Tuesday, January 03, 2006

 

Basic Fingering Chart for the Cello



I finished the Basic Cello Fingering Chart today using AutoCAD. I wanted something that would show where to put my fingers, and the corresponding notes on the Bass Clef staff. I can read the score and play the notes but I'm not always sure about the name of each note. I'm also working on another version that shows the frequencies of each note, which I'll post later.

After I was satisfied with the design, I exported it from AutoCAD as a bmp file, which I converted to jpg in Adobe Photoshop. I also "printed" the design as a pdf file using Acrobat Distiller.

I uploaded the jpg picture and the pdf as a download file to my website, http://www.radatilly.com/CelloFingeringChart.html. Then I posted this link on the Cello Heaven forum for beginners to use. We'll see if anyone comments.

"I've always thought there is a humanlike or anthropomorphic quality to the cello. One talks about the cello body, back or neck and so on. ... There is something sensual or even erotic about holding such a body between the knees and coaxing a sound out of it."
Matt Haimovitz, a globe-trotting cellist, who teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

I managed to get almost 2 hours playing time today before my hands gave out. I worked in the All for Strings book. The book "challenges" you to play some of the pieces with alternate slurrings or on a different string... I find it hard to do play this way without actually seeing it in front of me. So, today before starting, I used Finale Notepad to transcribe several of the practice pieces from the book and then modify it for different strings or different bowings (slurring).

I was surprised at how I was able to play some pieces I'd previously struggled with. Today I sailed through them effortlessly and then picked up the pace and worked them harder and longer. I ended up moving onto some new pieces and I was able to play them OK for a first attempt. Overall, I felt like the cello was sounding pretty good today. Not only did my hands hold out longer today, I also noticed better accuracy with my pinky finger - maybe the grip exerciser is helping.

Here's something I ran across on a webpage that occurred during an International Cello Festival in Manchester, England, in April 2005, which makes me proud to be a (budding) cellist. It also reinforces my appreciation of Yo-Yo Ma:

Of all the events of this year, one in particular stands out. Last April I was invited by the cellist Eugene Friesen to perform with him at the International Cello Festival in Manchester, England. Every two years a group of the world's greatest cellists gathers in Manchester for a week of celebration. It's not a competition or merely a string of performances, but a true celebration of the cello, with workshops, master classes, concerts, seminars, recitals, and parties all day and evening for a week. There is a tremendous felling of fellowship and friendliness, ass well as an incredibly high standard of musicianship. The Patroness of the Festival this years was the Duchess of Kent, and it was an easy, natural blending of royal formality, sophistication, and relaxed comraderie.

Every evening the entire group of about 600 or so gathered in the Royal Conservatory Concert Hall for the major concert of the day. We sat in the same seats every night, so that by the end of the week you knew all your neighbors and it felt like the lodge at a scout camp. My seat was on the aisle not 20 feet from center stage, so I had a perfect, unobstructed view of all the proceedings. And what proceedings! Every single note that came off that stage was the polished, burnished work of a master. One after the next, the greatest players in the world came out, took a bow, flattened us with lyricism, poetry, precision and virtuosity, and then yielded the stage for several hours, and sometimes we would break at intermission for a sumptuous buffet in the dining room--lots of silver, champagne and tuxedos with medals and sashes. Then back to the concert hall for another hour or two. One evening the entire BBC Orchestra was onstage for 4 hours--playing nothing but cello concertos all night! I was a musical heaven.

The opening night concert featured unaccompanied cello only. There on the great stage sat a single, solitary chair. No piano, no music stand, just a chair. Each performer played only one piece, so the atmosphere was charged with concentration and focus. If ever a chair could be called a hotseat, that was it.

The moment of a lifetime followed the performance by Yo Yo Ma. He played a piece called the Cellist of Sarajevo, written by a contemporary English composer named David Wilde. The program notes told the amazing story behind the piece:

On May 27th, 1992, a bakery in Sarajevo which happened to have a supply of flour was making bread and distributing it to the starving, war-shattered people. At 4 p.m., a long line stretched into the street. Suddenly, a shell fell directly into the middle of the line, killing 22 people outright and splattering blood and gore over the entire area.

