Bach cello suites
I've recently practising Bach's cello suites on my viola (the courante and sarabande from the C major one to be exact). There are 2 problem spots (1 in each mvt). I am struggling with the string crossing in bar 29 of the Courante going from D to C (C to A string). I think there are a few other examples a bit further back. Its driving me mad haha.
The other is a double stop in bar 10 of the Sarabande. There is a G# on the bottom with an open D and first finger B. How do I do that? I've tried it and the d string is stopped by one of the 2 fingers I'm using.
Any suggestions? Would help a lot. Its something I'm learning by myself at the moment.
For the string crossing, I suggest not allowing your bow to touch the G or D strings in between. (Sure, okay, that's obvious.) But there's no magic cure there. I've seen YouTube videos (perhaps even Todd Ehle) talking about how to do this, where it's suggested that you actually pull down on the neck of the violin to pull your strings away from your bow. I've never needed to do that although it's possible I'm doing it subconsciously. There should be studies that you can do on string crossings of this type. I know they exist for violin anyway (Kreutzer etc.). Also listen to cellists perform this music and see if they use "expression" at all to hide the technical problem (i.e., cheating). Consider bowing it the other way?
About skipping a string: rather than pulling down your neck (how do you do that?), I recall Bruce Berg here on the forum telling us that you do that by pulling up the bow with the right-hand fingers. If you are unable to do 1-0-2 without one of these fingers still touching your open string, that means your hand position is not 100% OK? Play more on the fingertips?
Hmm. It wasn't really pulling down the neck. I'm trying to recall and I did a quick but unsuccessful youtube search for it. It was something like pushing up on the violin sharply to sort of propel the bow into the air. I'm not kidding -- I know this sounds weird but I saw a well-regarded teacher do a video on this once. I just can't remember enough to find it.
There is an excellent string crossing exercise at the beginning of Viola Suzuki Book 5, my teacher gave me this when starting out with the Bach Suites.
M I've never actually looked at Suzuki books for violin or viola. When it comes to teaching philosophies/training, its not my preferred so
I didn’t mean for you to adopt the philosophies, the exercise in question is very helpful for working on string crossings without hitting other strings.
I know what you meant haha just kinda felt the need to justify why I'd never looked at one. I always make listening to a recording of whatever piece I am doing, self learning or not, part of my practise
Skipping over strings. The obvious and tempting solution is to lift the bow, but that runs the risk of "crashing" and bouncing on the next note. If you want to skip over a string and still sound sostenuto, there is a fancy way to do that, that will seem impossible, counter-intuitive at first. Bach is full of those spots. Whenever we do a change of bow direction, with the hair staying on the strings, there is a very short moment when the bow is not moving, not producing sound. We need to synchronize that moment perfectly with the change of string. The bow will do a rocking motion in the hand. Try that rocking motion on all four open strings, without making a sound. How to practice that: In the Courante, add a written eighth rest wherever you need to skip over a string. During the rest prepare both the left hand finger and the bow-level, rocking the hand, and, most important; Leave the bow hair on the strings! Next step: replace those rests with a shorter pause, a comma between the notes. Last step; get rid of the breaks, trust your bow arm. What might happen, which is really weird, is that the left elbow will appear to be moving in the opposite direction of the change in string level! For that specific spot in ms. 29, while you playing the low D, the elbow drops, leads to the A-string level, while the hand moves up, not down towards the A string. Then the forearm whips over very quickly for the up-bow C
The string skipping? I lighten the bow with the fingers rather than disturb the smooth arm motion. I practice the transitions slowly enough to perceive (i.e. see and feel) every aspect before speeding up.
Mazas 11 and Kreutzer 7 are good exercises for string skipping. I have a go at them every now and then.
Paul that is the fingering I use for that already I think. By pull down do you mean with the arm or finger weight? Adrian, I will need to try that. Thanks all
Another little trick for the string crossing bit:
Jake, please forget what I said about "pull down" and accept my apology. That was just totally wrong. I was misremembering something. I don't even remember what I was trying to remember!!
That happens to me often.
One more remark about the courante: Such passages where the first note is in the bass register, followed by the rest of the bar in "soprano" is supposed to represent two voices: the bass having one note per measure and the melody, made up by the other 5 notes (in the case of this example). I'd recommend to make this clearer by playing the first (bass-)note a little longer, than play the (melody-)notes as belonging together. In other words: Just take your time for the crossing. It won't surprise listeners since the interval is so large. The effect is more convincing when the "bass" is an open string which will keep ringing for a fraction of a second. At any rate, there is a danger that you play that first C (second note of the bar) too early just because you are nervous about achieving the string crossing. Make sure that does not happen; it makes the dancers stumble over their feet. But as I said I'd play that note even a little late.
On the other hand I hate it when cellist play the first prelude in the book as though there's a huge tenuto mark over the first (or, worse, the last) note of every bar.
I'm not a fan of the G major prelude at all. I struggle with it. Its the same rhythm as a passage in a concerto I'm learning for my exam which I also struggle with a lot
The prelude is one of those overplayed pieces, so that it can be excruciating to listen to (only three or four days ago I was watching a youtube comparison of cellos which butchered it). I've got Tortelier and Rostropovich on CD, but I never play them. I think I prefer Tortelier. I agree with Paul about the tenuto, although there are some sections where the melodic value of the first note seems important. Tortelier plays it legato; R. plays it détaché. The first one I ever heard was Rost. and I hated the combination of détaché and what seemed like racing. I don't know what the speed marking is. I've mentioned the cursoriness of Anna Magdalena's slurs in other threads. It's a prelude to the suite as well as to the piece, and gentle and legato seems right to me.
Paul, every effect can easily be overdone. In the G-Major prelude (allegro moderato BTW) the bass note is touched several times again during the measure though; I think it is not the sam situation.
How do you guys like
When I bought it from Guivier's my viola had a Larsen A string on top of 3 Dominants. The G-major Prelude went doodle-DIddle-DIddle-DIddle, doodle DIddle...
Doodle-DIddle.. This is why I use a synthetic A (or plain gut in the '60s when I started) with a longer, lighter stroke than on the lower strings.
Paul, you hate it when cellists do it, but you don't mind it when violists' do it?
John, what I've noticed is that violinists don't take nearly as many liberties with Bach that cellists do. Regarding the Well-Tempered Clavier, I'm with you: What you describe sounds absolutely awful.
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