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

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 a logically organized sequence, while adding some new variables to the mix. The variations on this page deal with some of the same bowing issues as No. 32, including detaché strokes, staccato, and bow distribution, but the coordination issues are somewhat more complicated.

Theme of No. 33:



The videos in today’s blog, and the subsequent blogs dealing with No. 33, all feature my student Iestyn, who has studied with me for a year. He went through the variations of No. 32, and understands those basic bow concepts.

When first playing the theme I want the students to focus on their intonation before they start thinking about the various bowing variations. Notice that Iestyn knows to check first position before starting (without my telling him to do it), so that the left hand position is set. He also remembered the concept of Expressive Intonation. These are two of the basic ideas about intonation that need to be internalized by this point.



An additional problem involving intonation is what I call “bow intonation”. This occurs when the bow is in the wrong contact point (probably too close to the finger board) and when there is more weight than required. The weight of the bow actually  pushes down on the string and bends it, making the pitch go higher. When this happens people think that their left hand is in the wrong place, but it is actually the bow that is causing the string to shorten and the pitch to change.



Variation #1:


This variation involves playing legato, with many notes in the bow – therefore it needs a low contact point. Iestyn remembered most of the concepts from No.32, including (nicely!) son filé (“spun sound”), which is the idea of playing many notes in the bow with a low contact point.



Variation #2:

This variation should be played staccato, like some of the previous variations in No. 32. By this point the student should know all of the issues involved in playing staccato (i.e. which finger is important, what kind of contact point is needed, which part of the arm is used, etc).



Variation #3:

This variation is rather complicated, dealing with lots of issues: bow distribution, using full bow, playing staccato at the frog and tip, making the sound and articulation match at both ends of the bow, contact point problems, left/right motion, keeping a steady tempo, and coordinating vibrato. We had similar bow distribution problems in No. 32 (eg #4, #7, #13), but this is much more complicated because every note has a different set of properties, and the cellist has to be able to predict what is necessary for a good sound on every note. This is a another good example of how well Feuillard has organized all this material. The basic bow distribution concept was presented three times before this point. In between, the student would have time to absorb the concept before it is approached again in a slightly more difficult variation.

We are also at the point in the student’s development that we need to “turn the screws” a little bit, and raise the expectations. This variation is a good one with which to do that. You will notice that I spent a good bit of time trying to help Iestyn listen better to what he was doing, and helping him recognize what he needs to do to play even better. You will also notice his frustrations in doing so. The feeling of frustration is something that teachers need to address occasionally. We all feel frustrated at times – but we need to figure out how to deal with the frustration by talking about it and recognizing that we are not alone in this. We also have to be sensitive to know when a student is beginning to feel frustrated.

At the same time is up to the teacher to set high standards for our students. They will come up to those standards if we set them clearly, and if they are within reach for the student. It is our responsibility to set those standards and expectations in a healthy way – and to explain to the student why this is necessary.

Since he didn’t quite get all the technical issues, here, I asked Iestyn to repeat the variation in the next lesson – which you will see at the end of the video, after he practiced this variation for another week.



Recently I came across a video that I had made in 1990 with my then-student Adrienne Woods. Adrienne studied with me through high school and then through college at USC. She has since gone on to have a fantastic career in Hollywood and L.A. doing studio work, television shows, and touring with artists such as John Legend, Ariana Grande, and Adele. Here she is in a lesson going through Feuillard No. 33 when she was 12 years old:



As teachers we plant seeds. We water them, and tend to them, but we don’t know how the plants will grow. We work with our students providing knowledge, helping them fight frustration, giving them the tools they need, showing them how to practice, setting standards, sometimes mentoring them and sometimes comforting them –  and then we release them to the world. One of the joys of teaching is watching where the students’ journeys will take them.


You can see Adrienne’s website at https://www.adriennewoods.com .

Next Monday’s blog will continue variations that deal with legato playing and bow distribution.


*If you have questions or comments about The Joy of Feuillard, Dr. Robert Jesselson can be reached directly at rjesselson@mozart.sc.edu.


About the Author:

Robert Jesselson

Robert Jesselson is a Carolina Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches cello and plays in the American Arts Trio and the Jesselson/Fugo Duo. In 2013 he was named as the Governor’s Professor of the Year by Governor Haley and the SC Commission on Higher Education.

Dr. Jesselson has performed in recital and with orchestras in Europe, Asia, South America, and the United States, and has participated in the Music Festivals at Nice (France), Granada (Spain), Santiago (Spain), Aspen (CO), Spoleto (SC), the Grand Tetons (WY), and the Festival Inverno (Brazil). His performance degrees are from the Staatliche Hochschule fuer Musik in Freiburg, West Germany, from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Paul Katz, and the DMA from Rutgers where he studied with cellist Bernard Greenhouse. He has been principal cello of the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Orquesta-Sinfonica de Las Palmas, Spain. In 1983 Dr. Jesselson was in China for a six-month residency, one of the first Western cellists to visit that country. During that time he performed as soloist, gave master classes, and taught at several conservatories (including Beijing, Shanghai, and Canton). In December, 2001 he led a delegation of string players and teachers to Cuba to begin professional contact with Cuban musicians. He has also taught at Sookmyung University in Korea, Sun Yat Sen University in Taiwan, University of Auckland in New Zealand, at the Royal College of Music in London and recently in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. His recent CD of new music for cello and piano is called “Carolina Cellobration” and is available on CD Baby and Cellos2Go.

Dr. Jesselson was the national President of ASTA, the American String Teachers Association, from 2000-2002. During his tenure as president he initiated the National Studio Teachers Forums (2000 and 2002), started the National String Project Consortium (with sites now at 44 universities and grants of $3.1 million), and began the planning for the first stand-alone ASTA national convention in 2003. He was the founding Executive Director of the National String Project Consortium, and is currently on the NSPC Board.

Dr. Jesselson is former conductor of the USC University Orchestra and the Columbia Youth Orchestra, and he was the cello teacher at the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts for 17 years. For 15 years he was the director of the USC String Project, building the program into one of the largest and most prominent string education programs in the country. His pioneering work on this program was recognized in an article in the New York Times in December, 2003. ASTA awarded him the “Marvin Rabin Community Service” Award in 2009 for his work with the NSPC and teacher training. He is the recipient of the 2015 USC Trustees Professorship and the 2010 Mungo Distinguished Professor of the Year, the highest teaching awards given by USC. He has also been awarded the 2002 Cantey Award for Outstanding Faculty, the 1992 Verner Award, the 1989 S.C. Arts Commission Artist Fellowship, the 1995 Mungo Teaching Award, and the first SC ASTA Studio Teacher Award in 2005. Next summer Dr. Jesselson will be teaching cello at the Green Mountain Music Festival in Vermont and at the Cellospeak Festival. He plays a 1716 Jacques Boquay cello.

Robert Jesselson website: http://in.music.sc.edu/fs/jesselson/index.html
Articles by Jesselson: http://in.music.sc.edu/fs/jesselson/articles.html