A Complicated Wooden Box

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Cello By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Cello
Last updated: 25/02/2018
Tags: 'cello, practising

I think the word 'technique' is misused. One who is a master of one's instrument has facility. Technique is the ability to use one's facility unconsciously in order to realise an abstract musical intention. Understanding this on a fundamental level transforms an instrumentalist into a musician.

For me, the physical act of playing and the musical intention were disconnected. It took me until I was twenty-two before I was able to marry the two. This was one of the biggest discoveries of my musical life. I became a musician.

Playing the cello is both complex and simple. We have a wooden box, over which four strings are tightly stretched. We hold a bow in our right hand, which we use to make the strings vibrate, and the fingers of the left hand are used to change the length of the strings. Why then, do we agonise for so long over our playing? Are we overcomplicating matters?

Think about it logically: every note, of every bar, of every movement of every piece in the repertoire, requires a different physical movement. This is impossible to intellectualise; we simply don't have the time. It was when I realised this that I started to control my agonising and trust my subconscious. We spend our training agonising because we need to give our subconscious a collection of tools. The agonising is necessary, but it is important to know when to agonise and when to let go. The agonising never ends, but one's ability to manage it improves until it becomes bearable.

A young student is often overwhelmed by it. He or she becomes obsessed; a slave to his/her neuroticism. We all begin with a wooden box, and this is where we end up (albeit with an entirely different perspective). The challenge is what happens between.

Anton Crayton Cello Teacher (North London)

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