«A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of ...»
of position to be in tune I have to be able to hear the target note before I articulate the printed pitch. If I hear the target note first I am better able to establish the new position both geographically and harmonically. This is accomplished by not only shifting to the target note on the previous bow, but ensuring that there is enough residual bow pressure to make the target note sound only slightly. In his book titled Cello Technique: Principles and Forms of Movement, Gerhard Mantel explains the precision required of the left hand in position changes leaves little time for adjustment, thus “the less-exposed right hand supports the precision of the left.”30 Hearing the target note and adjusting as necessary before the bow change will make the left hand more secure.
For example, consider mm. 10-11 in the first movement of the Sonata. There are two successive position changes in which I use an anticipated shift. Figure 1 below shows that from beat two of m. 10 I go from second finger on B and first finger on A to a new position in m. 11 with second finger on F♯.
Figure 1: mm. 10-11. Establishing a new position with an anticipated shift.
30 Gerhard Mantel, Cello Technique: Principles of Movement and Form, trans. Barbara Heimberger Thiem, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 33.
position, and I shift to E on the “old” down bow of beat two ensuring that I can hear the arrival on the E. The first note of the new position is F♯ played with second finger. By establishing the new position using first finger on E, the second finger will have a natural connection to F♯ making it relatively easy to locate. The same is true for the next position change in m. 11 from F♯ to C♯. Here the target note is also the desired note, C♯, and the old finger will also be the new finger in the next position. Again, finding the new position is dependent on shifting to and hearing the target note before articulating the C♯ with the bow. During the learning stages the target note can be articulated as loudly as necessary in order to be effective. As the connection between the positions becomes more fluid the target note should become less audible, but I have found that left hand should continue to hit the target note at every stage of practice and performance to ensure consistency.
Preparation of the position change is also an important technical consideration. The motion of the left arm and hand has to begin before the finger actually leaves the position. The preparatory motion accomplishes two basic tasks: 1) releases the weight of the hand and arm allowing for a cleaner and smoother transition between positions; 2) Increases the odds that the arm and/or hand will actually travel the required distance (i.e. go far enough). This scenario is analogous to the difference between shuffling and picking your feet up off the ground when walking. Shuffling your feet makes walking laborious, slow, and dangerous, whereas lifting your feet off the ground releases the weight off of the legs, allowing for a faster and more efficient gait. The driving idea behind an anticipated shift is to get to the new position before articulating the first note in the new position. In my own playing, preparation of the left arm can be a large
initiated by the elbow that will release the weight of the left hand, and will “lengthen the time devoted to the shift and thereby provides better control of the total movement.”31 Not only does preparation of the left arm have to take place, but it has to happen far in advance of the actual position change. The earlier the preparation begins, the less rapid the shift regardless of the distance. While these two components are important to conceptualize individually, they are both rendered useless if not coordinated and integrated as one movement. Mantel describes the importance of the combination of the concepts in the following way: “the anticipatory movement is meaningless only if it connects neatly with the final (audible) phase of the sliding motion.”32 These ideas apply to position changes of any distance, whether a semitone or two octaves apart, with chords, double stops, position changes within a single bow (i.e., under a slur), and position changes that involve string crossings. Both of these types of shifts have benefits and drawbacks. Choosing one over the other is a matter of personal preference and the style of music being played since each type of shift has certain characteristics that may prove more effective in specific situations. Because the motion to the new position occurs before the change of bow, the anticipated shift is cleaner. The opposite is true of the delayed shift because the left hand arrives in the new position after the change of bow. There is an audible arrival of the left hand which although less clean, is often more expressive than the anticipated shift. I believe that the anticipated shift helps my intonation since I can use the target note to quickly adjust my intonation before articulating the bow change. The anticipated shift also appeals to my
shift lacks in left hand security it makes up for in its linear simplicity and smoothness. A delayed shift is a point-to-point connection in the left hand that allows for more legato playing and the possibility for more continuous and even vibrato. These are the basic characteristics of anticipated and delayed shifts which other cellists may take issue with, but are those that I have discovered in my own playing and that I find to be the most relevant.
3.2 The Bow There are more technical issues related to the bow than I have space in this paper to cover. Fortunately, there are a limited number of bow related problems that the cellist will encounter when playing Kodály’s Sonata. I will cover the balance between bow speed and pressure, the motion of the arm in the bow stroke, and bow angle. Although there are a couple of instances in the Sonata in which a specific bow stroke is required, I will cover specific strokes when dealing with a particular passage in later chapters.
There are a variety of factors that go into determining the correct bow speed and pressure: 1) the thickness of the string; 2) the placement of the bow on the string relative to the bridge and fingerboard; 3) the duration of the note or notes; and 4) the dynamic level.
Each string has its own unique thickness, and therefore each string requires a different amount of weight from the arm in order to create enough friction to make the string vibrate. As the thickness of the strings increase, more weight has to be applied to the string. However, there is a delicate balance when applying weight into the string. Too much and the string is choked;
too little and the bow skates over the surface of the string. When I play I generally use the elbow to help distribute the weight of the right arm. For more weight I lower my elbow, and to release
proximity of the bow to the bridge or fingerboard. The tension of the string increases as the bow approaches the bridge, and decreases closer to the fingerboard. As the bow moves away from the bridge less weight will be required to make the string vibrate.
