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Cello Lessons: Chopping: Basic Patterns

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[MUSIC]
What is a chop?
Well, the chop, as the name may suggest,
is a violent motion of
the bow into the instrument.
And it's gonna be one of
our primary tools for
percussive cello playing,
particularly when it comes to chords.
[MUSIC]
And so on.
But let's break it down first.
The chop at its core is
a combination of a scratch,
[SOUND] which you can do by moving
the bow exactly forward and
backwards with no horizontal movement.
Try scratching towards the frog.
It's that sound at the end of a drop.
It's a really tight, short scratch.
The key to getting that
scratch to be tight and short,
is after you chop,
you leave the bow in the string.
If you just kind of bounce and bring the
bow back up, you're not left with a chop.
You're left with a weird other sound.
But the chop requires the bow
to stay in the string, so
it keeps the string muted and
damped right after the chop.
Let's try doing just
a series of chop noises.
See if you can do it in rhythm.
The key is to do it under the hand.
You have to do it really
close to the frog.
If you're not close enough to the frog,
your bow will bounce, and
it'll sound like this.
[SOUND] That's not as helpful.
But if you go right to the frog,
you get a really crisp sound.
So it's an outward motion, which on
the cello, brings us towards the bridge.
On the violin,
it's still an outward motion,
which happens to take them
away from the bridge.
Don't get confused when you're
playing with really great
fiddlers who are chopping all
the time towards the fingerboard.
It's an outward physical
motion on both instruments.
[SOUND] So down, lift,
down, lift, down, lift.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC].
The next step is gonna
be our first pattern.
When we lift, we're gonna do
a little up bow after the chop.
So it goes chop, up,
chop, up, say it first.
We're gonna verbalize all of
these chop patterns as we go.
Chop, up, chop, up, chop, up.
Ready, play.
Chop, up, chop, up, chop, up, chop, up.
[MUSIC].
This could take a while
to get comfortable with.
The key coordination issue
here that is brand new for
any non-chopper is that
the chop is a forward motion,
while playing any pitched noise
is an inherently sideways motion.
Okay, so we've got forward, left, forward,
left, forward, left, forward, left.
It's those two feelings,
the combination of those is brand new and
does not exist in classical music.
Although if Beethoven knew about the chop,
I guarantee you we would have
had some pretty awesome music.
Yeah, you know like,
[MUSIC]
I'm digressing.
Let's go back to our basic chop pattern.
Chop, up, chop, I'm instinctually
playing both the G and D string.
So you could do it just
on the D string though.
After you get comfortable with that,
the next pattern is gonna be similar, but
we're gonna put the chop on the back beat.
And the note is gonna be a down bow so
it'll be down,
chop, down, chop, down, chop.
Make sure the chop is right
at the frog and it stays.
Lift, stay, lift, stay, lift, stay.
[MUSIC].
So, let's start putting this pattern
with different left hand notes already.
Okay, let's play our G major
scale in this chop pattern.
It'll sound like this.
[MUSIC].
Let's also do a very
simple chord progression,
like a common chord progression like, one,
four, one, five, in this chop pattern.
In the key of G,
it'll be G is one, C is four,
G is one again, and then D is five.
So it'll sound like this.
Do two patterns on each chord.
[MUSIC].
Do it again with me.
G to C.
[MUSIC].
Good.
You'll notice by doing both of these
strokes down the chop is actually,
you want to think of
the chop as a down bow.
You don't wanna think of
the chop as an upbow.
Think of the chop as a downbow.
Repeat after me.
The chop is a down bow.
Okay.
If you think of the chop as a down bow
then we have down, chop, two downs and
that means the lift in between
is like an up bow and we're back to
our strum where we have a down, up,
chop, up, down, up, chop,
up, down, up, chop.
But we're leaving the bow
on the string for
that last one in between the chop and
the note.
Keep that in mind as we go
through the next patterns.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Now let's actually fill in
the subdivisions that I
was just talking about.
Now we'll do a pattern I call,
note, note, chop, note.
Nope, note, chop.
Say it with me, note, note, chop, note.
Note, note, chop, note.
Air bow, chop, note.
