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Do You Have Tips For Smoothing Out Lesson Songs You Can Share?
Applicable to Cello/Violin/Viola: I have never been able to play through a song completely without major issues, no matter how much I study, practice and play it. Any suggestions?
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cid
September 28, 2019 - 8:35 am
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I am never able to play a song through smoothly, without stopping, without at least a little bad bowing, etc. I have not been able to eliminate this issue.

I know that one of my many issues with smoothing out my playing is definitely on me and I haven’t been able to rectify this. It crosses over with my cello/violin/viola.

I can practice a section, I should say study a section, over and over. I can get it pretty good, then I will work on the next section, and get it to the point where I can now connect the two parts, unless there are particularly hard parts scattered, then it is I do the measure before and after it so that it is just not a random disconnected piece in my mind. Towards the end of pieces is usually the hardest parts, for me, so I will often times, work the measures in a piece backwards.

I get to the point where these sections are pretty good, at least for me. Most sections are even memorized, but I still try to follow on the sheet music. When I go to add more measures, mostly ok. But when it comes to putting it all together, that mental block goes up. It all falls apart. Happens time and time again.

It is now happening with Bach’s Minuet I in the Suites for Cello in G BWV 1007 (the name is not quite right that I just used, but I think you will identify it). Not the prelude, Minuet I.

I put notes, not musical notes, on my music as reminders where I find I need them. When I play it as a whole piece, I don’t even notice them.

How do you all tackle this problem, if indeed you have it? Maybe there is some method or pattern you use that will trigger something. In the end, we probably learn differently, but maybe something I read here will stick as I am playing.

One thought I am having is that part of this may be attributed to trying to hard? I see the clock ticking and I so want to do this, since I was in school, and now I have the chance.

It is getting worse and I think that is because I will be turning 65 the end of October and I keep thinking my joints are not going to let me get to where I want to be, or not the point I want to be with time to enjoy that level. Not a Sr Citizen Life Crisis, just feel like stiffening joints are going to start playing a part, if it is a little sore, I don’t really care, it is the stiffness I am seeing.

My instructor says I am doing really good. I do see great improvement in my playing and a great improvement in my confidence in tackling parts that cause me to progress, and that is due to his giving me pieces to do that move me along. My husband has noticed a great improvement and the progress. But, I have never done one piece where I have been able to play through it all smoothly, not talking like an instructor smooth, but not choppy without missed fingering, missed notes, having to stop, etc.

Thank you ever so much.

 

 

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Pete_Violin
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September 28, 2019 - 10:21 am
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@cid 

I realized about 6 months into my playing that the point of lessons is not to play perfect during a lesson. but rather for the teacher to teach you.  Music lessons are not performance time.  That is when you are in front of an audience.  Also, and this was for me, difficult to accept and understand... your teacher is not judging.  He/she is watching and listening for areas where they can help you.  They expect, and would like to see mistakes and areas for improvement so they can help you to learn and play better.

If you could take an unfamiliar piece and in a week or 2 play it without mistakes, without needing to improve bowing, intonation, or tone, you would not need lessons.

We have been conditioned in school and other areas of life to avoid mistakes.  To get as close to perfect as possible.  We are encouraged to get as close to a 4.0 GPA as possible (US grading system).  In music (especially strings) and other forms of art, this does not work that way.  Mastering an instrument takes years, sometimes a lifetime.  Ever noticed how a painter is rarely ever completely satisfied with their work?  Claude Monet said, "Perhaps it's true that I'm very hard on myself, but that's better than exhibiting mediocre work..."

I am not suggesting your goal should be to master the instrument, but having a mindset with the expectation to come to a music lesson with no mistakes is not the point of lessons, and can cause much more stress than you need and even be counter productive.

I have never gone to a lesson having played anything without mistakes.  Even when I thought I have learned a piece well (playing by myself in my familiar surroundings), often I would go to my lesson and make mistakes that I had never made in practice.  It is normal and nothing to worry about.  My teacher says all her students have the same experience.  And they will tend to blame it on everything from their instruments to the chair they are sitting in. 

