practicing

Emanuel Feuermann and the Art of Phrasing — by Brinton Averil Smith

There has been a long-running debate in the string-playing world regarding the 'Golden Age' of string playing, generally considered to span the 1920s to the 1960s. While many today are happy to listen to and model their playing on more contemporary players, there has been a persistent argument made that the players of that era—Heifetz, Feuermann, Kreisler, Oistrach, Casals, and numerous others—played in a different way than more recent players. It is easy to dismiss this argument as the eternal 'nothing is as good as it used to be' meme and, when painted with too broad a brush, such generalizations quickly fall apart. The string players of that era were, after all, a group of vividly different players with different approaches—as are today's players. Yet when one begins to examine [...]

By |2018-12-19T17:55:07+00:00May 18th, 2018|Categories: Artistic Vision, Self Discovery|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Numbers — by Jonathan Thomson

I believe in numbers. Part of what I love about running is that everything is quantifiable. I can track distance and pace meticulously throughout my training, and from that data predict my race time with alarming accuracy. By wearing an inexpensive device on my wrist, I can track my calories burned, activity throughout the day, and sleep (including deep vs. light sleep, and when I wake in the middle of the night). Through a free website (many are available), I can track my runs and see colorful graphs that can show how intricate relationships between distance, pace, rest, weight, weather, and wear on my shoes all add up to my overall running performance. My cello life can be less intentional. First of all, there’s no way to truly quantify "musical goodness." [...]

Enjoy Your Cello Playing, Always — by Mark Summer

I was practicing prelude from Bach’s G Major cello suite the other day when a thought suddenly occurred to me. I was having fun practicing! It certainly wasn’t the first time I had that experience, however, the feeling was as fresh as the air after a rainstorm. Often, when things get hard in a practicing session I sort of slam myself with a cascade of negative thoughts: “Mark, you should play this better than this! How many years have you been working on this piece? Can’t you play more in tune? It sounds like &^@#!” and on and on and on. But this time, the self-talk was different. I noticed that I was enjoying focusing so intensely on music I had sometimes mindlessly breezed through many times before. I began to really appreciate Bach’s genius and compositional prowess. I noticed where the phrases [...]

By |2018-01-19T04:35:51+00:00November 5th, 2015|Categories: Artistic Vision, In the Practice Room, Self Discovery|Tags: , , |

Improve Your Talent: Breathing Awareness and Control — by Gregory Beaver

In "Developing a Technique to Improve Your Talent," I laid out 6 things that I have been using actively in my teaching to improve my students’ talent.  This post will investigate the first of these, Breathing awareness and control. “I am so totes aware of my breathing!” you might be thinking, especially if you are a vocalist or a woodwind/brass player.  However, in my experience, there are very few people who are truly aware of their breath.  Breath awareness is not just about being able to breathe in and out and notice it.  It is the ability to do something very complicated and still notice your breathing.  For those who do not use their breath to create the music, it is about using your breath to provide energy and power when needed, and [...]

THINKING IN A NEW WAY—Overcoming Habits (Part 3 of 6): My Cello and Me, a Dynamic Partnership — by Selma Gokcen

Trying is only emphasizing the thing we already know. —F.M. Alexander Just as you have the impulse to do something, stop. —Early Zen scripture (anonymous) Once a reasonable base of understanding is established and a student is able to stop, wait and stay back (this means leaving their back back rather than rushing forward) in the face of simple activities like sitting in and standing up from a chair, going up on the toes, all basic procedures long established in the Alexander Technique, the next challenge is to take up the cello. For each player, their instrument has associations, sometimes happy, sometimes fraught with tension and negative experiences. Just seeing their instrument makes some of my Alexander students anxious! And they are surprised that they don't have to pick up [...]

A New Year’s Goal-Setting Session — by Mark Summer

As the New Year dawns bright and full of possibilities, (the financial cliff not withstanding), this is a useful time to contemplate where we stand on our path of development as musicians, and to think thoughtfully about where we’d like to be in the coming year. My wife and I make it a priority to take turns, voicing our goals, and writing down each other’s dreams and aspirations for the coming year. It gives us a supportive place to dream big and to begin to put into practice what we are imagining for ourselves. Even if you don’t put much credence in books like “The Secret”, which posits that positive thinking brings us what we think about, I think that we can all agree that it’s useful to know what [...]

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, [...]

