Basic Techniques

In order to understand something, more important still to improve something, one must get to the foundation and analyze it; it is necessary to discover the relationships of the single components to one another. Then it becomes understandable-in cello playing-how much has been taken for granted, when the only information passed down over the years is harmful and twisted: it consists of poorjudgment, incomprehensibility, ignorance, and certainly lack of perception of what on the surface is obvious. As yet, no one has argued against me in this. Personality and different interpretations, etc., would be considered on a different plane. Three separate factors-music, instrument, and interpretation-play a fateful role. One can discuss the interpretation of the music as well as the amount of freedom allowed to the interpreter.

However, one cannot merely discuss the peculiarities of an instrument or man's physical structure, just as for example one can pronounce the letter "m" by closing the lips and following a set physical procedure, so by observing and following the known immutable rules, one can draw a clear tone, play purely, produce a crescendo, etc. As obvious and superfluous as it may seem to mention it, it is my opinion that the basic ill of poor playing lies in the absolute disregard of natural laws.

The cello presents a performer with great opposition. This is true of most of the lower-register instruments. There are general physical rules, and for the instrument and bow specific rules, which one must learn and follow if one wants to go beyond the mere skills of music to stretch the capabilities of the instrument.

A. Cello

1. Contact between the player and the cello is on the strings.
2. A clear tone can be produced only when the strings are vibrating fully.
3. The string can only be brought into full motion when it is stopped as completely by the finger as by the nut.
4. As soon as the bow is drawn over the string everything that the fingers do on the strings will sound. Then it is necessary that the fingers follow one another cleanly, evenly and quickly.
5. The intervals are set and become narrower at the top.
6. The tension of the string is greatest toward the bridge; therefore the string will sound piano near the fingerboard. The nearer the bow comes to the bridge, the stronger the sound will be.
7. The timbre of the pizzicato changes according to the amount of space between the point where the finger plucks the string and the bridge. It is harsher near the bridge and softer further away from it. The ugly noise that usually accompanies the pizzicato on the lower strings occurs because the string is plucked from beneath (with the finger between the fingerboard and string), and therefore the string hits the fingerboard when plucked.

B. Bow

1. Only the hair should touch the string; even with the greatest pressure of the fingers on the bow, the stick should touch only the hair and not the string.
2. The bow is lighter toward the tip; therefore, for the bow to sound evenly from tip to frog, one must compensate by increasing ihe pressure toward the tip.
3. The bow must be drawn parallel to the end of the fingerboard if one wishes to avoid the unpleasant sounds that accompany crooked bowing.
4. Every alteration in the surface area of the hair that touches the string changes the amount of tone; therefore, in order to play piano, only a small portion of the hair should be placed on the string, the more hair, the greater the strength.

C. The Body

The body should be so comfortable and relaxed when playingthat the use of the muscles, tendons, wrists, and fingers is in no way inhibited. It is not stressed often enough that the playing of an instrument is physical work and therefore the same rules can be applied to it as to any other activity in which skill is demanded. A certain amount of timidity leads musicians to fear that they will be considered craftsmen, not artists, if they give importance to the physical aspects of playing. But this is small-minded. To conceal such realities could harm the development of the real artist.

It is art and music which ennoble technique and skill and which therefore make the most talented, intelligent, and skillful musician into a true artist. It could be said that Rafael, even without hands, would have become a great artist. Yet one should not forget that Rafael had his hands. Technique is necessary in order that the genius, fantasy, spiritual power, and richness of ideas of a Rafael be allowed to rise above being just good art. And besides in the painter are combined both the creating and the performing artist, which in music would be the composer and the interpreter.



Online Books

Cello Heaven