There is some level of nervousness I experience, which is odd because my teacher is really patient.  She is not the cause of my anxiety at all.  I am still not completely over the idea that my teacher is watching, looking for problems... I am working on it.  I deal with the anxiety with humor.  We joke a lot.  I'm sure she is aware it is a coping mechanism.  For me, it seems to help me relax during lessons.  I don't know if that would work for everyone or every teacher.

My advise, Cynthia, is to try not to go to lessons expecting to play smoothly, without mistakes.  Welcome the mistakes!  They will help your teacher know where to help you play better.

- Pete -

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cid
September 28, 2019 - 11:17 am
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I do get that. Believe me, my last lesson a few days ago was like I had never picked up my cello. Granted, I did miss a few days due to knee, hip and back issues, plus still waiting for my right ear to straighten up. My ear is pretty much back to normal. 

But, nothing he said registered at all. Huge mental block! I told him that I really did play. Even with the issues, I did get a lot of serious practice pinpointing trouble areas. He said he knew and could tell. I think he LIED! LOL

I will sometimes go back to songs in Book 1 and 2, thinking they should be better now. They actually were the last time, but still not like I expected. 

Just now, I just finished a detailed spot practice session. I was working on the last 5 or 6 measures of that minuet. The measures, or half measures depending on which measure and difficulty level, I worked on were not too bad on there own, but together or adding the one before, blows up in my face. 

Periodically, I do start from the beginning and go through to the end. I don’t want to create a habit of stopping at specific spots. I tend to do that and it is not something I can correct later.

How can I get over the hump of not being able to connect the trouble spots together? Is that something that will come when I become accustomed to those spots that are causing me issues and am able to just treat it, not treat, but it just comes naturally without a second thought? Do you think that maybe if I don’t think about it that it will just naturally come together because those spots no longer intimidate me? 

I can feel myself progressing, really. My instructor is taking me into areas I would never have tried or thought possible. I would look at those pieces and say, “No way I am ready.” Like this minuet. It changes from G to B(? Has the E Flat - I have forgotten the key identification I learned back in 7th grade. I am picking them up again as I come to them). That change is in Minuet II. They kind of flow together. I just listened to Yo-Yo Ma playing it on my new CD’s that arrived yesterday. Very helpful listen.

He, like all other versions I have heard, treat them pretty much as one, so the one minuet, in my mind has a key change. On my cello, for some reason, it causes panic. Well, my violin, too. Does not on piano. I am not beyond, probably, intermediate piano so it is not because I am better, I am further along in my cello knowledge. Just for reference.

The hour long lessons I switched to are a whole lot more beneficial. That was a definite good move. Maybe I am expecting too much, too fast because I really want to feel like I can play anywhere, sans audience, I want to. Ie my deck, under my front tree, with my phone recording myself. 

This is not me thinking of moving on, not going to happen, it is just me thinking things I still have issues with, should not cause me issues. 

I think you are correct with your school analogy. That was a very good one. The music lessons are the opposite what was expected in school. My geometry teacher ended math, which I absolutely love, for me. I actually have some math books to just do.

My cello instructor is so encouraging and patient, it is on me, this issue, is on me, I think. 

Thanks, Pete. Very encouraging.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Pete_Violin
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September 28, 2019 - 11:42 am
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cid said
But, nothing he said registered at all. Huge mental block! I told him that I really did play. Even with the issues, I did get a lot of serious practice pinpointing trouble areas. He said he knew and could tell. I think he LIED! LOL

He did not lie.  Instructors know.  They know because they have students who do not practice.  They know the difference.  I bring my own music in to my lessons often.  I am sure my teacher is very accepting of this because she knows I will actually work on it.  She is very aware I practice every day.

Just now, I just finished a detailed spot practice session. I was working on the last 5 or 6 measures of that minuet. The measures, or half measures depending on which measure and difficulty level, I worked on were not too bad on there own, but together or adding the one before, blows up in my face. 

Periodically, I do start from the beginning and go through to the end. I don’t want to create a habit of stopping at specific spots. I tend to do that and it is not something I can correct later.

Starting and stopping when you didn't intend to is something to avoid.  You should be in the habit of playing through whatever passage you intended without stopping.  Stopping at a spot you intended is very different and is not something to worry about.

How can I get over the hump of not being able to connect the trouble spots together? Is that something that will come when I become accustomed to those spots that are causing me issues and am able to just treat it, not treat, but it just comes naturally without a second thought? Do you think that maybe if I don’t think about it that it will just naturally come together because those spots no longer intimidate me? 

