Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lesson #36 (12/05/2011): Bowing on G & C, new bowing technique, Allegretto & Andantino

My cello learning progression:
  • I think I've learned something! Yaaay!! 
  • Nevermind - not quite right
  • I try to fix it, but make it worse (break it) 
  • I fix it
  • I think I've fixed/learned something!! Yaaay!!
  • Nevermind - not quite right
  • Repeat...

Anyway, I think I've fixed my bowing on my G string... LOL! :).

Lesson Notes

1) Bowing 
  • I've gotten my bow position back and it's a little better than before because I'm getting a much better sound (louder, more effortless and open), but still not quite right. I'm finding that my hand is moving forward on the frog so at the end of each piece I have to move my hand back. Also, when it moves forward, my thumb straightens and I end up tensing up my thumb which is tiring it out
  • I've started moving my bow more from my pinky but my pointer finger is coming off the bow so I think I have to remember to pronate to prevent this from happening. 
    • Adam recommended putting the rubber tubing back on the bow, as this is what helped him when this was happening to him. I'll try this in a couple of weeks after I get this new bowing position more into muscle memory before I completely lose it again 

2) Bowing on G
  • The change in my bow grip has resulted in a better sound on my G string and my angles seem to be correct! Whew... 
  • Now I can concentrate on getting my left hand position correct on the G string 

3) Bowing on C
  • My bowing on G has improved and is close, but my C still needed work
    • I need to remember the correct angle - I keep pointing it too far forward 
  • If the bow is pointed forward and out, than the only way to get a sound is to push down or push it on to the side of the string. The bow should still be on top like the other strings! 
    • I have found myself pushing against the side of the string or pushing down onto the string which seems to be fairly easy to get the string to speak. However, the quality of sound is quite different. Pushing against the side or pushing down definitely sounds more forced and grating to me
    • Now that I know when I'm doing those two incorrect things, and can now hear and feel the difference, I can catch myself when I'm doing this and correct myself! A very good place to start!

4) Allegretto 
  • I'm having difficulty on this piece - I tend to have issues when notes are short and fast!
  • Bowing technique for Allegretto 
    • The bow should feel heavy and stay mostly on the string
    • It should feel like a "fast, fast, slooow" motion 
  • I'm using too much weight for all of the notes, especially for the quarter notes, I should release the tension on the quarter notes
    • I should take my time on the quarter notes and not use the same bowing as the eighth notes. 
      • Using the same type of bowing for the eighth and quarter notes was making the entire piece sound very harsh and forced, when the quarter notes should be a little more "legato-like"
    • Adam recommended, sectioning off my bow and using about an inch or two for the eight notes and than half of the bow for the quarter notes. I just have to be careful not to bow too fast for the quarter notes to make it sound better and for some bowing contrast 
  • I had him play this piece with me so I can try and match what he was doing and could hear that I was cutting the notes off too quickly and that I was more harsh sounding than him, but I was able to match his rhythm better and my intonation wasn't as bad as the last lesson. Yaay - improvement! :).
  • Measure 9: bowing on C
    • I was also having trouble with the bowing in measure 9 because it felt like I was loosing control of my bow with the quick change to the C string so my sound was really quiet when it should be louder 
    • Adam reasoned that my lose of bow control and volume was because when I bow on the C string, I'm not physically or mentally ready to play the notes and am just rushing through it, which is true! So I have to be ready with my finger and bow before I start playing these notes
    • Adam recommended in measure 9 to do the following exercise:
      • Take this measure really slow first
      • I'll have to cut off the A (quarter note) a little short at first to make a purposeful prep by moving my left hand to the C string and the bow to the C string, then "dig into" the string, know what I'm going to play, take a breathe, and then play D on the C string 
    • It's going to feel like a really long pause to prep and then play that section, but after awhile I should be able to play it more quickly with the goal to shorten the prep time so it's no longer noticeable 

