Alban's Blog

Hesitation before practice

Do you know how it feels when you have this pile of work in front of you to practice and you can’t really move yourself behind the cello? Or any instrument for that matter?I just put the alarm for 5 am in order to get 2 hours of practicing in before bringing Janos to school and actually staying there to do 2 hours of school project for his school – and instead of being down in my basement practicing away, I am killing my time in front of the computer, answering a couple of e-mails, checking the latest sports-news (the NY Rangers won, the New Jersey Nets lost a classic game in double overtime, Bonds stays in San Francisco) and just giving it all to having to go down and start being tough on myself. Shouldn’t it be fun to practice? Well, how much fun can it be to play for the time some open strings, some finger exercises, some scales and arpeggi’s?

And then the pressure of having to memorize two awfulyl hard to memorize Reger-Suites? And then this Bach-Suite which was on hold for a week while being on tour with Janos in Vancouver (no time to practice, too much homework to guide through…) – oh, this is the story of my life, trying to avoid practicing, fighting through all the resistance, threatening myself with silly threats (if you go down now, then your next concert is going to go really well, everybody will love Reger afterwards ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and finally either doing it or finding another excuse of something which had to be done “more urgently” – like cleaning up the place…

I know the answer: it is this constant criticizing oneself which is the killer. If we could just sit there and play away, enjoying ourselves, it would be a joy, but no, we have to constantly put into question what we just did, every practice session has to be like an audition or a competition, and we are our own worst judges. Often I come out of my basement completely exhausted and wet, as if I just played the Dvorak, Prokofiev, both Shostakovich’s and at the end Schnittke No1 in a row – mentally as well as physically dead. Poor family having to live with a guy like that…


  • Naoya Kanai

    hi Alban,
    my name is Naoya and I’m a cello student from the SF Bay Area (i doubt you remember but I met you at Davies Hall w/ Edwin Outwater during the week you were playing Shos. No1 with SFS…). I caught your Brahms double performance in Berlin last month and loved it…i’m spending the quarter studying here.

    anyway, hope your solo recital goes well! i’m working on the 2nd Reger suite with Prof. Boettcher here, and having never learned (or heard) it it’s a big, difficult task for me. how do you practice double stop passages?


  • Alban

    Hi Naoya – yes, I think I remember you and the situation with Edwin Outwater. Glad you liked the Brahms ๐Ÿ™‚
    Oh, these double stops everywhere in all these Reger Suites, and they are even worse on my cello because it is oversize – some of the thirds I can hardly reach in the 3rd and 4th position. How to practice them? Lower note first, then add the upper one, and then play both together (like on one bow the as quarter notes d + d/f, and on the next bow as a half note both together again) – and you go through the entire passage like that. Sounds idiotic, but works for me, at least kind of… Yes, it is a very hard task, these Suites, because musically they are not the greatest at first. I think one has to do something, for example ignore the slow metronome markings. I pretend it doesn’t say anything and just try to make the music work. We have just got one cello, for god sake, not an orchestra – how are we supposed to make these slow tempi work? Almost impossible, I think, if you see the big picture. For a couple of bars, yes, but the whole Suite? Enjoy the REger, and give my very warmest regards to Prof. Boettcher, what a great man!

  • George

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the hazards and realities of your schedule…I have always admired your “approachability” and down to earth nature…and ability to play the Heck out of the cello…(I was acutally thinking of other words to describe this). It takes a very secure person to share such personal information..I hadn’t been to your site for quite some time…Great blog you have here… I will use it to stay in contact and I hope that we can spend time together again if you are in my area.-Your friend from California-George
    Take care…


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