Note, note, chop, note.
Note, note, chop, note.
Also say the bowings.
They are down, up, chop, up.
Down, up, chop, up.
Say it, up, chop, up.
Down, up, chop, up.
Down, up, chop, up.
Let's put it on the instrument.
down,up,chop,up,down,up,chop,up,down,up,c-
hop,up
[MUSIC]
A lot of people get tripped up with
the last up after the chop up,
down, up, chop, up.
Down, up, chop, up.
[MUSIC]
Let's take that through the G major scale.
One, two, three, and.
[MUSIC]
I want
you to watch
what my right
arm is doing
while I'm
chopping.
In order to drop for the chop,
the chop is a function of the arm.
It's not something you
do with just the wrist.
You don't hit the cello with the wrist,
the whole arm.
For cello, you need the whole
arm weight for that chop.
Fiddle players, cuz fiddle is easy, so
they can just do it with the wrist.
But for cello you need arm weight.
[MUSIC]
And so you'll notice in order to drop for
the chop, I have to lift a little bit.
Drop, lift, drop, lift, drop.
You don't want to exaggerate it.
But there definitely is a little bit
of a circular motion in my right arm in
order to allow the chop to be
a drop of my whole arm weight.
And often the chop is closer to
the bridge than the note I'm playing.
It doesn't have to be.
But you can see the bow is traveling
a little bit back and forth to the bridge.
Now to the fingerboard, now to the bridge.
Now to the fingerboard,
now to the bridge, and so on.
Keep this arm movement in mind.
Explore that on your own.
Let's do this pattern in our one,
four, one five chord progression.
And it sounds like this.
[MUSIC]
Add a fifth
to each chord.
[MUSIC]
Good,
now let's
keep filling in
the subdivisions.
We're gonna expand this
pattern to eight notes.
It's gonna be note, note, note,
note, chop, note, note, note.
Note, note, note, note, chop, note.
Say it with me.
Note, note, note, note, chop,
note, note, note.
Note, note, note, note,
chop, note, note, note.
Note, note, note, note,
chop, note, note, note.
Note, note, note, note,
now with the bowings.
Down, up, down, up, chop, up, down, up.
Down, up, down, up, chop, up, down, up.
Down, up, down, up, chop, up, down, up.
Down, up, down, up, chop, up, down, up.
Down, up, down, up, chop, up, down, up.
Now on the instrument.
[MUSIC]
Note, note, note, note,
chop, note, note, note.
[MUSIC]
Notice that I'm really trying to get all
the subdivisions really smooth.
[MUSIC]
The only one that's lifted
is the one right after
the chop right there.
So that I can lift the bow fast to
my placement by the fingerboard.
[MUSIC]
Keep
the wrist loose.
[MUSIC]
So that you get smooth sound.
[MUSIC]
Okay, let's play it in the scale.
A one, two, three, and.
[MUSIC]
Good,
and in
our chord
progression
G, C,
G, D.
One, two, three, and four, and.
[MUSIC]
Two more
times.
[MUSIC]
Let's
learn one last
short pattern in
this lesson.
And this is just a note, chop, note,
note, chop, note, note, chop, note.
This is a good bluegrass pattern.
Let's say it together first.
Note, chop, note, note, chop, note.
Note, chop, note, note, chop, note.
Down, chop, up, down, chop, up.
Down, chop, up, down, chop, up.
Down, chop, up on the instrument.
[MUSIC]
Maybe add the open
D just on the ones.
[MUSIC]
Okay, let's try this
one through the scale.
One, two, three and.
[MUSIC]
And
through chord
progressions.
[MUSIC]
The reason this one's good for
bluegrass is by leaving
out that one subdivision,
it makes the coordination easier
at a really fast tempo, like this.
[MUSIC]
For all of these patterns,
I want you to practice
them with the metronome.
The metronome is your best friend
when working on chop patterns,
whether it's a new pattern or
it's a pattern you know really well.
Start with the metronome at 60.
And ultimately, once you start to
feel like you can relax while playing
these patterns, then you can start
to move the metronome up and
work on coordinating
them at faster speeds.
[MUSIC]