got minuet?

May 19, 2010

Most of my practice time lately has been spent on Minuets, with some intonation exercises and 2nd position shifting etudes thrown in for good measure.

Minuet in C

The only trouble spot left in this piece is the string-change slur in the second section, the part that goes C - slur - B, A - slur - G. Getting my fingers down on the D-string ahead of the bow on the D-string is still proving to be difficult. When I play through that phrase slowly it works, but as soon as I speed things up, I get squeaks and squawks.

Minuet Nº 2

I really like this piece and enjoy playing it. I need to speed it up a bit and I need to watch the length of the longer notes. I tend to truncate them. Also, I tend to truncate the first note of a hooked bowing pair, something my teacher assures me every beginning string student does.

Minuet Nº 1

That the opening measure of this minuet is the same as for Minuet in C both makes it easy to play and hard to play. I have to focus on the second measure to continue on correctly. In learning this piece I discovered modulation. The first two lines are written in C Major, the middle two lines are in G Major, and the last two lines return to C Major. I discovered this by remarking to Sibylle that I was curious about why there were some F#s in the piece and some F naturals. She pointed out that the first two lines (the first section of the piece) end with a C, and that the first two lines of the second section not only contain the only F#s in the piece, they end in G. The last two lines of the second section have no F#s and end in C again.

Rather than change the key signature for the two lines in the middle from C to G, the editor just added the accidentals to show the F#s required by G Major. Understanding now why a piece might have accidentals on notes in one section but not in another adds a whole new dimension to the music. Not only can there by a pattern with the notes, there can be a pattern with the key.

Minuet Nº 3

This is the first piece that I've been able to whistle or hum at first glance, what is known as audiation. I'm not sure I'll be able to repeat that feat with the next piece, but it was certainly cool to do it with this one. The piece itself uses 2nd position and portato bowing and my current nemesis, string-change slurs.

By pulling out the 2nd position measure and practicing them as a mini-etude I've been able to incorporate that into my playing fairly quickly. My intonation suffers a bit on the 2nd position A and E when I don't get my 2nd finger squarely on the the corresponding G or D, but I am getting better and the shifts.

Like the previous minuet, Nº 1, this piece modulates keys. And it adds a neat preparatory hand shift. The second section starts with a 2nd position E on the A-string and to prepare for that the second ending of the first section shifts to 2nd position. As does the first ending of the second section. It reminds me of footwork in sparring - the right footwork makes the technique that follows easy to perform.

The added layers of understanding and complexity are what make playing cello so much fun. For every new thing I learn or start to understand there are 5 or 10 more nuances to take in, and each of those have layers, and so on. Playing cello is the most dimensional thing I've ever done, and I love it.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.