Cello Follies

I play the cello. It’s a difficult instrument to play well, though it’s dreadfully easy to play it badly. About once a week I have a day where I’m really pleased with the sound. The rest of the week — feh.

I’m glad I learned it when I was young. I can’t even imagine getting any satisfaction out of trying to learn it as an older adult; the rewards would be minuscule, the pain overwhelming.

There’s not a lot of point in playing cello by yourself — it’s an instrument that’s meant to be part of a group. And in a group, the cellist seldom gets to soar; it’s a functional instrument, too low in pitch to grab the spotlight. At the moment I don’t have a group to play with, but I keep my chops up and my eyes open, in case anything pops up.

I teach beginners (and some pretty advanced high-school students) to play the cello. I don’t know why they want to do it, and I’m reluctant to ask them. If they start thinking about it, they might quit, and then I’d lose the income.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and cause them all to play better instantly. The only magic wand is called “endless hours of practice.” Some of them wave it, some of them don’t. But no matter how assiduously they wave it, it’s a really slow-acting magic wand.

I watch them struggle to execute simple muscular movements, things I take completely for granted when I’m playing. It’s a powerful lesson in both the power and the limitations of the human brain.

My students give me this lesson every week. (And then they pay me. Such a deal!)

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3 Responses to Cello Follies

  1. gilnor7066 says:

    Hah, now I know how my cello teacher feels. 😀

    Also, if you have any tips on how to make practicing efficent, please let me know. 😀

  2. prufrockianpariah says:

    Hey, I’m a music school dropout. I dropped out of my performance degree in cello to get married and move from Colorado to Nice, France. At any rate, I spend a lot of time wondering why I even tried. I kinda wish sometimes that someone had told me it was a pointless endeavor. The music game’s rough. I’ve had my ego crushed countless times, and now I’m just bitter. I always wondered why adults would even try. But they deserve a chance to fall in love with music & cello as much as anyone else. I think the average adult learner needs to realize that they won’t make it to the sixth Bach suite though. Or maybe they shouldn’t know. Well, whatever.

    But yes, as a teacher it is frustrating to have to explain things that just should come naturally. My students give me a lesson in patience, that’s for sure.

  3. midiguru says:

    I’m not bitter, I’m just bemused. I’ve never had the courage to tackle the Sixth Suite on my normal cello, but I also own a 5-string electric cello, and I’ve learned the first three movements on that. They’re wonderful, and _so_ much more playable! Bach clearly knew the instrument he was writing for. The Sarabande … no, I’ve never learned it, not even on the 5-string.

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