I think you should try something.  Trust yourself.  

I agree with @AndrewH.  He discussed the concept of repeating passages for a specified amount of times, and if you make a mistake in any of the repeats, you have to start the count over again until you do not make mistakes through the entire series of repeats.  He believes this is absolute rubbish, and so do I. 

Instead, take a passage where you are having difficulty, play it very slowly and work out the issues.  When you are focusing on the difficult area, play the measure preceding it and the measure that comes after it.  Then play it through from the top and play through the difficult passage.  Do this slowly.  You will increase speed over time.  

What you will find is that your brain and your muscles will record the correct playing over time.  You will be amazed that the next day, you will remember how to play it (this is one reason daily practice is so critical, so that you can reinforce good playing).  Sometimes this is referred to as "deliberate practice."  It is much more beneficial.

Trust yourself that you will remember.

- Pete -

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cid
September 28, 2019 - 12:07 pm
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Thanks, Pete, much appreciated, and very helpful.

After my second lesson with him, a few months ago, and a couple other times, when we were talking outside the studio, including with my husband because he drives me. My instructor has said that I probably think he pushing me and something else that I can’f remember. 

I told him that I didn’t. I told him that I would never have moved on and progressed if I was doing it alone (to myself I was thinking, “or with my other instructor”). I would have looked at those pages full of eighth and sixteenth notes and said, “no way am I ready”.

He said that he knew I could do it. He has said that quite often.

It is mainly me, I know it, I just have realize, what you said and I had already knew but never remember, that this is the opposite of school. The instructor needs to hear where your issues are, and actually expects issues somewhere.

I don’t bring in my own pieces. He is bringing in pieces that logically follow my next step and have those steps in it. I like his order of progression or introducing of things. He adjusts for what and when and how he learned things if he did not think they were helpful in his learning process to the way it seemed to work better for him. I like this. Benefit of a young instructor is that they remember how they were taught and what worked and didn’t. I do play my own music for “free time” playing and try to use what I have been learning in it, like bowing and fingering.

I think another thing that is giving me cause to question myself is that we are now introducing the tenor clef part of cello. I had no idea about this. Thought that bass clef, only, was cello. I did, however, wonder how the higher registers would be written on staff paper. Tenor clef takes care of that, I was thinking that it would just be joined in with treble. Sure would have been easier!

When new things, a new direction, are added to anything, I get that self-doubting again. This forum really helps with this.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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sf_bev
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September 29, 2019 - 11:50 am
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I wonder @cid if you are not expecting too much of yourself, and then beating yourself up because you are not meeting your own expectations.

Have you gone back to works you did awhile back, that would be easier for you now?  Can you play through those?

I would suggest you go back to something you studied a couple months ago (or more), and have moved on from.  Can you play it straight through after a bit of refresher practice? No?  What if you work a little (not too much) on the trouble spots as you've described?  Still not able to do so?  Go back further.  If you can, then you've confirmed you can do it.

You might have to go all the way back to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Ode To Joy, but I doubt it.  At some point as you review older pieces, you'll be back at a level where you feel it is easy and you'll be able to play through it.

I'm quite sure it's not a mental block, but that you're a little beyond your competence level (after all, you've said your teacher continually challenges you with things you didn't think you could do), and it's too much to be able to keep all the moving parts together.

I'm guessing that if you look back to see where you can play straight through, you'll find you're looking back 2-4 months.  If I'm right, that window will keep moving forward as you do.

BTW, ViolinLab has a lesson where she talks about how practicing bowing alone --without fingering -- and then adding the fingering has become one of her favorite ways to practice troublesome passages.  I'm such a beginner, I haven't tried it yet, but I've stored the idea away for later use.  It could be something that might help you.

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cid
September 29, 2019 - 3:15 pm
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I think you all make good points. I am going to ask my instructor to slow down a tad. I did forget to tell him about my need tp go slow at my first lesson. When I get new things to learn, in anything, I tend to take a while to learn it, but after I get the knack, I can usually take pff with it. I know that from years of experience. I also tend to consider new things harder than they are because they intimidate me, probably because I know it will take a little longer for me to get it.

