Sunday, 15 March 2009

Strings and bridge height

My quest to find the perfect 'A' string for my particular cello - English, 1862 - has taken a turn for the better, I think.

A few months ago I had coffee with a new friend who just happens to be a professional cellist, and she gently suggested my bridge was too low. At the time I had just put on a set of Pirastro Aricore. To me they sounded lovely, except for the 'A', which was extraordinary, all grating, 'wowing' and WRONG! My supplier obligingly sent me a replacement which was equally bad, so I came to the conclusion that the A was definitely not for my particular instrument, although my teacher loves all four of her Aricores. (She has an English cello as well, circa 1820s.) Even when my luthier made a higher bridge for the Perlon core Aricores, the A was unplayable.

In the course of an internet search for another string I filled in the 'assessment form' Pirastro has on their site, and amazingly, they sent 2 'A's for me to try - free of charge!! One was Obligato and the other, Synoxa. I tried them both and sent Pirastro my comments. Neither were right, both having either a very bad wolf or the same problem the Aricore had, or were far too shrill on my instrument.

Imagine my amazement when I got yet another string, this time one that (I think) is not yet on the market! It sounds amazing on my instrument. Those higher notes that I steel myself to play, are rich and resonant . I have had the string now for 3 weeks and it is stable in every way, in my humble opinion. I can't thank Pirastro enough. They have saved me a lot of money in trial and error. I only hope it comes onto the market before I need a replacement. It blends quite nicely with my Aricore 'D', but when it is available, I shall buy the A and D - if not the whole set!

It says 'Ring Gelb' on the packet, by the way.

Now I have to ask my luthier about bridge height again as this is not Perlon core. And what happens if I have a 1 or 2 Perlon and 1 or 2 "steel/chrome steel" mix? Maybe it is something I should ask Pirastro! I have never noticed advice on bridge height when looking at string info.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Right shoulder pain

In the New Year I began to get a niggling pain in my right shoulder, under the shoulder blade. It has rapidly got worse, and I am wondering if anyone else has had something similar and blames it on faulty bowing habits. It goes down my arm and into the 3rd and 4th fingers. I am taking paracetamol to the daily limit, having tried various other analgesics. Anti-inflammatories don't touch it. The funny thing is, it hurts when I am still, and is greatly relieved by constantly moving. It is not stiff in the morning, though I wake up in the night with it. I went to the GP last week and he sent me for x-rays, but the results won't be with him for another week. (Cheers for the good old NHS!). Playing the cello causes no pain.

Has anyone had this? It is jolly painful. I hope it does not mean I have to rest it and stop playing for my usual hour or so a day. I should be grateful for any advice.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Cello scrotum? It’s a load of . . . nonsense, admits Baroness Murphy - Times Online

Hello there....... if anyone at all still looks at this blog which I have neglected disgracefully for the past few months ! I thought this article may 'tickle your fancy', as we say in the UK.

I intend to write some more in the near future as there are one or two celloing issues that I would like an opinion on. Happily, being a woman I can relax over the truth or not of the article below!

Cello scrotum? It’s a load of . . . nonsense, admits Baroness Murphy - Times Online

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Intelligent practise - wrong sections

Another orchestra session rather like a Magical Mystery Tour - which is a bit unfair having read Yarnplayer's thoughtful comment! I had dutifully practised difficult phrases, fingering, timings etc. Singing, clapping, as well. I homed in on certain passages and really concentrated on them rather than practising the whole lot. What happened? We did not touch any of them! We went full tilt into the fast passages which I had saved for the future! Arrh well, I suppose I did not do too badly having (almost) mastered the technique of playing the beat notes and letting the genius section fill in the rest. Afterwards, I, and one of the other cellists, about the same standard as myself, went to her house and played some duets together for an hour or so. It was really enjoyable, and we plan to do it again in about 3 weeks' time.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

In the "Will I ever make it?" stage....again

I've just returned from orchestra and we sight read some of our new pieces. Tenor clef all over the place, four sharps, dodgy timing, 'presto' final movement - all the usual crisis factors. If there was ever something that makes months appear to dissolve into seconds, it's the contemplation of practising sundry pieces of music way over one's ability and personal experience and expectations in order to perform them in public in the fairly near future. And yet we do it, don't we? Twice a year this crisis turns miraculously into triumphant joy when we've actually performed in the concert, and the family and friends cheer and clap and we sink back and say, "Yes, it was worth it". And then it starts all over again!

This time we will be playing The Gordion Knot Untied by Henry Purcell, Salut d'Amour, Chanson de Matin and Chanson de Nuit all by Elgar, and the Prague Symphony by Mozart.

I am resolved not to panic and put my recent study day on Practice to good use. Thus, I am calmly wading through the short Elgar pieces organising the fingering, identifying trouble spots to concentrate on, listening to the cds whilst reading my part, singing, clapping etc. And then I go to orchestra, and we don't touch them. We do the Mozart instead! Actually that is not entirely true. This week we did touch on them but so often we don't do what I have been expecting and practising. Never mind. It is all in expectation of the final triumph!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Thanks for the practice tips

I've been catching up on the cello blogs I regularly read and am really impressed at how many of you are going into details on aspects for practice. I have made a list - at last- of the posts I want to refer to again. Some of the comments on particular entries are really useful as well. I find it quite difficult to take it all in in one reading but have never, until now, made a note of where to find them again, and time goes on....


Anyway, thank you all, especially GGP.,Guanaco, Terry, Emily, Marisa, Cellodonna, Erin and others.


The concert last Saturday went really well. We had a long practice beforehand, were freezing cold as the heating seemed to be non-existent, but in the end overcame any obstacles and really enjoyed the occasion. I had made the decision some time ago that fast passages that were beyond me I would modify and as a result I did not get lost, did not go out of tune and felt confident. Best of all, no one seemed to notice!