In the Practice Room

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 13 – Feuillard No. 33 – Variations #4-9)

In today's blog we will continue Feuillard No. 33 with the Variations #4-9, dealing with legato playing, staccato strokes, and bow distribution. Variation #4 and #5: Notice in the video that Iestyn knows the tempo of these variations when I asked him, because he has written in the tempos that he thinks are good as he works on them at home:   It is important for the students to be able to imagine their tempos before playing them in the lesson. Having practiced them well at home, they should be able to predict the tempos pretty closely. If they can't then it is a sign that they are not using the metronome in their practicing. Although rhythm is one of the most basic music elements, teachers often forget to stress [...]

Épaulement: Cello Playing Through a Dancer’s Lens

Not counting a negligible number of tap classes when I was 5 years old or so, my first real dance classes were at Indiana University, as a sophomore majoring in cello performance. I had long since forgotten my first fumbling steps as a cellist when I was not quite 3, but the struggle of learning a new skill was all too real as I would wiggle into my leotard and tights at 7:30 in the morning to make 8 A.M. beginner ballet class where I would, with my fellow well-intentioned classmates, attempt to contort myself into an elegant swan, but mainly try not to fall down. My teacher was beautiful; everything about her, her hairstyle, her smile, her hands, her long legs, even her voice, was the epitome of grace. [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 12 – Feuillard No. 33 – Theme and Variations #1-3)

Part 12 -  Feuillard No. 33 - Theme and Variations #1-3 The theme of Feuillard No. 32 was all in first position. With this week's blog we will start looking at the next page, Feuillard No. 33, which has a scalar theme that goes up to fourth position. As a result of the shorter string length in the higher positions, there are some new playing issues that involve the contact point. The rule that was mentioned in an earlier blog is: "the shorter the string length, the lower the contact point". And since the contact point is lower (closer to the bridge), we must also adjust the weight accordingly ("the closer to the bridge, the more weight"). This page is a good example of how Feuillard presents the bowing material in [...]

Behind the Scenes with Brannon Cho

We are thrilled to introduce you to Brannon Cho, First Prize Winner of the 2018 Paulo International Cello Competition.  In this conversation Brannon takes us behind the scenes offering insight into his preparation, mindset, and aspirations.   Blogmaster: Can you give us insight as to how the competition felt for you?  Did you play as you aspired to? Brannon Cho:  The competition was quite exhausting.  As opposed to other competitions I’ve done in the past there was almost no time to rest between rounds. In some ways I appreciated it because it was similar to the concert schedule of a touring soloist.  As a soloist, every two days you have a big concert. In contrast, in Belgium last year I would sometimes have a week before I played the next [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 11 – Feuillard No. 32 – Variations #27-30)

Part 11 -  Feuillard No. 32 - Variations #27-30 Today's blog will focus on circular motions, ballistics, and strokes at the frog that combine the upper arm and wrist.   Variation #27:   For this variation, I ask the students to use the full bow at a fairly fast tempo, rather than just playing at the frog as indicated. I am interested in seeing whether they can play with the bow remaining parallel to the bridge at a relatively fast bow speed, while using left/right motion.  This is similar to the very first variation, although it is with all down-bows and a much faster bow speed. If the bow skits up or down the string, then the bow angle is not correct. I also use this variation to introduce the vital [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 10 – Feuillard No. 32 – Variations #22-26)

Part 10 -  Feuillard No. 32 - Variations #22-26 With the next several variations we are getting into some specialized strokes that are used for virtuosic playing: the hooked staccato and sautillé . By working on these strokes at this point in their development the students are laying the groundwork for having the ability to use these bowings in pieces in the future . But I feel that they are really important for reasons other than the virtuosic nature of the strokes. Variations #22-24: There are four different names for the stroke that is used in Variations #22-24: "up-bow staccato", "down-bow staccato", "hooked staccato" and "slurred staccato". Different people use different terms, and the students should be familiar with all of them.  As I explain to the students, these variations are [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 9 – Feuillard No. 32 – Variations #18-21)

Part 9 -  Feuillard No. 32 - Variations #18-21 Today's blog is devoted entirely to dotted rhythms, building on the elements of Variation #8 that we had encountered earlier on the page in Feuillard No. 32. As I mentioned in that earlier discussion, dotted rhythms are notoriously difficult for string players. We tend to play triplets instead of the correct dotted rhythm. This is an example of how logically and well organized Mr. Feuillard's exercises are presented. The one dotted rhythm example earlier in No. 32 helped Caroline to become familiar with the basic issues involved in playing this rhythm. Now that the fundamentals are more secure, a few weeks later, Feuillard adds complexity. There will be more dotted rhythms coming up in No. 33, which will again add to [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 8 – Feuillard No. 32, Variations #12-17)

