Sometimes we encounter repetitive passages in the repertoire that tire the hands very quickly if we use conventionally "good" technique. Creative compositions call for creative performance solutions, including ways of playing that may initially look like "bad" technique. I call these "cello cheats."
Sound is everything. That's my mantra. Without a compelling tone quality that makes the audience want to keep listening, every other aspect of a cellist's musicianship will go unnoticed.
In the early stages of teaching cello to a beginner, any good teacher is concerned with shaping the student's hands in a rational manner, i.e. fingers curved and not buckled, joints flexible and not locked.
Much has been written about playing the cello "naturally." My feeling is that the most "natural" thing we could do is to shape our cello-playing and bow-holding hands according to what our hands themselves want to do, rather than according to a preconceived idea of what hand positions ought to look like.
“I’m having trouble motivating myself to practise.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard this, I’d be that mythical creature, a rich cello professor.
Motivation is sporadic. Motivation is elusive. Motivation is not rational.
In my last two posts on scales, I focused on using scales for (1) improving bow control in tone production and (2) improving musicianship through counting and cross-rhythms.
Scales are, of course, useful for improving a multitude of things--just about any aspect of cello fundamentals, or of building musicianship. A main argument my book, Cello Practice, Cello Performance, is that "technique is art"--everything is part of the same goal.
In my last post on scales, I demonstrated how we can use scales as a vehicle to isolate and improve the fundamental cello technique of bow control at increasingly slower speeds. Today, I will show how we can use the familiar exercise of scale-playing to improve a fundamental technique of musicianship, and an essential professional skill--counting.
(This post will be part 1 of a 3-part series.)
I'm always surprised to hear scales described as boring, because for me, a daily ritual of scales-playing has a meditative, almost devotional feeling that focuses my energy for the rest of my practice day.
Scales, can be boring, of course--if you're sawing dutifully up and down the cello without understanding what you're doing it for. But practised mindfully, scales are the gift that keeps on giving.
What cellist hasn't been told this?
Frankly, instructing someone to relax is about as effective telling them to "CALM DOWN!"--i.e., practically guaranteed to produce the opposite effect.