Monday, August 23, 2010

Music Teaching Resources - A Review

So, recently, Rob of & invited me to check out some materials he's put together to help make the music teacher's life easier!

Essentially what he's got is an organized set of worksheets covering the fundamentals of scales and chords that can be printed out or easily transferred to a thumb drive at your leisure.

Some of the sheets are explanatory in nature, illustrating things such as major scale construction or diatonic harmony (which chords are minor/major within the scale). Some of them are worksheets that require the student to construct a scale or chords or to go through the chords within a scale. Some of those worksheets have a diagram of a keyboard on them, some don't.

The files all come in labeled folders, and some of them even allow the teacher to fill in the blank to determine what scale or chord the student will build. Essentially, it's like having a portable music theory workbook, which you can draw from as needed.

My favorite thing about the set is the inclusion of the blues scale, minor/major pentatonic scales. My only criticisms would be that the chords don't go beyond 7th chords & that the Dorian mode is included, but not any of the other modes, making the set not overly helpful for jazz students.

All in all, I think this is a pretty neat/handy set of resources, especially for $18 - can't go wrong with that. I can see myself getting a lot of use out of this with students on any instrument. Head over to and check out what he's got.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Visualize First

I learned something important this week as a result of band practice and the Steven Isserlis concert:

Visualize *first*, then play.

The key to playing well is to come up with a definite concept of what you want the next thing you're going to play to sound & feel like. The next important thing is to not accept exceptions to that vision while practicing. One thing that goes with this is having no excess - every movement, every note is directly, immediately, linked to the note.

Watching Steven Isserlis, one of the things I realized is that part of his technique is a freedom that comes from dexterity/agility ... nothing is slow for him ... it is all very quickly connected and well planned. He is one of the only classical musicians who I feel is telling a story when I watch, as opposed to playing a piece. I also think that a lot of his freedom comes from never looking down when he plays, allowing him to listen and think ahead rather than be stuck in the present.

It was interesting to see him from the front row and to see how much he sways/moves (reminding me a lot of Jacqueline DuPre), and also to see the similarity (and differences) of his left hand techinque to hers, as well as to hear how the tapping of the notes with his left hand (on just about every note).

In other news, I am really struggling to regain my musical drive (ever since my father died) ... when I play the cello, it's the only thing I want to do, but when I'm not playing, I have almost no desire to pick it up. I think the one reason for this is that I'm not in multiple ensembles with music that is incredibly difficult - just my band right now & I feel pretty comfortable with our music.

That being said, the level of my playing has increased incredibly and my practice is now generally oriented around analytical imitation of a great cellist or analytical practicing of solo rep. Both are very helpful.

In general, I am doing things right ... I just need to push myself to do more of them and to go further with them. I need to start really chewing through the standard rep. or at the very least the student rep, so I can develop a really reliable & proficient technique.

That's all for now ... so happy that I just wrote a blog entry for once...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A goal


My goal is to regularly start blogging about cello (now that I've actually started practicing regularly again) in the very near future ... I'm also considering starting up the Dotzauer challenge again...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sometimes A Dream Turns Into A Dream

I think it's time to end my freelance career. What do I mean by that? I don't mean it's time to stop playing cello or quit my band or anything like that. But ... I think it's time to stop playing with random rock/folk/singer-songwriter/whatever groups for barely any pay & I think it's time to stop taking random gigs that again barely pay. More particularly, I need to stop going into NYC for barely any money ... It's all good and well to get experience, but I've got plenty of that, and I'm even developing the technique & level that goes along with that. However, I need to pay bills ... and I don't mean leisure/pleasure bills, I mean I need to keep a roof over my head & have enough money to get food, etc. Taking these gigs has messed with this in two ways: 1. I'm never really making any notable money & 2. It clogs up my availability to work, which is just not something I can keep doing. I need to set clear guidelines with myself for what the minimum I'm willing to do a gig for is & I need to come up with times that I just can't fuck with, because either I need to actually take care of things around my house, or I need to not skip work.

That being said, I'm in a band, I'm sort of in a (currently) inactive piano trio (that I can make active again by freeing the time) ... I think if anything I'm doing as a performer is going to pay (short of weddings & musicals) it's one of those two ... why should I put my time into other things that I don't even necessarily believe in & that won't pay my bills?

As far as I can tell, these are the only things that pay reasonably in terms of performance (or have paid reasonably so far)

Weddings - usually $125 to $200 per gig
Musicals - usually $50 per show or something like that ... not a lot, but not horrible if it's not too far of a commute (ie, not in NYC)
Solo or Ensemble Performances as part of a music series - usually about $150, sometimes more.

Here's what doesn't pay well:
Playing with bands - if I'm *lucky* I make $50 per show (commute costs $17 round trip) ... after rehearsals, next to nothing

Here's what I haven't even touched into:
Subbing for an orchestra - I just don't have the contacts for this ... I don't know the people doing these things

So I guess I'm not really saying I have to stop freelancing, what I am saying is that I have to stop taking gigs that don't make financial sense & that don't work with my schedule.

I want/need to make teaching my main income. It's one of the only things that will give me flexibility and pay well. As a performer, I need to concentrate my efforts into Edensong & into the trio & my own solo stuff (which I hope to make a financial asset within the next few years) ...

Ok, needed to get that all off my shoulders ... I wish this wasn't the first blog post I'd done in months, but things have been so unbelievably busy & I just haven't had the energy/inclination to write...

In other news, I've started doing the real recording for my solo album & am planning to have it out in November (or earlier if possible).