The cellist Bernhard Cossmann (1822-1910) “discovered” and published some wonderful little doublestopped exercises in his “Studies for Developing Agility, Strength of Fingers, and Purity of Intonation for Cello” in the late 19th century. On the cellofun.eu website these exercises have been developed, elaborated, and extended, to ultimately constitute one of the basic pillars of our left-hand technical foundations. The exercise shown here below is an example of this work. The objective of the first three bars is to establish secure and accurate intonation (finger spacings) before the introduction of the coordination and finger-independence problems of the final eight bars.
Each exercise is played in one position. In other words, within each exercise, no shifting is required. We might call them “doubletrill exercises” because the two fingers on each string alternate (oscillate) in much the same way as a trill. But these “trills” are much slower than normal “ornamental” trills, so a really accurate name for these might be “Slow-motion Doubletrill Exercises”. The many different possible permutations, all involving playing with different fingers on two adjacent strings at the same time, constitute simultaneously both the most basic, and the very best, practice material for developing hand-and-finger strength, finger coordination, finger independance and accurate finger spacings (intonation).
In the above exercise, we play with two fingers on each string. These exercises are very tiring for the hand so we may want to build up to them slowly (progressively). One of the ways we can do this is by incorporating the open string into some preliminary exercises. This makes the doubletrills somewhat less strenuous, because during the open string our hand can relax more than when we are stopping two fingers simultaneously. The incorporation of the open string also reflects the reality of playing in the Neck Region (in which we often use open strings). When our hand is strong, then we can also do these exercises in the extended position.
Here below we present the different possible exercises in an approximate order of increasing physical difficulty (strain). Levels 1,2 and 3 can be considered as a progressive build-up to the final “Cossmann Doubletrill Exercises”. Because of the fact that the open string gives us a moment of relaxation, we will start with the different possible patterns using the open string. All of these exercises can also be done (or at least attempted) in extended position, with one tone between the first and second fingers. These are excellent for training the hand to be strong and comfortable in extended position but are extremely intense because the use of the permanently-maintained extension adds hugely to the physical strain involved. Doing these exercises in extended position is definitely the last, highest, ultimate level of difficulty, involving considerable injury risk for an unprepared hand.
Clicking on each of the following links opens up the complete series of exercises, including every possible finger combination. If we were to write out in full each possible exercise then this would require many pages of music, which could appear intimidating. Therefore the exercises are presented in a more concise table form.
Level 1: One Finger Fixed On One String/All Other Fingers (and Open String) On Other String
Level 2: Open String and One Finger On One String/All Other Fingers On Other String
Level 3: Open String and One Finger On One String/Two Other Fingers On Other String
Ultimate Level: Original Cossmann Exercises (Two Fingers On Each String)