Part 8 -  Feuillard No. 32 - Variations #12-17 We will continue this week with Feuillard No.32 Variations #12-17, which introduces the essential detaché stroke, sometimes colloquially called a "scrub" stroke. Detaché is perhaps our most important basic stroke, but it is difficult to execute well. Detaché means "detached" but the bow changes are connected in a somewhat legato fashion. So it should not sound "pumped" or disconnected like a staccato stroke. This means keeping the weight in the string constant, but at the same time trying to find a good "ring" in the sound. Variation #12: It is vital that a student recognizes how to produce a good detaché in different parts of the bow, and with different parts of the arm. This variation works on the detaché in the middle of [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 7 – Feuillard #32, Variations 8-11)

Part 7 -  Feuillard #32 - Variations 8-11 In watching these videos, you will have noticed that I am continually asking Caroline questions. This is part of the so-called Socratic or Talmudic method of teaching, in which we ask questions rather than just telling the student what to do. The student is encouraged to consider the problem and verbalize a response. I think that this is a really important approach to teaching because we are constantly challenging the students to analyze and talk about what they are thinking. If the students can verbalize something they will understand it better, and it will be lodged deeper in their psyches. And instead of just spoon-feeding information we are helping them to figure out the answers. When students understand how important that is, [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 6 – Feuillard #32, Variations #4-7)

Part 6 -  Feuillard #32 - Variations 4-7 Before working on the next few variations, I like to help refine the student's understanding of intonation. In Part 5 we talked about the basic concepts of using the perfect intervals to check the intonation with the open strings. We also helped to organize the left hand in first position by checking the first and fourth fingers with the open strings, thus creating a clear "structure" for the left hand (for most people the tendency is for the first finger to be sharp and the fourth finger to be flat in first position). I usually like to give the students at least a week to sort this all out, so that they can play the theme with more stable intonation, especially regarding [...]

Sing. Paint. Dance. (Part 2)

Sing. Paint. Dance. (Part 2) Yes, we can place the bow one inch above the bridge and play various phrases for the purposes of mapping and sensory awareness. We can also take one step back and go about it from a different angle. As we listen to repertoire we can place a brush to canvas or a pencil to paper and emulate phrase length with our hands. We can isolate passages in the score and literally paint them. Feel the duration of notes, their inner lives, through your brush. See the color sustain or fade. Watch the brush as it moves up and down according to contour. For me, although away from the cello, this type of association is the most direct connection to gesture. Let’s be clear, this does [...]

Sing. Paint. Dance. (Part 1)

Sing. Paint. Dance. (Part 1) Sing. Paint. Dance. I am often reminded of a statement made by Tabea Zimmerman that alluded to the idea that all instrumental problems have non instrumental solutions. With that in mind I often advocate a number of non instrumental solutions to any issues that may arise in the course of music making. Each can be connected to one of three wings : Singing. Painting. Dancing. On the occasions that I played with the LA opera, I was around Placido Domingo as both conductor and singer. The latter is clearly his identity in spades. But to hear him sing every vocal line in a rehearsal always echoed quartet life for me. Listening with a sense of integration -each voice existing within the context of the whole. [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 5 – Feuillard #32 – Theme and Variations 1-3)

Part 5 -  Feuillard #32 - Theme and Variations 1-3 Now we are ready to start working on the Feuillard bowing exercises themselves. I usually begin explaining  how to approach the Theme and Variations in the very first lesson. But since most of the time in the first lesson is taken with all the necessary "preliminary" information about the bow (as discussed in Blogs 3 and 4), and with basic information about the scale/arpeggio system and etudes, there will be just a brief introduction to the Feuillard project in that initial lesson. First I explain to the students how these Feuillard exercises are organized, with a theme and then a set of variations. Theme of No. 32: Theme from Lesson 1: https://videopress.com/v/6vwb5UKn Then I explain to them how we check for [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 4 – Preliminaries: The Second Lesson)

Part 4 -  Preliminaries: The Second Lesson Part 3  presented preliminary concepts which are necessary before starting the bowing exercises in Feuillard. These include the "core" sound, the "block of sound",  playing with a "straight" bow, and a basic kinesthetic  understanding of how the bow arm works (the correct movement of the upper and lower arm, and the elbow). These are all issues which should be addressed in the very first lesson with a new student. I spend a lot of time working with the bow arm first, because if a student can't get a good sound with the bow it won't matter how beautifully the left hand works. Basic sound production comes before addressing the myriad number of left hand issues involved in playing the cello (intonation, vibrato, shifting, [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 3 – Preliminaries: The First Lesson)

Part 3 -  Preliminaries: The First Lesson As I mentioned in the Introductory Part 1, I am assuming for this series that I am working with an intermediate level student, building or re-building his or her right hand technique. This may be because this student has a poor basic sound, is playing with too much tension, or doesn’t understand the mechanics of how the body works in playing the cello. With more advanced students it may be because they have never really analyzed or thought about various aspects of bow technique, and as a result they are deficient in executing different strokes or rhythms or styles. The first step, starting in the very first lesson, is to make sure that the student understands the basic principles of the bow arm. [...]