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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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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