Why Cellists Stick Their Necks Out

By Miranda Wilson

How much do you think your head weighs?

Clue: a lot. About 6.8 kilograms (15 lbs). For comparison, the average cabbage weighs around 1.1 kg (2.43 lbs). Bowling balls max out at 7.27 kg (16 lbs).

This blows my mind.You are carrying something the weight of a bowling ball around on top of your neck all day. Chances are you’re also thrusting it down and forward while playing the cello.

Explains why your neck hurts, doesn’t it?

Stop, Check, Notice, Release: Eliminating Tension in Cello Playing

By Miranda Wilson

Every music student knows that when you first go to a new teacher, the teacher is inevitably going to decide that you have a technical problem that needs fixing. Some may be relatively easy to implement. Others, such as a bow hold change, may require a steep learning curve and lots of determination to replace inefficient habits with better ones.

As a cello professor, I can say with absolute certainty that the top technical problem in incoming cello students is excess tension.

Balancing the Bow Arm's Weight

Confession time. I didn’t know what “arm weight” really meant in cello playing until I was...well, let’s say I was well past my student years.

It’s become accepted wisdom that we should avoid the words “pressure” and “force”when we talk about bowing, even though technically — in terms of the physics and mathematics of it — that’s what happens. The thinking is that the word “pressure” sounds tense, therefore we should say “arm weight,” which has a more neutral connotation of harnessing the body’s natural weight to get the job done.

…Which sounds great, as long as you understand what it feels like to do that.

Leadership, Gratitude, and Experimentation in Chamber Music

By Miranda Wilson

Today, during a chamber music coaching, I decided to stop micromanaging my students and let them figure out how to fix their intonation, time, and group sound themselves. I jumped in when needed, and when I wasn’t, I backed off.

I could do this because I trusted them and trusted myself. I knew I had taught them task mastery: of their instruments in their studio lessons, of the language of music in the theory classroom. Using a set of guidelines, it was now up to them to become their own best coaches.

Music Theory for Cellists Part Three: Compound Intervals

By Miranda Wilson

I love to begin a fundamentals workout with shifting exercises, since the process of getting from note to note isn’t necessarily straightforward.

In Cello Practice, Cello Performance, I wrote some exercises in shifting between first and fourth positions, and another shifting exercise dealing with octave shifts in a variety of fingerings. These exercises comprise part of my daily workout, and the purpose of them is to help me feel absolutely comfortable with the goals, mechanics, and success rate of shifting.

Music Theory For Cellists Part One: Solfege & Intervals Warm-Up

By Miranda Wilson

This is my first post in a projected series on learning and using music theory in cello practice. As well as my cello studio at the University of Idaho, I also teach a class in aural skills -- essentially the laboratory class for what students learn in music theory. In most theory methods, the material is taught in a piano-centric way, and I've been looking for a way to make it more applicable to the cello. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some exercises that "kill two birds with one stone" -- that is, teach the principles of music theory at the same time as getting a good cello warm-up.