Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Monday, June 02, 2008


The subject of Starker's Organized Method of String Playing came up on Cello Chat about a week ago. I don't have access to the thread right now, but it might still be on the first page. Most of the posts dealt with the hazards of Do-It-Yourself. No one can understand the great mysteries behind the book without a teacher that apprenticed under Grand Master Janos or with one of his duly ordained disciples. My teacher's not in that exclusive club, she went to USC.

But I'm sorry, I don't find the goals of the book all that mysterious and inaccessible. It's sets of simple double-stop mechanical finger exercises, following a mechanical, non-musical sort of chromatic progression: first one finger stays put and the other two finger progress chromatically, then the first finger progresses one half-step and the two other fingers start over in the progression. Sort of like gears in a clock.

To complete the exercise though all the permutations of a single position, in tune, requires really good hand/arm position, finger independence, and very little unnecessary tension. Benefits: precise intonation; endurance from efficient, non-tense finger dropping; and knowledge of what notes are available in what position.

However, (1) I don't have the endurance to play a whole set well without tension. Also, (2) I have difficulty identifying and maintaining good intonation in a chromatic, atonal situation, and, (3) I get bored, and (4) I don't really absorb what notes I'm playing in such a mechanistic exercise, anyway. So, during the past couple of years I've made simplified versions that center around a key. It helps me listen and hopefully make musical sense out of the intervals. And if, at one time, I only play those that fit within a specific key, then rest, I can get though it without over-stressing and tightening up my fingers.

My previous post showed what I'm talking about (click here to see). On it I identify the a key and chord progression that the exercise intends to suggest. I see it didn't garner any interest on Cello Chat. Instead, I killed the thread. I seem to have a knack at that.


cellodonna said...

Well, you might have a knack for killing threads, but you also have a knack for figuring things out. Great exercise!

BTW, I've pretty much given up reading and posting on ICS boards, (cellodreamer) - too much ego, nonsense, mean-spiritedness, and other inanities ... funny, I always thought I was the killer of threads.

CelloGeek said...

I thought you had a great exercise there. I use a similar one that is based on the Cossman trill exercises.

At the end of the day it's all about what works for you and boredom is not conducive to progress!

Thanks for sharing!