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Cello Lessons: Sitting Posture

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This page contains a transcription of a video lesson from Multi-Style Cello with Mike Block. This is only a preview of what you get when you take Cello Lessons at ArtistWorks. The transcription is only one of the valuable tools we provide our online members. Sign up today for unlimited access to all lessons, plus submit videos to your teacher for personal feedback on your playing.

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[MUSIC]
The two most important factors in
you general posture when
sitting with the Cello,
are your chair and your endpin.
The chair you choose to practice
in can make a big difference.
I'm doing all these lessons here at
ArtistWorks on a piano bench, and
at home I even have a piano bench.
I personally prefer a flat sitting
surface that a bench supplies.
However, winger makes Chelo chairs
which are designed specifically for
lean forward a little bit.
A lot Chelist prefered to be sort of
push forward when they play the Chelo.
What's dangerous is the fact that
most chairs actually leaned back and
those tend to not be as helpful
when trying to play cello.
So be mindful about which chair you have
around the house that you practice in.
And if you're gonna be practicing you know
like an hour a day, you'll probably just
be much happier if you even buy
a chair specifically for cello.
And, obviously, whatever chair you choose
can't have any arms on the chair,
because then you can't really bow.
So the other factor,
other than whether it is a flat chair or
a slanted chair,
is the height of the chair.
This makes a big difference.
I am kind of a tall guy so
I tend to need higher chairs.
And the reason for this is you don't want
your knee to be higher than your hip.
Okay, if you have a really low chair, then
your knee will be higher than your hip,
and that actually sends.
Like your center of gravity back.
And you almost have to like compensate by
tightening your abdomen muscles to stay
sitting up forward.
So, you want to find a chair that's tall
enough to either have your knee being
level with your hip, or
even slightly lower than your hip.
So, those are actually really
important things to look for.
Once you find a chair that maybe works,
the end pin height is
gonna be a big issue.
Most end pins are removable.
If your end pin isn't removable,
that's fine.
But I want you to extend your end
pin out like as far as it can go.
Just to see what's the highest
cello position you can use.
If I play with a really long end pin,
the cello's a little too high.
And I'll tell you how you can know
if the cello's too high for you.
If you have to sort of lift your arms and
hold them up there in order to play
the instrument, that's too high.
Because you wanna be able to sync your
arms and in to the instrument and
you don;t wanna be holding you weight.
So be mindful not to
have the Cello too high.
Conversely, if you have
the endpin only a few inches,
then the Cello's gonna be too low.
And although you can't sync in to it
with your arm weight really effectively.
You actually are gonna end up kind
of like hunching over the cello.
Especially if you have
a C-peg in your cello.
Most cellos have a C-peg.
I got mine removed so
it doesn't get in the way of my neck.
And so people do do that.
But the general rule of thumb is you
want your end pin to be long enough.
So that C peg is behind your neck and
you can actually kind of like, go like
this with your neck and feel the C peg.
Some people prefer to have the C peg
touching their neck as a reference point.
Although, some people don't so
don't feel like there's
an absolute wrong or right way.
But those are the heighth and
chair considerations.
Other than that, you really want to
have both feet flat on the ground.
This is really important.
And you don't wanna put your feet
too far forward or too far back.
You want the bottom of your foot
to fall directly beneath the knee.
And, if the foot falls beneath the knee,
you should be able to stand up from your
seating position without moving your feet.
And so, they talk a lot about this in
Suzuki, of finding the right place for
your feet so that you can stand
up without moving your feet.
If you can do that in your cello position,
that means you're really rooted and
planted.
And that's the solid foundation
we're gonna want when playing.
This is already making me think about
where on the chair you're gonna sit.
Once you have a good height chair, and you
decide whether you want it leaning forward
or flat, a lot of people have different
preferences as to whether they sit on
the front edge of the chair or
they sit back on the chair.
If you sit sort of at
the back of the chair,
most of your upper thigh will
be contacting the chair, and
that can actually help you feel really
rooted and kind of like stable.
