I seek your help because I think I may be in real trouble here. I have played cello for nearly 15 years and it all may be for nothing. I started out with a cruel teacher who played psychological tricks on me, like skipping me a few levels ahead to see how I reacted to such pressure. I then switched to a teacher who showed me playing the cello is more than making pitches and rhythms sound on the instrument, that you should say something with music. Then I went applied to university and did not have the funds to go where I wanted to go, to study with my cello-hero. So I went to a school close to home, which gave me a free ride and had an ok teacher but overall was not a good school. Then I decided to audition (and I got in) to a much better school, a well-known conservatory that was on a totally other level. I went to that school, and am still there, and will graduate next year. I do find here that no one makes music, here you're good if you can play fast and loud and in-tune, and that's it. It sickens me. I have decided to just make music myself and not let these idiots influence me.
Now to my real problem: I hate to practice. I HATE it. I love to play, but I would rather do anything but practice. I never really, I mean really, practiced before last year. I played but I never really took anything apart. I've now reached the highest level I can get to without practice. I can do one good week of steady practice, and then I lose it and just sit at home or do something else. I was just diagnosed with ADD, and I thought that would solve everything, that part of the reason I hated practice was that I couldn't concentrate. I guess that was part of the reason, but now I know I just hate it. What do I do? I don't love anything else like I do the cello, but I just cannot get myself to practice regularly. What do I do? Should I quit? Should I just be mediocre and live with it? Will I be able to get a job? What to do?
Oh, and my cello teacher died recently and now I have no idea what kind of person the school will get to replace him ... it looks like they don't care what we want, so I might not even have a semi good teacher. With the loss of my teacher I feel even more alone than before. What should I do?
Dear, sweet, tender Christine,
Honey, you've been through the ringer, and it sounds like you may be going through it a few more times in the near future. You've had some tough breaks, doll, and I applaud you for even getting out of bed every day! My advice is to not make any definite goals or resolutions; you'll just be disappointed and depressed should they not be realized. BettyLou NEVER makes New Year's Resolutions, or sets any goals during the year. That way, everything you do is a success! Take one day at a time, practice only when you want, see if the ADD medication works, and assess you're situation in a few months. Your practice muse is not a lengthy visitor, I wonder why? How on earth do you expect to get anywhere without practice? Of course there will always be opportunities in the proud community orchestras that pepper our landscape should your practice-free studies fall short elsewhere. In the meantime, supplement your "practice time" with listening to some of the old Masters.
By the way, "Making music," honey, is the only way to go, playing fast and loud will only burn you out. You're sensitive; I can see that, so make your own path through your campus, which seems to be studded with smug, boring technicians. I know that type all too well! In the long run, I guarantee, you'll be better off. Please let me know how everything works out doll.
I am a sophomore in high school and have been playing the cello since 4th grade. The problem is that I still haven't developed a good vibrato. I somehow shake my hand in a vibrato-like manner, but I am too tight and stiff. My private teacher has tried everything with me, but nothing seems to work! I was wondering if you could suggest anything I might not have tried. Thank you!
Dear Belinda, I learned the most gorgeous vibrato technique mixing drinks for my father using a stainless steel cocktail shaker. And believe you me, honey, the way he drank, I got lots of practice! Yes, it's true, Bettylou started out her young innocent life as an expert mixologist!! The motion of the shaker is a natural precursor to a perfect and natural sounding vibrato.
As a blessing to you, I will pass on to you my most requested and original libation: the "Jaded Cosmopolitan":
Dear pretty, funny BettyLou,
I am a young cellist and was wondering if you could tell me the name of a piece by Manuel de Falla, transcribed for cello. It is a dance (not Ritual Fire Dance) and could possibly be from Jota (?). All I know is that Jacqueline du Pré played it at her first television recital (I heard it on her video) and it is absolutely lovely. The piece is in a major key and the piano accompaniment is agitated and "Chopin-like.". I know of someone who has also played the piece on violin but cannot remember the name. I know I have given a bad description but I really hope that you can help. Thanks.
Dear young cellist,
I have often proffered this gracious phrase to my maid, Carmenita, when she asks lazy questions like yours: "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime." Isn't that quaint? Now get to the internet and research your question, and see if you can come up with an answer on your own. Please email me and let me know the results. Good luck!
Dear Betty Lou,
I am a bass player who has recently taken up the cello. Can you recommend a cello method (and/or book of studies) that will give me a clear approach to the geography of the fingerboard.
Max R. Harris (Perth, Western Australia)
Dear over-achieving but sweet Max,
Why you ever decided to leave the double bass and take up the cello is beyond me! Instrument assignments are pre-ordained. You really need to think this through before testing the fates, since once you settle down with the cello; you'll never go back to that clumsy, oafish bass. If you must make this most unnatural switch, try the Josef Schroeder Cello Method Book 1, and see what happens. Don't be concerned with the "geography" of the fingerboard, as any "trips" you take will be "day trips" of the very short variety. Like a trip to the liquor store and back.
Dear Betty Lou,
I am the mother of a ninth grade cellist and we are looking to purchase a 4/4 Cello. We just came from a string shop, which had the following cellos:
Do you anything about these cellos; I'm at a loss to know how to choose a good quality cello.
Dear sweet, courageous Connie,
First of all dear, I am no instrument expert, and after finding my Madame du Farge of the Pyrenees 1702 in a dumpster at a 1968 estate sale, I haven't looked back. My congratulations to you, however, on the fact that you are actually researching the purchase of a cello for your ninth grader! Most parents I know with ninth graders have severed any and all communications with their offspring 'til after college, at least. A friend of mine screamed one morning when she found a disheveled "home-free" person rooting through her pantry only to discover it was her 15-year-old son. Since I am no expert, and cannot use my column as a springboard for endorsements, I can be of little help to you www.cellos2go.com. You obviously have a beautiful relationship www.stringworks.com with your ninth grader, and he/she is lucky www.cellos2go.com to have a parent with his/her best www.stringworks.com interests at heart.
Godspeed to you dear!
DEAR GORGEOUS BETTYLOU,
I am Seun Oluwaloju from Nigeria. I really love playing the cello and I'd love to be one of the WORLD's GREAT CELLISTS. But here in Nigeria we have a bad music society, no challenges, no competition and no standard concerts. I don't want to lose my opportunity for a music career, so I am asking for your help, any help you can do for me that I can study the cello abroad. Hope to hear from you soon. God bless you.
Dear email-proficient Seun,
After reading your dozen or so emails asking the same question, over and over again, I was most impressed with your persistence. Why don't you put that energy to work, apply to several universities, and/or conservatories in Europe, Australia and America, and MOVE, for cripes sake!
Confidential to "Burning Bridges" -- Honey, if you asked me, which you have, I say dump the chump. Woodwind players, especially ones that "double," are cut from a totally different cloth than cellists. Actually, they are most often cut from dirty rags. File the appropriate papers and MOVE ON!
Vexed? Peeved? Confounded? Ask BettyLou! Send all inquiries to BettyLou, maybe she'll deem your question worthy of an answer.
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