FOR THE CURIOUS CELLIST

Neck Region: Doublestops In One Position: “Cossmann” Exercises

These are the ultimate exercises for developing strength and accurate finger placement (intonation) but at the same time they are tricky “tongue twisters” which also develop, in a very concentrated and efficient way the skills of finger cooordination and independence. We have several different levels of progressive preparatory exercises to build up slowly to these.

In these ultimate original “Cossmann” exercises (invented by the cellist Bernhard Cossmann) we use two fingers on each string. This gives us six possible finger combinations which are shown in the following table in approximate order of difficulty:

COSSMANN DOUBLETRILL” FINGER COMBINATIONS

FINGERS ON HIGHER STRING

3 4

2 4

1 2

1 4

2 3

1 3

FINGERS ON LOWER STRING

1 2

1 3

3 4

3 2

1 4

2 4

 

Here below is an example of the rhythms that we can apply to all these different combinations:

short cossmann example

For each of these six finger combinations there are eight possible variants, according to the order in which we place the fingers. In the above example we can see two of those variants. This gives us a total of 48 exercises which can seem intimidating, but if we work through them slowly and gradually, they are extremely useful. And each variant takes less than 30 seconds to play, so even if we played them all, one after another, it would only take 24 minutes (but would probably give us a lifelong tendinitis!).

To avoid injury we must be careful however not to overdo them – these are intense, strenuous exercises. This is strong medicine, to be taken only in small doses, and we should be aware that some of them are so awkward as to be almost if not totally impossible and probably not worth battling with (see Excs 6). Some combinations sound very ugly and are also not worth bothering with so the above table is given for the sake of completeness and not because we need to religiously practice every combination.

As a general rule, we can always keep the lower fingers in contact with the string. The lower fingers are played simply by removing the higher finger. They don’t need to be articulated but they needn’t be pressed down hard into the string when not in use either. They should be as relaxed as possible and just gently touching the string when the higher finger is playing.

Let the thumb “float” freely behind the cello neck. Don’t press it on the neck of the cello – the fingers should use the weight of the arm to stop the strings.

These exercises can be played on other pairs of strings and in any of the different positions of the Neck and Lower Intermediate Region. In fact, for the coordination aspect we can practice these horrible little things anywhere, even without a cello – on our leg, chest, arm or on a table !!

They can also be done in the extended position (using the flattened first finger [1b]). The extended versions should definitely be left to last, as they are so much more strenuous for the hand. There is no real need to write the exercises out again with the extension: we can just play them as written here, but using always the extended-back first finger instead of the “normal-position” first finger. They are however written out on this site on the “Extensions in Neck Position” page.

Here then, in seven pages, are the complete “Cossmann Doublestopped Exercises” in printable, downloadable format along with the instruction guide.

“Cossmann” Doubletrill Exercises in Neck Position