What You Did This Summer — by Brant Taylor

We are now in mid-summer, and countless musicians of all types are at various summer music festivals and camps engaging in musical activities that likely differ in some way from the artistic lives they lead during the rest of the year.  Whether a student or a professional, a change of scenery and the opportunity to meet and collaborate with new colleagues has many benefits.  Certainly, for those of us who spend the academic year engaged primarily in one musical activity, summer is a valuable opportunity to do something different. For professional musicians, the tendency to be defined by their "main" musical job or pursuit is strong.  A quick look down the faculty roster of the Mimir Chamber Music Festival, from which I just returned to my full-time position with the [...]

Stage-dreaming — by Mickey Katz

A few days ago I was on the Symphony Hall stage, playing Brahms’s A German Requiem in concert.  While playing the second movement, I started thinking about what I was going to make for dinner the following night. The last time I cooked it, I thought, it came out a little dry. Maybe this time I should… But wait a second, I was playing one of my favorite pieces in one of the world’s best halls, with a great orchestra and a great conductor, how could I not be completely absorbed in what I was doing? Was I the only one on stage whose mind was wandering, and if not—did anyone in the audience notice? I was aware that I was a part of a great concert, and the audience [...]

What’s the Passcode? — by Brant Taylor

In the reader chats I've hosted on this website, certain discussion topics make frequent appearances.  One of those topics, a question I hear often from students and other amateur musicians, is: "How do you practice?"  It's easy to see why.  The assumption is that professional musicians must be great, or at least successful, practicers, and that insights into the habits of accomplished musicians should provide valuable information about how to improve and make the best use of practice time. While I am always happy to share information about my own practicing, I always make an important qualification: practice is a personal thing.  There is no one way to practice, no secret passcode to gain entry to the clubhouse of good cello playing or success in the music profession.  You must [...]

The Eyes Have It (Part 1) — by Selma Gokcen

One of the most valuable indicators of well-functioning coordination is eye movement.  I have noticed for a long time now that there are different types of gaze in musicians. The "well-trained" musician of today often exhibits what I call blinkered attention, the result of years of too much effortful practice. The strain around the eyes is visible and often accompanied by laboured breathing. Caught by inward feelings and sensations, this musician is "concentrating." In the words of my Alexander teacher, the original meaning of concentration used to be: to relate a set of factors to a central point. It has been increasingly misused in our educational system to encourage the shutting out of everything else out to focus on a single thing. Concentration therefore as a useful aim has been [...]

It’s Time to Start [NOT] Practicing — by Martha Baldwin

It’s September, the school year has begun, and the concert season is looming large. This time of year is the New Year’s Eve of the academic and music world—a time for resolutions and new beginnings. For cellists everywhere these resolutions often focus around practicing—namely doing more of it. For myself, I somehow already feel behind and the temptation to try to cram as much work in as possible, especially on my “day off” from the orchestra is strong (well, to be honest there are other days when the temptation to sit on the couch is stronger). But this year my resolution is two-fold.  Yes, I want to prepare upcoming repertoire earlier than ever this year but before I come up with a plan for that, I’m going to be planning [...]

Self-Motivation and Summer Vacation — by Brandon Vamos

As I helped my students over the last few weeks in preparation for their juries and looked through my calendar to discover how many recitals I will be attending before the middle of May, it suddenly hit me. The end of the school year is upon us once again. That time when there’s one final burst of juries and lessons, tests and papers before summer vacation hits. And after a long academic year, summer vacation can offer a welcome change. I remember those summers I was attending summer programs, and had three or four weeks off, or those students who sometimes have the entire summer devoted to working or relaxation. But regardless of what your summer plans may look like this year, I’d encourage you to remember one very important [...]

I Found my “Dream Quartet” in an Unexpected Industry — by Margo Drakos

My love for string quartets drew me to the cello, or rather, it motivated me to practice. It isn’t just the repertoire—I was hooked by the music the first time I ever heard the early Guarneri recording of the Cavatina and Grosse Fuge.  I love the idealist concept of a quartet, and the feeling of playing an individual voice that joins together with three other voices to form a single interdependent expression.   I also love the cellist’s role in a quartet, as it requires a multitude of skills.  At once the quartet cellist is the anchor, sometimes quietly without notice, sometimes with declarative strength, sometimes a supportive counterpart, yet at other times is the prominent, docile melody.  I have taken great pride in seeking the seemingly unattainable perfection of [...]

Support the merger of the
Internet Cello Society and CelloBello!

Donate

Please consider a tax-deductible contribution
to CelloBello today!

Join the CelloBello Community and our mailing list!