However, there is now another variable we have to consider in addition to weight and placement: bow speed. The bow speed can help or hurt the sound just as weight can. Since less weight is needed as the bow moves toward the fingerboard, the speed of the bow must also increase otherwise a slow, heavy bow near the fingerboard will choke the string. Conversely, a fast, light bow near the bridge will keep the bow from gripping the string. Here is where the duration of the note will come into the equation. If the note’s duration is longer (i.e. sustained) the bow has to travel slower so as not to run out of bow. The dynamics will generally determine where the bow should be placed relative to the bridge, and thus the appropriate speed and weight.
Just as a preparatory motion in the left arm must occur prior to a position change, changes in bow speed must also be prepared. This is a matter of judging what the speed after the bow change will need to be, and then either decreasing or increasing the bow speed to match the new speed. If shifting is analogous to walking, then bow changes are analogous to driving with a manual transmission. The car will drive more efficiently when in the correct gear. For example, if the note after a bow change needs a faster bow speed, I have to increase the bow speed on the previous bow just as I have to accelerate in second gear before shifting to third gear. Conversely, if the note after a bow change needs a slower speed, I have to slow the bow before the change in direction.
Lastly, I will address bow angle. In order for any sound produced by the bow to be clear
the sound. Unfortunately a straight line in string playing is not what one might necessarily think of as straight. Because the bridge is curved and each string lies on a different point on that curve, a series of tangents are created when the bow is drawn across each string. Although each tangent creates a line, it is the angle of the arm that will determine whether or not the line is straight relative to the curve of the bridge. As the bow crosses from one string to the next or skips strings, the angle of the bow and arm have to accommodate the curvature of the bridge.
More often than not the body has to help keep the bow straight. This is especially true on the A and C strings which meet the bridge at its outermost points. One way to mitigate the extreme angles on these two strings is to turn the cello to the right when playing on the A string or to the left when playing on the C string for extended periods of time. Turning the cello when playing on the A string keeps the right arm from having to reach and is especially beneficial when playing at the tip. Turning the cello when playing on the C string keeps the right arm from having to position itself behind the cello, prevents the wrist from breaking when playing at the frog (because the arm is in position over the string instead of underneath it), and for some cellists (usually tall cellists) prevents the right hand from hitting the right leg. There are other changes the cellist can make physically to accommodate bow angle that I will discuss in the next section.
3.3 Physical Aspects There are several physical aspects to my playing that I believe are worth mentioning.
With regard to the left hand I release any and all fingers that are not actually in use. Recall the walking analogy. Walking is virtually impossible if both feet remain on the ground. The same is true of the left hand. Multiple fingers on the fingerboard create excess tension, making it more
should not point if at all possible. When playing in thumb position, the thumb should simply maintain contact with the strings to preserve the balance of the hand when not being used.
Generally, I use my body to help pull the bow in a straight line, and to make sure that the bow is at the correct angle for each string. I accomplish this by turning at the waist slightly. This does two things: 1) helps the arm get over to the A string or C string, and 2) ensures that string changes are made by the upper arm not the wrist. I also try to use the larger units of the right arm whenever possible rather than allowing the stroke to be executed by the wrist or the fingers.
String crossings, whether the stroke is separate or slurred, should be executed with the whole arm. If string crossings are made by flexing the wrist the bow angle and contact point cannot be maintained.
In more general terms, breathing and maintaining balance of the body are important in my playing. Breathing is another aspect of preparation for both the right and left hands. More specifically I incorporate breathing into the rhythm of a shift and the timing of a bow change.
Breathing is also important in maintaining the pulse. Starker often advises his students to use the word “and” before beginning a phrase or to separate units of music.33 Maintaining balance of the body depends on rotating the body or parts of the body around an axis (e.g. turning at the waist around the axis of the spine) rather than bending forward or backward. Similarly, moving the body side-to-side using the feet and legs to initiate the movement rather than bending at the spine is more conducive to maintaining the balanced relationship between the body and the cello 33 Tim Finholt, Janos Starker Master class Report, University of Washington, December 2, 4, and 8, 1999., http://www.cello.org/Newsletter/Articles/starkmc.htm (accessed February 21, 2013).
the head with the body, especially as the left hand progress up the fingerboard. A tendency for many cellists as they move higher and higher on the fingerboard is to lean over the cello and to move their head forward or down. However, moving the head, neck, and shoulders forward creates unwanted tension and prevents the weight of the body from being transferred from above.
Balance can be disrupted when a cellist thrusts his or her body forward when executing a large shift into a higher position. Balance is maintained if the head is up when going into the higher positions.
These are the core principles that I follow in my playing and those that I will cite most frequently in my discussion of Kodály’s Sonata. Not all cellists or string players share the same philosophy when it comes to technique, but I found these ideas to be the most successful in not only my own playing, but in the playing of my colleagues and professor.