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

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 to the lower strings. And the thumb changes position on the back of the neck. My “rule of thumbs” is: when you play on the A-string, the thumb should be under the C-string; when you play on the C-string the thumb should be under the A-string. And of course it should be round, under the 2nd finger, and not pushing up onto the fingerboard to prevent tension. Non-verbal cues can be very useful in reminding the students about their left arm while they are focusing on the right arm.

Variation #12:

Variation #12 can be interpreted two different ways: up-bow staccato (also known as slurred-staccato or hooked-staccato) or as flying spiccato. The students will usually do the first way, since they have seen this stroke in Feuillard No. 32 already. Sometimes they will have encountered a piece that uses flying spiccato, and will have played that stroke as well. But it is important that they can differentiate between the two styles:

Up-bow Staccato: low contact point, middle of the bow (usually), first finger on the bow, heavy sound

Flying Spiccato: high contact point, lower part of the bow, fourth finger, light sound


Variation #13:

This variation looks at first like it might be similar to the previous variation, and that one can do either up-bow staccato or flying spiccato. However…

Variations #14-#18:


These variations all continue with the previous issues, except that they add an asymmetrical bowing pattern into the mix. These are tricky to execute without distorting the rhythm or accenting the single note. The solution is to use a small amount of bow on the single note, since the more bow you use the more it sounds accented. In addition, it is important to use very little bow weight for the single note, and possibly use a higher contact point or change the amount of hair on the string by rotating the stick to have less hair on the string for the short note. It depends on the kind of sound you want, and as always depends on listening and adjusting.

In the video of Variation #18 I again motioned for Iestyn to move his elbow higher on the lower strings.

Variations #19 and #20

For #19 and #20 I ask the students to play with a “lilting” sound in order to present a different concept for playing these variations. In the Baroque period this practice of unequal lengths or varying intensity of notes is called notes inégales;  in jazz it is called “swung notes”.

Notice that Iestyn checked his first position before the final playthrough of #19 in this video: the first finger with the string above (Perfect 4th) and the fourth finger with the string below (Perfect Octave).  I ask that the students check the intonation before each playthrough in order to solidify the hand position. This way they get good intonation ingrained in their ear – otherwise it may be more random. With all the repetitions of these notes this is a good way to establish a good baseline for intonation. However for these videos I have usually cut out the checking process to save you from listening to that every time – but, be assured, the students check the intonation before every variation!

Notice also that I worked with Iestyn here on eliminating the sound of the shifts between first and fourth positions. While this is not the primary goal of these variations, it is important to call attention to the secondary issues that come up, especially when the students are successful in solving the bowing problems. However, as always teachers have to weigh what is important and what is not important at any given moment in a lesson. We usually have to let go of the less important issues in order to focus on the main topics. It is always a question of priorities.

One other thing to note: in these videos you usually don’t see how many times I ask the students to repeat a given variation in order to bring it to “conclusion”. Sometimes that is frustrating to the students. At the end of #20 I reminded Iestyn of Aristotle’s (or Will Durant’s) quote about excellence.

Next week we will continue our exploration into those notorious dotted-rhythms!

*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