I also know that this particular minuet makes no sense to me after the first two lines. The first few lines are very familiar from having heard it in commercials, or something. Beyond that it makes absolutely absolutely no sense melodically. I have major problems with classical music, because it is like jazz, many times it sounds like notes are must thrown into the air and allowed to drop on the staff paper. Then they are just divided into measures. 

I am just going to keep working on the little three octave scale and the minuet and ask to slow down at my next lesson. I know what he is dong, because he knows I get intimidated with new things, he has seen that. He has also heard me play through a song pretty well, but, also pretty bad (lol). He knows I can do it and wants me to keep trying, but I think we need to spend more time on the song in more detail before moving on. I am getting what he wants me to get from the song, I know that, it is the poor execution and I really think that slowing down will help with that.

Thanks for the encouragement and thoughts, everyone. So much appreciated,

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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cid
October 1, 2019 - 12:49 pm
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Ok, I have been working on this minuet really hard. I actually have figured it out. The “melody” still makes makes no sense where some of these notes fall, that is a taste preference, but it still messes me up because melodically, it just makes no sense. Probably a classical music thing.

I am going to request we work on this piece at least for the next two lessons. I really need to get at least one lesson piece that I feel like I have accomplished. 

I saw the next piece. He said that I am going to do it at or almost at speed. Right now, I am way below speed. I know that the only way I will pick up speed is if I am forced to, so, I have no problem with that.

A problem that I know I have with the current minuet is string crossings, which is one of the things this minuet was chosen for, he pointed that out. I was good with that. All these things he is working on with me with are things all my other instructors ignored. Strings crossings is a major block for me and for me getting the right tempo. 

Also, for some reason the C string, and to a lesser degree the G string, were not used much with my other instructors. I know the songs used were mostly A and D strings. Bowing that C string is really hard to adjust to now. I have a hard time handling curve balls. It is also harder to finger the C string. If it had all been covered with the other two strings, to me, it would have seemed more natural. When things are held off and thrown in later, it really throws me for a loop.

Anyway, I actually made headway this morning. I will doit again this afternoon.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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Fiddlerman
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October 9, 2019 - 9:49 am
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I think repetition is the best for smoothing out your lesson performance. 🙂
It's boring but it works.
Also, think music rather than technique after you get past the technique.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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cid
October 9, 2019 - 10:03 am
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@Fiddlerman  said
I think repetition is the best for smoothing out your lesson performance. 🙂

It's boring but it works.

Also, think music rather than technique after you get past the technique.

  

My “Chanson Triste”, we started last Wednesday, is coming along. The difference between this and the Bach Minuet is that this, to me, is more like music. It makes sense to me. I was fine with the minuet until that section where it sounds like motes were thrown up into the air, like flinging a blanket up and letting the notes loose, and they drop down on the staff paper and are just divided by measures.

Breaking that section down, slowing it down, going over and over, it just never makes sense melodically to me. It doesn’t make sense as a stand-alone song and not part of the minuet. It is really weird.

Maybe it is this thing where I prefer order, I am not extremely compulsive about it, but if my daughter and son-in-law are visiting and we are playing Skipbo or Uno, I have to keep the two piles of cards in the middle, and my cards on the table neat and tidy. Maybe that has something to do with that minuet? 

I can close my eyes and play the first part of “Chanson Triste” and it isn’t too bad. Just playing to the mood, people generally play it too fast. I am trying to figure the fingering and shifting for the second half, but that half does make sense and it does fir in when I connect it to the first half periodically, so I am not in the habit of treating it like a separate song.

Does it make sense the issue with needing a minimum of order causing the issue make sense? It is like jazz and most other classical (if there are definite changes in one piece), it causes me to go whacky, No jokes from the peanut gallery! LOL It is just how it feels.

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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GregW
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October 9, 2019 - 10:37 am
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. I was fine with the minuet until that section where it sounds like motes were thrown up into the air, like flinging a blanket up and letting the notes loose, and they drop down on the staff paper and are just divided by measures.

@cid I'm not familiar with the piece of music but is it possible that another section takes over the melody at that point and cellos are doing some sort of backing ( don't know the proper term )?

Maybe you can find a track to play along with for just that section.  Possibly musescore has a file that someone has put together.

