FOR THE CURIOUS CELLIST

Time Spent in the Different Fingerboard Regions

On this page we will look at different pieces of standard cello repertoire to see just how much time we spend in each of the different fingerboard regions. We also look at how much time we spend in Thumb Position (all regions combined) in each piece. For this study we have considered the different fingerboard regions as follows:

  • The Neck Region includes the use of the octave (half-string) harmonic and the semitone below, but only in passages that don’t require changing the hand posture into the Intermediate Region posture.
  • The Intermediate region is considered as going up to C-sharp on the 3rd finger A string (or it’s equivalent on the other strings).
  • The Thumb Region is considered as including all positions higher than (and including) the thumb on the half-string octave.

The timings are of course very approximate, as they depend very much on our choice of fingerings, most notably on how much we prefer to stay up high, playing “across” the strings (very often using the thumb) in the different passages rather than running up and down one string. Our choice of fingerings in this sense is very influenced by the style of the music we are playing: whereas soaring singing legato Romantic music often wants to be played on one string with loads of glissandi shifts, a lot of Baroque and Classical period music can sound better – and certainly “cleaner” – played “in position” across the strings without all those romantic shifts. When in doubt, I have in general favoured the use of the thumb and the higher positions, using fingerings that stay up high and go across the strings. But I have always tried to stay within the boundaries of reasonable, conventional fingerings.

The relative proportion of time spent in each region is calculated as a percentage of total cello playing time rather than as a percentage of the total duration of the piece. This is because in some pieces, most notably concertos, the cello has long periods when it is not actually playing.

This information is presented in table form and in chronological order.