Try this: it’s like interval training for cello, and it got me over the hump when I was crashing on Rococo Variations.

1) Play a scale really slowly. As many octaves as you’re up to. Slur 2 to a bow, half notes, metronome on something Jurassic like quarter=42. We’re talking slow.

2) Open up your piece, and isolate a measure that gives you problems. Can be any problem: tension, bow fright, missed shift, whathaveyou. Play that measure one note per click, with the metronome still on 42. Effectively, you’re taking the rhythmic component away from this pass. Repeat this 5 times, feeling heavier, slower, more solid, more rooted to the ground with each rep.

3) Go back and play your scale. Once, as before; once, doubling the speed. One click per note, still 2 to a bow.

4) Go back to that measure. Once, as before; once, doubling the speed, so you’ll have to turn the metro up to 84.

5) Play your scale single bows, 4 clicks to a note, with the metro set at 84. Then try single bows with 3 clicks to a note, and then 2.

6) Now you’re ready to turn the metronome to whatever speed is fairly slow for your particular measure. Repeat that measure 5 times, in slow rhythm, then get up and stretch. Come back and do 5 more. Get up and stretch your legs again.

7) Get a running start at the measure you’ve been doing this clinic on. Start the movement, or at least go a few bars back. If it’s the beginning of the piece…are you sure that’s really the measure you need the most work on? Play through a few times. Regardless of the result:

8) Go through the measure 5 more times, this time without the metronome, holding out each note as long as you possibly can. Focus on breathing and your shoulders. Repeat the last note a few long, long, times, allowing your breathing to slow, and your head to nod forward until you’re barely playing. Take the bow from the string, raise your head, and slowly re-enter the non cello world, refreshed.

You’ve just invested in a whole lotta muscle memory. Well done.

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5 Responses

  1. That's fantastic! This will really help me out with a few tricky places.

    ps I love love LOVE the CDs! Thank you!

  2. Totally applies to viola-thanks so much for this blog entry! I love it and have printed it out to keep on my music stand. I have needed this technique for quite a while now.

  3. Jen: good to see you here and on Twittao. 🙂 If my cello retreat happens this fall in Ojai, I'll be sure to let you know, because I'm hoping to get a viola contingent there to join in the cgda army. Wo0t!

  4. I sure wish I would have heard such "tricks" when I was a kid. I never really learned how to practice until much later!

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