Video 4

Cello – Practising Methods

Parte 1 – In this video I would like to give you some tools on how to create your own personal practising method for the left hand. Although is a well-known fact that our performance level not only depends on hard work or our capacities, but that it is often the way we practise that strongly influences the final result. Although it might seem comfortable to repeat a passage over and over, until some improvement is achieved, it is little creative and often leads to mechanical playing or repeating mistakes.

I will now demonstrate two four-step practising strategies and I use Popper study number 6 and the number 31.

Parte 2 – To start with the number 6: the first step is to have a brief look at the content, the technical elements that are involved. As you can see on the screen, we have a passage with semi quavers, for which we need a fast forearm-detaché, played more or less in the middle of the bow. For the left hand we need fast and fluent position changes, for this I work on unifying body and arms and let all gestures be impulsed by the centre balance point. As the tempo is too fast to play finger for finger, I concentrate on practising whole hand placements. This is a good way to minimize your string crossings, to play smooth string crossings.

In the next step I use different rhythms, for instance a punctuated one. This a very effective to practise the articulation of the bow and it means for the left hand that you have to shift in double tempo when the position change falls on the little note.

A way to get rapid and fluent shifting motions is to use a fast detaché, doubling each note. In the last step, the musical one, I add more dynamics, vibrato and I play with a flexible tempo.

In the following four-step strategy I use the opening of the number 31 study of Popper to practise an often neglected element of our technique, that of gestures. My goal is to move, slide, my hand in an effortless way and I do that be unifying body and arms and let gravity do the work.

The first step is to determine the exact shifting distance and to define the finger that actually performs the shift. The first interval is a minor third, performed by the third finger; the second interval, the F sharp to the E seems to be a seventh from, but if you have a closer look, it is the second finger that goes to the D and then I let my third finger fall down on the E. In the next interval it is also the second finger, on the C, which goes to the G and than the same second finger moves from the G to the final D and than I let my third finger fall down on the high E harmonic.

In the second step, which I call ‘Meditation mode’, I use an extremely calm tempo and I move my arm in slow motion, quitting all tension. I unify body, shoulder and arm and I let the movement come fro the centre balance point.

In the third step, which I call ‘Practise mode’, I still use a medium tempo and I try to maintain the same weightlessness of the left hand. In the final, musical, step, I call that ‘Performance mode’, I add musical elements like crescendi and diminuendi, I push the tempo forwards towards the culmination point and I stretch that last shift and I bring out the bass notes when descending.

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