This week in the Cello Zone we are learning how to become fluid between 1st and 2nd Position on the cello in G Major. This is to prepare you for “Fanfare in G Major”, but the core Cello Theory and Techniques can be applied to any piece which may require it. If you need the sheet music for Fanfare, you can find it in Music con Brio Packet 5.
In exercise [1.A] we place our left hand fingers in regular “chromatic” 1st position ( 1 2 3 4 ) on the tapes. Now [1.B] Shift your entire hand up the fingerboard and put 2nd finger on the tape where 4th finger was. Make sure to keep your hand and fingers in a chromatic position ( 1 2 3 4 ). You are now in 2nd position (also notated as 2nd pos. or 2nd p.)!
[2.A] Let’s tune 2nd finger in 2nd position on the D string (the note G) to our open G string. If you are close to pitch, but not exactly on the center of the pitch – try rolling on from the front side of the finger to the back side of the finger to tune your pitch to the open string. If you still can’t get it in tune, you may need to shift or slide your finger up or down the fingerboard to get it centered on the right pitch. This takes time, don’t rush it. Your work here is never done just cause you get it right one time. You will have to keep practicing this not only on this note, but on any new note for many years.
Be patient and kind to yourself. Keep cracking away at it. Try not to get frustrated, it’s a long game and it pays off big time to do this tuning work early on!
[2.B] Now practice tuning these notes in the style of the first measure ( m.1 ) of the piece! Note the hooked-bow on beats 3 & 4!
[3.A] Practice 2nd and 4th fingers in 2nd position using the pattern from measure 5. I’ve included a set of variations to progress through. For variation [3.B] & [3.C] you will need to switch your bow lead ( Down vs Up ) every time you repeat. Do this! It’s really good practice, note that you will have to change where you are in the bow for each lead. Make sure to loop any measure which have repeat signs ||: :|| over and over again with good care and proper technique until you feel fluid and comfortable with the pattern. The more comfortable you feel, the more you should focus on good tone and musicality.
[4.A] Here we will start in 2nd position on the D string, using a 1 2 4 fingering to play the L M H L pattern from measure 2. In [4.A] we stop on the F#! Notice the “harmonic tension” that is created when we end on the F# Leading Tone? It really wants to resolve up to G, the tonic of G Major.
For the rest of [4.B] through [4.D], I take you on a progression which builds 1 note at a time, until we get to a 1 5 1 cadence. Take your time with each measure, until you get it right. Then move on to the next measure. Don’t play them all back to back, work on them as a progression of variations.
Starting at [4.E], we do the same exact progression, but now on the A string. Here, we’ll need a Backwards Extension with our first finger so we can play C Natural. This is very important! If you do not use an extended finger, you’ll no longer be playing in G major, but instead in D Major!
Notice the lack of “harmonic tension” when we end on the C natural in [4.E]? It is not a Leading Tone and does not need to resolve. **Unless found in a V7 chord, where C natural is the minor 7th of the five-chord ( D7 ). In this case it is a leading tone that wants to resolve down to the major 3rd of the I chord ( fa-Mi )
Same as before, follow the rest of the variations [4.F] through [4.H], one at a time.
Shifting from 2nd back to 1st position… when do we do that? and how??
[5.B] Uses a High – High or “4 – 4” shifting method. We will exit 2nd position early, shifting down on our 4th finger from E in 2nd position to D in 1st position.
[5.C] Uses a Low – Low or “1 – 1” shifting method. We will exit 2nd position late, shifting down on our extended 1st finger from C in 2nd position to B in 1st position. * Make sure to close your extension once you return to 1st position!
4-4 shifts, 1-1 shifts or a combination of both are most commonly used in the neck positions. So there is where we shall start. I would venture to say that 1-1 shifts are the most used out of any.
[5.d] Uses a Mid – Mid or “2 – 2” shifting method (or “inside shift”, as I call it). We will exit 2nd position on the inside or middle, shifting down on our 2nd finger from D in 2nd position to C in 1st position.
I very much enjoy these ‘secretive’ inside shifts, they are very strong and secure when done on the 2nd finger.
Here again there are a progressive series of endings/cadences from [5.B] through [5.D], ending with the original patterns from measures 5 and 6 – as they are found in the piece.
It is important and necessary to practice all types of shifts, especially in the neck positions. We will need to use them all often, the more and more you play cello. Be musical when you are deciding when to shift, it will effect the phrasing of the piece – and is a much pondered and experimented upon topic when interpreting a piece.
Supplemental Advanced Exercises
In all these exercises we will focus on fluid shifting from 1st to 2nd position. I have laid these exercises out again in a progression. So follow there order from top to bottom. Repeat and loop each cell many times until they are fluid and feel easy to you. Here you will discover the I’ve labeled some of the Shifting Approach Variations, see [6.D] & [6.G]. This is to help you easily identify which style of shifting we are doing on the way up and on the way down. I aimed to include only the most practical and often used combinations. Learn them well! *Especially the “L up, H down” and “High up, Low down” combos!
Exercises [6.E] through [6.G] take you on the same progression as [6.A] through [6.D], but this time on the A string. Note that we need more shifting combos in [6.G], because we don’t have a 5th open E string to play against. We need to shift up to 2nd position (in this case) to grab it.
Here we are Sequencing the L M H L pattern found in both measure 2 (2nd pos) and measure 7 (1st pos). [7.B] Sequence the pattern starting on 0 open D, then up a step to 1 on D, then 1/1 shift up to 1 on D in 2nd position, then 1\1 shift down to 1 on D in 1st position.
[7.C] The exercise is repeated on the A string, but now you will find with the backwards extended 1 on the A string in 2nd position, the pattern will take on an A minor sound, instead of a G Major sound – pretty cool! Be extra careful when executing the 1-1 shift on the A string, it’s only a 1/2 step away from B to C natural. It’s very easy to over shoot this one.
Pro Tip: As you shift your first finger 1st to 2nd and back; pop open/extended or closed/chromatic at the same time to set up for the next position. Make it a simultaneous “2-for-1 deal”!
[7.D] You’ll notice that this exercise is all on the G string, which we haven’t even touched, except for a reference not to tune to! It just so happens that the fingering for G Major in 1st and 2nd position on the G and the D strings are the same!! So if you take any of the exercises we’ve just learned on the D string, and bump them down a string the G string – you’ll still be playing the correct notes in G Major. How cool is that!
So once you are rocking all of these exercises, try to bump down those fingers to the G string – and learn to become fluid between 1st and 2nd position on that string too!
Starting with Packet 5, we are ready for some more extensive exercises. We’ll always use building blocks and material straight from the piece we are working on to drive our “Cello Theory” and technique explorations. There is a lot to chew on here, but if you learn it carefully the first time, and take your time with it – it will save you a lot of trouble down the road! Stay healthy and Happy Practicing! ~ Brian
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