Teaching

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 25 – Feuillard No. 35 – Variations #3-9)

  The next seven variations of Feuillard No. 35 all combine legato and staccato playing in various configurations over three strings. The issues involve coordination, and figuring out how to play smooth string crossings alternating with "catch and float" staccato strokes. Variations #3 and #4: At this point, most students are still working with the underlying concepts that we discussed in the last Blog: the twist motion and the release of the fingers while doing these variations. Zach made a lot of progress while practicing these things during the week. Today's videos demonstrate that he is absorbing the new concepts, compared to the videos in last week's Blog. At the end of the next video, Zach had a "revelation" about the relationship between the twist motion and the release of [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 24 – Feuillard No. 35 – Theme and Variations #1-2)

  With today's blog we will begin our look at the Feuillard Theme No. 35, and the variations on that page which deal with string crossings on three strings.  The main issue will be trying to get smooth connections while crossing the strings. This is a lifetime occupation for cellists and other string players. It is relatively easy to play legato on one string, but to play legato while changing strings is truly difficult. There are a number of things we can do to try and get smooth string crossings. One of the concepts, as mentioned before, is to overlap the notes slightly - just as pianists do when they play legato. Another thing we can do is to make sure that there is a nice "ring" to the sound, [...]

By |2019-02-25T03:00:54+00:00February 25th, 2019|Categories: In the Practice Room, The Joy of Feuillard, Teaching|Tags: , , , |

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 23 – Feuillard No. 34 – Variations #26-40)

  Today's variations will work on 16th note rhythm patterns using a detaché stroke with the lower arm and string crossings with the upper arm.  The problems are all similar, so the video clips will show Tristan playing just a few measures of each variation. However, during the lesson he played each variation in its entirety. Variations #26-29: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD_uJxpomPM&w=560&h=315   Variations #30-33:   These variations are similar to the previous ones, but they add bow distribution into the mix. That means we have to try to get the same sound at the frog and the tip. At the tip the main issue will be to use the down bows to get back to the tip each time so that we don't creep to the middle.  It is helpful to use [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 22 – Feuillard No. 34 – Variations #20-25)

  The variations this week will continue the work with detaché bowings and string crossings. I also addressed bow changes and some more bow speed exercises. Variation #25 will again work with wave motions, though faster and in triplets. I also discussed how to approach vibrato while doing the string crossings. Variation #20: Because they are supposed to be played in the middle of the bow,  variations #20-24 all require using the lower arm for the detaché stroke and the upper arm for the string crossings. These variations are great for developing a good, resonant detaché. But it usually takes some time to train the ear for the right sound, and the body for the right motions. A good detaché requires constant arm weight and steady bow speed. There should be [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 21 – Feuillard No. 34 – Variations #13-19)

  This week's variations are all continuing to work with the detaché stroke (lower arm) and the string crossings (upper arm). We will also see the wave motion, which we prepared for several weeks ago by doing the "box" exercises and the finger exercises. Variations #13-16: In this video I asked Tristan again what our definition of detaché is: "detached, but connected" which, as one of my students once said, seems like an oxymoron. But compared to a staccato stroke, which is "detached, but separated", it makes sense.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvWd8fbrIO4&w=560&h=315   Variations #17 and #18: Variation #17 is tricky because it needs to be played completely at the tip. That means finding the right kind of core sound, with a relatively small amount of bow and a low contact point. [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 20 – Feuillard No. 34 – Box Exercises and Finger Exercises)

At this point I begin to introduce several exercises that isolate the various parts of the arm that will be involved in producing wave motions (eg. No. 34 - Variations #19, #25, #39 and #40).  The three parts of the arm that can make these wave motions are the fingers, wrist and upper arm, depending on the part of the bow, the dynamics, and the speed of the waves.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6_G8KcKdaY&w=560&h=315   First we will do the wrist exercises that I refer to as the "Box Exercises".  These isolate the movements that we need for using the wrist in string crossings, bow changes, and various strokes. I like to demonstrate the exercises in one lesson, and then have the students show me the exercises in the following lesson to make [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 19 – Feuillard No. 34 – Variations #6-12)

Last week's Blog dealt with some Arc and Figure Eight bowing figures. Today's blog will continue the Feuillard variations in No. 34 with some Wave and Circle bowing figures, and add some detaché motions to the mix. The string crossings here should happen with the upper arm, and the detaché stroke is with the lower arm. Variations #6 and #7:       In these variations we have both horizontal and vertical motions. The vertical motion is the string crossing - in this case going from the D-string to the A-string with the upper arm.  The horizontal motion is the detaché with the lower arm.  The important thing is that when there are two different motions going on simultaneously (vertical and horizontal) we should use two different part of the arm. For [...]

Understanding Teachers (Part 2)

Jackie and "Hansen" Very often people ask me to talk about my studies with Jacqueline de Pré but for years I desperately tried to avoid the subject, it was almost impossibly painful for me to talk about her. I used to think this was a personal problem of mine. Over the years, meeting other cellists who studied with her, I've understood that we had all had very similar difficulties talking about her. We all studied with her after she had already had to stop playing. When I met her, at 18, I knew her playing only through recordings. I was full of admiration for her but not at all prepared to the shattering experience it was to get to know her. It would take years to sort out myself from [...]

