100 Days of practice

Your whole life changes perspective when you are working focused on something.

I love practicing.

- It is interesting how repeated effort can build new skills.
- How the way to mastering something is never straight.
- What you learn about your mind, heart, fingers and free will in the process.

In the 100 days from March 8th - June 16th, you can read my daily practice notes here on the blog and get an insight to what lies behind the music you hear in a concert.

It is nerdy and quite personal, but maybe relateble to your own field of interest.


Day 37 - April 13th - Today it has been all about...

... looking at the fingerboard as a map.

It is so simple. All the tones have their coordinates. It sounds obvious, but I think the fact is, that you often play much more on your ear. Wich you should also of course also do.










Day 36 - April 12th - Sound Ambassador

Today Widex launched their new project, where I'm casted as Sound Ambassador. It's a big honour to work with them. We made an interview about what the role of sound is to a musician.

You can hear it here: Widex interviews

They quote me for saying "the eye is the mirror of the soul, but the ear is like a door to the soul."

Isn't that right?

Practiced Manuel de Falla today until my left arm got sore.

Day 35 - April 11th - I have 10 fingers

Today it is 3 years since my right index finger was saved.

I had gotten blood poisoning in a tiny scratch. From my gloves I think. My finger was double size and dark purple with a black spot and there were blue lines coming up my arm. 
I went to the emergency room at the hospital. A young doctor with a big smile said they had to open my finger with a knife and rinse it, if I wanted to keep it.
I didn't like that thought, and got intravenous penicillin over night to see if that could cure it.
Next morning the chief physician looked seriously at my finger and asked me: "I heard you are a musician. Do you want to continue doing that?" - "Yes I do!" was my promt reply.
- Then I knew we had to do it.
I was there for 5 days and they cut it open twice to get out the uninvited streptococcus, under general anesthesia.

It truly made me grateful for our healthcare system - and for my finger.

As a musician you develop a lot sensitivity in your hands, and I still feel the scar all the time. I'm constantly streching it, trying to make it more flexible. But the main thing is that I have all 10 fingers and I can play music with them!

Day 34 - April 10th - 'La Vida Breve'

Today I found out that I can change position on 1st finger - instead of 2nd to 3rd - in bar 9 of Manuel de Falla's 'La Vida Breve'. 

If I had just gotten that idea a week ago...










Day 33 - April 9th - That is 1/3 of 100

That moment in the evening when the sun shined through dark blue clouds and bathed the living room in rosy light.

I wanted to take a photo of my beloved cello and caught sight of my shaddow in the picture, looking at it with tons of love. 

I only practiced for 45 min today. The rest of the time I spent doing yearly accountings and figuring out how to apply for compensation for all the cancelled concerts during lock down. - and went for a run, and took the covid test of the week.









Day 32 - April 8th - The joy of progress

Reflecting in reflections of the morning sun in my practie room.

After years of non stop performing, this lock down has reminded me of how it was when I first started playing. That joy of having your own project. Just for your own sake. Not because of a deadline or anything. Just the joy of progress. 













Day 31 - April 7th - "Not doing that would be false pride"

The distance between the tones on a cello simply gets smaller and smaller the heigher you go.

It has been a revelution for me to start looking at the fingerboard like a keyboard. Knowing that each tone has its coordinates. It gives me a feeling of peace.

While I was studying I had a period when I actually put thin tape lines for each tone all the way up. - Like the ones beginners have, just a lot more.

I kept it a secret from my teacher, and removed it for every lesson, because I thought he would find it silly. But I remember that he was noticing new perogress in my playing and asked what I did.

Today I still have 5 tiny marks on the side of my fingerboard. It is like 5 stations.
I think of all tones according to those stops. I don't think I look at them very often, but I know where they are, and the visual confirmatin removes tension - especially in big jumps.

I once met one of the most recognized and virtuous bass players of your time, Bozo Paradzik, who showed me that he uses nail polish to mark the tones on his finger board. He said "Not doing that would be false pride. I tell all my students to go and buy nail polish."

