: Initiate the bow stroke w/ the middle 2 fingers - this seems to reduce gripping with the thumb
3. LH: Move as a unit. All motions come from the back
4. Slow is the foundation for good technique
5. Thumb Position: If you can play a good note with your thumb down, you can play a good harmonic. Not the other way around (In doing scales, I was leaving the thumb up whenever I got to the harmonic A on the A string... I feel like doing so is essentially handicapping myself)

I think I might make a small modification or two to the daily routine, but otherwise, I'm pretty set with it & working on actually getting through all of it cleanly. Also, I'm implementing it on keyboard... man is my keyboard technique a mess!!

Now, keeping in line with the 2nd principle up there, I'm gonna get off the internet now...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Systemizing the Scale

First, an interesting thread on scales, started by Weils Cunningham (the guy who has a video of the 24th caprice on cello on youtube!)

He mentions something called the Galamian acceleration patterns... never heard of those before, but I'm going to check them out...


Alright, so I'm still in the process of trying to come up with some sort of routine & after playing for David Krieger a few days ago, I realized I really need to re-evaluate a lot of my technique & exercises (Also, I think I'm gonna ask my teacher to dedicate half our lesson to technique and the other half to rep. when I get back to school... I've got quite a few things to talka bout with him...)

But anyway, here's what I'm coming up with so far:

Using a metronome, progressing by intervals of 10 bpm, going from 60-200, all seperate bows & counting out-loud

1. Barred Whole Note Scale (5ths)
2. Quarter Note Scale
3. 8th Note Scale
4. 16th Note Scale
5. Quarter Note Arpeggios
6. 8th Note Arpeggios
7. 16th Note Arpeggios

This is giving me quite a bit to work with, and I'm thinking I might add in one string double stops to the mix or else find a way to add in the modes (that is, starting and stopping on each degree).

I find counting out-loud can be challenging, but I think it's completely necessary and I've already made a lot of progress from it. It increases my concentration and ability to multi-task & eventually the rhythm becomes like a pattern. I also find it's best to move with the hand as a unit & to lead with the bow (I know a lot of people say lead with the left hand, but I think the left hand is more the preparation, where as the right hand is the leader ... I think I got the idea from the ICS interview with Victor Sazer a while back...)

Making the Cello Interesting Again...


So lately I've been a bit more into my keyboard than my cello... this seems to happen every summer... I think I may have found the remedy for it.. pedals...

I hadn't really been messing around with pedals anytime recently because I don't actually have enough cables for it (I have 1, I need 3)... so anyway, I usually don't like to ask my brother to borrow cables b/c it becomes a hastle... but I did... and now that I'm over the "OMG I can hook the cello up to pedals" phase, I'm starting to actually try to create and/or mimic sounds ...

and holy shit! everything became so much more exciting... I'm a bit limited by what I have (chorus and distortion pedal), but once I get on my feet again money-wise, I'm going to pick up a multi-effects processor (and of course extra cables!) ... can't wait

Not only does playing it electrified make it so much easier to play, but I can get all these really cool effects by bowing "incorrectly" ... it adds a whole new dimension to bow technique that's really exciting, where pressure and speed and proximity to the bridge start to matter even more)...

Anyway, the highlight of that for me was getting this very analog, moog-synthesizer type of sound off of the chorus pedal (think Pink Floyd...)

so cool...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mathemusicians & the American Symphony Orchestra League

Had an interesting exchange with Eric Edberg, in response to his thoughts on Greg Sandow's blogging about the recent ASOL Conference (

You can read the exchange here:

A really cool idea came out of it: video between pieces... I think video during pieces might be cool too, but anyway, go read the exchange there...

Also, for those of you on facebook, I discovered there is a really neat group that just started, called Mathemusicians ... Very interesting stuff & I think stuff that's potentially integral or at least useful to continued integration and value of arts education in schools and society.

Also, checking out the MENC website... I may get involved with it when school starts up...

