This ebook, An Alexander Technique Approach to Cello Technique, is published on this website in a PDF format. It is very detailed and practical, and it will give you the physical tools you need to take the limits off of your ability to create the accurate cello technique you want without sacrificing your body.
This ebook is also for sale on all AMAZON websites in a KINDLE format.
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. (MOVEMENT THERAPY)
I’m a former concert guitarist, and I’ve worked with a lot of cellists as an Alexander Technique teacher. I’m going to look at the left hand and arm of the cellist from the perspective of the Alexander Technique, and also from my perspective of having been a concert guitarist. I went to my first Alexander Technique teacher with carpal tunnel syndrome in my left wrist caused by practicing six hours a day, and within a few months I stopped hurting and never had a problem with my wrist again. It was this experience that led me to become an Alexander Technique teacher.
As a guitarist I discovered that if I created a vise on the guitar neck, between the thumb and fingers, and did not use arm weight, the carpal tunnel in my left wrist went away. Essentially, I played the guitar with the left hand, as if I was playing the air guitar. This meant that if the guitar suddenly disappeared, my hand and arm wouldn’t drop. My arm floated up to the neck of the instrument, and I pressed the string(s) with my thumb vertical (always perpendicular to the neck), the thumb almost always placed between the first and second finger.
As I’ve worked with cellists, I’ve discovered all of them have been taught to use arm weight. As I see this, it means hanging off the neck of the cello with the intention that the weight of the arm and shoulder will press the fingers into the strings, so you don’t have to work as hard to press the strings with your fingers. It may not work. Here’s why it doesn’t work. When you use the weight of the arm to press the string, you are not fully and gently supporting a light arm, and position shifts mean you have to keep re-supporting a heavy arm to move it.
When you are using the weight of the arm to press the string, you have to find this tricky balance between using the arm weight to press the finger into the string and simultaneously not pulling the arm downward off the notes. So, usually what happens is the cellist pulls the arm backward and presses the back of the neck with the thumb to stay in tune, and this means pressing the string with a lot of muscle anyway. I think this is why many cellists have created a slapping the strings technique to press the strings to the neck.
Here is my alternative to using arm weight. Let the thumb be on the back of the cello neck with a gentle forward bending of the tip of the thumb and the thumb perpendicular to the neck, placed approximately between the first and second finger. Let a light floating arm support the hand fully the whole time. In other words, do not hang on the neck of the cello. This means that if the fingers and thumb act as pincers on the neck to press the strings, you press with the minimum amount of muscular effort to get a clean precise note.
It takes less muscle to press the string of the cello, when the arm and shoulder are supporting the hand fully and with ease, than when you use a tense and simultaneously non-supportive shoulder, making you press fingers even more, trying not to slide down the neck.