FOR CELLISTS: AMATEUR, ASPIRING ............... AND CURIOUS

Left Hand

A musician is an athlete of the small muscles

This is especially true for the cellist’s left hand.

Dancer, gymnast, sprinter, marathon runner, weightlifter, high-diver: the cellists left hand is an olympic athlete, not only participating in all events, but also changing events at a moments notice. When we add to these athletic requirements, the necessary skills of singer, poet, Shaolin warrior, yogi, contortionist, magician and circus performer, then we can start to appreciate the complexity of what our left hand needs to be able to do.

PRACTICE FOR THE LEFT HAND

Pianists often work on each hand separately and independently. This doesn’t come naturally to string players, especially for our left hand because, unlike for pianists, our left hand on its own makes no sound (Ravel could not have written a “Cello Concerto for the Left Hand” as he did for the piano!). However this can be a useful practice tool. Practicing the left hand without the bow (we can use pizzicato if we want) not only gives our ears and right arm (and neighbours) a rest, but also allows us to concentrate exclusively on this hand.

We can even practice the Left Hand without a cello. One very busy cellist kept a cut-down fingerboard in the car with her for use in traffic jams. In fact, we can even practice the left hand with less than a fingerboard, but that is another subject (see Mental Practice).

A very useful practice technique for the left hand is to transpose any passage (that doesn’t use open strings) into neighbouring keys.

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Click on the links below to explore the different areas of left hand technique:

WARMUP     FINGERBOARD REGIONS    POSITIONAL SENSE    SHIFTING    

FINGER-STRING CONTACT    VIBRATO       EXTENSIONS      THUMB POSITION   FIFTHS

LEFT-HAND STRING CROSSINGS       DOUBLE STOPS AND CHORDS 

       CONTRACTIONS AND SNAKINGS    TRILLS     FIRST FINGER    FOURTH FINGER 

FINGERING   HARMONICS    CHROMATICS      LEFT HAND PIZZICATO