Principles of Balance: Understanding the sensation of balance is essential to a healthy technical approach to cello playing. Use this site as a starting point, but explore the idea of physical balance in every activity that you do. If you are not active, get active! The more you interact with and experience your physical being through exercise and sport, the easier it will be to translate your understanding to cello playing.
Defining Planes: It is extremely useful to spend time familiarizing yourself with the space around the instrument. We tend to limit our physical adaptation to things we can “see”. Understanding orientation around the instrument is essential for a well balanced and structured approach to playing.
Movement and Breath: If you are unsure about how you breathe as you play, or if you forget to breathe when you play, these simple exercises will help you practice coordination of breath and movement.
Sitting: This all important aspect to cello playing is sometimes overlooked. Varying body types and torso/limb ratios can complicated the issue. You can explore the essentials of sitting on this page.
The Bow Hold: “Holding” the bow can sometimes be our biggest source of tension and pain when playing. Instead of “holding” the bow, we want to “interface” with it in a way that allows the bow to be an extension of our arm, instead of something separate from us. We do this by creating a structure in the hand that stabilizes the bow on the string, but allows for transfer of weight from the arm, and allows for freedom of movement through the hand as we draw the bow with our arm. This structure is discussed on this page.
Right Hand/Arm Balance: A well-structured bow hold allows us to use the weight of the arm to gain power with minimal muscular engagement. On this page, we learn how to release the weight of the arm onto the string, and explore the concept of balancing this weight at our contact point. The essential points of this page are right arm suspension, experiencing weight in the arm, and understanding the experience of balance at the frog through the contact point – where the bow meets the string.
Rotational Force: Once we have a very good understanding of the release of arm weight to the contact point at the frog, then we explore drawing the bow. As we draw our weight source (the arm) further from the body, we must use leverage to transfer our suspended arm weight. We call this transfer pronation, or rotational force.
Left Hand/Arm Balance: Because of the bending of the arm in relation to the fingerboard, the sensation of balance in the left hand and arm is a bit more elusive than that of the right hand and arm. For most cellists it is easier to find the sensation of weight and balance through the right hand and arm before proceeding to the left. A balanced left hand and arm are essential to and expressive vibrato and ease of shifting and movement around the instrument.
Vibrato: Vibrato can be one of our most frustrating sources or recipients of tension. A tight vibrato is constrictive to our body and our expression. To overcome this issue, we MUST have a clear understanding of balance in the left arm. Only when the weight of the hand and arm are balanced over the contact point, where the finger meets the string, can we release the tension in the thumb, hand and arm for free and expressive movement. This link will provide you with solutions to the problem of a restrictive vibrato.
Shifting: Shifting is a source of great misunderstanding. When most cellist are taught shifting, the focus tends to be on moving the finger from one place to another on the fingerboard. For relaxed and smooth shifting, it is necessary approach the activity from the perspective of balance. This means moving from one “balanced” position to another “balanced” position. In this way, we are not shifting our fingers, but shifting our entire body position, with the focus and purpose of maintaining balance throughout the activity. This page will explore the process.