Expressive Use of the Bow (Brahms e minor Sonata)

  • To create mood, direction and phrase shape with the bow.
  • Strengthen your conception, your ideal: What phrase shape do I want? What are the expressive notes to lean on or back away from? How can my bow make the color and phrase shape that I hear in my head?
  • Creativity is circular.  Imagination gives birth to a concept, a sound. Emotional and rational reactions to what we hear guide the hands toward the conception of that initial concept.  Ear, mind and body connect in oneness with the music and the cello.  Together, they inspire and effect the original conception, which evolves to a higher level or even spontaneously transforms. This circular interaction goes forward and backward in infinite loops.
  • Touch the cello as you want it to sound.  Physical gestures are not independent of mood, color, character–they create it.
  • Feel the mood in the gesture of your hands. Allow the emotional and the intuitive to guide your bow speeds, arm weight, articulations and vibrato.
  • Listen not only for mood and shape, but also for the architecture of your phrasing.  A wonderful musical idea needs to be proportioned–most contours should be logical and evolutionary in their rise and fall.
  • Phrases need horizontal direction– notes should feel and sound that they are taking you someplace. Even one note can have direction within itself–feel it taking you to the next.
  • The miracle of the ears is that they can simultaneously govern everything!  Color, character, tempo, rubato, intonation, phrase shape, balance, proportion–the concerns and possibilities are infinite–enlarge your listening to hear them all.


Our heart has the most wonderful partner in our hands–their gestures are the outward expression of what we feel inside. William Pleeth

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