Thirds, Thirds, Thirds… — by Lev Mamuya

Thirds, Thirds, Thirds… — by Lev Mamuya

Practice your thirds.  As well as improving your technique, it can be…sigh…well, even a little bit fun.

Many people give thirds an unfair label: they’re boring, they’re tedious, and they’re hard… Thirds are hard at first, and require daily repetition to maintain to the fullest, but never fear! A good daily method can change you from someone who hates thirds, to someone who can look forward to practicing thirds every day.

Scales are always good. Thirds scales are even better. Practicing thirds scales slowly and repetitively is an important way to improve technique such as left hand finger rounding and intonation. Plus, a slow tempo can give you more time to focus on right hand/arm technique. This may not be the most fun part of practicing thirds, but JUST DO IT.  Proficiency in playing thirds is vital to mastering more advanced repertoire, whether you like it or not.I managed to convince myself for too long that practicing thirds wasn’t that important. I realized a while ago that my parents and teachers had a very good point: thirds are very important.  It helps you with technique, and it helps you with repertoire.

Try to find a good thirds book or thirds system. A good thirds book should make understanding the technique involved in playing thirds a lot easier. I recently rediscovered my old thirds book from years past (The Road to Thumb Position Thirds by Martha Gerschefski) and it really re-energized my thirds practicing, as my parents can attest. Your book is your best and most important friend. Love it and treasure it.

Lastly, try to find pieces with thirds in them that you really like. Practice and work the thirds section, but have fun as well. While still maintaining most of your focus on technique, it’s nice to hear a little music too. For example, I like to play Paganini Caprice No. 9 transposed for cello.  The first movement of the Barber Cello Concerto has some nice thirds passages as well. Doing this can serve you well, because let’s face it: purely technical exercises will have trouble fully simulating every possible thirds pattern you will come across in repertoire.

Thirds are a fun challenge and an interesting challenge, albeit an extremely hard challenge. If you don’t like them, too bad: you have to do them. Learn to like them, and your life will be a whole lot easier. Now I’m no “thirds guru,” and other people will undoubtedly tell you that you should only do thirds scales or books, or that you should spend hours and hours poring over them. I believe that if you develop a daily routine (it doesn’t have to be a long one!) incorporating all these elements, you can become a successful thirds player.

About the Author:

Lev Mamuya

Lev Mamuya is fourteen years old and in the ninth grade at The Roxbury Latin School in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.  He is a student of Michael Reynolds at the New England Conservatory and has been playing the cello for the past 11 years.  Previous teachers include Debbie Thompson, Laura Blustein and Paul Katz.  He studies at the Perlman Music Program in the summer and has attended Greenwood Music Camp.  He gave his first solo recital at age five and appeared as a soloist with the Cape Cod Symphony at age eight. He won the Newton Symphony concerto competition in 2007.  In 2008, he appeared as a soloist on the PBS radio show “From the Top” as well as on the TV program “From the Top at Carnegie Hall.”  He was a soloist with the New Philharmonia Orchestra in February of 2010.  In addition to appearances as a soloist, Lev has been an active chamber music since age six.

He currently plays in two string quartets and relishes opportunities to perform outreach concerts in schools and nursing homes.  He is also a member of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra at New England Conservatory.  Besides playing music, Lev also composes music and was commissioned to write a piece for Winsor Music in 2010.  He studies composition with Howard Frazin. In his free time, Lev enjoys reading, hiking, playing video games and basketball.  Most importantly, Lev is a fervent Boston sports fan.