Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Game Changer

Fact #1
I played cello for a year in high school, and about 3 years ago (23 years after I stopped playing) I decided to pick it up again and see if I could teach myself to be a decent cellist. Still have a long way to go on that, but I have been pretty dedicated and continue to force myself to practice and play things that will raise my level of playing, even when it doesn't sound so good. I try to play at least something from this list most every day: Bach Suites, Haydn Concerto #1, Dotzauer studies, Marcello Sonatas, Gabrielli's Ricercari, Schroeder Foundation Studies, orchestra or quartet excerpts, something by Popper.

Fact #2
I try to play a little euphonium every day. Things I like to try to touch include: the Telemann Fantasias, the Bach Cello Suites, the Rochut book, Arban's method, Clarke studies, excerpts, Euph/Trombone/Trumpet solo repertoire, etc.

Fact #3
I do a fair amount of arranging and transcribing--some of which I do down at my computer, but some I do in a fat book of staff paper, right by my music stand.

Fact #4
In addition to a large collection of printed sheet music and books, I have a lot of unbound sheet music (my own arrangements, parts I've copied, scores I've downloaded) in no fewer than 15 one-inch binders.

Fact #5
Tools I use in my daily practice include tuners, metronomes, pencils, a sharpener, cello mute, euph mute, rosin, valve oil, digital recorder, stand light.

Fact #6
I'm terrible at putting stuff away.

My Manhasset music stand is a good stand. No bandroom would be complete without about 100 of them. However, to say I pushed mine to the limit would be an understatement. My stand was always so stacked with music, books, pencils, and accessories, that every time I turned a page the whole thing was at risk of collapse. Whenever I'd put a binder on the stand, I'd have to toss a pile of music on the floor to make room. When I record, I keep the digital recorder on the stand, so I have to toss more paper on the floor. When I tune, same thing. The worst thing is when I try to mark up my music. If you're holding onto a cello or euph with one hand, that only leaves one pencil hand, with nothing to steady the stand. Unfortunately, Manhasset stands swivel and tilt, so scribbling in a dynamic marking or an ornamentation tends to require a certain amount of acrobatism to keep the whole production from dumping on the floor, and because the stand keeps moving, the resultant scribbles on the score are illegible half the time. Don't even get me started on the perils of trying to erase one of those unreadable markings.

Then I discovered the very informative video postings of David Finckel, who is the cellist with the Emerson String Quartet. In these short videos Finckel talks about all sorts of aspects of playing, performing, and practicing. In one, he shows his practice space and the large board he uses as a music stand.

It was like a thunderbolt. A music stand is NOT the best music stand. The simple and obvious solutions are often the best. I remembered an old drawing table that I had stashed in my parents' basement almost 20 years ago. I finally picked it up this weekend. Went to Home Depot yesterday and spent eight bucks on a chunk of door frame molding and a handful of metal brackets.

Behold! The Super Wonder Stand. It easily holds 3-4 times as much music as a regular stand. It doesn't spin or tilt. You can mark and erase your music without knocking anything over. You can keep all your accessories in easy reach. Even with all the music and accessories, there's room on the bottom ledge to set my cello bow down.

I think I can say with no hyperbole whatsoever, that this is the single best thing ever.

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