The Joy of Feuillard - A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 9 - Feuillard No. 32 – Variations #18-21)

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 mix.

Variation #18:


Another problem for cellists in playing dotted rhythms is that we tend to get physically tired from the “exertion” that is involved in producing this stroke. The solution to this part of the problem is to train ourselves to relax physically during the subdivided beat.  I find it useful to ask the students to say the word “relax” in a rhythmical way – this helps with the subdivision and it also helps with relaxing the arm. It is an interesting coordination exercise, but once the students can say the word “relax”, with the “láx” syllable on the subdivision, then the next step is to really relax the muscles while saying the word and playing the notes. This exercise helps to train the physical release of the muscles.

The idea is to consciously relax the muscles of the arm during the longer note, and then to come back into the string in order to articulate the shorter note. This takes a good amount of training, concentration, and repetition to internalize all the elements – but it is worth the time and effort to have this tool in our technical toolbox.


No. 32 Variation #18:

One other concept that I like to discuss with the students at this point is “double-dotting”. Most of the younger students are not familiar with this stylistic feature of the Baroque, and it is time to acquaint them with it. I also want the students to start listening to lots of literature, so I usually ask them to find some recordings of double-dotting in performances of pieces by Lully, Couperin and Rameau.


Many years ago I started working with a talented student who was then in the fifth grade, Wade Davis. I presented the idea of “double-dotting” and asked him if he was aware of this concept. He said “of course”, and proceeded to give me a lecture on the French Baroque, the French overture style, Lully, Couperin and Rameau, and the Bach Fifth Suite. He later went on to the North Carolina School of the Arts, and Peabody – and specializes now as a Baroque cellist. Who would have predicted that…?  You can visit Wade’s website at: wadedaviscello.weebly.com

Variation #19:

This variation is more complex by adding some other elements, including bow distribution, contact point issues, and being able to make the same kind of sound at the frog and the tip. Caroline and I worked quite a bit on this variation, tearing it apart and then putting it together again. I asked her to repeat it the next week, and she improved it a lot.

No. 32 – Variation #19:

Variations #20-21

As you have seen in previous blogs, I ask the students to write in their tempos for each variation (and for etudes and pieces) while they are working on them at home. This helps me know if they are thinking about the tempos in a healthy way, and helps me address issues of rhythm and pulse. It is also a good way to maintain consistency between the practice sessions and the lesson. If a student comes in playing a variation (or an etude or piece) at a tempo that is too fast for them to handle, I can check to see if they are just being nervous, or if they were playing too fast because they were conceiving the tempo at that speed.

In the case of Caroline’s Variation #20 I wanted her to feel the larger pulse of the quarter note rather than the smaller pulse of the eighth note:

No. 32 – Variation #20 and #21:

I was especially impressed with Caroline’s #21 because that variation is particularly difficult for most people, and I usually expect that it will take a few lessons to get it right. When Caroline played it correctly on the first try I wanted to give her my signature “handshake” for having succeeded in something really well.

As I work with the students on all these Feuillard exercises I am interested in knowing how they feel about what we are doing. Some students seem to love doing this detailed and intense work. Others find it “boring” or don’t understand the need for it.  In any case, I like to find out what they are thinking about their work on the Feuillard and then discuss it with them. In Caroline’s case, she is making good progress, but I wasn’t sure if she enjoys this work or not. So, I asked her:

Caroline and Mr. Feuillard:

In the next Blog we will work with the specialty strokes in Variations #22-26: up-bow staccato and sautillé.

*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