C Major Shifting Studies for the Cello

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However, in broken double-stops — fortunately — we can choose what we want to do with the fingers which are not sounding. We have three possibilities:.

C-Major Scales & Exercises (Cello)

Certainly, relaxing the fingers when they are not in use is an absolutely fundamental technical principle that will help keep our hand flexible, alive and responsive even in the fastest repetitive passages. Double-stops often make one good player sound like two bad players. Sometimes, even the very best composers are unaware of the technical difficulties they are creating when they write a passage in double stops. If there was a mathematical formula to calculate the level of difficulty, shifting in doublestops would not be the sum of the difficulties of the two simultaneous shifts to the single notes, nor would it be simply twice as difficult as shifting between single notes, but rather it would be the square of all the combined single note shift difficulties!

Passages that sound beautiful in the composers imagination — and that would sound beautiful if played by two cellists — can be very awkward and thus easily sound awful when played in double stops by only one cellist. Here are some examples:. Even in chamber music pieces, with other instruments free to fill in the harmonies or play the duo line, he gives the cello some rather awkward double stops, guaranteed to make a lovely melody 10 times more difficult.

In particularly difficult pieces, the solo-french horn players in symphony orchestras have an assistant to help them with the part. If each of the two soloists in this Concerto could likewise have an assistant to help out with the double-stops, this piece would probably sound a lot better, and would certainly be a lot more pleasurable to play, especially for a small-handed cellist. Even in chamber music it may be possible to redistribute the notes among the different players to improve or eliminate awkward double-stops — certainly pianists usually have a spare finger available to lighten our load and this can make the difference between pleasure and suffering …..

In a totally transparent texture, where every tiny bit of out-of-tune playing can be heard immediately, Beethoven writes a series of low sustained doublestopped fifths F and C for the cellos. Fifths are the hardest doublestop to play in-tune and the lower register is the hardest one in which to hear and tune our doublestops.

This is absolutely nothing to be gained for a cello section by trying to play these as doublestops. In fact this passage is almost an IQ test for a section principal or conductor. There are several reasons why it is that double-stops are so much more difficult than just the sum of the two simple single notes:. Significant extra tension is normally needed in the left hand to hold down two notes at the same time, especially when the distance between the two fingers is large. This creates problems for the vibrato and for the fine positioning needed to make a beautiful sound.

This occurs much less on the violin than on the cello. On the violin, the distances are smaller. That is why many most of the original double-stops have been removed from the transcriptions of violin music in their version for cello found on this site. If you have a big hand, or are very flexible, then you can play the cello more like a violin …… and you can put the double-stops back in!

For this reason, even in the neck and intermediate regions where we would not normally need to use it we may prefer to use the thumb instead of a lower finger and thus allow the hand to do vibrato as in the following examples:. This use of the thumb is especially useful for playing double-stopped minor third intervals across 2 strings requiring the major third stretch. Here the use of the thumb eliminates the need for the extended-back higher finger which is a real vibrato-killer.

The third exception concerns double stops that involve an open string. Note however if the open string that is sounding is the higher string of the pair, even though this is not a double stop and does not require extra hand tension, it does require certain uncomfortable modifications of hand and finger posture in the sense that we need to play more on the tips of the fingers in order to not interfere with touch the higher open string. Keyboard players and guitarists are used to playing several notes at the same time.

They thus learn, almost automatically, to think, play and memorise music both harmonically vertically and melodically horizontally.

Fourth Position Shifting Exercises for the Cello- PDF Download – Learn Strings

We string players, on the other hand, are principally horizontal, melodic thinkers because we normally only play one note at a time. Because of this, we can be quite weak at thinking and hearing harmonically. But for a string player the situation is very different: playing and correcting two notes at the same time is much more than twice as difficult as playing one note.

Hearing and tuning two notes at the same time — even in the same position without any shifting — is comparable to doing two different mathematical calculations, not one after the other, but at exactly the same time! And if we incorporate shifting into a double-stopped passage, the aural difficulties increase exponentially. Double-stopped and chordal passages are not only difficult for us to fine-tune the intonation, but are also difficult to imagine hear internally. This means that they — as well as large intervals which need to be heard harmonically rather than melodically — are also often particularly difficult to memorise.

The cadenza from the Rococo Variations is another good example of the added difficulty of memorising chordal passages. When playing on only one string, we need to remove all the higher fingers in order to play a lower finger, but when playing on two strings at the same time, this is no longer the case. Suddenly, the possibilities of operating lifting on and off the string different fingers at the same time are multiplied exponentially and thus a whole new world of problems of finger coordination, independence and simultaneous finger placement opens up.

Sometimes we might choose to shift more in a doublestop passage in order to avoid the need for the fingers to jump between strings. The Cossmann Double-Trill Finger Independence exercises found here are undoubtedly the best practice material for acquiring the skills of finger coordination and independence on two strings simultaneously. They are also excellent for developing strength and aural skills hearing and tuning two notes at the same time.

Here you can find the same exercises in Thumb Position. They may be difficult to play and very ungrateful in performance, but double-stops are a wonderful tool for practicing. They develop, in an accelerated, concentrated and highly efficient way, many extremely useful skills, such as:. If we can play and shift on two notes quite well at the same time, then when we only have one note to play or shift on , it will feel fantastically easy. Imagine a dancer who practices with weights attached to their arms and legs and a blindfold over one eye: when the weights and the blindfold are removed, everything feels easy.

