dynamics

100 Cello Warm-Ups and Exercises Blog 8: Open String Warm-Ups Part 2 — by Robert Jesselson

Part Two of Open String Warm-Ups will continue with exercises for sautille, bow changes, string crossings, dynamics, etc. Bouncy Bow Exercise: This exercise is a great way to work on sautille, building it up from spiccato to the fast, uncontrolled sautille stroke. […]

THINKING IN A NEW WAY—Overcoming Habits (Part 4 of 6): The Arm Becomes the Bow — by Selma Gokcen

The whole organism is responsible for specific trouble. Proof of this is that we eradicate specific defects in process. —F.M. Alexander To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders. —Lao Tzu We now come to the bow, the most challenging aspect of cello playing by far. There are so many fantasies and fallacies surrounding the technique of the bow, as well as profound differences of opinion regarding sound production and articulation. Rather than address these directly, I would like to introduce another way of thinking about the bow: as an 'instrument' whose function exists in relationship to the whole body. By starting from the general (the whole of ourselves) and eventually arriving at the specific (the 'bowing instrument'), we might view the process in the right perspective, rather [...]

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 [...]

Exploring Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony — by Jonathan Pegis

Here in just a few measures is an excerpt that has confused, befuddled, and downright scared more cellists than just about any other excerpt (please click image to enlarge): The theme from the second movement of Beethoven's fifth, along with the first two variations, shows up on the vast majority of cello audition lists.  I thought it would be educational to spend some time exploring this theme, and future blogs will explore the first and second variations.  To begin with, this excerpt is one of a handful that I have coached for many years where I am actually LESS confident than I used to be.  Why?  Because every teacher, every coach, and every conductor has had radically different ideas about all the different aspects of this theme.  Temp, color, dynamic, [...]

Playing Audition Excerpts: Yes, the Devil’s in Them — by Brant Taylor

Although the collection of excerpts on an audition repertoire list may seem arbitrary, each one has a purpose: giving the audition candidate an opportunity to demonstrate certain things about his or her playing and artistry. Audition success involves showing a command of certain basic elements—such as rhythm, dynamics, intonation and articulations—as well as conveying a nuanced understanding of the music and the composer. A well crafted audition list will include excerpts that emphasize each of these elements, and a candidate’s ability to demonstrate control and understanding of them will determine his or her chance for success. Let's put these goals into concrete terms using a common cello audition excerpt as an illustration—the opening of the second movement of Brahms' Symphony No. 2:   Brahms Second Symphony, 2nd Mvt. [...]

A New Look at Sight-Reading (Part 3) — by Robert Battey

Successful sight-readers move deftly around within a rigid hierarchy of tasks (“the Levels”).  They’re like fencers, thinking ahead, anticipating the threats and challenges in the music, and adapting what they do on a measure-by-measure basis.  They keep to the hierarchy, adding the next Level only when the lower ones are completely under control; experienced players do not jeopardize the ensemble by fumbling at a Level they can’t handle properly. Thus, effective sight-reading training is about understanding these Levels to the point where you can apply and adjust them instinctively, automatically.  As I’ve said, it’s a different kind of thinking, almost like playing a different instrument.  For most people, the most difficult concept to wrap your head around is that finding the actual pitches comes last.  Simply chasing notes will quickly [...]

New and Old — by Yeesun Kim

This summer I had two very different experiences performing contemporary pieces. The first piece, as it turned out, had several performances spread over two months. Two concerts included working with the composer prior to the concert. The second piece was set up to be only performed once, without the composer's presence and with only two days of rehearsing. Both pieces were quite difficult in their own ways. The first piece called for virtuosity, stamina and the ability to clearly outline the structure and narrative in order to hold the piece together. The second piece was almost the exact opposite. Short and obsessively detailed in its use of sound effects, it abounded in the use of extended techniques.  It employed extremely soft dynamics and seemed to purposefully obscure perceptible structure in [...]

Composing and Playing Music: How Composing Helps Your Playing — by Lev Mamuya

Composing one’s own music can prove to be a very valuable resource when it comes to interpreting the music of others, and vice versa. As a composing musician myself, I find that as I get more advanced in each field, each one’s development seems to promote the other’s. Through composing my own music I have not necessarily gained a greater technical facility, but a more complete understanding of the markings in the music that I play and a deeper appreciation of the composer’s intentions.  The practice of putting in more detailed markings has developed over time. The music of 20th century composers is generally more specific marking-wise than the music of the Baroque era in terms of what composers actually wrote into the music. For instance, the Debussy Cello Sonata [...]

Bernard Greenhouse: January 3, 1916-May 13, 2011

Bernard Greenhouse left us May 13, 2011. Please scroll to the bottom of this posting and add your personal recollections and tributes for Bernie in the comment box. Bernard Greenhouse, one of my true cello heros and a man I loved and admired, passed away this morning in the middle of his 96th year. It was a peaceful death, middle of the night, in his sleep. It was not unexpected, yet it is so hard to accept. Thousands of friends, family and colleagues, generations of students will be saddened by this loss, for his music, his teaching, the legendary warmth of both his cello sound and his personality, have truly inspired the love and devotion of untold numbers. I had been eagerly looking forward to an upcoming visit to Bernie’s home on [...]