I know I’ve made this point before, but you people need it hammered into you:

Kids don’t have some magic ability to tame instruments. The main difference I see is they lack the self-loathing and expectations adults bring to the table. If I could offer adult beginners (that is, people of all proficiencies that started after age 16) one main piece of advice it would be this:

Dream big. Have outlandish fantasies of musical greatness. Be excited about it and unashamed of that enthusiasm. Let that, and not the burden of ego or self denigration fuel your fire.

Thanks to Nancy L for another gem. She also showed me Ben Zander’s PopTech video, (a few posts down) and incidentally started The Swan today.

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5 thoughts on “Nathan talks about the Swan”

  1. Yup; that self-loathing really messes up the simple "what's happening in the music?" interpretation. This was just lovely.

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  2. Am I the only one at odds with the modern way of playing? When did the cello become a contest for who could apply vibrato to the most notes in any given piece?

    Maybe I've been playing the cello too long, I can barely hear the tone of the instrument when almost the entire piece is a huge wobble.

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  3. Red: you should go easy on the little guy! Sure, his vibrato is wobbly and working itself out. It's a little much, but he's a growing kid, and very sincere.

    I do agree though, that vibrato is an affectation. It should not be indiscriminately applied to everything, and when it is used, the width of the wobble needs to be tailored and thoughtfully considered.

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  4. I know this will sound naive to accomplished cellists, but I think the playing was beautiful. As an adult who took up cello when I turned 50, Nathan's piece sounded perfect to me. His playing, and his description of what the music means to him, moved me.

    Now, isn't that what music is really about?

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  5. While I appreciate hearing the cello with no vibrato at all, or very little, the Swan is not one of those places. I say the kid is playing the piece very much how it should be played, how people expect it, and I think very likely how Saint-Saenz intended it, doing superbly for his small fingers.

    Now that said, there was a piece I participated in recently at National Cello Institute with portions to be played with no vibrato at all, and I just love that sound, too.

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