For example, compare the following two shifting exercises, one in double-stops and the other with single notes. The exercise in double stops is incomparably more efficient and useful. Consider the following example:. Doublestopped exercises in any one position with no shifts are magnificent for building strength, finger independance, finger coordination and for establishing perfect finger spacings.

One of these many possibilities is shown here below.

C major

On the cellofun. Here below is an example of how these exercises are perfectly transposable into the Thumb Position. Nevertheless, we still use doublestopped exercises involving all the different possible two-string finger configurations as the basis for our left-hand technique in this region. The above exercises help enormously with our intonation in any one position but do not involve shifting. Doublestopped shifting exercises also greatly improve our intonation and our positional sense on the fingerboard. Standard scales in thirds, sixths and fourths are OK, but they become even better when we add an additional doublestop in each hand position.

This reinforces both our hand strength and our sense of fingerboard geography. The following examples can be played on different pairs of strings and in different keys:. The above examples use stepwise shifts. These really make the cello ring and are excellent warmup exercises. Double stops can and should be practiced in the same way that pianists practice their two hands: separately. But while pianists practice each hand individually, we will practice each string individually.

We can use three different graded preparatory levels of separation to work up progressively to the finished double stop passage. The next level of difficulty is to play bow each string separately while also simultaneously but silently fingering the notes on the other string.

Strings by Brand

Do I want to incorporate string crossings? Do I want to maintain the timbre of a single string? What dynamic do I want to eventually achieve?

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Does the passage grow into the next notes or shrink away from them or neither? Scales do not present you with any of these contextual challenges. Why must my student work for hours and hours on learning all her scales for an audition while her solo pieces and etudes suffer? She can't spend 7 hours each day getting through all that mess. I am asking the string world please pardon the pun : Why are we forced to spend time on something that doesn't benefit us in a MAJOR way? I don't give a flying flip about tradition. I will take efficiency over tradition any day. I could understand this if you just want an adventure "up high" without really working to understand the upper registers.

Easy scales. Whole-steps and half-steps.

Learning the Seven Points on the Cello Fingerboard

If that's what it takes to get you out of neck positions, go for it! But if your goal is just to get your hand into the stratosphere of the cello, also give Daredevil Shifts a try:. Or how about working on some pieces or etudes that take you up, up, and away! If you are a beginner, sure, scales can help.

If you need to devote all of your mind to the proper execution of these patterns, scales might be a nice and easy way to do this. BUT playing simple tunes in the key you want to target can provide the same results with the added benefit of contextualizing the patterns. On the other hand, let's say you want to get really good at improvising in different keys. Scales and arpeggios can help you internalize common finger patterns that you can then call upon when you launch into your blazingly amazing cello solo.

I think this practice is dated, but we do need to exist in the real world. With that in mind, we DO have to practice scales for this purpose. But that doesn't mean we need to get into scales as a way to learn finger patterns.


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In fact, we are able to use the SAME fingering for every single major scale and arpeggio that exists on the cello except C major. This will save you so much time when preparing for your All-State audition! The secret of this wonderful fingering is outlined in the excellent scale book my cello guru, Martha Gerschefski, wrote. In it she reveals the universal fingering for scales that makes D-flat major just as easy as D major.


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If you are emoting constantly and being "distracted by the music" when you practice, you are doing it wrong! However the other time should be used to make decisions about the direction of the music.

Double Stops: Stronger Fingers

Considering this musical direction can actually inform your decisions about how you want to go about "programming" the motions. So, the drills of practice and musical expression are essentially always linked to each other, but not in a way that "distracts. Scales are not evil. They DO have a few uses. Besides beefing up your improv chops, scales can help you train your ear. If you have difficulty hearing if you are in tune, playing scales with a tonic drone is a wonderful way to work on this problem without becoming distracted by what you are trying to say with the music.

Like your intonation. Play a wide variety of music! Different keys, different styles. Force yourself to sightread each day.

A Conversation with George Neikrug

Join a group in which you get a bit outside your tonal comfort zone playing musicals is the best way to learn how to navigate D-flat major! Practice coming up with fingerings on the fly. Also, there is no substitute for making deliberate fingering choices as you practice pieces and etudes. Choosing a fingering for a passage in a thoughtful way, taking into consideration all those contextual variables listed above, is what you have to do as a professional cellist.

Why not get used to this job now? If we did this each day, being very mindful about our fingering choices, I think we would become better cellists more rapidly than playing scales over and over without a real objective. I don't know of one student of cello who gets fired up about practicing scales. And for me, motivation is as important as technique. If cellists don't practice, they won't get better! I know a child who loved the cello so much that extremely lengthy and in-depth practice sessions were like play time. Then this little cellist started studying with a teacher who spent the majority of the weekly lessons drilling scales.

The little cellist soon stopped practicing. Stopped loving the cello. Such a tragedy! You get the idea! And I think I have ranted long enough But I feel better getting that off my chest! And I look forward to receiving my letter of excommunication. Until then, happy practicing without scales!

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