You will more than likely never hear a person say "I hate the sound of the cello." To listen to the cello is to love it; it is the instrument closest to the sound of a human voice. I like to envision my students on a quest to find their cello voices and today I decided to blog some tips to help them search for it.
So often string players focus all their attention on left hand technique to the detriment of what is going on with the bow. One thing that has greatly improved my practicing recently is a constant awareness of the balance ratio of three areas: bow placement, speed, and weight. If one of these areas is adjusted, the other two must be changed as well so that we are always attuned to this harmony in our bow. For example, if the bow is placed close to the bridge we must add weight of arm in order to get the string vibrating. Another helpful tip to remember is that the thick C string will not vibrate as fast as our thin A string. We must use a slower bow speed on the bottom of our cello to get a rich and clear voice. Real maturity happens when we can adjust our placement/speed/& weight ratios seamlessly to give us a range of different sounds and tone colors. I refer to it often in lessons as the expansion of our color palette. It is easiest to focus on this technique when practicing open string exercises and should be a part of every cellist's practice routine.
As many of you prepare for auditions, be aware of the two most common problems: 1) Do not try to press the sound from your cello by pure force. Be conscious of pulling the sound from your instrument by not over weighing the string with a heavy arm and slow bow speed. There is a fine line that when it is crossed, you are actually hindering the string from vibrating. 2) Do not get caught using just half your bow and settling for a weak sound. As a teacher it is so much easier for me to ask a student to dial it back, rather than trying to coax out more energy and sound. Play loud and proud and enjoy that big beautiful cello voice!
I hope that like me, you all get a warm wonderful feeling that tingles down your spine when you announce to a new acquaintance: "I play the cello." Happy practicing!
Quote of the week courtesy of 5 yr old Nate:
"Ms Joy, what does rosin taste like?" - N
"I don't know bud, but how about you and I agree never to find out..." -J