At my first lesson of the semester my new cello prof taught me about spinning my left elbow in a little circle to guide the shift of my left hand. I'd been shown this before but never really worked on it. I've only put in 4 hours so far and have seen DRASTICALLY improved results! I hardly have to think about it anymore. My shifting is so much smoother and much more accurate.
Are there any other tricks similar to this pertaining to the right arm (I'm already working on leading with my elbow for martelé-type stuff)? I was amazed how fast results showed up. Usually it takes a day or two, but this was almost instantaneous!
Susan replies: My current teacher was a graduate assistant with Starker. She talks about putting a circle in the bow arm too, so that your elbow is doing a counter-clockwise circle with every bow. Instead of just upbow and down bow, the entire up and down is one revolution of your right elbow and hand. Also leaning in the direction of the bowstroke helps with fluidity at the tip. It's kinda tricky to explain, and even trickier to do, but it's amazing how much it helps to get a really fluid bow stroke that can be shaped expressively.
Another thing that made a miraculous difference in my left hand was thinking about the flexibility in the first knuckles. It works with the circle in the shift so that your hand can center and balance over whatever finger is being played on, and seems also to make the difference when it comes to sustaining vibrato from finger to finger.
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