I wrote a wee little article about shifting over at Tom’s blog, and thought a mini exercise might be just the thing to accompany it. One of the points I was driving at is the sense that a shift is propelled by the arm. I frequently remind students not to let their “fingers tow their arm all over the cello”. Your arm puts you in position, and all the fingers should have to do is type, accurately.

When you work this little excerpt, feel the arm engage. The whole thing is done on 1, because if you know where that bad boy is, your shifts will be much more accurate. Also, since this exercise moves up in a simple chromatic pattern, your ear should be able to predict the pitches and guide your arm, no matter how oblique the intervals may seem academically.

PS: I love how Finale allows glissandi and accidentals to tangle on the page. Lookin’ good. Lookin’ real good. Click to enlarge!

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4 thoughts on “Oh shift!”

  1. I'm glad that the exercise has glissandi (p.s. Sibelius handles "collisions" very well, though that's just the composer in me talking) because if there is one thing that my teachers have drilled into me about shifts it is this:

    Shifts are not jumps. Your fingers never leave the fingerboard. They are slides.

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  2. This is REALLY helpful to me — I've just started studying shifts now, and the idea that you always calibrate them relative to the first finger is REALLY helpful.

    I'm glad I'm a compulsive handcrafter, because I'd go nuts if I didn't already consider making the same movements with my fingers seven millions times to be relaxing and fun. >_O

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  3. Emily-

    Fantastic post! Like Janis, point 1 makes a lot of sense to me. Also, I have a student just starting to work into bigger shifts, so this post –both timely and informative– is very much appreciated.

    I imagine this is assumed in all your points (given your constant advice to practice with a metronome), but my primary cello teacher hammered into me that a shift has a far higher likelihood of success when it's done in the context of correct rhythm.

    I bet a lot of us think, "Oh, sure, of course," but –somewhat similarly with trills– I've found it surprisingly easy to lose rhythm (in anticipation of and) during shifts. I think you get at this in point 2, when you advise against cutting the penultimate note short. Anyway. For me, this little tip of placing the shift within proper rhythmic has always proved helpful. Even practicing shifts extremely slowly can be done rhythmically, right kids?

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  4. Funny, I've been doing *exactly* this to work on shifting lately (well I'll actually do BC CB the BD DB etc… but exact same concept)

    It has finally helped me redevelop that past 7th position familiarity/comfort with the fingerboard

    Anyway, this exercise is gold right here 🙂

    I find the other important part is to apply the metronome … teachers often tell students to "slow down", which is often not what actually needs to be done (if you watch a cellist like Jackie DuPre or Steven Isserlis or many other famous folk, what you notice is that they wait till the last possible moment to shift – which is how their phrasing is connected. This means that the shift actually has to be a specific speed … so learning to shift at fast and slow speeds is key!

    Anyway, awesome exercise 🙂

    -Mike

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