Author: Emily Wright

photo unrelated to Bow Month

CelloGeek (but aren’t we all?) submitted this quandry: …”I struggle with 2 things with my bow hold (I’m sure there’s more but these seem to be the peskiest) 1 – my thumb starts nice and curved but gradually will get straight and I lose that nice flexible grip.2- the position of my other fingers starts off nice – middle finger in a very similar position to your picture, but then my fingers start moving towards the tip so that my pinky may end up on the middle of the frog – is that related to problem #1?” Concerning #1, I think the real issue is awareness. A lot of people have habits that might seem inexplicable. Straightening the right thumb is probably second only to the various foibles of the left thumb, where a player is left thinking, “How’d that get there?” The answer is simple…and it requires a sense of humor. You put it there, that’s how. I used to swear that there was a Death Grip gnome that would seize my right hand during loud playing. We’re talking numbness in the thumb joint, nearly dropping the bow from weakness, a sort of “headache” throughout my hand, even in the palm, and a tone that was not reliable. The breakthrough came when I had a practice session before a competition and the power went out. I was grossly...

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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...

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lookin' good (soundin' bad) (for a while)

Other possible blog titles include: Acting the partAll for showTest yer gesture (ha) As many of you know, I am in the business of teaching how to play the cello. I was about to write, “I teach the cello” but then I thought, “Teach it what? How to be a human? Latvian history? Roller skating?” (backwards and forwards) So early for a digression! Anyway, I teach people of just about every level how to play the cello. I also get called upon every so often to consult on films, commercials and other showbiz type shebangs to either teach someone how to look as if they are playing the cello, or to fake it, myself. Even before I did my first consulting job, I knew that going for the gestures, the simple physical look of confident playing, was important to actual proficiency. Talking about it with some of my regular readers generated some interest, so I thought I would go a little more in-depth with this idea. You know how I like lists, so here we go: 1) Think digital. 0 or 1. On or off. Moving or not. One of the hallmarks of an introspective, well-meaning, struggling student is dithering. Hesitation out of habit, fear, self consciousness. Over preparing. Pre-preparing. Post analyzing, blah blah. One thing you notice about the movements of successful instrumentalists is that they are singular....

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keepin' it real

I live a dangerous life. Cave diving? No. Ebola specialist at the CDC? Nope! Sword swallower? Nah. No, I base my income on the wispy whims of people whose ability to pay me is a direct reflection of sentiment about the economy. Sure, I have a few dedicated students who are going to be cellists as adults. And I have a few nearly-professionals who take maintenance and polish lessons too. But the majority are people who are half-assedly checking it out, and if the financial tango we all dance gets a little too risky, cello lessons are the first thing to get the hatchet. Tis the nature of the beast. How is it that the people who are dedicated somehow manage to budget for the cello even though 9 times out of 10 they are in much lower tax brackets than the people who bail? Sometimes I think that the economy is an excuse. I had a kid drop out this week and cancel last week because of school “burn out”. The last lesson we had, I made his eyes well up with tears because I had to give him a talking-to after he was disrespectful. Coincidence? Hmm. Another student quit after 3 lessons, none of which he practiced for. His dad wrote me a note, saying that I would be contacted about his son’s intentions. After an unpleasant...

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