Cello Master Class with Dr. Karen Becker
This afternoon there was a cello master class held on campus. Dr. Karen Becker from Nebraska worked with three students for about 20 minutes each. She was in town to give a recital this evening. I have been fortunate enough to attend several piano master classes with Sibylle, but this was the first for violoncello. I thought she did a fantastic job and I learned several things just by listening and watching. Two of the students were college age and had played for many years and the third was a 4th grader who has played for a couple of years.
Here, in no particular order, are my notes from the session.
- Release 4th then 3rd, and finally the 2nd finger from grip as you the bow moves from frog to tip as way to practice pronating the hand to apply pressure
- Pull in with little finger as you approach the frog
- Keep angle of hand the same through entire stroke
- Try for the same weight at the tip as you have at the frog
- The wrist/hand pronation allows the weight from the entire arm to transfer to the bow
- Think of pulling thought the strings and not just across them - scooping the strings
- Angle of 1st finger vibrato is important particularly for 1/2 position notes (Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db)
- Adjust angle of the cello to improve reach of left hand
- Should be able to see a watch face on your left wrist all thought the slide down the finger board
- Slow down to get nice warm sound
- Adjust grip - curved thumb, don’t reach around the stick
- Without changing your grip, turn the bow upside down and look for the “Thumb bump”. No straight thumbs.
- Imagine pouring a glass of water with your bow hand as the bow stroke moves toward the tip of the bow
- Practice with a mirror to see alignment of bow. Actually look in the mirror. :)
- Play receptive notes along the length of the bow to see how the grip and weight affects the sound - goal is same sound regardless of up bow or down, and where you are on the hair
- Move toward the bridge for clearer sound on the higher notes
- Look for places to change dynamic range to make thins more interesting
- Play chords not as chords - arpeggiated. Can be used to avoid running out of bow
- Look for high or climax in piece and use that to adjust highs and lows in rest of piece
- Start closer to tip to diminish dynamics
- Think about phrasing - like having a conversation with someone
- Conserve bow on the softer bits to have bow left for the louder bits
- Think about wind instruments - you can’t hide anything without vibrato
Even if you only get one or two ideas from attending a master class I think you should go. Hearing things said differently than your teacher says them often leads to wonderful insights or breakthroughs.