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Cello Lessons: Loosening Up & Breaking Bad Habits

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In a previous lesson,
we talked about common places that will
feel pain while playing the cello.
The key to releasing tension is
by making the tension conscious.
When we get into trouble is when
we're chronically holding tension
in a way that we're not aware of.
And so, I find this next exercise
to be incredibly helpful.
Basically, in order to relax, we are first
going to get really, really tense, because
you can only relax a muscle consciously
when you're tensing it, consciously.
Okay.
So let's say,
I have really tight shoulders.
And cellists often raise their
shoulders when they play, and
then you'll get tight in the shoulders.
So if I was feeling that,
I would practice a scale.
Purposefully tensing my shoulders in
a really unhealthy way the whole way up.
And then, because I've been
tensing them consciously,
I can release them consciously.
And really focus on that
relaxation on the way down.
I'll demonstrate in A major, so.
And I raise my shoulders it's gonna look
and sound probably pretty ridiculous.
[MUSIC].
Now I've created so much tension
consciously, I can release it consciously.
[SOUND] Yeah, now I'll go down.
[MUSIC]
So much better
on the way down.
This can be a really great way for
you to isolate tension,
make it conscious in order to release it.
And so
you can target specific muscles this way.
But sometimes I like just
being exploratory and
tensing any sort of different muscles,
while playing scales in order to
just loosen up my body as a whole.
So, I'm gonna play this scale up and
down a few times, and I'm just gonna call
out a couple different things that I'm
tensing just to show you what I mean.
How about I go to a D major for this?
So, I'm going to start by sticking my head
forward, like this and tensing my neck.
[MUSIC]
I could do this for a whole scale but
I'll keep changing more frequently.
Instead of pushing my
neck forward now I pull
my head all the way back artificially
[MUSIC].
I could do this for a whole scale but
again I'm gonna keep moving quicker than I
would when I'm practicing just to
show you all the different options.
So maybe I'll go like this for awhile and
stretch the left side of my neck.
[MUSIC]
I'll look
straight up, and
straight down.
Really pull the back of
my neck to stretch it
[MUSIC].
It's like yoga.
In D major.
Some other things I'll
arch my back artificially.
Again by making all these tensions
conscious, when I release them,
when I slump over,
I am able to break free of any bad habits.
[MUSIC]
It's kind of hard to keep playing though.
One thing I also like doing
is lifting my right leg, and
just playing a whole scale
with my right leg in the air.
It gets exhausting at a certain point,
but then you can switch
[MUSIC].
Raising my left leg.
[MUSIC]
And the compensation that my back is doing
and my stomach is doing,
all of these muscles are getting tense.
But when I put my leg back down,
everything is able to relax again.
And I come to a point of rest.
[MUSIC]
Some other things I like to do is
experiment with feet placement.
If I put my feet way to far in front,
[MUSIC]
I have to sort of tense my abdomen in
order to stay sitting up straight.
[MUSIC]
And I can put my feet way too far back so
I'm kind of leaning in forward.
Or I can put my feet right together or
too far apart.
Basically, you can get really creative
with different directions to look at and
different muscles to tense.
And again, it's really about
finding something to tense for
like an octave up and down, and
then playing with it released.
And it's really gonna start to loosen
you up and improve your coordination and
sort of solidify which muscles you
need and which muscles you don't.
Probably my favorite part of this
exercise is the looking part,
is finding like a different corner
of the room, the upper left, or
the upper right, or
even like looking behind you.
The balance of your head, the way it
effects your balance, which way you turn,
actually changes your coordination feel
a lot when you're playing the cello.
So I like kind of testing myself to see
how well I can play while looking up in
the upper right corner.
[MUSIC]
Nailed it.
But it's a really great
way to loosen up and
you can take this principle and
explore it in your own way.
Making tension conscious and
overdoing it artificially In order to
be able to release it consciously.
[MUSIC]