bow technique

Conversation with Robert Cohen (December, 2000)

Interview by Tim Janof British cellist Robert Cohen is firmly established as one of the world's leading soloists. His career takes him on major tours of the USA, Europe, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the UK, performing with conductors such as Abbado, Jansons, Marriner, Masur, Muti, Rattle, and Sinopoli. Cohen made his concert debut at London's Royal Festival Hall playing a Boccherini concerto at the age of 12. His prodigy was nurtured by the great pedagogue William Pleeth. He also took part in classes with Jacqueline du Pré, André Navarra, and Mstislav Rostropovich. At the age of 19, after winning several major international competitions, he made his recording debut -- Elgar's cello concerto with Del Mar and the London Philharmonic -- which received several awards and has [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 5 – Feuillard #32 – Theme and Variations 1-3)

Part 5 -  Feuillard #32 - Theme and Variations 1-3 Now we are ready to start working on the Feuillard bowing exercises themselves. I usually begin explaining  how to approach the Theme and Variations in the very first lesson. But since most of the time in the first lesson is taken with all the necessary "preliminary" information about the bow (as discussed in Blogs 3 and 4), and with basic information about the scale/arpeggio system and etudes, there will be just a brief introduction to the Feuillard project in that initial lesson. First I explain to the students how these Feuillard exercises are organized, with a theme and then a set of variations. Theme of No. 32: Theme from Lesson 1: Then I explain to them how we check for [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 4 – Preliminaries: The Second Lesson)

Part 4 -  Preliminaries: The Second Lesson Part 3  presented preliminary concepts which are necessary before starting the bowing exercises in Feuillard. These include the "core" sound, the "block of sound",  playing with a "straight" bow, and a basic kinesthetic  understanding of how the bow arm works (the correct movement of the upper and lower arm, and the elbow). These are all issues which should be addressed in the very first lesson with a new student. I spend a lot of time working with the bow arm first, because if a student can't get a good sound with the bow it won't matter how beautifully the left hand works. Basic sound production comes before addressing the myriad number of left hand issues involved in playing the cello (intonation, vibrato, shifting, [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 3 – Preliminaries: The First Lesson)

Part 3 -  Preliminaries: The First Lesson As I mentioned in the Introductory Part 1, I am assuming for this series that I am working with an intermediate level student, building or re-building his or her right hand technique. This may be because this student has a poor basic sound, is playing with too much tension, or doesn’t understand the mechanics of how the body works in playing the cello. With more advanced students it may be because they have never really analyzed or thought about various aspects of bow technique, and as a result they are deficient in executing different strokes or rhythms or styles. The first step, starting in the very first lesson, is to make sure that the student understands the basic principles of the bow arm. [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 2 – The Sequential Method)

Part 2 – The Sequential Method I believe that it is important for an applied cello teacher to have an organized and logical pedagogical system in order to ensure that intermediate level students are exposed to all the technical and musical information that they need. Just as a math teacher or an English teacher uses a syllabus to create a logical succession of tasks for a young student, the applied studio string teacher should have a clear methodology to insure that all the requisite material is covered and that the student builds a secure technique based on a solid foundation. Very often I hear cellists play who clearly have "holes" in their technique or in their understanding of how the body works. They may never have analyzed how string crossings [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 1 – Introduction)

Part 1 – Introduction I started playing the cello seriously in 1971 when I was 22 years old. I had played somewhat earlier, but had very few lessons and was certainly not even considering music as a career. When I went to college I thought I was going to be a doctor, and I majored in anthropology and linguistics. It was only when I finally recognized that I really didn't want to pursue those career goals that I decided to “try” this music thing. When I went to Freiburg, I played for cellist Marçal Cervera, who ultimately became my teacher. He heard me play, and told me that there was “no way” that I could be accepted into the Conservatory. I just didn’t have the technique or background to make [...]

THINKING IN A NEW WAY—Overcoming Habits (Part 5 of 6): Fleet Fingers — by Selma Gokcen

"The body is like an instrument; it depends who is playing it."  —F.M. Alexander In the Alexander work I do, I consider there are five stages in learning to let go of the left hand fingers in cello playing so they can be free to race around the fingerboard, as well as play expressively. The hand must be soft and empty of all intention in approaching the string. If it has preconceived form and shape, then it cannot function except within the confines of this preconception. In connection with this work, I often ask my students the meaning in Zen Buddhism of "the empty hand that holds the spade." We can think of the fingers as the end of a long chain of joints starting with the upper arm ball [...]

Exploring Beethoven 5th, Variation One — by Jonathan Pegis

Continuing our discussion of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, let us examine the first variation. As I did with the theme, I will first talk about the technical challenges of this excerpt and then look at the musical challenges.  First of all, it is very important that you play this excerpt in the exact same tempo that you played the theme.  A common mistake is to play this variation much faster than the theme simply because of that long first down bow.  One trick that helps is when you finish the theme keep counting the quarter note rests at the end of measure  10, and then count off the two quarter note rests in measure 49.  (Almost like you were making a cut!)  You can do the same thing at the end [...]

The Holy Sextet (Part 1) — by Brant Taylor

Think back to when you were shown how to use the bow to successfully produce different sounds on the cello. In all likelihood, you learned that there is a trio of "variables" that are combined in certain ways to achieve a desired result: WEIGHT, or how much of the right arm's heft is placed into the string from above (I prefer the term "weight" to "pressure," though they refer to the same idea). SPEED, or how quickly the bow is moved laterally. CONTACT POINT, or where the bow hair makes contact with the string relative to the bridge (or fingerboard). While each of these variables is critically important to sound production, the complete recipe for successfully controlling the string with the bow involves more. There are at least three other basics [...]

Tak-Sîm (Pt. 2) — by Jeffrey Zeigler

Here in Part Two of my discussion on Tak-Sîm by Alireza Farhang, I am going to focus on his application on various extended cello techniques. On this topic, I found his approach to be quite fascinating and one that I am especially excited to share with everyone here in the cello community. The piece begins with an audio trigger that I execute by pressing on a foot pedal. The trigger is a low, ambient sound that is sonically enhanced when I play a tremolo on the stick of the bow thus creating an almost a breathless quality. Although a relatively simple technique, for this technique I would suggest using what I call a "guilt free" bow. The reason is because there is a large crescendo at the tail end of [...]

Holiday Blues — by Mickey Katz

It’s an exciting time for the BSO, as we’re finishing a week of concerts and preparing to go on our first tour in a long time, playing some major pieces by Berlioz, Bartok, Harbison, Mozart, Carter, Brahms, Wagner, Ravel and Mahler (really).  But every visit to a retail store or a coffee shop reminds all of us of the inevitable—the day after we return to Boston is our first concert of Holiday Pops. In just over a week, the Miraculous Mandarin will turn into Frosty the Snowman, and Daphnis and Chloe into Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The Boston Pops has been the alter ego of the Boston Symphony since 1885, and is an integral part of the job of orchestra members. During the holidays we’re required to do a good [...]

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