5) Andantino
  • Learning a new type of bowing for this piece, which is more of a "controlled spicatto" 
  • I should feel:
    • A u-shape in the bowing, not a horizontal/linear-like the other bowing so far 
    • Unlike the bowing in Allegretto, the bow should come off the string
    • It should feel and sound lighter and more effortless 
    • I should be aware of my pinky as it will be assisting in "lifting" the bow
  • Exercise:
    • I should first try this on open strings and get that down and then start adding notes
    • Also, allow my bow to "bounce" and it may be a little uncontrolled and may not stay in one place, but it should calm down after some practice 
  • Ritardando 
    • The rit. in measure 12 should start on the third note of the measure. I was starting the slow down at the beginning of the measure 12. However, the beginning of the measure should be the decrease in volume first and then the slow down. I was doing it at the same time - talk about really knowing what your bow is doing! I'll need some practice on this! 
    • The rit. is important because it adds an audible pause and provides a contrast to the beginning of the section. My teacher said that his teacher tells him that pauses are the most important parts of the pieces, but unfortunately a lot of cellists run right over them. He mentioned that this was something he had to work on as well

This was a fun lesson and I feel like a lot of the information is starting to sink in and the pieces are sounding better. Also, these pieces are more complicated and provide different bowing technique, which I'm liking!

I'll try to record Allegretto in two weeks. It's definitely taking a lot longer to learn these pieces!

Although during my previous lesson, Adam mentioned the reason Long Long Ago was "easy" and didn't have very many notes was because the underlying tools that needed to be learned were more complicated! Tricky-tricky!

Now I'm thinking I don't want to rush through this, even if it means NOT meeting my goal of getting through Suzuki Book 1 in one year! I feel like if I don't have a solid foundation, than it'll be harder to build upon my technique and either everything will fall apart or stay together depending on how well I learn these basics.

I now realize why he wanted me to go more slowly through the repertoire... huh...I guess there is a method to his madness! :).


  1. wow this has been a heavy read for me reading your previous post and this back to back! info, info, info :D that's why i am so grateful to have started learning cello at almost the same time with you, at least i could know what i should know!

    Speaking of what i should know, on allegretto measure 9 - mind asking, how do we exactly bow on that ones? the dot&dash notes? I know slurred dash notes is called portato, and staccato is the vertically dotted note, but could it be spiccato here? I've been meaning to ask my teacher, but keep forgetting since it's rarely there in repertoires i am learning.

    I also observe my bow hold technique maybe too simple compared yours, since i could hardly replicate what you described! pronate near the frog? *twitch* *twitch* nah it's too hard :P. I once asked my teacher on the difference i found from reading and what i learnt in lessons, and my teacher responded it's perfectly normal for it to be different. this is where the teachers influence is very much, observable. I guess in my case, my teacher prefer the simple bow hold for me : downbow = weight on index, upbow = release pressure on shoulder and balancing from pinky. Economy of motion he said :P

    Btw, on the previous post, congratz on shifting to 2nd~ You could play Air on G string very much effectively now! (and I have to mention, the notes on scales really helpful, so thanks!)

    May we ride smooth sailing in this 'cellistic' journey!

  2. Yeah, its been some heavy duty lessons lately…its been a bit overwhelming…

    I’ll shoot my teacher an email and ask him what the bowing is called. He told me but I forgot. I can never remember what they’re called...I’ll know for a few days and then will forget…

    LOL - I'd better not be getting you into trouble with your teacher with my posts! =p

    I tend to make things overly complicated which is probably why I’m having so many issues with my bowing! :).
    My teacher mentioned that beginners should start with an easy relaxed bow hold and then build on it as they develop different bowing technique. So as I add different bowing technique I will have to adjust by bow hand position until I eventually can find one that comfortably works for all my bowing. My teacher says hes gone through a lot of different bow holds and is constantly working on his. But there are all types of levels and techniques in bowing which also depends on a person’s hand size, muscle, bow, cello, etc.

    Hhmmm…that is a good way of looking at it!: downbow = weight on index, upbow = release pressure on shoulder and balancing from pinky.

    I think its bascially the same motion for the downbow (I still can’t figure out my upbow). If the wieght is on the index finger, than the hand has to pronate forward (like turning a doorknob to the left). I think the only difference is there is less power in the weight of one individual finger, than the pronation of the hand…well, I didn’t explain that too clearly...Supposedly, the power should come from the back muscles, which pronates the entire arm, which makes the hand pronate forward and then finally makes the weight of the index finger work. So I’m learning how to pronate my hand and then eventually work my way so that I’m able to initiate the movement from my back.

    LOL! I really should stop skipping around so much… learn how to walk before I run… oh well. Although I guess knowing the theory behind it is useful.

    Cheers to our journey of learning how to play the cello! Let it be one of growth, success and fullfillment! :).