Saturday, March 04, 2006

Cello Exercise List

**This is a list that I have compiled from other teachers, and my own experience, hope you find this ever growing list useful**

KEY:
b= beginners
i= intermediate students
a= advanced students
fa= For all students

Body/Cello Position

Cello-Hug, b
• How to approach, tell the students to wrap their arms around their cello as if to give the instrument a hug. Although the teacher must emphasize for the student not to squeeze the cello but just give a relaxed hug.
• What to listen/watch for, the student must be made aware of the position, and level of comfort that comes with the hug. The student shoulders should not be raised or tense and the instrument should have correct contact with the body.
• Objective of exercise, the purpose of this exercise is make the student aware of the correct body position, without having to constantly remind them verbally of mistakes. Cello-Hug is an exercise that they (students) can take home with them and practice achieving that level of comfort until it becomes second nature.

Tri-pod, b
• How to approach, the teacher brings in a tripod and demonstrates the stability of the three legged apparatus. The teacher can demonstrate when only two of the legs are equal distance, and the other is not and how this can upset the balance and stability of the tripod. Once the point is made the teacher demonstrates how the feet/legs and the endpin make up a tripod and how that balance transfers into the stability in playing the cello
• What to listen/watch for, the students must understand what it feels like to not have the balance of the tripod position in order to accept it. The teacher must make the student aware of their position whenever they (student) are at the cello.
• Objective of exercise, to make the student aware of the role that their feet/legs play in the balance of their instrument. Also to make them aware of what feels like to be balanced.

Cleaning the Air Corridors, b
• How to approach, the student places the middle of their bow on the A-string, then on the C-string. The teacher demonstrates that nothing should be obstructing the path of the bow.
• What to listen/watch for, the student will say, if they have and obstruction (a knee or two) and the teacher will help the student “clear the air corridors” by adjusting to a new seating position, endpin height, or just fix a posture problem.
• Objective of exercise, to get the student use to playing without hitting one’s knees with the bow when playing. It also helps them understand to a greater depth the role of a good cello position.


Left Hand/Elbow

“Find the same note in different positions up to the end of the fingerboard”, I,a
• How to approach, the student can either play long held notes, short notes, or rhythms to engage this exercise. They begin at the lowest octave and can either find a note pattern, on the same string, different strings, or all of them (multiple octaves, sometimes the same octave but different strings).
• What to listen/watch for, intonation, ease of shifts, and clarity of rhythms.
• Objective of exercise, to make aware to the student the map that is in front of them, and will aid them in sight-reading, technique work in pieces, and overall understanding of where everything lies.

Scales, fa
• How to approach, scales can be tailored to meet each students technical needs and capabilities. A combination of bowing techniques and rhythms further intensify this exercise and make it a great work out for all.
• What to listen/watch for, intonation, clarity of shifts, positions, rhythms, and bow techniques. Also the student must be aware of key signatures and relative scales.
• Objective of exercise, to infuse in the curriculum elements of theory, intonation practice, and overall technique elements that a student will use for the rest of their lives.

skim the strings, fa
• How to approach, the teacher demonstrates the ease of sliding the the hand over the strings with out pressing or holding the strings down. The teacher can also “skim” into higher positions (thumb).
• What to listen/watch for, the teacher must make the student aware that the hand is not the first body part to move, but the elbow is.
• Objective of exercise, the most important aspect of this exercise is for the student to not be so focused on the hand motion, but the elbow motion. Once this is understood and absorbed the ease at which the student moves around on the instrument would have increased greatly.

Replacement exercise, I,a
• How to approach, the teacher demonstrates how one finger can play a note and then another finger can play that same note and continue on in either a pattern (1,2,3,4,3,2,1) or out of sequence. Tempo should be slow initially until it can be worked up to a suitable speed.
• What to listen/watch for, ease of elbow/hand movement, intonation, and stability.
• Objective of exercise, build a technical element by isolating it into its fundamentals. Once a desired tempo is reached the shift should not be audible to the teacher.

Trill Exercise, I,a
• How to approach, using rhythms the student takes the notes of the trill and executes them in an even steady rhythm, usually beginning at a slow tempo then speeding up the tempo to offer an extra challenge.
• What to listen/watch for, clear rhythms, steady tempo, intonation (the top trill not should be placed slightly higher than the in tune note). Also the student must make sure that the hand is as close to the finger board as possible, helping to facilitate the rapid movement of the fingers.
• Objective of exercise, to strengthen the individual fingers, and vary the speed that the student trills with.

