Cello Warm-Ups

100 Cello Warm-Ups and Exercises Blog 14: Isometrics, Strength and Articulation Exercises — by Robert Jesselson

In today’s blog I will discuss two related left-hand issues: finger strength and articulation, and offer some isometric exercises to strengthen the fingers. Finger Strength So, actual muscle strength is probably less important in cello playing than flexibility, release of tension, and gentle power.  In Western culture one of the symbols of strength is a powerful tree, such as an oak tree or a chestnut tree. For example, in Longfellow’s poem The Village Blacksmith: “Under a spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands; The smith, a mighty man is he, with large and sinewy hands. And the muscles of his brawny arm…” However in some Asian countries strength is symbolized by a willow tree, which flows with the wind. In a storm, it is more likely for the powerful oak tree to fall than [...]

100 Cello Warm-Ups and Exercises Blog 13: Breathing and Relaxation

We all know how important relaxation is in playing the cello – if the muscles are tight our body and brain do not work efficiently and effectively. If we are tense we can’t shift properly, we are more prone to silly mistakes in a performance, and if our breathing is shallow then not enough oxygen gets to the brain. We need to figure out how to release tension and relax as we play. As Janos Starker said, his entire life was a search for more and better ways to relax. Playing the cello is difficult enough as it is, so whatever we can do to relax will help us perform better and be able to play longer in our lives. I tell my students that I hope that they will [...]

100 Cello Warm-Ups and Exercises Blog 9: Mentalization and Mimes – Part One

Although I am in China this week and next, I would like to share these two blogs on mental practice – it’s “mind over matter”. Playing the cello is very much a physical activity. Our ability to play is in many ways governed by how we hold the instrument and the bow. As soon as we take the cello out of the case and sit down our body automatically does what it is used to doing – […]

100 Cello Warm-Ups and Exercises Blog 6: Balance Exercises, Part Two — by Robert Jesselson

In Part 1 of this blog on finding balances, we discussed the large body balances which are useful in playing the cello. As Elizabeth Morrow wrote in a 2007 article in the American String Teacher journal: “Balance is a necessary component to arriving at maximum energy efficiency with minimal effort, a sensation we interpret as relaxation”. Next, we will explore some of the balances involved in using the bow. I prefer to use the term “bow balance” rather than “bow hold” or “bow grip”, because “holding”or “gripping” implies using muscles. Just as we prefer to use the term “arm weight” rather than “pressure” in describing the way to produce sound, the words we use influence the way we think about what we are doing. In our “bow balance”, the thumb [...]

100 Cello Warm-Ups and Exercises Blog 5: Balance Exercises, Part One — by Robert Jesselson

  "It's All About Balance"   If you can walk or run then you know something about balance, and you do it every day without thinking about it. We figure out how to balance when we are small children, and then we go through life taking it for granted… …until something goes wrong. Then our body has to re-learn how to balance. Recently I broke my ankle, and when it had healed well enough the doctor had me stand on one foot, trying to find my balance—first with my eyes open and then closed. It was harder than you would think. He said that I had to retrain my proprioception, the awareness of the position and orientation of my body involving balance. This sensory feedback system also helps us understand [...]