Been taking it kinda easy on cello lately (though doing a lot more reading & expanding my musical base more)... starting to pick up again though b/c I noticed my technique went down a bit... some other neat stuff potentially planned, will blog about it as it happens...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Practice Routine?? Not for me...

However, a technique routine is exactly what I need...

Copy/Pasted from an earlier post on the ICS - here's some stuff I've been developing or working with:

1. Universal Scale Fingerings - if the major/minor scale is the same no matter what note it starts on, then why shouldn't it be played like that?
2. Chromatic Double stops - I've been working on playing 5ths chromatically in a 1234321 pattern and then shifting up a half step and repeating (eg - on the C string - C#,D,D#,E, D#, D, C# then D, D#, E, F, E, D#, D etc.) So far I'm generally getting to the middle area of the fingerboard and there I start having trouble (what would be considered 4th, 5th, 6th position, etc) ... this middle area (and the thumb position area) are however getting progressively easier as I do this more and more.
3. Scale/Finger Mapping - going back to the non-universal fingerings, I am working on scales by playing in as many areas of the fingerboard as possible. What I do is essentially I do what I'm gonna call ladder scales (1, 2, 2, 1 then 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1 etc.) for as much of the scale as I can on the string I'm on. I start on the C string and go all the way up and down. Then I go from the C string and move over to the G string (ex. IV - CDEF, III - GABC and on), then I repeat with the D & A string. While doing this I force myself not to look at the fingerboard, but to look at the notes on the page, otherwise mapping doesn't occur and this would then only build up finger strength.

I guess what I need to do more of is bowing work (I'm starting to do some etudes a bit more and working with the Yampolsky for each scale, though I'm still working on a lot of the exercises for C Maj.). Practicing all intervals (1sts 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, Octaves). Practicing scales starting on different notes (ex, In the key of F, Go from F to F, then G to G - this will help with jazz too since it basically unlocks all the basic modes)...


Anyways, basically, I'm not a routine kind of guy - just not me... however, I'm really aiming to put together a technique routine that will be as physically efficient as possible, while engaging the mind in important tasks & still be realistic to do... so in light of that, some more things I've come up with:

1. Counting out loud - extremely important to developing a good sense of rhythm and concetration ... also very challenging to do while you're worring about intonation or shifting or w/e ... so what I'm going to do is apply it to *every* exercise I do
2. Singing along - Very useful for developing internal pitch & definitely very useful for improvisation - I like to do this with scales, though, perhaps I should also do this with the pieces I play... at school, we'd do this with Solfege... I can't stand it though, so I just go with hitting the pitch and sometimes singing the note name
3. 1 finger scale in double stops - just your normal 1 finger scale that came from Margaret Rowell, however done in 5ths - as it is, the 1 finger scale develops finger strength/callouses, so why not push that to the extreme and really push for finger strength and intonation. The real challenge of course isn't getting it in tune, it's being relaxed and smooth while doing the exercise, which is the point of 1 finger scales in the first place...
4. Staccato Triplets in 5ths up and down a scale - going from C to C w/ the barred 5th or whatever... this is one of the few bow things I've tackled so far because I was having issues with one of the Dotzeaur Etudes... it's really challenging, but helpful...

What I need to find more of is ways to work on bowing techniques while doing this stuff... The reason I'm looking for some sort of routine is for the purpose of developing a better foundation (which I already have a pretty strong one) - I need to be able to move around all of the fingerboard with ease & have freedom with my bow... I wish I had the money to pick up Starker's "Organized Method of Cello Playing" or Victor Sazer's book (New Directions for cello playing??)... anyway, just wanted to repost that snippet from ICS so that I don't lose it (eventually, I'm gonna look back over all these entries & techniques & ideas & put together this routine...)