Vibrato

Graduated rhythms, with gradually increasing speed (begin at ♪ = 58), i,a
• How to approach, student should practice this exercise with current scale (student should be secure with intonation of the selected scale) and focus on changing the pitch of each note with the rhythm of eighths, triplets, quadruplets, sextuplets, etc. with four beats in each measure (one note gets four beats).
• What to watch and listen for. Make sure that noticeable motion is originating from forearm, not fingers. Fingers however should be supple and very relaxed (down to the last joint). When at some of the lower speeds the “WA-AH” should be very pronounced, and so should the rhythms.
• Make sure that it is clear which of the two types is being focused on, or if both are being practiced alternately.

Sliding into the vibrato, fa
• How to approach, in one motion student begins roughly around first position (on second finger to begin with) and slides up the neck (roughly around fourth position) and as far back gradually decreasing the surface area of the slide until it settles on one note with vibrato.
• What to watch and listen for. Make sure the “ Wa- ah” sound is considerably stretched out and as the area decreases it becomes more of the sound of a vibrato. Motion should originate from the elbow, all other motion is simply an effect of that initial motion. Fingers should be supple, and and very loose and relaxed.
• Object of exercise is to understand, and remember the feeling of a relaxed hand. This is necessary for vibrato to take place.

Throwing the hand, fa (but best for -b)
• How to approach, the student throws the hand so that a feeling of shaking dice is felt. The student should be encouraged to try different rhythms, and actually continue the motion for an extend count (4/4). Teacher can even bring in a set of dice to help with the actual motion.
• What to listen/watch for, students (and teacher) should make sure that there is no tension, or visible muscle exertion occuring. The whole arm should feel relaxed all the way down to the hand, and it should feel as though the arm never tires (although a break should be taken after the fourth count). Teacher can also engage the student to place the right hand lightly on the left shoulder to also feel how the motion translates into the shoulder and back.
• Object of exercise is to have the student experience the relaxed motion of vibrato without the distraction of sound. The student then begins to understand how to perpetually keep the motion going and also learns where it originates.

Simulated Vibrato on the shoulder of the Cello, I, a
• How to approach, same as the “Throwing the hand” exercise except now the student has a fixed object to work against. The student should not just remain on one finger, but should go from finger to finger in any combination (but in a set meter).
• What to listen/watch for, the student should be aware of the flexibility of each finger, and also the approach the two types of vibrato (Lateral, Rotational)
• Object of exercise, the student gains more practice of the motion of the arm in vibrato, and also begins to engage the fingers against a fixed object without the distraction of sound. Flexibility of the fingers and types of vibrato should be discussed and the student should be able to demonstrate each before moving on to the strings. “Pass-off” can also be added.


The Pass-off, i,a
• How to approach, in a slow motion the teacher should demonstrate how (in vibrato) each finger passes off to the next using angle to connect each.
• What to listen/watch for, the student should begin slowly in order to hear the pitch change on the finger angle and also to be able to see an exaggerated finger angle pass off. Once the concept is understood the student should use different rhythms in a graduated fashion or set rhythms that continues from finger to finger. Scales can be used also to extend the exercise, and also build endurance.
• Object of exercise, to make the student aware of continuing the vibrato throughout a passage or scale. Rhythms, scales, and a metronome should be used extensively during this exercise.

Rhythm

March in place, while playing, fa
• How to approach, when the meter/rhythm of a particular section is cloudy the teacher instead of counting out the beats or telling the student the rhythm, the teacher suggests that the student keep time by either marching with the feet, or just lifting part of the feet in the given time.
• What to listen/watch for, the feet should be alternating in time and if the student should decide to just lift part of the foot it should be the front half, not the heel (simulating walking/marching). Make sure the student is following his/her own time, if not make them start over and stress the importance of them to be aware of the beat (feet).
• Object of exercise, to help the student internalize the beat/meter but doing it in by in which they realize the constraints of the rhythm/meter, and can learn how to play with it, and around it. Not to be used with a metronome.

March in place, and clap the rhythms, b,i
• How to approach, meant for beginners who are necessarily very coordinated to begin the exercise right before. The same idea is the same for each except instead of playing the notes while marching, the student is clapping out the rhythms. Can also add in saying the note names.
• What to Listen/Watch for, the teacher and student need to be aware that the feet never get off, and that they don't end up mimicing the rhythm that the hands are clapping, each should be independent. Once the student is secure with the feet and the hands, then saying the note names can be throwing into the mix.
• Object of Exercise, to help younger players build coordination of the body, and mind by having them do three things at a time which are all building on thing, sense of rhythm.

Count big beats out loud, fa
• How to approach, the student approaches a particular problematic passage by just counting out the big beats either while playing or not.
• What to listen/watch for, the student should be aware of where the big beats fall, if they are not then they must isolate the problem by either drawing lines through big beat notes, circling big beat notes, or the counting pattern above each note. (1 & 2& 3& 4&)
• Objective of exercise, the student should be aware of how each measure is divided up, into big and small beats. If they are not then this fundamental in rhythm and sight-reading must be covered until they can isolate big beats in any meter.

