Author: Emily Wright

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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wamma wamma

Like an athlete on the DL, I have slowly been working my stamina up to where it was when I was in college. Sure, I’ve been playing 5 hours of lessons a day with my students and doing studio doubles, but unless the student is playing something monstrous like the Kodaly or the session is for John Williams (and unfortunately it hasn’t been), the playing is not too taxing. I have some symphonic work coming up in the fall and winter months, and I want to be able to practice, rehearse and play as much as I want. Complicating matters slightly is the fact that I have a compound injury to my back that at one point forced me to take a semester off from the cello during college. So if I ramp up my practice too quickly, I re-inflict the whole shebang again. I always like seeing how other people practice, so here’s what I’ve been up to, and the results thereof. Day 10: 1st finger vibrato across all 4 strings, 24 beats per bow, 50 bpm. noticed intermittent tension in bicep.Popper excerpts (a few troubling measures in 17 and 23) at 1/4 speed. made it a breathing exercise.Haydn D first movement 1/2 speed, run through, letting mistakes go. Day 22:Bought a foam wedge to sit on, immediate difference in weight distribution and instant improvement in rotator cuff...

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Recommended

I had the the Stahlhammer endpin taken out and replaced it with a deadly-looking, lesser-angled tungsten carbide one. If any of you out there are considering a new endpin, I cannot say enough good things about this bad boy! No more rattle. Lighter instrument. More precise intonation on the C string. (Eric Benning said that a number of people have reported this improvement) Stabs into any surface. I punctured some unsuspecting marble the other day. What? It was looking at me funny. Anyway, it was about $150, parts and labor, and I had little trouble adjusting from the 28 degree angle of the Stahlhammer to the 8 degrees of this one. Which is handy, because the cello that I am going to have made for me (eeeee! custom geekage!) will have the same thing. More on that as soon as my current cello finds a new...

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Devin

Devin Barlow is a student of mine. We meet once a week, for 30 minutes. Sometimes it feels like 2 hours to Devin, and not just because I am long winded and overexplanatory. Devin has very little short-term memory because of a catastrophic mountain biking accident in 2003, and sometimes the passing of time feels different to him than it does to the rest of us. What I find interesting, and hope to research, is why Devin is beginning to remember and retain things. His progress over the past few months has been staggering. This is a guy who used to ask me my name several times during our lessons. We used to have the same conversation at the beginning of our session: I would walk in, he would say, “That looks like a cello!” and I would say, “Yep. I thought you might like to have a lesson today.”, and off we’d go. Now he’s often the host, yelling, “come in!” when I arrive, and knows exactly the cadence of the first few minutes of the lesson. Tune the A, then A and D, D and G, etc. We take this for granted…of course that’s how you tune! But think about if you hadn’t played the cello for a few years, and then add in that you have this weird feeling like something’s off, that you’re not operating...

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