Any suggestions on the bow end of stuff?? I need to do much more with that... found Emily Wright's post quite helpful (you can get to her blog on the links on the side)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The relationship between right and left hand technique

So I've been getting back into piano lately... about time!! Anyway, one of the results of this is re-exploring the Jordan Rudess Online Conservatory - wow!! amazing stuff to say the least ( Jordan Rudess has basically reduced a lot of technique to the bare mechanics of the techniques and has then come up with exercises to tackle these mechanics as efficiently as possible (plus there's all sorts of videos ... go check it out!!)

Anyway, getting to the title of the post, my cello technique has sorta gone down over the last few days, which sucks because for a while it had really been going up (over the last week though, I haven't been practicing much for various reasons...). Anyway, one of the things I noticed is that my bow technique has especially gone back down (I *still* can not play the part with the running triplets from the Haydn C well...) and that a result of it was that I tried to compensate more by tensing up my left hand (which is ultimately somewhat assenine, since that will only make everything sound worse...). But anyway, I realized that technique in both hands basically comes down to the following principles:

finger strength
finger independence
hand independence

So far, I've been making the best progress with finger strength and independence in my left hand. The way I look at it, left hand finger strength is essentially presence of callouses, left hand finger independence is the flexibility between fingers (hard to define independence without creating a tautology...). My right hand needs a bit of work, and then on top of that, I need to develop the independence of them.

On a basic/foundational level, these things are best developed by patterns. This is where I think most classical etudes/technical studies fail (they seem to be more oriented around developing mental as opposed to physical flexibility and foundation).

Anyway, What I'm basically trying to do is come up with exercises to do things as efficiently as possible & basically (eventually) push my technique to the highest level. I've come up with some exercises already, and I'll be looking to Jordan Rudess' method for some more guidance on this... the next couple of posts I'm gonna focus on jotting down some of those techniques...

Also, the Yampolsky method is incredibly helpful in pushing myself, though I really need to get past the C Major exercises and onto some of the other keys...

In other news, I've got to prepare Beethoven A Maj. 1st mvmt. & a CPE Bach piece by next week... ahh!! May have some other neat little jamming or music things going on soon... if I do, I'll post...

Looking forward to hearing any comments/ideas.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Interesting Vocal Website

Was talking to a guitarist about singing and he dropped me this link:

Melissa Cross works with modern bands on singing techniques & has a neat little instructional DVD out called "The Zen of Screaming" ... I'm gonna give it a closer look at some point... singing's not really my thing, but still interesting nevertheless...

I always like it when the rock & classical worlds begin to blend they both have so much they can learn from each other... from the classical world: discipline & methodology ... from the rock world: freedom and exploration

Sunday, June 10, 2007

All the Cello Videos One Could Wish For...

A New Beginng - The Journey to Heavy Metal

So I actually started this blog months ago & then couldn't figure out how to get back into it for a while... anyways, I just did & I'm glad... I need to have some sort of music journal & I think a blog is the best way for me to do this... I was keeping a journal for a good long while & then my powerbook died... talk about a shot to the heart... at the moment I can't get to that journal... hopefully some day I'll be able to...

However, learning from that experience & stemming from wanting to share my ideas & teach and learn, I'm going to keep a somewhat regular journal here... hopefully I'll get some readers soon (will post in my facebook profile & on myspace... maybe even consider importing this on facebook, we'll see...)

Anyway, been going through a lot of stuff lately that's left me kind of down, but a good result of this all is that I'm determined to explore and forge a path for the cello in heavy metal... I think this is going to be the main thing I work on as an artist.

Why? Heavy metal has always been the music that moves me the most & I love listening to/playing it ... I want to follow in the footsteps of groups like Break of Reality & Apocalyptica...

In order to do that, I'm going to need to do some serious technical work & ear training as well as really learn heavy metal inside and out (after all, this stuff is meant to be played on keyboards and guitars!!) ... it's going to be my new focus... I've got some potentially exciting stuff coming up in that area, so I'll write about it as things start to happen...

In the meantime, 2 posts that I started on the Internet Cello Society:
1. Bridging the Gap Between Cello/Guitar & Classical/Metal
2. Some things I just don't understand...

guess that's all for now...