Playing the cello is very complicated. There are SO many things to think about, do, and remember. Ah, there’s the tricky one. How much can we possibly remember? How to move the bow (a topic for later), dynamics, articulation, and of course, hitting the actual notes. This is where most of my focus is, and I’m guessing I’m not alone. So it makes sense to do things one at a time, not trying to do it all at once from the get-go, but layering on each different idea. Some would argue that this is a waste of time and you are learning wrong things that you’ll just have to relearn. I come from a position that I always start by playing loud, slow and smooth. My first priority is to learn the notes. But I’ve learned that it isn’t to my advantage to learn all the notes and then think about the bow. Neglect the bow for too long and you will find you’ve created an enemy instead of a friend. So what I’ll do is pizz a few measures (left hand work on the actual notes), then bow the same measures without the left hand. (Yes, relax your left arm!) If you’ve never done “bow only” work, it’s harder than it seems. But your bow will appreciate the attention and reward you with smooth, easy string changes. You’ll find out when you put both hands back in motion. Try it. Let me know what you think.
5 thoughts on “It’s Complicated”
harvey bunda says:
Hi great story! im a starting cellist and i can relate on your story – you can see my videos here on my channel i just reached my 1 year on cello https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7yHAQYdjQGZFXAL4TX5Osg
Hi Harvey. Thanks for your comment. I watched your videos and I think you are amazing for only studying for one year. You have incredible determination and I applaud you!
David B Teague says:
A Contemporary Concept of Bowing Technique for the Double Bass [Frederick Zimmerman] extensively exploits the idea of “bow only” for the double bass. IT WORKS.
The disadvantage this book for cello is that all the examples are for the double bass tuned in 4ths, EADG.
But the idea is very useful.
Nancy Mack says:
David, the idea is to use “bow only” for a small passage (one measure?) of a piece you’re working on. You don’t need to use a book as you already have a plethora of music, I’m sure! I total agree. It works! Thanks.
David B Teague says:
You are correct, once I have the idea, the book becomes superfluous, unless I’m looking for something already done in the book.
I do it for a measure, a phrase, or longer passage as needed. Zimmerman uses either open strings or carefully chosen stopped notes that do not change during the exercise that does the bow changes necessary.
The bass in 5ths (CGDA) is essentially an oversized 8vb cello, and the bass in 4ths (EADG) has different string changes, but the bowing is the same.
The Zimmerman book does this for a excerpts from the double bass literature. The idea is much as you describe here, and he wrote the book to teach the idea.