Listen to Your Body

Listen to Your Body

Eliminating Physical Tension

  • To identify sources of physical tension in your body.
  • To heighten self-perception of what your body feels.
  • Sensing and evaluating your body’s messages requires inward observation. Pay attention to muscular tension and release; seek balanced, fluid motion. As awareness develops, you will likely feel tightness or awkwardness that was not previously perceived. Identify the tension point and discover its release.
  • One does not learn good physical habits and then forget about them. Your daily, life-long goal is the continual further release of muscular tension and search for physical comfort.  Be vigilant.  If you ignore your body, over time it will progressively tighten from daily use and the aging process.
  • Watch yourself in the mirror and ask others to observe your playing.  Another cellist or musician may observe points of tension that you have accepted as normal.
  • Playing the cello should feel comfortable.  If you feel tight, stiff, sore or awkward, you have not found your answers.
  • Investigate and identify the source of the discomfort; experiment with multiple ways to relieve the tension.
  • If you are too loose, you can always increase muscle tension.  If you are too tight, release is not so easy.
  • Every sound you make, memorable or lamentable, is created by physical gesture. A jerky string crossing or shift, an uncoordinated bow change or fingered passage, can most often be solved by a subtle change in body balance, muscular tension or refinement of the motion. Let your artistic search and your ear’s need to be satisfied lead you to an appropriate physical gesture.
  • Listening to your body is the road to mastery of the instrument. Playing the cello well while living deeply in the music requires simultaneous  physical awareness and perception.


The body has its own wisdom: listen to it, learn from it. – Paul Katz

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About the Author:


CelloBello founder Paul Katz is known to concertgoers the world over as cellist of the Cleveland Quartet, which during an international career of 26 years made more than 2500 appearances on four continents, in all of the music capitals, great concert halls and music festivals of the world. As a member of this celebrated ensemble from 1969-1995, he performed at the White House and on many television shows including “CBS Sunday Morning,” NBC’s “Today Show,” “The Grammy Awards” (in 1973, the first classical musicians ever to appear on that show,) and was seen in “In The Mainstream: The Cleveland Quartet,” a one hour documentary televised across the U.S. and Canada.

Mr. Katz has received many honors, including the American String Teacher’s Association “Artist-Teacher of the Year 2003;” Indiana University’s “Chevalier du Violoncelle,” awarded for distinguished achievements and contributions to the world of cello playing and teaching; Chamber Music America’s highest honor, The Richard M. Bogomolny National Service Award, awarded for a lifetime of distinguished service in the field of chamber music; and an Honorary Doctorate of Musical Arts from Albright College. Mr. Katz served for six years as President of Chamber Music America, the national service organization in the United States that has in its membership virtually all of the country’s 600 professional chamber music ensembles, as well as hundreds of presenting organizations, music festivals and managers. As an author, he has appeared in numerous publications and wrote the liner notes for the Cleveland Quartet’s three-volume set of the complete Beethoven Quartets on RCA Red Seal.

Mr. Katz has appeared as soloist in New York, Cleveland, Toronto, Detroit, Los Angeles, and other cities throughout North America. He was a student of Gregor Piatigorsky, Janos Starker, Bernard Greenhouse, Gabor Rejto and Leonard Rose. In 1962 he was selected nationally to play in the historic Pablo Casals Master Class in Berkeley, California and was a prizewinner in the Munich and Geneva Competitions. Of special interest to cellists are his recordings of the Dohnanyi Cello Sonata for ProArte Records and the Cleveland Quartet’s recording on Sony Classical of the Schubert two-cello quintet with Yo-Yo Ma. The Cleveland Quartet has nearly 70 recordings to its credit on RCA Victor, Telarc International, Sony, Philips and ProArte. These recording have earned many distinctions including the all-time best selling chamber music release of Japan, 11 Grammy nominations, Grammy Awards for Best Chamber Music Recording and Best Recorded Contemporary Composition in 1996, and “Best of the Year” awards from Time Magazine and Stereo Review.

In September of 2001, Mr. Katz joined the faculty of The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, following five years at Rice University in Houston and twenty years (1976-1996) of teaching at the Eastman School of Music. He has mentored many of the fine young string quartets on the world’s stages today including the Ariel, Biava, Cavani, Chester, Harlem, Jupiter, Kuss, Lafayette, Maia, Meliora, Omer, Parker, T’ang and Ying Quartets. One of America’s most sought after cello teachers, his cello students, in addition to membership in many of the above quartets, have achieved international careers with solo CD’s on Decca, EMI, Channel Classics and Sony Classical. They occupy positions in many of the world’s major orchestras including principal chairs of orchestras such as Detroit, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Oslo, Norway and Osaka, Japan, and are members of many American symphony orchestras such as Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, National Symphony, Pittsburgh, Rochester and St. Louis.

Mr. Katz has been a participant at many of the world’s major summer music festivals and schools including twenty years at the Aspen Festival, Marlboro Festival, the Yale Summer School of Chamber Music, the Perlman Music Program, Yellow Barn, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Germany, ProQuartet in France, Domaine Forget, Orford, Toronto Summer Music, and the Banff Center for the Arts in Canada, the Steans Institute of The Ravinia Festival, The Heifetz Institute, and is a Director of the Shouse Artist Institute of the Great Lakes Chamber Festival. His hundreds of master classes worldwide include many of the major music schools of North and South America, Europe, Israel, Japan and China. Mr. Katz frequently sits on the juries of international cello and chamber music competitions, including the Leonard Rose International Cello Competition, the Gyeongnam International Cello Competition in Korea, and the international string quartet competitions of Banff, London, Munich, Graz and Geneva.

Paul Katz currently resides in Boston, MA with his wife, pianist Pei-Shan Lee.

Mr. Katz plays an Andrea Guarneri cello dated 1669.