Last week, we focused on finger dexterity and improving such things. We looked at Feuillard's Exercise in shakes - a simple but effective exercise in establishing nimble fingers, stamina and speed. You'll get the same results with the subsequent exercises that focus on shifts between all the positions.
Today we looked at comfort, shifting and vibrato on the higher registers.
Using the Bunting exercises, we started with one octave scale of D major on the A string; fingering as follows: 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 with 8 beats per bow, followed by 12 and then 16 beats focusing on producing even tones before introducing slow vibrato, all the while following strictly to the beat of the metronome.
The exercises were torturous and really recognises how physical cello playing is. You enter a zen-like mode when you do it right; everything relaxed, shoulders down, feet, toes, hips and pelvis grounded, bow arm at the right angle, nothing twisted and most important of all, breathing remains constant and at the core of the wholeset up.
We crunch ourselves into a ball when we perceive difficult things. Playing the cello is such a task and we naturally tense up, almost defaulting into a defensive posture when approaching a difficult passage, fearful of its repercussions.
This was made more apparent when we moved on to the G Minor melodic scale, located on much higher registers. Without even realising, my shoulders started to creep upwards taking everything else with it. I only noticed after hearing Deryn calmly say, "shoulders down... pelvis down...". Like a ten tonne magnet, the entirety of my physical being was repelling itself away from the cello as if to compensate for all the higher notes I was now playing.
Following Deryn's words and now anchored to the floor, I was now able to focus on breathing. Strong, deep breaths that surprisingly help relax the tense frame that overtook me moments ago. The resulting effects were bolder notes, better tone and comfortable bow strokes.
We took some time doing shifts between whole tones as the distance between higher registers were closer together as you go up and further apart as you go down. "Hear the notes, visualise them before your play it" - a rather odd thing to say but in practise, made more sense as I kept hitting the right note when I did it.
Before the lesson ended, Deryn suggested we play a short passage from Faure's Apres Un Reve from figure A. I've had this piece sitting amongst the pile of cello scores for a while but daren't go near it as the entire piece only uses tenor and treble clefs.
Having properly warmed up now, this seemed more feasible a task than originally thought. Not only that, I was now also able to confirm where the notes in treble clef are in relation to the fingerboard! And when we played through the small passage together, it felt liberating to know that the only thing holding me back from tackling it in the first place was my mental block and not the ability required to play it.
With proper planning, Deryn says, any piece is achievable, it's just a matter of perspective and a strong grounding of the basics.
For now, I should go forth, enjoy myself and have fun playing this. Also, to be as bold and lavish as I can be - it's a romantic piece after all!
I'll leave you with Reprisal, from Deryn's latest album, I AM CELLO - a gorgeous soundtrack if you're into goosebumps and epic emotions ruling your senses. She's also recently recorded a new video for one of my favourite tracks from the album - Hypnos. Can't wait to see that one!
Learning the cello as an adult started as a dare but has now turned into an ongoing love affair; I hope to one day make her sing to her full potential. In the meantime, all spare time and moments are dedicated to this wonderful instrument as I am unable to think about anything else, much to the dismay of my other half :}
This is an attempt to remember the classes I have taken so that I don't forget.