intonation

Practicing, Some Practice Advice (Part 1) — by Michael Haber

I've written this brief essay for purely selfish reasons: I like to see my students improve. When they do, I feel happy, they feel happy, I go home for dinner a happy man. What follows is intended to help you organize your practicing, and your thinking about your practicing, in an effective way. Your progress, mine too, depends on the quality and quantity of this work. It's also intended to encourage you to practice, period. Not all of my students are always inclined to work as well and as much as they should. I should confess from the beginning that I have always loved practicing. It is the royal road to instrumental mastery and the incomparable satisfaction of playing music as well as it deserves to be played. I have [...]

100 Cello Warm-Ups and Exercises Blog 16: Cello Geography – Part Two: Extensions

In many ways holding and playing the cello is just a “natural” addition to the body. The instrument rests nicely on our chest, we don’t need to twist and contort our arms like violinists, and if we employ weight, healthy balances and learn the ergonomically healthy use of the body we should have no pain or tension in playing. One of the only things that is not quite “natural” about playing the cello is our left-hand extensions. Stretching between the first and second fingers requires some specific training. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I used to walk around Freiburg as a student with a cork between my fingers to help train this stretch: […]

Working With the Infinite Onion — by Thomas Rosenberg

Here’s a riddle for you: I am like an infinite onion. There is always another layer of me for you to peel back and you might feel like crying the entire time. I am also like doing the dishes. There is always another meal to eat and that means there will always be more dirty dishes for you to clean….forever!     What am I? The answer is:  INTONATION! Great intonation in a chamber music ensemble is one of the most difficult technical aspects to achieve for any group striving for excellence. It often requires a lot of rehearsal time, can test anyone’s patience, and all your hard work can seemingly disappear on stage, even for professional ensembles. I would like to explore the reasons it can be so tricky and complicated, [...]

Phrasing and Meter

Today’s ruminations have to do with musical phrasing.  As a music critic for the Washington Post, I’m regularly attending concerts of all kinds.  That, plus a lot of chamber music coaching, leads me to ruminate on this subject often.  The ability to produce clear phrasing is just as important as having good rhythm or intonation, but a lot of folks don’t do it well, or as well as they think.  Remember, in grade school, when we had to take turns reading aloud from the book?  And how some kids were flat, with little inflection and the same pause between every word, while with others it came out sounding like natural speech?  To a certain extent it’s the same with music, sometimes even at the professional level. It’s often been remarked that the [...]

The Swan — by Arnold Steinhardt

When I was eleven years old, my violin teacher assigned me The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns. I had no idea that The Swan was a famous cello solo or that it was part of a much larger work, “The Carnival of the Animals.” I had never even heard of its composer, Saint-Saëns, or seen his name in print before. I wondered why there was a funny line between his two-word last name and what could be the purpose of those strange dots perched on top. And was Saint-Saëns actually a saint? I thought that The Swan was very pretty and probably associated the music’s title with its general mood in some vague way. As a child, I often saw swans gliding regally through the water on the lake near where [...]

Exploring Beethoven’s Fifth: Second Variation — by Jonathan Pegis

Picking up where we left off last time, at the conclusion of variation 1 it is a good idea to keep counting in between the two variations.  You want to play this second variation in the exact tempo as the theme and first variation.  I will say right at the outset that there is no ideal fingering for this excerpt!  It just doesn’t lie well on the cello.  My fingering is a bit unusual in that I do not use the thumb at all, or any open A strings.  I do, however, use the A string for some of the notes.  I highly recommend not playing the open A just because it tends to really stick out.  Many cellists don’t use the A string at all which is also fine [...]

Exploring Beethoven 5th, Variation One — by Jonathan Pegis

Continuing our discussion of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, let us examine the first variation. As I did with the theme, I will first talk about the technical challenges of this excerpt and then look at the musical challenges.  First of all, it is very important that you play this excerpt in the exact same tempo that you played the theme.  A common mistake is to play this variation much faster than the theme simply because of that long first down bow.  One trick that helps is when you finish the theme keep counting the quarter note rests at the end of measure  10, and then count off the two quarter note rests in measure 49.  (Almost like you were making a cut!)  You can do the same thing at the end [...]

Tak-Sîm (Pt. 2) — by Jeffrey Zeigler

Here in Part Two of my discussion on Tak-Sîm by Alireza Farhang, I am going to focus on his application on various extended cello techniques. On this topic, I found his approach to be quite fascinating and one that I am especially excited to share with everyone here in the cello community. The piece begins with an audio trigger that I execute by pressing on a foot pedal. The trigger is a low, ambient sound that is sonically enhanced when I play a tremolo on the stick of the bow thus creating an almost a breathless quality. Although a relatively simple technique, for this technique I would suggest using what I call a "guilt free" bow. The reason is because there is a large crescendo at the tail end of [...]

The Music of Movement — by Selma Gokcen

It is a great pleasure to tickle your screens from across The Pond, as they call the Atlantic Ocean here in Great Britain.  I am honoured to be invited to add a few views to what is already a splendid site for cellists and a fruitful educational resource.  The London Cello Society is an important part of my work, and as a nurturer of the cello world in the United Kingdom, I always celebrate a new addition to the Cello Cloud from which we can benefit. Our members are just getting to know CelloBello and they will no doubt enjoy and learn from it. It is said that the best things to write about are those you love. Therefore it makes sense in this first blog to introduce my passion [...]

Defining the Intangible — by Melissa Kraut

Several years ago I was asked to contribute to an article for Strings Magazine on "what teachers look for in an incoming student."  I was excited about the article—what a fantastic idea—a compilation of suggestions from teachers who listen to 100+ cellists a year auditioning for music schools!  Despite my best intentions, I still haven't crafted a contribution. (Here is where I should publicly apologize to the cellist, who is no doubt reading this entry, for the 3 year delay in responding to your request).  My neglect  was not for lack of interest, or lack of knowledge or experience on the subject.  It came down to the difficulty in putting words to something that  is so nebulous—defining the intangible.  The title for this entry popped into my head during audition [...]