Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cello lesson 5/31 - Not Doing

The best weeks are the ones where I can't tell the difference between a cello lesson and an Alexander Technique lesson. Which I think means that the over-riding theme of my life as a cello player is that first I need to get out of my own way.

Today's lesson material:
Scale: d harmonic minor, 4 octaves, linked half-notes with 4 quarter notes on bow changes
Bach Arioso - 1st 2 measures
Bach Prelude to 2nd Suite - 1st 2 measures

Left hand things:
* bring the elbow low enough that the finger is flat without needing to either collapse at the DIP or round the fingers to keep on the tips
* vibrato mitten - feel like my finger tips form one unit, all supporting the vibrating finger
* 4th finger - rolling a bit to the outer side helps maintain the curved shape (I need more callous there!)
* imagine a weight taped around my elbow pulling the arm down and back
* shifting - the ONLY thing that needs to happen is that the forearm falls under the influence of gravity. The vibrato doesn't stop. There is no wind-up or extraneous arm motion required (a bad habit left over from T1-)
* extension - thumb and second finger fall with the arm while 1st finger remains behind

Exercise: swing left hand down to side, then up to plop onto the fingerboard. Without adjusting finger position, play vibrato on designated finger, wherever it happens to land.

Right hand things:
* watch the tendency to creep forward, excessive pronation. Keep eye of frog between 3 and 4
* the arm doesn't need the "help" of the shoulders. Watch tendency to raise the shoulders, which may be no more than excess stabilizing tension
* on up bow, feel the left elbow weight causing the bow to move sideways. This works better if the elbow remains low
* think gooey fondue, honey, peanut butter

Position note: when I move the cello straight forward (away from me), the C peg should hit me in the back of my head. If it passes without touching me my cello is slanted too far to the left.

Music is played one moment at a time. I was going to say one note, but didn't want to quibble about chords and double stops. Theoretically, if I play one note beautifully, then the next note, linking note to note, I will be able to play the whole piece beautifully.

Application: I think I need to designate 10-15 minutes of my practice time as "non-doing" time, where the only focus is going from one beautiful, relaxed note to another, inhibiting my habitual (unnecessary) preparation for playing the next note (that is the Alexandrian part). I can do that with my scale, or a couple of measures of Arioso or the Prelude. That needs to be my ONLY focus during that time, probably the hardest part of the whole exercise. Zen and the Art of Cello Playing.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, there must still be a transition from one note to another, right? How is the transition different from preparation? Teach me, Zen Cello Mistress!

Mr L said...

How are you able to play with your knee messed up?

Guanaco said...

I'm glad to see you back in business, well enough, apparently to take on a lesson!

Funky Smith said...

Interesting the post. The one thing that caught me was that you said the forearm falls to shift with no extraneous movement. My teacher always taught me it is like a stroke, with preparation and follow-through. I will have to try it both ways.