To celebrate my second favorite month, I’m going to post every single day in December (giant meteor notwithstanding). I would absolutely love to devote some of these posts to Q and A, so please lob some questions my way!
Today’s post: 5 myths that every cello student would do well to quit believing in
- Surely, there must be a shortcut
- The best students are never happy with their progress
- No seriously, I don’t need to play with other people
- I’m probably too old for this
- Left hand über alles, baby
Surely, there must be a shortcut
Nope. The long road is the shortcut. Take it the whole way, and that’s the fastest course to proficiency.The cello stays hard, and you get better. You can believe me or not, but I’ve taught thousands (no, really. I’ve done the math and the conservative number is just under 2500) of cellists and have intercepted many of them after years of trying to get around the fundamentals of theory, technique, and approach. It can’t be done, and you’ll end up needing them anyway. Wherever you are in the process, the shortest road to mastery and musicianship is to shore up the weak spots and to move, methodically and with great benevolence for yourself, from there.
The best students are never happy with their progress
This is the root of such misery, especially for students who are earnest and do everything that is asked of them. It is painful to watch someone deny themselves even the slightest twinge of delight for fear of feeding an ego or disrupting their work ethic. Life is short, and music is meant for our enjoyment and expression. Do not waste time investing in critique. Leave that to your teacher. Instead, become an analyst. Investigate. Become curious. And most of all, allow yourself to recognize when something good is happening. After all, you can’t really assess the problems if you can’t appreciate what your hard work has already wrought.
No seriously, I don’t need to play with other people
This has been the stranding island of many excellent students. Even if you yearn only to play for your own edification by yourself, there is no better way to get good at the nuts and bolts of playing music than in an ensemble. There, you learn the practical aspects of
- Playing in time: rhythm is king! Music only exists in time- otherwise what you have there, my friend, is a series of unrelated pitches plopped here and there.
- Getting over mistakes. Solo players indulge mistakes, go back, mull them over, ignore the metronome, develop neuroses surrounding imperfections, sometimes never get good at playing something from beginning to end. Playing with a group cures you of that in a hurry: you simultaneously learn that everyone makes mistakes while also seeing how few mistakes can be made in a successful performance. Playing in a group is fuel for your competitive spirit and a tonic for ego. There is always more work to be done. If you catch yourself thinking everything is easy, I guarantee you are making lousy music.
- It’s nice to be around other people who are fighting the same wonderful fight you are.
- Playing concerts creates memories and associations, and also gives you short range targets for your progress.
I’m probably too old for this.
Conditioning is lame, and is mostly perpetuated to reinforce systems of control created by people who are freaked out when other people do awesome and unexpected things. I’ve had several adult students drop everything, go monastic, work their asses off and become professional musicians in the hyper competitive LA scene after full careers as experts in other fields. There is no limit to this thing. You can get where you want to go. Just stop asking “are we there yet” and get to work, find a teacher who believes in you, practice well, and eat the doubters’ hate like love. You know where to find me if you feel lost on this path.
Left hand über alles, baby
Oh my good lord. Intonation is important, but TONE is what we are after, my friends. The notes are the words, but the bow creates the phrase, the voice, the everything. You can make music on just an open string. You can be completely amusical and play every note spot on, in tune and on time. Neglect the right hand at your peril, friends of mine. I’ve done like 100 other posts about this, but I’ll leave you to hunt those down yourselves. 🙂
See you tomorrow, gorgeous people. *awkward winking*
PS: through January 6th, it’s snowing on the homepage.
Spot On Emily! You rock. And I’ve missed you.
Fantastically accurate and insightful. Never better said.
Nailed it on all five. Thanks.