I think he is right, it is time to break the taboo. Not everyone needs it, but I'm sure I'm not the only one: Marks on the fingerboard can save you hours of practice, give you freedom to make music instead of just tones, to share art instead of prooving you skills. - I could go on.... It sets you free.

Day 30 - April 6th

Some parts of my next cello. There is still a lot of work before it will play.
I have always had a wish to 'be one with' my cello, and building my own instrument has taken that to a new level.

Today I was surprised by how my hands have gotten stronger during these 30 days. 












Day 29  ************ April 5th ***************

Snow in April. Perfect day for practicing with a cup of tea.

















Day 28 - April 4th - A trick... change your perspective

I was practicing a tricky position shift on the A-string from C to E in thumb position. It goes very fast and I want it to not feel stressful - maybe even feel good.

The C with 2nd finger is fine, but then you jump to the high E, landing on 3rd finger (ring finger, wich is by nature softer and less secure.) 
So I'm practicing slowly, promising myself to keep a controlled slow tempo for a few days. 
Still after a few days it is an unpleasant position shift.

Then today I remembered an old trick.
"What if there is no position shift?"
What if I change my way of looking at it?

I know very well where that high E is, and 'good old C' on 2nd finger is right there.
So I play the scale up to the C. Then after that I play from the E which is first tone in the next fugure.

It makes a big difference and removes the tension. I can actually suddenly play it in tempo and feel good about it.
So what I do is to think of the tones as specific points on the fingerboard that I'm going to hit. Instead of thinking of that difficult distance that my hand is going to move.
I also make a division: A section up to the C and a section from the E. - In that way removing the shift.
I works very well!

Day 27 - April 3rd - Time investment and goals

For about a month I have been working on pure enthusiasm. I'm waking up early in the morning and my first thought is, "What time is it - can I practice now?"
I'm so addicted to my metronome and to minutely working on positions shifts and bow angles.

I could probably go on like this for the next 73 days, but at this point I'm thinking of setting some goals, so that in the end I'll have some new pieces in my repertoire collection.

Therefore, today I enjoyed very much to put all my new sheet music in order. I can't wait to play this music fluently. 


I think I spent 4 hours practicing today. It was mostly thumb position and heavy barre chords - and that was how much my left arm could take. 






Day 26 - April 2nd - Uggeløse Kirke

Today I performed with Jakob Strandby and Aya Krogh Jørgensen in Uggeløse Kirke.

Due to the lock down we could only rehearse one hour before.
We were wearing both masks and visors and kept a 2m distance. Even my cello was wearing his visor.

It was wonderful to play together with somebody, and for somebody, again.


In the afternoon I finished the arrangement of M. de Falla 'La Vida Breve' for guitar and cello. - I can't belive it took 3 days...

Now I finally have a new collection of music to work on. 
Got really hooked on the metronome work again tonight. I'm focusing on the contact between the bow hairs and the string.

When you have the right kind of relaxed fingers, feeling as if they were glued to the bow, the tone will start very promt and clear. Then when you find just the right angle of the bow the tone is singing noticeably more open. It's such a good feeling.




Day 25 - April 1st- What's the difference?

Went for a walk in the afternoon break. I was on the phone with my music teacher since childhood, Kæthe Kristiansen.
We haven't seen each other for a long time due to the lock down, but we often call each other.
Today we talked about the '100 days of practice' and what the difference is from the 100 days, where you would practice anyway.

I think the difference to me is that I'm pushing my limits in these 100 days. Usually I might just practice to be ready for different concerts, but never really studying in depth.

Right now I can hear how things start to work because of the structured practice and from focusing on technical issues repeatedly.

Day 24 - March 31st - arranging music

I'm composing and arrangin music from the moment I get up till I'm too exhausted to do any more.

Listened to Enrique Granados' 12 Spanish dances outside in the lovely weather. They are very well made all of them, I'm inspired to arrange them for cello and guitar.

