Author: Emily Wright

pinky pressure

Another darling of our community, CelloGirl has stress when it comes to her pinky joint. A portion of her comment reads, “…Sore pinky joint. This one I struggle with quite a bit. I know that I seem to tense up my pinky finger so that it is almost straight. I’ve made a lot of adjustments to relax it – this works ok in scales, but when I start going through passages, my pinky finger will tend to straighten out and stiffen up my hand. Any suggestions?” Now I am a bit of a rogue when it comes to this, and my approach is a sort of hybrid of what Ron Leonard taught me fused with the end result of watching a hell of a lot of footage of powerful, relaxed players. If you use the Emily Wright bow grip (and not all of my students do: if their grip works, I leave it alone), then the pinky is pretty much inert. When I am at the frog, it may rest on the stick, but the further out I go, the less presence my fingers have, particularly the pinky, on the bow. Often times we do crazy, strenuous things with our pinkies as we move away from the frog. It makes sense: the hand’s pressure is most directly telegraphed to the playing surface when the hand is right on top...

Read More

help for a sore thumb

Superstar of the cello blogging world, Gottagopractice kicked off the Bow Month celebration with this post. Go. Read. If you are not a regular reader of hers, you should be! I have taught this stuff for over a decade and I learn every time she posts. A few things: I posed this question to anyone who wanted to respond: Does your bow grip work? I would say that her bow grip is working, and will work beautifully with the natural evolution that comes with dedication and the obviously good tuition she is receiving. One thing I would like to clarify is that my thumbnail is not, after looking at the photos, exactly parallel to the floor. An issue she has that every student of mine (and there have been hundreds by now) fights with is the temptation and sometimes the need, to grind one’s thumb into the frog. One way to alleviate this issue may seem like a good idea at first: increase the surface area of contact by either straightening the thumb, or rotate onto the broader, flat portion of the thumb tip. In the end, I find that this just sort of spreads the issue instead of resolves it. So here’s an exercise that I like to offer my students. As with most pillars of my teaching, it is what helped me break the painful habit of...

Read More

Does your bow grip work?

For most of us, the bow is troublesome. The mechanics of grip and arm movement seem to have endless possibilities to vex us, and tension is a serious obstacle. So I say January is going to be Bow Month here on SRCB. Send me pictures of your bow grip, and tell me whether it works or not. If it needs work, we’ll check it out. If you made a change for the better, tell me how, and I’ll post it and share it, or if you want to post it on your own blog, I’ll link to it. And if you’re wondering, my bow grip works. But it took a long time for it to be reliable, relaxed and effective. I think it was a year after I had graduated from college that the thing settled in…basically, when I started teaching full-time. The change I made had as much to do with my arm as my hand, and the end result is a highly rotated hand and an absolutely flat wrist. My grip is such that my pinky doesn’t really touch the bow very much, unless I am on the C string at the frog. My thumb is curved and the thumbnail is parallel to the floor, which is another function of the rotation. I also have a rule that the elbow should always be slightly higher than the...

Read More

music from another time

I have had a bockety practice schedule of late, but I have still noticed significant improvement in my overall feeling of agility due to the Gabrieli Ricercari that have been dominating my time these days. If you’re not familiar with them, they are published by Schott and are available here. Like much proto-Baroque music, they are transparent and care very little about what is convenient or comfortable for the player. This is a surprisingly valuable primer for the tangled left-hand gnarls of Kodaly, Shostakovich and the later Bach Suites, because it presents the technical gauntlet in a series of patterns and motifs that quietly suggest things like, “Perhaps it would be best to just stretch the octave here instead of shift.” and, “Are you quite sure that string crossing is appropriate? And if so, can you make it smoother?”. These pieces were intended to put the cello through its paces. If you are smart in the way you approach them, you’ll end up with a more mobile, simple, and flexible technique. And who wouldn’t want...

Read More

new podcast thingy

I am going to do a series of play-along podcasts, and I would love some suggestions for which pieces to play. I am going to choose a movement of a concerto, sonata, or maybe something like Sicilienne or Elegie, and play it at a slow speed for the listener to play along with. We all know how to obsess over a passage, but there is great value in “combing through” a piece at a slow pace, even if there are snarls along the way. It’s good to hear things at multiple speeds, and playing them slowly, with discipline is a great way to build muscle memory and stamina. Any suggestions or requests? PS: I have not yet gotten my AST journal. As soon as I have a few copies, I will happily mail them to those of you who want...

Read More