Wednesday, October 31, 2007


More about bows

The latest two bows from Cellos2Go are so nice I can't choose between them. They "feel" quite different, but they both draw such nice sounds from the strings. One seems to play smoother in the lower registers, but the other one plays a little better on the upper strings. While they're both lighter than my current bow - I like that - one is a little heavier at the tip. I started out last week liking the dark one better, but this week I'm leaning towards the light-colored bow. I think I'll end up keeping one of these, but how to choose?

My lesson (#40) today focused on shifting - we worked a lot on the 5th position shift in the Beethoven Minuet; also the slide back down through 4th position to 1st. I realized my fingernails were too long to do this properly, so as soon as I got home I grabbed the clippers and fixed that. I'd only played through this pizzicato until now, but today I started bowing it. Then, we worked on the bow-pulsing sections. This led to a discussion about upcoming skills that I would soon be learning... so much more to learn. This piece is going to take a while. After that we played through some c-minor scales.

And we talked again about vibrato. She suggested I fit in just a few minutes each day practicing sliding my hand up and down on the strings, focusing on using the whole arm. OK...

I commented that I felt I didn't have enough time each day to adequately work on the latest piece. That led to a discussion about planning out each practice session. I'm spending too much time on warmups and scales, and reviewing the older pieces. I should cut this back at least by half, and only review one piece each in Book 1 and Book 2. Then review all of the pieces in Book 3 and finally attend to the two newest ones. Then I should work on the latest parts in Mooney's Position Pieces.

In a way, it was a relief to hear that. I have to admit, I've gotten a little bored with the first half of my practice sessions and was having to push myself to do it. Yet I felt I had to do it for some reason. My teacher suggested I set a few goals for each warmup session - work on accuracy, work on speed, or work on intonation, etc. I shouldn't expect to get it perfect, so just play them for a few moments as planned and then move on.

You know, with topics like these in your lesson you really can't be calling yourself a beginner anymore. This is firmly-in-the-intermediate-camp stuff.

The bow decision is tough. You'll find that you'll like one for a stretch, and then you'll prefer the other. And then later maybe the first. As you continue to grow you may develop a firm preference, but you can't really predict which it will be now. If they're reasonably priced bows I'd go for both, too. I have a small stable, and it's nice to be able to pick the bow that sounds the best on any given day. And it's exciting when you "grow into" one and discover potential you would have never known you had if you had chosen the other. And BTW, expect to do this again in a few years. The bows you like at this stage will seem dead to you when you get to the more advanced repertoire.
Re shifting - I posted the following comment on CelluMuser's site yesterday: I have a great article on [shifting] from an ASTA magazine. It's called "The Power of Positive Shifting" (subtitled: "Navigating the Cello Fingerboard with Ease") by Carter Enyeart. It's in the Feb. 2006 issue of American String Teacher.

Unfortunately that magazine isn't readily available, but your teacher might be able to help you locate a copy.

I agree with GGP on the bows; if possible, go for both. Also, another suggestion (which you may have already done, but I didn't even think of last year when I was bow shopping): try various bowing techniques, and try the bow in the different "lanes," especially closer to the bridge. When I was trying bows last year I focused almost entirely on one passage that I was having difficulty with in the Breval Sonata - probably not the smartest approach.
There are still days when I feel just as clumsy as that first time - almost two years ago already(!) - that I hesitantly scratched the bow across the strings of that rented cello.

Each of the trial bows is right at the upper edge of my price range, so unfortunately, I will have to send one back. I'm fairly confident though, that I could be satisfied with either one.

Thanks for the tip, cd, I'll look for that article.
Well, in that case I have two more cents-worth <g>. Have you asked your teacher to play your cello with the bows while you listen? That can give you an idea of which bow has more "potential." Also, just a comment from my personal experience. Heavy-in-the-tip seems to be one of the predisposing factors for overuse syndromes in my bow arm. YMMV.
I always keep a pair of nail clippers and a paper file in my cello case or gig bag. I guess it should belong to every string player's standard equipment.
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