The Teaching Studio

There is no substitute for the joyful,creative interplay of teacher and student at a private  cello lesson.

. . an imaginary lesson
in progress . . . .


HW: What would you really like to improve in your playing?

STUDENT: I'm not too happy with my sound. Can you give me
some new ideas!
HW: Well, first of all, would you improvise a few expressive notes
or, perhaps, play the first phrase of the Dvorâk Concerto slow movement:

Dvorak Cello Concerto: slow movement

HW: Thank you! You certainly project much musicality in your playing
and your pitch is excellent. As to Tone, that is, of course, a vast subject,
but one or two points could be made now. Tell me, how do you produce
a tone on the cello?

STU: That's easy: the bow makes contact with a string and moves side to side.

HW: Show me!
(Student plays a few slow whole bows.)

HW: Good! But let me be more specific: your bow hair "caught"
the string to free its vibrations and then moved back and forth
parallel to the bridge. Now, what would you have to do to achieve
a richer, thicker sound?

STU: You'd have to press more with the bow.

HW: Again, show me what you would do!
(Student again plays a few slow whole bows.)

  HW: This is where I can help you.The Pronation Twist: twisted forearm produces faulty, pressed, choked cello tone.
First of all, there were visible signs of tension as you were trying to use pressure to achieve a fuller sound. You were doing what I call "The Pronation Twist", twisting (pronating) your forearm and raising your elbow and shoulder to force greater contact with the string. Unfortunately the sound matched your contortions. To be blunt, it became strident and almost choked.
  Imagine your cello bow as a moving ship sinking into the buoyant water.You have to change your approach:
Imagine your cello bow as a moving ship sinking into the buoyant water. Technically, there are two important ingredients of a rich tone: drawing a straight bow parallel to the bridge, and what I call Depth of Sound. Depth of Sound is the extent to which the bow, while in motion, sinks into the string. Without Depth of Sound the bow hair tends to skim over the surface of the string, and you will produce thin, shallow sounds.

How do you achieve this Depth of Sound? Your passive, buoyant arm
must enable the bow to sink spring-like into the string,
even as the bow travels its straight course parallel to the bridge.

Let me show you a simple exercise from The Joy of Cello Playing, Master Lesson 4, to illustrate this point:

  The Two-Handed Saw: Sinking into the String. Exercise 9 from The Joy of Cello Playing book series, Master Lesson 4, by Harry Wimmer
©1986 by Harry Wimmer

  NOW go back and play the Dvorâk phrase again.

Bravo! Your tone is already richer and more resonant. Gone is that pressed, pinched sound. As you practice, picture yourself floating in a pool, with your passive, lazy arms buoyant in the water . . . .

There are many more ideas on Tone Technique in my
Master Lessons 4 & 5 of
The Joy of Cello Playing Books.

Order Master Lessons 4 & 5 online from:

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