The Joy of Feuillard - A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 6 - Feuillard #32, Variations #4-7)

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 6 – Feuillard #32, Variations #4-7)

Part 6 –  Feuillard #32 – Variations 4-7

Before working on the next few variations, I like to help refine the student’s understanding of intonation. In Part 5 we talked about the basic concepts of using the perfect intervals to check the intonation with the open strings. We also helped to organize the left hand in first position by checking the first and fourth fingers with the open strings, thus creating a clear “structure” for the left hand (for most people the tendency is for the first finger to be sharp and the fourth finger to be flat in first position). I usually like to give the students at least a week to sort this all out, so that they can play the theme with more stable intonation, especially regarding the first and fourth fingers.  But then we need to address the middle fingers – the second and third fingers. For this I like to introduce the concept of  what Casals called “Expressive Intonation”:

Expressive Intonation:

Now we will continue with the next several variations in Feuillard #32, dealing with Bow Distribution, staccato strokes, and a combination of those two concepts.

Variation #4:

The definition of Bow Distribution consists of  two concepts:  “how much bow we use, and which part of the bow we use”.  In Variation #4 students will need to use the full bow (making sure that they really go all the way out to the tip), and then the upper half of the bow (using the lower part of the arm), and then the full bow (making sure that they go all the way to the frog), and then the lower part of the bow (using the upper part of the arm).

And they should be using Left/Right motion in order to further instill the concept of balance. However the choreography for the Left/Right motion is now a bit different: at the tip they should stay on the left side when using the lower arm and not rocking back and forth; then when they are using the upper arm in the lower part of the bow they should stay on the right side. We are training the coordination of the body for optimal ergonomic use, and this take some concentration until it becomes natural and easy.

Variation #4: 

I ask the students to write in their tempos for each variation at home, trying to figure out what the best speed should be for each one. Some variations “require” a slower tempo (e.g. those using the full bow); for other variations students will want to challenge themselves and find a faster tempo. Needless to say, there is a range of tempos that is possible – but as long as the student is in the “ballpark” with choosing a good tempo they are ok. One common element in finding the tempos is that we want a “core” sound, and they should use a good “block of sound”. It is more difficult to play with a low contact point and a good full sound – so that is what they should be looking for and practicing. If they choose a softer sound and a higher contact point I work with them to help change their “sound concept” to make the core sound their default for now. It usually takes a few lessons for the students to “get” what I am looking for in finding the tempos.

Variation #5:

This variation is written with dots over the notes. That could be interpreted as either staccato or spiccato.  However I ask the students to play this variation only staccato for several reasons. First of all, they will be doing “off the string” strokes (spiccato)  in their daily scale work (the first scale system that I have them do from lesson one onwards is a legato two octave system. In addition to the legato scale I also ask them to play the scale “off the string” using eight notes, triplets, 16th notes, sextuplets and octuplets at about 60 to the pulse. This lets them experiment with spiccato right away. Playing spiccato every day in this way gets them used to playing with this light stroke, and prepares them for being able to play a fast sautillé towards the end of No. 32). So, they are already getting some daily experience with spiccato.

Another reason for using staccato in Variations #5 and #6 is that they will absolutely need this stroke for Variation #7 (we can’t play spiccato at the tip, so it must be played staccato).  And, playing with a good staccato with a good sound is in some ways more difficult than spiccato, because it is played closer to the bridge, with more weight. So we need to practice the more energetic and difficult stroke first. We practice what is hard, not what is easy!

In addition, Feuillard indicates “M” (middle of the bow) in Variation #5.  For it to be played spiccato would require a very fast tempo, which is not important for a developing cellist at this point. So Variation #5 should be played with a staccato stroke, with equal attacks on the up and down bows at about 60 to the quarter note. The stroke is done in the middle of the bow with the lower arm and with the first finger “kissing” the stick onto the hairs and then releasing.

Variation #5:

The rule that I mentioned here is “the lower the string the less bow speed is required; the higher the string the more bow speed”. That is why violinists have longer bows than bass players.

Variation #6:

The next concept that I need to share with the student (required for both Variations #5 and #6 as well as the upcoming detaché and many other strokes) is what I call “Catch and Float”. Every individual note has a beginning (the “Catch”) and then some sort of shape from the middle to the end of the note (“the Float”). There are innumerable possibilities for each of these, and all sorts of combinations of the two together. The “Catch” can have a hard accent, or a forte/piano sound, or a sforzando, or a delicate beginning, etc. And the “Float” can be lighter or heavier or with a crescendo, etc. The more colorful and creative one can be, the more interesting the playing. But we need to have total control of the “Catch” and the “Float” for every note.

Catch and Float:

Variation #7:

This variation deals with a combination of bow distribution and staccato (based on variations #4 and #5).  By combining these two concepts the students are working on coordination. This is a good example of how the Feuillard builds technique in a logical and sequential manner. We learn one thing, then we learn another, and then we combine them. 

For the left/right motion we need to learn a new choreography: staying on the left side when playing at the tip, and on the right side when at the frog. We will also have to change the contact point from high (for the quarter note, because of the fast bow speed) to low (for the staccato notes) for the same volume. Sometimes I need to remind the students to continue to use vibrato (that is what I was doing in this video shaking my left hand while she was playing) – this is important for the sound, but also because it involves coordinating the left/right motion with the completely different motion of the vibrato. It is like tapping our head and rubbing our stomachs!

Variation #7: 

As we work on the various bowing issues, we also always need to remind ourselves about basic fundamentals, such as our sitting position or the fact that we need to prevent ourselves from crunching down. And we need to pay attention to things like the bow angle, the Front and Back of the hand, the elbow arc, etc. In short, we need to “multi-task”. I sometimes tell the students that this is “good multi-tasking” – playing, while listening to our colleagues, while watching the conductor, etc. As opposed to “bad multi-tasking” such as driving and texting!

Next week’s blog will work with variations #8 – #13, dealing with dotted rhythms, more staccato strokes, and detaché strokes.

*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