Author: Emily Wright

Excalibow

The 2nd movement of Beethoven 5 has claimed many a victim at symphonic auditions. It seems to be custom made to sound great in a section, but like utter chaos when played alone. Same with Don Juan, as magnificently put by Blake Oliver in this blog entry. For years and years, I have chipped away at this thing. I have changed fingerings, hand shape, bow style. Practiced it dotted, reversed, slurred, single, odd groupings, metronome, freeform…you get the picture. I even went through a period of going to sleep with Ron Leonard’s excerpt CD on, hoping for some sort of middle of the night osmosis. My efforts reached their zenith last week, and in abject frustration, I called Matt Cooker, a friend, colleague, and generally amazing cello guy, to listen to my rep for an upcoming meeting I have with the principal cellist of an orchestra I hope to play with. It was good. Really good. First off, he laid some Galamian and Starker techniques on me. Worked on unusual joint flexibility. Sorted out fingerings. It was sounding better. But then… ….I used this bow. And it sounded like a different cello. I am the first to say that good gear gets you far. But I am also in favor of students amassing years of solid technique before going the quick and dirty route of an instrument or bow...

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Be Prepared

Maybe you don’t need this list. But maybe your students do! Things to have in your cello case: 1) spare bow and rosin 2) at least a good spare A (whole set is ideal, but pricey, I know) 3) nail clippers 4) ibuprofen for headaches and sore arms 5) fabric band-aids (plastic rattles against the fingerboard and you can’t feel the instrument as much) 6) rock stop 7) lint-free cloth 8) ear plugs 9) business cards, if you have them 10) a few dollar bills and a dollar in quarters for vending machines, parking meters, and pay phones 11) emergency granola/energy bar for random starvation at foodless places 12) a few mechanical pencils with good erasers on them There is a sting to each of these points, for, at one point or another, I have been in dire need of an item, and have suffered in its absence. I once even forgot to put my instrument in my case! I was a little kid, but it was mortifying. Same thing with keeping an extra bow parked in there. I know seasoned professionals who have managed to leave their #1 bow behind…it’s easy to do. Being prepared also looks good to the people around you. More than talent or chops, the people who hire us want to know that we are dependable. Even if you’re a middle or high schooler,...

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check it out…

In the upcoming issue of AST Journal, you’ll find an article by lil’ ol’ me! I noticed that a lot of teachers I talk to don’t change their approach with beginning/intermediate adult students. This leads to all sorts of disheartening frustrations for both student and teacher. Drawing from my experience teaching and my own learning project (learning how to fly a plane), I hope to give teachers a more effective perspective so that lessons are more satisfying for everybody. Long live the adult...

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up there

Back in June, I wrote about extensions. I recently revisited the post and noticed that Terry had posed a question of upper position whole tone movement, and thought I would go over my approach to this potential nightmare of advanced playing. I think a lot of it depends on hand size, but more importantly, on arm positioning. I like to think of my arm as the primary definer of position. When I shift, my arm is the genesis of the move. My arm knows where 4th position is. Where 6th is. My hand is free to float as an extension of my arm, with its only responsibility consisting of “typing”: the right finger at the right time. This idea is also good because it seems to appropriate the most labor to the largest muscle group. It also takes a lot of the stress off of 4th finger if your arm moves to accomodate it. As an exercise, try shifting from 1st finger B on the A to 4th position G, and focus on a large, swift, singular movement in your arm. Put your hand over the note instead of asking your 4th finger to stretch an additional centimeter or two. But I digress. When your arm moves up in the the higher reaches, you have all sorts of options. Maybe I’ll address them as a list. 1) thumb up...

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