I also made an arrangement for cello and guitar of M. de Falla, La Vida Breve. It took 4 hours...





Day 23 - March 30 - Composing a Vivaldi Sonata 

Today I composed a Vivaldi Sonata. - Or at least two movements.

The idea is to make it sound like Vivaldi even though it's me.
I stole some of his bass lines and made Vivaldi-like melodies above them. It sounds quite baroque like and I'm curious to try it with a pianist.

I also practiced for a performance this Friday in Uggeløse Kirke with Jakob Strandby and Aya Krogh Jørgensen.

And finally (only because the neighbour is not at home) from 22 - 23 I played my new piece 'Siebte Saite'.

Even though I have been making music all day, I feel like I haven't practiced intensly as I did last week.

I really need new material to work on. I played through Schubert's Arpeggione in the morning. I played it for my exam at DKDM in 2010, and my fingers still remember a lot of it. BUT it is one of the most challenging pieces you can play on a cello, and I wonder if I'll get a chance to be in that kind of shape on the tour in August. There is usually not that many hours of practice when you also have to bike. - I think it is out.

Day 22 - March 29th - Secret fetish

I have a secret fetish with this kind of photos. They make my cry laughing.
If you google 'cello girl' you get all kinds of them. They are probably only funny to cello players.

The photographer and the model must have had so many challenges stringing this cello-musical-instrument... They did a good job making her hands look very professional.








One day in a studio I had to copy that photo.
- That feeling of holding the bow that way, relaxing my left hand and just really imagine that I'm playing the most beautiful music on my 100$ eBay cello without a bridge.


I practiced something like 1½ hout today.
Spent 3 hours writing down a new composition I made, 'Siebte Saite'.

I probably also spent 3 hours looking for a new piece that I want to learn. - Right now I'm a bit frustrated, because I can't find anything that I really want to play. Somehow I just want to compose something. Then you get wat you want.


Day 21 - March 28th - A drawing

A friend of me, Hans Ebert, gave me this drawing that he made during a live stream concert some weeks ago. He was in the live audience and drew it without being able to see the paper because it was so dark.
He is a virtuoso.
I'm really impressed and I really like it.
That is just how I recall the feeling of that concert. When you have practiced enough to feel that the cello and you become one thing.













Day 20 - March 27th - Morning and evening

Played for the almost full moon this evening.

You can see it through the window in my practice room.

I have discovered that the fastest way to progress comes when you repeat your practice morning and evening.

It feels like I have done the first round of De Falla's Popular songs, and could move on to something else now.
I'm considering which bigger piece it could be.

It is such a privilege to be allowed to play what you like.






Day 19 - March 26th - Fingerspitzengefühl

So 2dn finger cracked from too much hard skin and 4th finger I cut on a mini plane while building cello.

It hurted too much to play with 4th finger, so I could only practice high register in thumb position today. 

But that was fine. I'm still developing a habit of adjusting the bow angle on the A-string. It makes a big difference to the articulation and power.






Day 18 - March 24th - Under a spell

When you are under the spell of the Practice Muse, the first thing you think of in the morning, - and afternoon - and evening - and in your dreams, is music.
Sweet music, wild music.

I think I got 3½ hours today. But my whole life is affected, and it just feels like an uncontrollable smile has mooved in.
Practice is setting you free. It is making you a better channel for what comes through the music.





Day 17 - March 24th - A revelation

In the morning I practiced a fast piece with the metronome and was wondering why it didn't sound really clear. Why every note sounded more like 'fra' or 'hra' than a clear 'da' or even 'ka'.

It was a minor thing maybe, but not satisfying.

So I took one bare super slowly and gave each note a 'ka' accent. And that revealed to me that I should almost over do the angle on the A-string and then everything sounded better.

Actually hard to explain, but a big revelation to me, because now I can speed up and make that joyful, jumping spiccato. 


