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An Artist's Guide to Technique on the Cello (or the violin!) – Part 2: Exercises

This month, I once again bring you Dr. Stefan Kartman, amazing cellist and professor at the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin, who will share with you exercises he uses to work on the principles he discussed last month in Part 1. Dr. Kartman has put together PDFs illustrating these exercises. Contact me if you would like to obtain a copy.

Enjoy! On to Dr. Kartman! RPG

An Artist's Guide to Technique on the Cello (or the violin!) – Part 2: Exercises

Daily Exercises

Every determined teacher at some point develops on their own or finds existing raw technical material that exposes and potentially improves these inconsistencies that are detrimental to success in the latter groups of goals.

In such material, it is important that they include as many aspects as possible within the designed timing of the exercise that might be used in a musician's professional life. One can work on bow changes at the frog and tip until they are absolutely great, but this will of course make everyone even more aware of the shaky one in the middle or upper third.

The nicer your overall vibrato is, the more people will notice when you suddenly don't vibrate just before (or after) every shift, or whenever you have an extension, or whenever you have a half step that is very close in the upper register, or at string crossings. Surprisingly, I have seen all of these from cellists with otherwise quite well developed techniques.

Balance in practice is an important aspect to be considered when creating or choosing daily technical exercises for yourself or your students. One can write a page or two of open string exercises. Students may practice them with specific goals and improve many aspects of their bow technique, but it is important to have a shorter version that is maintenance friendly. In other words, it should be possible to do this exercise every day, have enough time to do exercises that emphasize other important aspects of their technique, and still practice repertoire so that they can apply the things learned during the daily technical exercises.

Listed below are some of the daily exercises that my students and I use to keep gaps from developing in our technique. The exercises wont fill in these gaps by themselves. Only the student (with the help of his or her teacher) can do that. Each exercise designed to cover a specific aspect of string instrumental technique by emphasizing the most common technical combinations and requirements from standard repertoire typically studied by high school and undergraduate college students.

Scales/Arpeggios - Galamian Style

· Vibrato Speed - General

· Vibrato Speed - Varied

· Vibrato Weight Transfer - Cross Strings

· Bow Change Exercise

· Intonation and Hand Balance - First to Third Position

· Shifting Around the Bout - Hexachords Fourth Position and Above

· Chromatic Thumb Position Exercise

I remember that one of my teachers (Bernard Greenhouse) used to complain bitterly that the level of many of our current professional soloists technique was underdeveloped when it came to producing various tone colors and speeds of vibrato to accompany otherwise competent technique on their instruments. So I have selected from the list of exercises above two vibrato speed exercises that my students and I use to develop this technical skill.

I hope they may be useful to you as teachers or performers.

The following is a link to a performance that relied heavily on the skills developed by practicing the attached exercises.


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