Can't Play B-flat with a Crooked Finger

September 29, 2020

Backward extension from first position is the largest / hardest stretch for me when playing my cello. When I extend my fore-finger back toward the nut, it has a slight curl, which makes my B-flats and E-flats something in-between B-flat and B. A B-flat-and-a-half.

This has been a problem for as long as I’ve been playing with extensions. Intellectually I know that I need to straighten my 1st finger to play in tune, but while juggling rhythm, tempo, bowing, etcetera, I rarely get my finger straight.

One problem is that I rarely listen to myself play. While I am practicing I hear the music but I don’t listen to it. I miss the details. When I get out my Go Pro and make a video of myself, I immediately see and hear all the little mistakes I’m making. It’s humbling. It borders on being depressing. In my head, while I am practicing or playing, I sound good. On tape I hear what I actually sound like. It’s a bit like hearing your own voice when it has been recorded.

With that in mind, I have a new goal. Once or twice a week I want to make a video of myself while practicing, and then take the time to review the video and observe what I am doing physically with hands, arms, posture, head, etcetera. And listen to the tone, intonation, volume, projection I am getting from my playing. My hope is that by exposing myself to the truth of my playing, and not relying on my own ego’s idea of my playing, that I’ll gradually improve those things that are holding my playing back.

First objective is to really focus on a straight 1st finger in backward extensions to make my B-flats ring true.

Author's profile picture

Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.