I personally prefer to sit on
the front edge of the chair so
that I have a little
bit of a forward lean.
Not hunching down or anything, but
if you have a slight forward lean then all
of your arm weight can go into the cello.
All that being said,
I still have a pretty solid straight back.
I'm not I'm not leaning
forward substantially.
It's pretty subtle.
It might be all in my head.
But I do prefer sitting
on the edge of the chair.
That just helps me the way I feel
like my weight distribution.
Let's talk about your legs.
The cello, as you can see,
is behind my right leg but
it's in front of my left leg.
And that's important for
the rotational angle.
If your cello is kind of
like perfectly even and
straight pointing forward, you can
actually do a lot with this position.
However, if you want to
play on the A string,
it actually feels like you're
reaching over too far.
And since a lot of our melodies
are gonna be on the A string,
you don't wanna spend too much
time reaching over too far.
So that's why a standard position is
if you rotate the cello in a little bit
the A string is much more
comfortable to play on.
That being said, there's a wide range
of preferences for Cellists on this.
Somebody like Rostropovich I think,
kind of had it much more even.
[SOUND] And he was able to really
sink into the string with that.
And some players exaggerate
their rotational angle a lot.
[MUSIC]
Which is actually really great for
maybe lighter,
more sort of nimble playing.
And so you can, you might even start
subconsciously adjusting the cello as you
play more and more.
But you do wanna be conscious of
the degree of the rotational angle.
I'm trying to think if there's anything
else I really wanna make sure to say.
I guess I would end with our shoulders.
You want your shoulders to be directly
above your hip bones as well, you know
these general principles of the shoulders
being above the hips, being in line with
the knees, which are right above feet, and
this is all about staying super rooted.
Sometimes when people play cello, you
know, because we're doing a lot with our
right arm the instinct is to like
bring the right shoulder forward and
kind of like be, I'm playing cello,
and I have to do this,
but you actually want to
keep your right arm long.
You don't want to constrict it.
And so keep your shoulders and
your chest open.
That being said, like I said, it's like
playing on the A string is slightly
different than playing on the C string.
And I've noticed that
I will subconsciously
twist a little bit still in order
to play on the A string and
then i'll kind of twist back
to play on the C string.
Even maybe going further
the opposite direction.
The important thing is to be
conscious of when you might subtly
twist your torso in order to
play on a specific string.
But your default position, you really
want everything to be squared up.
And actually I'll end with the shoulders.
Concerning the shoulders you never
want to raise your shoulders.
This often happens for a cellist.
We start to get tight and
we start to raise our shoulders.
But this is really bad thing,
it's gonna make you really tight and
it's gonna actually,
it can hurt after a while and
on a technical level it will actually
simply make cello playing harder.
So you wanna think about just dropping
your shoulders as often as possible.
If you fear that maybe you're becoming too
obsessed with dropping your shoulders,
let me assure you that you're not.
You can never think about dropping your
shoulders too much because it's such
an important muscle group to stay
relaxed when playing the cello.
I think that's about it although.
Maybe I'll say something
about the back actually.
You don't wanna arch your back too much.
And you don't wanna hunch your back.
You really want your back to have
like a really natural S curve.
That's how they call
the curve of the vertebrae.
And so
it'll feel like it's super straight,
even though there's a subtle curve to it.
And I often feel like my
instinct is to over arch my back.
And so, sometimes when I really want to
think about relaxing, I think about taking
the bottom of my lower back and letting
it sort of relax backwards a little bit.
Obviously, like all of use,
you can do too far.
And you can kind of hunch over.
And that's not good either.
But these are some principles,
and I guarantee you, in any
video submission that you send me, even
if you're focusing on a fiddle tune or
a new improvisational technique,
I will will call you out on bad posture.
Because our physical relationship with
the instrument Is the foundation for
everything we're gonna do.
And so it's really important
to use your body consciously.
And, these are just some of
the fundamentals of our basic posture.
[MUSIC]