Friday, March 28, 2008

Using the bass guitar to help with cello...

So, tonight I was faced with a rather interesting dilemma ...

It was 11:00 or so at night, and I wanted to practice, but didn't want to disturb others in the dorm & didn't want to walk over to the music building just to discover it was locked up (nor did I want to walk over to our other music/arts building, b/c I was quite tired...)

So, I decided to play some bass guitar ... usually on bass I just mess around and don't do anything productive ... however, I noticed that the strings were really digging into my left hand's fingers ... so it occured to me that I could use it to help me build up some callouses, since I didn't get to do much raw technique exercise today (I worked on the 2nd movement of the Elgar concerto in my lesson, and so all the practicing I did was oriented around that & trying to fix my bow grip ... so, unfortunately, I didn't quite get to scales and arpeggios)

Anyway, from there I decided to play the bass with the same conviction I use when playing the cello ... with the conviction of focusing on every note & playing every note well & I started coming up with exercises & patterns the way I do on cello, and it occurred to me that I could apply any of my cello method to bass & that it would help both ... quite exciting...

So I did that for a bit, was more productive than I ever am on bass, and now my LH is just slightly more calloused ...

My lesson today was pretty much spent on talking about Spiccato & then fingering the 2nd movement of the Elgar ... it was definitely within reach, although this spiccato thing is going to take a ton of work to develop ... I'm already getting closer with it ... have some bowing things that needed correcting though ... basic principles:

1. Start with free bouncing bow, let it drift towards bridge ... as it gets closer, try to control the bounces
2. The fingers must be relaxed for this (I later discovered the way to achiever this for me seems to be to practice the proper finger motions as a separate exercise & then remember to initiate the bow motions with larger muscle groups when actually playing...)
3. Fingers straighten for down bow (2nd knuckle "dissappears") & curl for upbow ... thumb does the same
4. at faster speeds (we started *very* slow), the thumb is the engine of the locomotive & the fingers follow
5. Contact point must remain consistent
6. Wrist should be pronated

I meant to record the lesson, but I completely forgot to bring my laptop :( This would have been a tremendously helpful lesson to record too... I've decided I need to become a better student & ask as many questions as possible. I also need to not be satisfied with the way I perform things, because there are always so many more levels that I could achieve with them ... I wish my teacher pushed me more, but it's just not his nature, so I'm going to push him more, which will in turn push me more...

I noticed, when watching the vid. of Jacqueline DuPre playing the Elgar, that she uses a very slanted left hand & that along with extremely smooth bows, it creates the intensity & sound that she gets ... it was exciting to discover something about the technique of music making that someone uses ... I think there's a different technique for every piece of music ... or at least for every composer & I'm glad to have learned part of one of them ... I feel like I need to learn more of these to move beyond where I am now & to improve my musicality ... I'm going to watch as many videos of great cellists as I can whenever I have the chance, and really try to dissect what's going on as effectively and as in-depth as I can ... for now I'm going to focus on Jackie & her Elgar.

By the way, I'm usually not that into listening to new classical cellists (Ironic I know, considering my career choice), but check this guy out: ... he captures the soul of Bach in a way that almost everybody misses!

I've been trying to get in touch with the teacher at Purchase, but no luck just yet ... just trying to get in touch with her at all though has made me think of how slowly I'm moving through things & how much more I could be doing, so here's to doing more & constantly pushing myself & developing greater self-discipline in my life!

I recorded a video the other day from a practice session, check it out here:

Also, I discovered a way to improve my "ladder" method ... I've discovered that working backwards from the very top of the upper register is incredibly more helpful & muscle-developing & I'm going to use it to plow through my weaker areas on the cello (between that & the Elgar, I'm gonna have such a better map of the cello in my brain, not to mention a better concept of what I can do musically!)

Guess that's all for now... I should go to sleep soon, since I've got class in about 7 hours...


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Acers said...

Hi im Alex. I am another classically trained cellist. I have been playing for 23 years now. Unlike you, I got tired of playing musical pieces that have been performed again and again. I yearn for improvisation and creation in new pieces. I have found that electric cello is the way to go through a bass amp with a petal. To make it short just trying to connect to the cello world

Mike Lunapiena said...

Alex - great to hear from you. I also write my own music & improvise, though I play my cello through my Behringer k450fx (which is a keyboard amp) most of the time & have a few pedals as well.

Do you have any samples of your music, or a website or anything? I tried clicking your profile, but it didn't give me any more information.

Good luck with everything!