Day 16 - March 23rd - A 'march-waltz' in 5/4

Started out with the usual metronome work. I love it!

Then out of the blue I got an idea for a piece.
It is probably going to be for cello and guitar - probably for the tour along Hærvejen with Frederik Munk Larsen in August.

We will make a 500 km concert tour by tandem and foot and have been talking about composing some music specificly for this odd project.

A march is usually in 2/4 and a waltz in 3/4. When you add these two, you get a very catchy 5/4 rhythm.
In the photo I'm showing the music for a live stream presentation with Flensborg Central Bibliotek, where I should have been performing today.

We converted the concert into a duo concert in August. 
You can see the livestream here.


Day 15 - March 22nd - Addiction

Some people would think of a metronome as their worst enemy.
Playing with it reveals any challenging position shift or string transitions.

If you practice too much with it you can start feeling dependent on it, and your playing may become less free and musical.
But for rehearsing new material it is like a magic tool.

For me it makes me stay focused, makes me repeat each section 10 times before I speed up 10 bpm. 
You can measure your progress right there in numbers. It is like playing a game on your computer - very addictive.












Day 14 - March 21st - I'm not much of a music reader

When I learn new music and read from the sheet music, I get so tired in my body. I think I get into some kind of wrong position, so I lay down and strech my back for a while.
















Day 13 - March 20 - MuseScore debut

Today I made my first score in 'MuseScore'. 
It was so much easier than handwriting and I could even hear it on the computer. - Amazing. I hope I will still write down ideas in my real physical sheet music note book. Just because I like the old fashioned way.

This Scherzo is lots of fun to play. Even though I wrote it my self I can't play it yet. Now it's on the 100 days program. Lets see if I'll master it in June.













Day 12 - March 19th - From music to notes and back again

The first thing I did today was composing this little piece.

I think composing is a very good way to understanding the music by other composers.

After I started to make my own music and write it down, I have kind of felt like I'm able to read the mind of Beethoven or Brahms or other famous composers. 

The process of reading the music and making it come alive has become easier. The musical idea behind the small black dots reveals itself.

It's like knowing the process backwards: 'from music to notes', makes the process 'from notes to music' easier.









Day 11 - March 18th - Woodworking is good for your muscles

Woke up and thought I couldn't play today because my arm felt inflamed. Took some magnesium and played a little bit very softly.

Went to my friend Ida Ben Hamadou for our practice club. Playing easy stuff was ok for a few hours.

But after working on my next cello in the workshop it seems like my arm has forgotten what was wrong! (:
So tonight I took another hour with all the thumb posistion stuff in De Falla.

Discovered that you can write in your pictures in Google photos - very fancy!









Day 10 - March 17th - bear with me

Sunshine in the practice room.
I know I souldn't feel bad about this 100 days of practice. But I do. I spend 4 - 5 hours a day practicing, and that is reasonable when you are a musician, I would say.
But can I justify it, when I have such a backlog of emails and messages? - Why didn't I just reply to some of them in this brak in the sun? If you are one of the very kind people that I owe a reply, please bear with me. I'm sorry that it takes a while. I want to reply.

Practice wise I played with the metronome all day. Still De Falla. Found out that I can play some of it by heart already.

My left arm is not doing so well because I practiced too intensely yesterday. Feels like inflamation from 3rd finger. I have kept it warm and practiced with lots of breaks. 




Day 9 - March 16th - Motivation and persistence

Again in the morning things came up and it was past noon before I got a chance to practice.
It's not all bad when something gets in the way of practicing though. When I finnaly sat there with the cello, I was super focused and nailed some spots with the metronome.

Motivation is beneficial to progress, but over time you learn that you can not rely on it in the long run.
Right now I'm very motivated and feel like I'm seeing the world through my cello. (- Let me go for a brisk walk in the sun. That will improve my concentration for the practice in the afternoon. - I think I'll read this article about sport coaching and see if I can use some of their techniques for music. - This salad for sure has lots of vitamin C. I'll eat it so that I'll stay healthy and able to practice...)

