Sometimes a hammer, sometimes an artists paintbrush ……… sometimes a Ferrari, sometimes a steamroller …….. sometimes a microsurgeon, sometimes a butcher …….. sometimes a harpist and other times a rock bassist. The right-arm and bow need to be able to perform an incredible variety of movements, from the ultra-delicate to the savagely brutal.
Although the left hand does contribute, it is the right arm, with or without the bow, that “makes” the sound. The right arm is what sets the strings and cello in vibration. For us string-players, it is the equivalent of a singer’s (or wind player’s) breath.
Together, the right and left hands form a strange dancing couple composed of two totally independent, but completely coordinated, artists. They are engaged in a permanent “pas de deux” on four different stages (the 4 strings), during which, in spite of their extreme intimacy and permanent telepathy, they are never allowed to actually touch each other!
In the same way that pianists practice their two hands separately, it can be useful – and very revealing – to play a bowed passage without using the left hand at all (using only open strings). This allows us to concentrate exclusively on the bow and right arm, without any distractions from left hand difficulties. This is useful not only for complex string crossing passages (where you may have to actually write out the part for open strings) but also for surprisingly simple melodies.
Although we normally think of “Right Arm Technique” as referring exclusively to our use of the bow, pizzicato is also an important, revealing (and neglected) component of what this hand needs to do.
Click on the links below to explore the different areas of Right Hand Technique.