Bow/Rt. Hand/Rt. Arm

Bubbles, I,a
• How to approach, the student must understand the natural bounce that is built into the bow. Once this concept is grasped then the student can explore bouncing out of control and then trying to control it. As the control level is explored the exercise can then take place.
• What to listen/watch for, it is easy to just let the bow, and hand control the bounce (bubbles) but to effectively bring out the bubbles the student must employ the use of the elbow (as if drawing the bow) and a forward motion. Initially the student should isolate one spot in the bow (middle) to begin with, and once this is mastered they can then move to other point in the bow.
• Objective of exercise, in order for the “bubbles” to occur the student must relax the hand, arm, and fingers even. Mastery of the bubble exercise is translated into a more stable bow arm, control and variety in small strokes.

Getting in the String Exercise, fa
• How to approach, beginning on the –C string (because this string requires the most weight) have the student place the bow near the bridge (but not on it) and wiggle the string without making any sound. Once this is accomplished then have the student lessen the weight and draw a clear core tone from frog to tip.
• What to listen/watch for, When initially wiggling the string the students elbow should be pointed down, and the fingers should show the appearance of the weight that is being funneled through them. Once the student moves on to drawing the core tone the note should have a clear beginning (attack) and the sound/dynamic should not waiver throughout the bow. It should sound the same throughout and the elbow should make an arc-like motion with each down bow and up bow. Once –C string is understood the exercise should move to other strings to practice te different weight requirements for each.
• Objective of exercise, the student must learn to create a good core tone on each string and must learn how to effectively transfer weight from the arm to the hand to the bow. Also the student must learn the ease of drawing the bow by use of the elbow arc.

Spider, b
• How to approch, make sure students have a good grasp on where the fingers are placed on the bow. Once they do tell them they must inch their way up the stick without allowing gravity to help. Make it a game by recognizing the students who can crawl up the stick honestly.
• What to Listen/Watch for,make sure the students are holding their bow out in front of them, and crawling up the stick finger-by-finger simulating a spider.
• Object of exercise, to help the students build a firm but flexible grip, and to show how the fingers can have different tasks, but work together at the same time.

Finger Push-ups, b,i
• How to approach, while the bow is on the string the student does finger push-ups to check the cushion of flexibility in the right hand. Should be checked a different points in the bow.
• What to listen/watch for, make sure the students hand is not caving in under the weight of the arm, the fingers and entire hand should be very supple, and should not feel stuck or tense. The push-ups can be made into a game in which the teacher randomly calls out PUSH-UP as the student is drawing a bow. The student then learns that the hand must be supple and relaxed at all moments in the bow.
• Objective of exercise, the student is made aware of the need to all ways have a “shock” system in the right hand. This will not only build versatility in the right hand, but will also help relieve tension.

See-Saw, b,i
• How to approach, the student begins on two strings (-C and –G) and makes a see-saw like motion from string to string. This continues on each side-by-side string and then progresses into every other string and other combinations.
• What to listen/watch for, the teacher should make the student aware of the different angles on each string and how to find the angle in relation to the bridge. Once this aspect is absorbed the student should also note that the creator of the motion is the elbow and not the hand (esp. on large jumps). (but the hand motion can be explored at the teacher’s discretion)
• Objective of exercise, for the student to be made aware of the different angles on each string.

Scales, fa
• How to approach, scales can be tailored to meet each students technical needs and capabilities. A combination of bowing techniques and rhythms further intensify this exercise and make it a great work out for all.
• What to listen/watch for, intonation, clarity of shifts, positions, rhythms, and bow techniques. Also the student must be aware of key signatures and relative scales.
• Objective of exercise, to infuse in the curriculum elements of theory, intonation practice, and overall technique elements that a student will use for the rest of their lives.

Finger Placement

Replacement exercise, I,a
• How to approach, the teacher demonstrates how one finger can play a note and then another finger can play that same note and continue on in either a pattern (1,2,3,4,3,2,1) or out of sequence. Tempo should be slow initially until it can be worked up to a suitable speed.
• What to listen/watch for, ease of elbow/hand movement, intonation, and stability.
• Objective of exercise, build a technical element by isolating it into its fundamentals. Once a desired tempo is reached the shift should not be audible to the teacher.

