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Rhythmic & Chordal Playing
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Cello Lessons: “Deep River”

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Deep River is a African-American
spiritual with an anonymous composer.
It was just handed down orally, so
it's a traditional spiritual but
it was made famous by the really, really
wonderful actor and singer Paul Robeson.
He sang it in a movie Showboat in 1929 and
it was kind
of his signature song and it has
been associated with him ever since.
Let's learn this melody.
The form of this melody is A, A, B, A.
And so the A section is gonna happen
the same way three times in this form,
so let's see how this starts.
We're in E flat major, so
we're gonna be in our extended hand
position for this whole melody.
And we start on G.
So the first phrase sounds like this.
One, two.
Up, down, up.
All of that is just for the words.
Deep river,
down, up,
down, up.
You want to have a nice
vibrato with all this.
Let's play it together, deep river.
Three, four.
Now that phrase ends up-bow, and
we're gonna retake a little bit so
the next phrase can start up-bow as well.
We're gonna play just those three notes.
D, E flat, and then we're gonna
shift up that half step so
we can play [SOUND] the high
E flat on the A string.
Let's try just the low E
flat to the high E flat.
Repeat after me.
See if you can find that.
Remember, if we're in our extension,
our extended hand position,
then we only shift up a half step.
[SOUND] Let's try that one more time.
Make sure you're getting all
the way up to that E flat.
It'll be easier, of course,
if you release the hand while it's moving.
So, we're just gonna shift up for
that one note.
And then we're
gonna shift right back.
Two, one, two.
Let's put that together.
Why don't you sing it with me?
Let's play it together.
Three, and.
Good, now what we're gonna try and
do is we're gonna do
an expressive shift back
from that E flat to
the second finger on C.
We're actually gonna slur a down bow,
so that we can hear the slide.
And it's gonna have a nice,
plaintive vocal quality to it.
Sounds like this.
I'm kind of shifting
back, on fourth finger,
back just a half step to D.
Before I finger the second finger.
Listen one more time.
Let's play
that together.
Three, four.
And then we add one last note that
up bow on first finger's gonna lead
us right back to where we started.
Let's put all of that together.
We've got deep river,
i'm going home to jordan
Let's play just that much together.
Three and.
Do another up-bow.
And one last
up-bow on the E flat.
So, we're almost done with the A section.
We're gonna start this next phrase.
Also, with the words, deep river.
But we're gonna add the word Lord.
We're gonna add that last word, Lord,
on first finger, so it sounds like this.
Deep river
Lord, and we kinda lean into that one.
Let's play that one more time together.
Three, and
lean, and then the final
words are I want to go
over into campground.
I want to crossover into
campground are those words,
so we want to imitate that
melodic rhythm of those words.
And there's a slight swing
in these eighth notes.
They're a little bit uneven.
Let's play that.
Let's sing that together actually first.
I want to cross over into Campground.
Good, so the bowing, we started up bow.
I want to cross slur down,
up, down, up.
There's only one slur in that melody.
Let's play it together
from I want to cross over.
Ready, up bow, and.
I want to
cross over
That's the whole A section.
Let's take the last half of the A section,
where we go deep river,
Lord, I want to cross over.
Let's play that whole part.
Three and.
Deep river.
I want to crossover into
Good, we're ready to play
the whole A section now, okay?
From the top.
One two three and
up, shift,
and fall.
down, up.
Lean into here.
I want to sross over
into campground.
This whole song is singing from
the perspective of being confronted
by this really deep river,
the river Jordan, and not being able
to get to your home on the other side.
You can imagine why this song resonated
a lot with African Americans in
the early history of this country, and
so, when we're playing this melody,
we wanna feel that state of melancholy,
and our vibrato is gonna be passionate.
But, we don't want it to be tight.
We want it to be you know, wide and warm.
Let's play the A section one last
time before we learn the B section.
Ready, and.
That whole A section can have one
long arc that keeps rising all the way.
Deep river, Lord.
That's kind of the climax
of this A section.
Let's learn
the B section.
There's a one note upbeat.
It's a nice little riff.
It's gonna have a riff.
It's gonna be in our
extended hand position.
Up, down, up, down, up.
So we have a three-note slur down.
Two, two, two, two, one, four one.
Let's play that together.
Ready, and
Then the next phrase.
Let's break that in half.
So we have, four, one, two.
Let's play that.
Four, one, two.
Then we have a little
quick half step shift up.
And then straight back to down.
We kind of have a little scale down from
All the way to the first finger.
Let's put those together,
why don't you sing it with me first.
We can kind
of do an expressive
shift on the way up.
By slurring that in a down bow.
Up, down.
Let's sing just that phrase
with the bow directions.
Down, up, down, up, down.
Let's play it now.
Okay, let's put those
two phrases back together.
Ready, and.
So, we have that quick
half-step shift up and down.
Then we're gonna drop an octave for
the big climax of the B section.
That's the same notes as Deep River,
we know those already.
But we're gonna do it a little upbeat,
pick up the second finger.
Let's play that together with the pick up.
We're gonna end with
that lord note again.
Now we have a new ending.
It's just
a downward phrase.
One, one, four, two, one, o
We have a little bit of slurring in there.
Up, down, up, down.
Let's play that
together, and.
end on that open G.
Let's play the second half of the B
section now from the B-flat pickup.
All of that, okay?
Ready, and.
Let's play the whole B section.
I want you to sing along with me,
and then we'll play it together.
With a quick pickup
at the beginning as well.
Ready, and.
We're gonna
slow down here.
Let's play all of that together,
this whole phrase is gonna slow down, and
the backing track will
help lead us in that.
Okay, the whole B section.
Let's play it together.
the whole B
section, good.
So in the form, it's A A B A.
So right at the end of this B section,
we're gonna do a little
We're going to do a little upbeat for
the word as Paul sings it.
So then we'll just end with
the A section as we learned it before.
Now that you know both of these
sections you can put them together and
play along with the backing track.
And try actually first playing
along with my performance track.
Because this is the first piece
of music we've played with a band
that's not metronomic.
With the musicians on the backing track,
I was actually conducting them,
to help feel the slowing
down of the B section.
In classical music when you slow
down it's call a ritardando.
Or people just say a ritard for short.
And so
there's a big ritardando in the B section.
And so I want you to try and
match that pace of slowing down
with the performance track and
the backing track.
And I'm really looking forward to
hearing your rendition of Deep River.