But the most crucial factor for progress, as far as I know, is Persistence.
To repeat morning and evening, also on sunny days and days when you are tired or busy. 





Day 8 - March 15th - I want to play more

Today I worked on the last movement called Jota. It's a traditional Spanish dance in 3/8.

It's hard on the thum and I have to train for a while I think.

I only had a chance to practice an hour today, and honestly it makes me a bit impatient with everything, because I just want to play more.

Hopefully tomorrow!





Day 7 - March 14th - Rhythm and joy

One of the songs by De Falla, that I play, is a lullaby called Nana.

It is immensely beautiful. The atmosphere is like walking in air or floating.
The accompaniment is just a simple repeated falling figure, and above that the melody is whispering softly in an ever changing rhythm.
"Sleep my darling
Sleep my little morning star..."
(Of course the cello has to whisper in it's own nonverbal language)

Even though everyting in this music is ment to flow freely, I decided to minutely define the structure of the rhythm. It is 3 against 4 a lot of the time, with tricky subdivisions and triplets. As part of our practice retreat, my friend Ida found the metronome and we dived into the poly rhythms bar after bar.

We laughed and laughed everytime we got it right - and every time we failed.

Sleep, little one, sleep,
sleep, my darling,
sleep, my little
morning star.
Lullay, lullay,
sleep, my little
morning star.

There must be some true to the saying that rythm and joy are connected.

Day 6 - March 13th - Practice retreat

I'm visiting my friend, Ida Ben Hamadou for a weekend practice retreat. - She is also a cellist.
Gosh we have been nerdy all day. She is recording Popper Etude No 1. - Quite a challenging piece.
I have been working steady on last movement of De Falla and learned a tango waltz 'Desde el Alma'.

In the photo I'm having a break with their cat Rosa and some kombucha tea.





Day 5 - March 12th - Finger twisters

These two places are hard to play. 
I have to twist my fingers into awkward positions to play them - and this movement goes very fast...

Wonder how many hours I will spent to learn these two bars that last around a second in the end.
But it is worth it just because the process is so fulfilling.







Day 4 - March 11th - Feeling bubbling

Yesterday evening I was out for a walk and noticed that I felt so bubbling happy and really looked forward to today.
Because I was looking forward to wake up and go straight to the practice room. Just looking forward to repeating those 4 bars in the first movement 10 times.
So that's what I did this morning.

Calluses builds slowly on the side of my thum - haven't used that for a while with all the baroque music I've been playing.







Day 3 - March 10th - How to build confidence

This is so true. Someone posted it on Instagram today.

If you play a passage 10 times and then finally get it right, you have actually taught yourself to play it wrong, because that is what you have done the most.

I have heard that if you do something correct 7 times in a row, you have learned it. You brain has built the nerve connections I guess.

I usually practice each part 10 times in a row. Sometimes I have to slow down to be able to do it, but then at least I know I can do it in that tempo.




Day 2 - March 9th - Morning sun in the practice room

The best time for me to practice is in the morning on an empty stomach. Lovely sunshine today.

Emanuel de Falla first movement:
I have been playing the most challenging passages slowly making sure that I know which position and which tone I'm playing all the time.
It sounds obvious, but sometimes you can play more on the ear and not being aware of the technical details.
But right now I want to build a clear muscle memory, that gives freedom to expressiveness later on.

I have also changed the bowings a bit, to add more Spanish freshness.







Day 1 - March 8th 

Yesterday I played a big solo live stream concert for Santa Cruz Baroque Festival.
It has been months with intense focus on that program, so it was very refreshing to find new music to work on today.

I chose Manuel de Falla 'Suite Populare Espagnole'.
I just went through, found fingerings and bowings.
Couldn't stop repeating some of the challenging passages. It feels so nice in the beginning when it gets easier very fast.

It is so important to be careful from the beginning, to slowly build the right muscle memory with no rush.