Ghost Fingers/Miming, b
• How to approach, either a scale passage, or a particular moment in a piece is isolated and the motions of the different fingerings are gone through as though they are being played.
• What to listen/watch for, curved relaxed fingers, curved thumb that remains under the second finger, not pressing or caving in the wrist.
• Objective of exercise, to focus the student on the hand position and the notes while not letting them be distracted by sounds and the bowing.

Preparation and float, I,a
• How to approach, either isolate a particular two note passage, or pick tow notes a good distance away from each other. The idea is to keep the arm in motion once the shift begins until the final destination is reached. The finger shifting to, from, type of shift etc. should be made clear before the exercise is executed.
• What to listen/watch for, clear preparation note, light glissando that comes out of the string and a clear end note that evolves out of the gliss. The elbow, and arm motion are also a big factor in this exercise and should not be neglected. Intonation.
• Objective of exercise, To practice ease shifting from note to note.

Clam, b,i
• How to approach, away from the cello the student mimics the motion that a clam makes.
• What to listen/watch for, the student must not move the thumb excessively, and must not press with the fingers. Once the idea is made away from the cello then it can be applied but only making absolutely sure that the fingers don’t press and the thumb doesn’t cave in.
• Objective of exercise, to keep the student from squeezing the neck and allowing the thumb to cave in. Every finger (thumb included) should be rounded.

Dramatic Pinky placement, b
• How to approach, instead of the student placing their hand first finger first on the finger board, they approach it from the opposite way with the pinky.
• What to listen/watch for, the student should make a grand, dramatic gesture in order to get the point across. Make sure that once the hand is set the wrist does not cave in, but remains straight as if a continuations from the forearm.
• Objective of exercise, to make the student aware of how the wrist is to remain straight even with the hand on the finger board.
Relaxation

Stretching, fa
• How to approach, Before, during, and after playing the student learns to take time and stretch the muscles. The stretches can start as small as between each finger, and grow to be as large as bending over to touch one’s toes.
• What to listen/watch for, over doing it will lead to injury. The student must understand basic musculature in order to effectively stretch the correct muscles.
• Objective of exercise, to increase flexibility in the playing and decrease injury.

Playing slowly while taking note where you can relax, fa
• How to approach, either isolate a particular passage, or and entire movement where tension is a problem in. Once these areas are made clear go through slowly noting moments of tension and finding ways out of them by using the technique to help.
• What to listen/watch for, student must be aware that they are using the same motions, strokes, and gestures but at a much slower tempo.
• Objective of exercise, to help relieve even the most minute of tensions that might have found its way into the playing.

Meditation, fa
• How to approach, go to a quiet place, and either lay down or find yourself a comfortable position and focus on taking deep breaths and visualizing the performance, or just calm.
• What to listen/watch for, make sure the breaths are deep and steady and that you don’t allow yourself to fall asleep.
• Objective of exercise, to focus and calm the mind before a performance or a lesson.

Thumb Position

Block Fist, I
• How to approach, ask the student to make a fist (no need to squeeze though) and then place the fist (thumb first) on the string and rock from side to side and shift around (as if playing imaginary notes).
• What to listen/watch for, make sure the arm/wrist remains straight throught the course of the exercise. Also because the student is relatively new to the motion substantial breaks should be taken.
• Objective of exercise, to help prepare the student’s thumb (and elbow/arm) for the task of holding down notes in thumb position, and shifting.

Scales in place beginning on the harmonic, I
• How to approach, student places the thumb on the harmonic (seventh position if it were first finger) and plays a one octave scale.
• What to listen/watch for, the student should note that since the thumb is weak the strength will have to be built up by a lot of disciplined practice. The thumb should not cave in, and the fingers although in thumb position should remain curved. Proper elbow height and intonation should also be paid attention to.
• Objective of exercise, this exercise helps the student that is new to thumb position get some perspective on it before they jump fully into it. It is a painless way to practice thumb position for the hand and the arm.

Octaves/Intervals(misc. passages)

Bag-o-tricks, fa
• How to approach, on a problematic passage, or moment in a piece the issue is isolated and run through a battery of rhythms, retrograde motions, and loops.
• What to listen/watch for, student must be aware that they are practicing the correct bowings, and notes (with correct intonation) while the “Bag-o-tricks” are being instituted. If a mistake is made more than once the student can not move on to the next trick and must also go back to the previous trick to drill some more.
• Objective of exercise, to not only isolate the problem spot but to also drill it so many times in so many ways it actually becomes in grained in the hand and overrides any type of preconceived anxiety.

2 Comments:

Blogger alholliday said...

Yay for cello choir! ;-)

4/02/2006 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Cora, it's Mr Chandler! Hope all is going well. Reminder for your students: the summer is a great time to practice things your teacher isn't normally going to hear. Venture out, get that technique up, and have fun!

5/02/2006 2:25 PM  

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