Long, Long Ago: Wisdom From Your First Cello Teacher

By Miranda Wilson

There are some things that are quite common in beginning cello pedagogy that I don't like much. The beginning bow hold with the thumb under the frog, for example, which teaches--for no good reason--a habit that has to be unlearned later. Another is the "left thumb as anchor," which teaches little hands to hit pitches chronically out of tune, and little ears to accept this poor intonation. I know why some otherwise good teachers are doing these things: because we all want to get a student set up with decent hand shaping so that they can advance to playing pieces quickly and not get bored and quit. But the fact is, poor setup leads to fundamental misunderstanding of how the body can be used to our advantage in playing the cello, and this in turn sets the student up for endless technical challenges later on. 

It's not all doom and gloom, however. When I thought back to some of the exercises I was taught as a child, it seems that many of them make a lot of sense, even if children don't know what they're doing them for.

Driving a Car, Driving a Cello

By Miranda Wilson

The first car I ever drove was a 1991 Ford Telstar with a manual transmission. At first, I was terrified of grating the gears, stalling, or simply not being able to move at all except in mortifying bunny-hops. After I'd figured out how to use the machinery, I realized that what frightened me more was steering the thing, parking it, judging how much space I needed to change lanes on the highway, and that sort of thing.

Playing the Cello "Naturally"? Ask Your Hands How.

By Miranda Wilson

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.

The Multifaceted Gift of Scales Part 3: Fast Fingers

By Miranda Wilson

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.

The Multifaceted Gift of Scales Part 2: Counting and Cross-Rhythms

By Miranda Wilson

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.