I am going to bitch geekily for a while about my cello; forgive me. See, if you get bored or annoyed, I don’t actually have to know – and if you tell me so in the comments I also don’t actually have to do anything about it and can just tell the computer that you’re a nasty spammer and then I can carry on pretending I am popular and interesting and a brilliant blogger. Which is, pretty much, ideal.
Anyway. My cello. In all fairness to it, I’ve been away since before Christmas and in the few days I’ve been back I haven’t got around to playing it; at the moment at home I have my sister’s boyfriend’s cello, so this one stays here in Sheffield at least for the moment. Which means that it hasn’t been played since the concert which was, I think, on about the 12th of December.
I say ‘in all fairness’. I think I take that back. So it hasn’t been played in a month. This is no excuse for the fact that when I arrived (late) at orchestra last night and got it out, all the strings were slack, and the bridge slipping out of place. So I find myself taking the cello straight back out of the main hall and sitting in the corridor madly humming As at myself (I don’t have perfect pitch but I can give you an A at the drop of a hat and can then get any other note from that) in complete dissonance with the orchestra who (I shortly discovered) were playing something with a frankly unfair number of sharps in the key signature. I am not a strong woman. Holding the bridge in place until Ive got enough tension in the strings for them to hold it there themselves, and then wrestling with the pegs for seemingly hours until we negotiate with one another to the point where they don’t immediately come unstuck and spring slack again, and doing this with all four strings (you realise there’s enough tension in the strings of a cello to kill you straight out if something goes horribly wrong, yes?) in turn, first the top (A) then the bottom (C) and then the middle two (if all the strings are slack and you just tune them in order then tuning the D will put the A out, tuning the G will put the D out, and so on, because the bridge will move more as you tune it. I don’t really know why, but Ive learnt this the hard way).
Then, of course, having tuned it, at least roughly, you take it into orchestra and you get playing and you have to adjust it a bit anyway because, as previously discussed, I don’t have perfect pitch and trying to tune a cello against Bartok In The Key Of A Million Sharps is just, well, silly. And then of course the stupid thing is doing its best to get out of tune again because it always takes a while to settle.
Meanwhile, the strings sound dead, and the thing hasn’t been properly hydrated in a while. I cant afford new strings but these are not happy and they’re probably going to go soon anyway at which point I will just have to buy more. I keep forgetting my new rosin so it rarely gets properly rosined, it could do with a good clean and some serious looking after, and I’m not playing it terribly well at the moment anyway (although, weirdly given how much practice I have not been doing, I’m playing better this year than last and apparently even improving. Not much, though). So all in all, my cello and I are not best pleased with one another and we are both doing our utmost to show it.
Sometimes I do wonder why I, probably the weakest person in the world, chose to play an instrument that is big enough to be a total pain to carry about but not big enough to be transported in a van for you from practice room to concert venue and back again, or just supplied when you get there, like percussion or a piano, and not really big enough to justify learning to drive and owning a car, like the double bass, but also too big to carry easily at all and definitely big enough to really hurt my back; which also requires huge amounts of physical strength just to tune it or do any serious maintenance because it doesn’t have ratcheted pegs but it does have strings under silly amounts of pressure. I should definitely play the flute or the clarinet or something. Equally nice in their own way, just less insanely annoying.
That said everyone likes to bitch about their chosen instrument, and we all love it really. The good thing about being a string player is that it doesnt really go. Yes, if I left it for a year or something, I might lose some of the technical ability I have (seeing plenty of proof of that already). But its not like a wind or a brass instrument that if I were to leave it a week or something that would make any appreciable difference to how well I was playing. And I know plenty of wind and brass players who got braces in their teens and had to give up playing at that point – the only reason why I would have to stop playing the cello would be a majorly big deal thing, like losing an arm or getting some horrible illness, and sad though it would be, not playing the cello would probably be among the least of my worries. Pianists bitch about not really being able to play in orchestras unless they’re really good and doing a concerto (most of the time), and, well, have you ever even risked talking to a piccolo player?
So, whine over. I’m sorry cello, I love you really. But, you know, next time you act up on me like that can you pick a day when perhaps for once I’m early for orchestra?
I’m actually not sure that’s something that has ever happened in my life.