By |2019-01-18T00:51:19+00:00January 18th, 2019|Categories: Teaching|Tags: , , |

Understanding Teachers (Part 1)

This article in two parts is a self-examination in trying to understand what all my different teachers have finally meant for me. I needed years of distance and experience to even start to be able to analyze these complex relationships. It is normal to admire the most recent teacher and feel that the earlier ones were less important and this clouds the fact that we carry them all equally throughout our lives. I originally wrote this text for myself, to get an idea how my feelings had changed over the years and it proved very revealing for myself. I have accepted now to share it so that others might be inspired to make the same experiment. The summer music camps in the 1970s in Finland were goldmines for us young [...]

By |2019-05-27T20:51:50+00:00January 17th, 2019|Categories: Teaching|Tags: , , |

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 18 – Feuillard No. 34 – Variations #1-5)

In the last lesson I gave Tristan lot of information about the parts of the arm that do the vertical and horizontal motions, and I showed him the four basic bowing figures.  In the next lesson I usually ask the students to give me the "lecture" back. In this video, Tristan takes me through all the information from the previous week and he demonstrates all the bowing figures to make sure that he has absorbed all the information. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAOqGX-WK-c&w=560&h=315   Notice that I am not talking with Tristan about things like bow changes at this point. I want him to focus on the main issues of the bowing figures, bow angles, left/right motion, etc. Other subtleties will come later. As teachers we always have to pick and choose what the most [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 17 – Feuillard No. 34 – Basic String Crossing Information)

With this blog we will start working on Feuillard No.34, which focuses on the important topic of string crossings. No. 34 deals with string crossings across two strings; No. 35 is about string crossings across three strings; and No. 36 works on string crossings across four strings.  This topic is critical for string players – we work our entire life trying to make string crossings smooth, connected, and ergonomically correct. We try to use the correct parts of the arm, keeping the joints well-oiled and flexible. We try to make the hard bones of our arms look like they are soft and pliable like the “break-dancers” of the 60’s and 70’s. Fluent bow arms are not only beautifully functional, but they are aesthetically pleasing. Think of French cellists such as [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 16 – Feuillard No. 33 – Variations #27-33)

Happy New Year! I wish you all a happy and healthy 2019 - with great intonation and beautiful sounds on the cello! Today's adventure in Feuillard-land will continue with some more dotted rhythms, and then return to the sautillé and up-bow staccato strokes that were first addressed in No. 32. Variations #27 and #28:   These two variations continue with the staccato dotted rhythms from last week, but this time with hooked bowings. As I mentioned in the past, I ask the students to play each  variation completely in the lesson. In part this is for developing skills of concentration and relaxation. But also because every note on the cello has different properties and we are trying to make them all sound the same. There are no short-cuts in learning these [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 15 – Feuillard No. 33 – Variations #21-26)

Happy Holidays! This week we will be working on two of the most difficult variations in No. 33, and then continue with more variations involving those "notorious" dotted rhythms. Variations #21 and #22: These two variations are perhaps the trickiest on this page of Feuillard No. 33. As I explained to Iestyn in the video, the problem is that the pattern here is in groups of three notes superimposed over a theme which is organized in groups of four notes. As a result, the interplay between these rhythmical units can trick the brain. There are several ways to work this out. Some students actually end up writing the bowings on the music - but it is much better to feel the groupings of the notes. A good technique for feeling the [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 14 – Feuillard No. 33 – Variations #10-20)

This week we will continue with variations dealing with staccato, flying spiccato, bow distribution, and some asymmetrical bowings. Variations #10 and #11: These next two variations continue with the issues of alternating staccato and legato, plus bow distribution. In Variation #10 I reminded Iestyn about his left arm level and vibrato while he was playing. Using "sign language" can help heighten awareness while playing without stopping the "performance". Even though these are right arm bowing exercises, it is important to also pay attention to the left arm as well. Students can get into bad habits - or they can correct bad habits - since there are so many repetitions of the variations. In this case, I was reminding him that there is a twist motion from the back when going [...]

The Joy of Feuillard – A Sequential Approach to Teaching Bow Technique (Part 13 – Feuillard No. 33 – Variations #4-9)

In today's blog we will continue Feuillard No. 33 with the Variations #4-9, dealing with legato playing, staccato strokes, and bow distribution. Variation #4 and #5: Notice in the video that Iestyn knows the tempo of these variations when I asked him, because he has written in the tempos that he thinks are good as he works on them at home:   It is important for the students to be able to imagine their tempos before playing them in the lesson. Having practiced them well at home, they should be able to predict the tempos pretty closely. If they can't then it is a sign that they are not using the metronome in their practicing. Although rhythm is one of the most basic music elements, teachers often forget to stress [...]