pressure

THINKING IN A NEW WAY—Overcoming Habits (Part 1 of 6): The Value of Quietness — by Selma Gokcen

We can overcome habits of a lifetime in a few minutes if we learn to use our brains. —F.M. Alexander The obstacle is the path. –Zen proverb I offer this six part series of articles to demonstrate how I work with the Alexander Technique to help musicians to overcome deeply ingrained habits. If a quick and easy fix is what is wanted, then the reader won't find it here. The process as I see it is multi-layered—the same habits that affect our cello playing and music-making are also our habits of life, the way we perceive, react and behave, moment to moment. Such observations are at the heart of Alexander's work. Albeit with the help of a good teacher the process of unlearning habits can be easier, there are no shortcuts. [...]

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 [...]

Keeping Healthy On The Road (or in Your Dorm, Home or Apartment) — by Mark Summer

The fall being my busiest touring season with Turtle Island, I’m often thinking of the best ways to stay healthy and happy throughout the dark days of “flu season.” After years of almost constant travel, with endless days of connecting plane flights, shared van rides, and occasionally horrifically early lobby calls, I feel somewhat qualified as an expert at keeping my body in tune enough to weather the storm of illnesses that plague the general population. In 27 years, I’ve never missed a concert due to illness. I thought I had the flu once while on the road, but at a recent physical/flu shot pitch, my doctor informed me that if I was able to play a concert, it wasn’t the flu. Nevertheless, my record speaks for itself. I’m not [...]

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, [...]

Competitions ≠ Success: A Student Perspective — by Lev Mamuya

Not all competitions are created equal. There are good ones and bad ones, and good and bad reasons for entering. Many kids are raised to be competitive, both musically and in school. Kids can feel pressure to do competitions from parents, teachers and peers. Sometimes it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking success can only be measured by winning competitions and that a career in music and admission to a good school are impossible without numerous wins. Competitions are good for many things, but they should not define success. They often consist of just one performance, on one particular day; success is something you achieve over many years through work and dedication. Since most competitions, at the most, will be three rounds over a short period of time, [...]

Ready, Set, Stop! A Different Kind of Preparation — by Selma Gokcen

It is what you have been doing in preparation that counts when it comes to making movements. -F.M. Alexander In all my years of musical training I was shown many important aspects of cello technique, which included movements associated with the bow and left hand—what I call the ‘ready-set-go’ school. Your teacher explains, you listen and watch, and then you do... and then you do some more of this work in the practice room until the movements are learned. I only became aware of the profound importance of another, entirely different form of preparation when I began training as an Alexander Technique teacher. The beauty and simplicity of it took my breath away. Many years later now, as I work with students, some of them express the same incredulity. How [...]

Putting Your Best Foot Forward in Auditions — by Yeesun Kim

Let's face it. A musicians life is full of auditions.  Even when you might not be taking a formal audition, each concert may turn out to be an audition for your next project. For many students, February in particular is a busy, stressful month filled with college auditions, summer festival auditions, recital juries and so forth. When you are a beginner, auditions generally represent a relatively encouraging nudge of  "Do your best." Later, they have greater consequences, and dealing with the pressure can become quite torturous.  Some are more at ease than others, but I believe it is safe to say that auditions are not activities anyone particularly enjoys doing. Of course listening to auditions is not so easy either.  One is asked to sit through 7-8 hours per day [...]

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