A hundred yards away lived a 37-year-old man named Vedran Smailovic. Before the war he had been the principal cellist of the Sarajevo Opera Company--a distinguished and civilized job, no doubt. When he saw the massacre outside his window, he was pushed beyond his capacity to endure anymore. Driven by his anguish, he decided he had to take action, and so he did the only thing he could do. He made music. Every day there after, at 4 p.m. precisely, Mr. Smailovic would put on his full formal concert attire, and walk out of his apartment into the midst of the battle raging around him. He would place a little camp stool in the middle of the bomb-craters, and play a concert to the abandoned streets, while bombs dropped and bullets flew all around him. Day after day he made his unimaginably courageous stand for human dignity, for civilization, for compassion, and for peace. As though protected by a divine shield, he was never hurt, though his darkest hour came when, taking a little walk to stretch his legs, his cello was shelled and destroyed where he had been sitting.

The news wires picked up the story of the extraordinary man, sitting in his white tie and tails on a camp stool in the center of a raging, hellish war zone--playing his cello to the empty air. The composer David Wilde was so moved by the report that he wrote the piece which Yo Yo Ma played for us that evening.

Yo Yo sat down quietly on his little stool in his white tie and tails, and began. Quietly, almost imperceptibly, the music started, creating a shadowy, empty universe pervaded by the sense of death. Slowly, it built and grew into an agonized, screaming, slashing furor which gradually subsided back into a desolate death rattle--fading seamlessly back into silence.

When he finished, he remained bent over his cello, bow still resting on the strings. No one moved--we scarcely dared to breath. We all felt that we had just witnessed that horrible scene ourselves. After a long period of absolute silence, Yo Yo slowly straightened in the his chair, looked into the audience and raised his hand. He beckoned someone to come to the stage--and we realized it was him--the cellist of Sarajevo himself! He rose from his seat and headed down the aisle as Yo Yo came off the stage and headed up the aisle to meet him. With arms flung wide, they met each other in a passionate embrace right at my chair. I simply couldn't believe what was happening. At that point, everyone in the hall leaped to his feet in a chaotic emotional frenzy, clapping, weeping, shouting, embracing, cheering. It was deafening and overwhelming. And in the center of it all stood these two men, still hugging, both were crying. Yo Yo Ma, the suave, elegant prince of classical music worldwide, flawless in appearance and performance. And Vedran Smailovic, who had just escaped from Sarajevo, dressed in a tattered and stained leather motorcycle suit with fringe on the arms. His wild long hair and huge mustache framed a fact that look 80 years old--creased with pain and wet with so many tears. And this was the first time he had heard the piece.

I stared at them, wanting to remember every single detail, so that one day I could describe it to my son, and say, "I was there"! And I thought of the audience--all the jewels and perfume and sophistication now completely meaningless and forgotten--all stripped down to the stakes, deepest humanity. What a triumph for us all. What a triumph for dignity and compassion. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony pales next to the emotion in that hall that night. And what a triumph for the cello! Here was a room filled with people whose lives had been largely devoted to that simple and unassuming instrument. Here were bowmakers, collectors, amateurs, historians, varnishers, and of course, the great master players. All come from all over the world to celebrate the cello together for a week. And here, on the first night, they encounter this man who shook cello in the face of bombs, death and ruin and defied them. It became the sword of Joan of Arc. It became the mightiest weapon of them all.

It's because of experiences like this that I call music my magic carpet. A week later I was back playing for the residents of the Penobscot Nursing Home, where I've played a free concert/sing along every month for five years or so. And I realized it's all the same. It's the privilege, the blessing, and the solemn responsibility of all of us who make music; to try to make the world a tiny bit better each time we play.

Posted by Rev. Heng Sure at 10:50 AM in Music | Permalink

Looks like it's all gonna be about celli tonite.

Comments:
Hello.

I came across your blog while looking for a good fingerchart (hooray google). I think yours will do just great. As an older beginner cello player browsing your blog and seeing your progress in the past 2+ years is really encouraging.

cheers,
thor

thor(at)thorthought(dot)com
 
Hey,
My primary instrument is Viola and now I teach Viola and Violin. I plan on teaching myself to play the Cello over x-mas break. Just curious as to how you're coming along as a Cellist?
 
Hello,

I stubled across your blog looking for a fingering chart for the cello that makes sense intuitively. Then read the whole blog and was moved by the story you shared, about making music in a war zone. As I have a great fascination with the Great North, your location speaks to me as well! : )

Imelda Almqvist - painter, shamanic practitioner and budding cellist

www.imelda-almqvist-art.com
 
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