Teaching

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 19 – Feuillard No. 34 – Variations #6-12)

Last week's Blog dealt with some Arc and Figure Eight bowing figures. Today's blog will continue the Feuillard variations in No. 34 with some Wave and Circle bowing figures, and add some detaché motions to the mix. The string crossings here should happen with the upper arm, and the detaché stroke is with the lower arm. Variations #6 and #7:       In these variations we have both horizontal and vertical motions. The vertical motion is the string crossing - in this case going from the D-string to the A-string with the upper arm.  The horizontal motion is the detaché with the lower arm.  The important thing is that when there are two different motions going on simultaneously (vertical and horizontal) we should use two different part of the arm. For [...]

Understanding Teachers (Part 2)

Jackie and "Hansen" Very often people ask me to talk about my studies with Jacqueline de Pré but for years I desperately tried to avoid the subject, it was almost impossibly painful for me to talk about her. I used to think this was a personal problem of mine. Over the years, meeting other cellists who studied with her, I've understood that we had all had very similar difficulties talking about her. We all studied with her after she had already had to stop playing. When I met her, at 18, I knew her playing only through recordings. I was full of admiration for her but not at all prepared to the shattering experience it was to get to know her. It would take years to sort out myself from [...]

By |2019-01-18T00:51:19+00:00January 18th, 2019|Categories: Teaching|Tags: , , |

Understanding Teachers (Part 1)

This article in two parts is a self-examination in trying to understand what all my different teachers have finally meant for me. I needed years of distance and experience to even start to be able to analyze these complex relationships. It is normal to admire the most recent teacher and feel that the earlier ones were less important and this clouds the fact that we carry them all equally throughout our lives. I originally wrote this text for myself, to get an idea how my feelings had changed over the years and it proved very revealing for myself. I have accepted now to share it so that others might be inspired to make the same experiment. The summer music camps in the 1970s in Finland were goldmines for us young [...]

By |2019-01-18T00:37:35+00:00January 17th, 2019|Categories: Teaching|Tags: , , |

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 18 – Feuillard No. 34 – Variations #1-5)

In the last lesson I gave Tristan lot of information about the parts of the arm that do the vertical and horizontal motions, and I showed him the four basic bowing figures.  In the next lesson I usually ask the students to give me the "lecture" back. In this video, Tristan takes me through all the information from the previous week and he demonstrates all the bowing figures to make sure that he has absorbed all the information. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAOqGX-WK-c&w=560&h=315   Notice that I am not talking with Tristan about things like bow changes at this point. I want him to focus on the main issues of the bowing figures, bow angles, left/right motion, etc. Other subtleties will come later. As teachers we always have to pick and choose what the most [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 17 – Feuillard No. 34 – Basic String Crossing Information)

With this blog we will start working on Feuillard No.34, which focuses on the important topic of string crossings. No. 34 deals with string crossings across two strings; No. 35 is about string crossings across three strings; and No. 36 works on string crossings across four strings.  This topic is critical for string players – we work our entire life trying to make string crossings smooth, connected, and ergonomically correct. We try to use the correct parts of the arm, keeping the joints well-oiled and flexible. We try to make the hard bones of our arms look like they are soft and pliable like the “break-dancers” of the 60’s and 70’s. Fluent bow arms are not only beautifully functional, but they are aesthetically pleasing. Think of French cellists such as [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 16 – Feuillard No. 33 – Variations #27-33)

Happy New Year! I wish you all a happy and healthy 2019 - with great intonation and beautiful sounds on the cello! Today's adventure in Feuillard-land will continue with some more dotted rhythms, and then return to the sautillé and up-bow staccato strokes that were first addressed in No. 32. Variations #27 and #28:   These two variations continue with the staccato dotted rhythms from last week, but this time with hooked bowings. As I mentioned in the past, I ask the students to play each  variation completely in the lesson. In part this is for developing skills of concentration and relaxation. But also because every note on the cello has different properties and we are trying to make them all sound the same. There are no short-cuts in learning these [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 15 – Feuillard No. 33 – Variations #21-26)

Happy Holidays! This week we will be working on two of the most difficult variations in No. 33, and then continue with more variations involving those "notorious" dotted rhythms. Variations #21 and #22: These two variations are perhaps the trickiest on this page of Feuillard No. 33. As I explained to Iestyn in the video, the problem is that the pattern here is in groups of three notes superimposed over a theme which is organized in groups of four notes. As a result, the interplay between these rhythmical units can trick the brain. There are several ways to work this out. Some students actually end up writing the bowings on the music - but it is much better to feel the groupings of the notes. A good technique for feeling the [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 14 – Feuillard No. 33 – Variations #10-20)

This week we will continue with variations dealing with staccato, flying spiccato, bow distribution, and some asymmetrical bowings. Variations #10 and #11: These next two variations continue with the issues of alternating staccato and legato, plus bow distribution. In Variation #10 I reminded Iestyn about his left arm level and vibrato while he was playing. Using "sign language" can help heighten awareness while playing without stopping the "performance". Even though these are right arm bowing exercises, it is important to also pay attention to the left arm as well. Students can get into bad habits - or they can correct bad habits - since there are so many repetitions of the variations. In this case, I was reminding him that there is a twist motion from the back when going [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

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, [...]