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!