Practice Diary: Am I moving too fast on the cello?

Cello lesson this weekend was quite productive. We revisited the bowing arm and fixed some issues I had that made my hand hurt trying to make big sounds using slow bows. I was given two new etudes, and was taught ways to make my Suzuki pieces more expressive.

All of this is great, and a great start to my 10th month of celloing.

But that’s the thing: I’ve only had 9 months of cello experience.

These new etudes I’m learning now, one of them was full of shifting. I had to mark the parts that require shifting because it makes you shift to a different position each time. In one line of music I had to shift to 4th, 3rd, and 2nd positions in the span of maybe 9 measures.

The other etude introduces double stops. I don’t know how to play double stops. I barely practice any double stops on the violin, an instrument that I am way more experienced in.

We also toyed with the idea of maybe take part of my last tape off the finger board. In the past month or so we already got rid of the 2nd and 3rd finger tapes. While that didn’t affect my playing too much, I really use my 4th finger tape quite a lot as a visual guide for shifting so it’s actually something I need.

We also talked about maybe starting to learn vibrato next lesson.

This is a lot. I took violin lessons for 5 years when I was younger, and I’m year 2 of re-learning the violin, and I’m still working on shifting and vibrato. Just a year ago I had a piece of tape on my violin because I just couldn’t get my 3rd position intonation right. My violin teacher is a stickler for proper techniques and I really appreciate that.

This is not to say that my cello teacher doesn’t care about techniques. We spend a lot of time in my lessons on getting the left and right hands properly, and he has the extra task of fixing all my violin-related bad habits.

But I just feel like I’m running way too fast with this cello thing, and I’m really afraid of sprinting right into a wall. But I’m also afraid of slowing down. I’m afraid of not making any progress.

I don’t really have an accurate and objective assessment of my ability. I know I am a cello beginner, but my experience with violin, a stringed instrument, gives me a special advantage that other beginners or beginners with other musical experiences do not have. I also know that I don’t practice that much and I don’t really drill on the techniques. I take lessons only every other week so I don’t always get timely feedback on whether I’m doing something right or incorrectly. I also have very skewed expectations from my cello study, as in, I expect the same out of my cello learning as I do from my violin, which is incredibly unfair on myself and I’m actually a worse critic of myself than my teacher is. I have a distorted view of my cello learning and progress and because of it I cannot make an accurate judgement.

So here I am, still sprinting full speed into a wall that may or may not exist.

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