Monday, January 30, 2017

To Play the Cello, You Need Your Whole Body

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You know how when you watch a cellist or violinist (or any string player), it looks like they are playing with their hands/fingers?

What I am learning is that the sound doesn't come from the hands or fingers. It comes from the back.

It's like the hands are fingers are just there for the specifics, but the weight and meaning of the music come from deeper in the body.

I've become more aware of this lately when playing scales. My teacher says to take a moment and let the bow "sink in" to the string. That doesn't mean to apply pressure with the hand or arm. It really is a letting-it-happen kind of thing. It's gravity. And it's also back muscle.

I find I can engage best when I take a breath, push my chest out, really connecting with the instrument, and let my shoulders fall. Then, by some miracle, I see my bow sink into the string -- and the tone is much richer, deeper, cello-y-er.

Two years in, and it still surprises me how physical the cello is. And how much there is to learn! It really takes the whole body to play the cello... that's part of why I love it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cellists, If You Could Only Play One Composer...

The other day at my lesson I asked my teacher, "Who is your favorite composer?" Even as the words left my mouth, I knew how ridiculous the question was. It's hard to choose favorites. Our preferences can change by the hour, the minute! And variety is good, right?

But I still wanted an answer, so I clarified: "Who is your favorite composer to play?" (Yes, again, ridiculous. O curious eager-to-learn me!) And do you know what her answer was?

That's right. Good ol' Baroque Bach. My teacher argued that Bach's canon has a little bit of everything: order, romanticism, innovation. And she mentioned specifically the Bach cello suites, which I haven't gotten to yet, but someday will.

I'm still figuring out who's my favorite compose to play. Currently I am learning Gavotte in C Minor by Bach in Suzuki book 3. Here is a video that looks at it through a Baroque lens.