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cid
October 9, 2019 - 11:32 am
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It is the Bach cello solo Suite BWV 1007, Minuet I. There are no other parts. It is just a cello piece, one cello. There are other strings that have versions, but it is a solo cello piece. I have listened to it over and over. I even  bought Yo-Yo Ma doing the entire suite and listened to that Minuet. 

I am having a very hard time getting over that hump in pieces that have sections like this. I even will start at the back and work my way to the front. I will try to do that section alone. Even as its own piece, I have issues because I feel it makes no sense. I had the same issue with piano and guitar. Those sections, that to me sound like randomly dropped notes divided by measures, never make sense to me. I have tried many times over the years to listen to jazz, listen to classical pieces with these sections. It is the same thing. When it gets to those pieces, I hear no melody, I hear no tempo, I hear no rhythm. It is just noise and blows my mind. 

I keep trying to get over it with that minuet, we have moved on, but I do get it out. It has not improved. It isn’t that I am expecting it after having done it. It is like that from,square,one whether playing the music, or listening to music.

If a classical piece, or even a pop song, has a middle section that carries part of the other sections’ main melody or pattern, that is fine, but if it is a complete 180°, it makes no sense and order is lost. If a separate piece has a melody with the dropping notes on the staff paper syndrome, there is absolutely no way I can get it. Trying to use that piece to learn from, from what I can tell, is useless because there is no sense to it and that is always in the forefront, and takes over. I stop, take a breath, walk away, or play something else. Nothing helps. It is not that I do not want to play it. I do.

My piano teacher was dumbfounded. My guitar teacher was dumbfounded. The guitar one also irritated me. My first cello instructor did not last long enough to encounter this, but my second instructor was dumbfounded. Now this instructor will play the part for me on its own and with the entire piece, the beginning makes sense, and the end which goes back to the “theme” of the beginning makes sense. Any section that goes off in a tangent, has a single low note just popped in here and there for no apparent reason, or has notes that makes no sense to me, is lost and has me in an endless state of confusion. 

It seems to be pieces that I cannot seem to get the melody, rhythm, tempo, or whatever identified. It just sounds like noise. When I listen to an orchestra on YouTube, that issue pops up. I keep trying, and have been trying for a couple decades! Not any better. I don’t have to even be thinking about it. I listen to music and a section like that will show up, voila, I am lost, can’t figure it out even to listen to.

Isn’t this odd and annoying?

They call me, “Mellow Cello” 

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GregW
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October 9, 2019 - 12:21 pm
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There are tunes Ive strongly disliked which always made practicing them more difficult.  I get it..

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starise
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I think I might know what you mean cid. I have encountered similar thoughts and feelings toward some art that usually isn't music. I've tried to make sense of some painted art and come up empty. Even wondered if the artist was doing drugs when he/she painted it. Artists tend to put things together that don't fit together in the real world. Same goes for some lyrics. Many songs out there have lyrics that just never made any sense at all. I wouldn't say it's ignorance on my part. Sometimes an artist wants the person who sees or hears to have a private interpretation of it. Sometimes the interpretation is intended to be more symbolic or even like some kind of puzzle.

Some artists consider it their mission to stretch your mind to places it has never gone to before. They do that by making art that pushes our ability to understand it on common everyday terms.

Music is a bit unique in that we are mostly accustomed to "western" music formats. Music from India or China sounds almost alien to us because we were raised on the western system of music. Most modern music follows an easy to find pattern. Classical music OTOH doesn't always move back to an earlier established pattern. I see classical music more like reading a book where you read through each chapter to find something different. Chapter 1 is nothing like chapter 7. Not really a verse/chorus kind of thing. 

I'll admit that no matter which format you hold some of it to, it doesn't connect in any way that seems to make sense. There is no expectation in it. Some composers attempt to make something different, build a better mouse trap, and end up making a mess lol. Imagine being a player in an orchestra and being handed some of this to play 🙂 Much of it is progressive and makes perfect sense, some of it doesn't make as much sense to me. No emotional connection whatsoever. Same can be said for a lot of the popular music now too. I guess it comes down to personal preference and taste. In order to play something you consider unorganized you need to lay aside any expectation and follow the notes. Not something I  intend to do much of.

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