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Purcell Violin and Cello Duets

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We have just added two Purcell violin and cello duets to our online shop: Fairest Isle and Rondeau. Although these pieces both come from  operas they could not be more different in mood.

About the operas
The song Fairest Isle is from King Arthur and comes immediately after drunken dancing by peasants. The sudden change of character is a delightful surprise and the words praise the goddess Venus and her birthplace – Cyprus – with warmth and affection.
Fairest Isle
Rondeau is played near the start of the opera Abdelazer. The story here is based on  a tragic revenge play and the dark character is apparent immediately in the music. Benjamin Britten’s superb Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra uses this tune as the main theme and many people – myself included – will have first come across it there.

 

About Purcell
What a wonderful composer Purcell was! The more experienced I get the more I am aware of the extreme beauty of his music and its sense of congruence with the world.

Our duet arrangements
We have aimed to reflect the different characters of the music on our arrangements, which we will be recording in March, and you can buy the music here:
https://www.fedorastrings.com/product-category/baroque/

 

Accord Cello Case

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I have had my Accord cello case for three years  now and it is almost unbelievably light. Finding a dealer
Accord cases are hand made in Croatia so buying one here, in Cambridgeshire, was quite a challenge. Very few companies stock Accord and when I eventually found one dealer  who did, he proved unreliable. Finally my cellist friend Mark Bailey recommended talking to Stringers in London – and they were extremely helpful. They asked for detailed measurements of my cello, and arranged for  Accord to make a bespoke case.
Accord Cello Case

Was it worth it?
The whole process was not cheap – it cost £2400 – and it took two months for the case to be made. But this ultralight, carbon fibre  case weighs only 4.9 pounds and it is now hard to imagine ever using anything else. It is a very snug fit and there’s limited room for any extras like rosin or spare strings, but that doesn’t bother me as the lightness is a joy compared to my previous fibre glass case. This will certainly last my lifetime and for me the money has definitely been well spent.The link to Stringers is below:

http://www.stringersmusic.com/

Scarborough Fair Sheet Music

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I very much enjoyed composing the Scarborough Fair sheet music arrangement that we have just added to our online shop.
I started with a strong idea of what I felt the song was about – a  combination of Wuthering Heights and Jamaica Inn. To create a sense of drama, wildness and travel, there are fluid quavers –  giving movement and the feeling of a journey. There is also a contrasting middle section in the major, some rich cello chords and an ending that feels quite bleak.
scarborough fair

Arranging Scarborough Fair Sheet Music
Folk songs are ideal for music arrangements. The tune is  usually simple and short ( and often beautiful) and there is no original version, so you have lots of interpretative freedom and can compose contrasting tunes or introductions to add substance and avoid too many repeats.

Unsurprisingly there are many different versions of Scarborough Fair on You Tube. Revamped’s ideas (below) combine acting and music especially inventively:
https://youtu.be/KplxA4o-bGA

This is nothing like our arrangement, which we will be recording in March. To buy a copy right away and see for yourself what it’s like, click below!

https://www.fedorastrings.com/product/scarborough-fair/

Cello thumb position

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Cello thumb position – like most high playing on the cello – is something few cellists are super confident about.But one way to develop a relaxed approach to thumb position is to play simple tunes in D major that lie within an octave by ear : these involved no stretches and lie relatively easily under the hand.

cello thumb position

One octave starter tunes for thumb position
You could begin by playing the one octave scale of D major in thumb position and then D major arpeggio. All the notes in the following tunes lie within that scale and they all start on D :Black Sheep, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Kum-ba-ya, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Lavender’s Blue, Blue, Pop Goes the Weasel. 

Two things to remember
You need to toughen the skin on the side of your thumb, so build the amount of time you spend practising in thumb position gradually. You could also consider rubbing surgical spirit on your thumb to help harden the skin. Secondly – thumb position itself is very natural: if you take your hand away, shake it to relax it and then put it on the cello in the right place
(thumb on harmonics D and A) the position will be roughly correct.

Make up tunes and exercises
Something about the spontaneity of getting used to playing without music is generally very good for confidence anyway,so you could move on to improvising simple tunes or exercises involving thumb  position. I think it’s a good idea when practising to start with something you find easy and just enjoy and then move to something you find less comfortable. And if you think the cello is challenging on shifting and intonation you may especially enjoy watching the video below – a fine example of beautiful, relaxed thumb position playing on the double bass!
https://youtu.be/jA_b-Zemrvg

Christmas Gifts for String Music Lovers

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With Christmas only five days away here are my suggestions for gifts for string music lovers:
gifts 2

christmas gifts for string music lovers

Finally, if you’re searching for a present for a string player sometime next year we now have a gifts and dedications’ page where we custom write music. Find out more here:
https://www.fedorastrings.com/gifts-dedications/

More Play by Ear on the Cello Ideas

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Here are some more ‘play by ear on the cello’ ideas for tunes in the straightforward keys of C, G or D major.

These tunes start on the third degree of the scale…
The following begin on the third degree of the scale: Mary had a Little Lamb, Merrily We Roll Along, Three Blind Mice, The First Nowell, In the Bleak Mid Winter, Let’s Twist Again,Go Tell it on the Mountain,  One Man Went to Mow, Ring a Ring of Roses, She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain, Swing Low Sweet Chariot,Deep River.

And these begin on the fifth…
Happy Birthday, Hark the Herald Angels Sing,Silent Night, Away in a Manger,O Little Town of Bethlehem,Jingle Bells, We Three Kings, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Jolly Good Fellow Amazing Grace, Auld Lang Syne, the Gay Gordons, London’s Burning, London Bridge,Oranges and Lemons, This Old Man,What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor.
more play by ear on the cello ideas
 Ten minutes of playing by ear at the beginning  of each practice session can be fun and should make the process  easier fairly quickly.If you have suggestions or queries please comment on the blog and I will answer as soon as I can.

 

 

Play by Ear on the Cello

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One way to boost your confidence and sense of relaxation with your instrument is learn to play by ear on the cello. This should seem obvious, but it’s surprising the number of cellists who are unable to do this and it is not part of traditional classical training.
play by ear on the celloThe freedom of playing by ear
I became especially aware of this a couple of years ago when I was spending New Year with friends in Ireland. At a small  gathering around an open fire people were telling ghost stories and one of the men started playing simple folk tunes on the banjo by heart very evocatively. He had only been learning the banjo  for a year and was able to do this in a relaxed way -and it struck me that so many classical musicians who had been learning for maybe decades and perhaps practising for hundreds of hours during that time would not be able to do the same.I don’t mean that the disciplined side of classical music, with its technical and musical demands, is unimportant; just that also being able to play by ear on the cello – any tune you love – can give a wonderful sense of freedom.

How to start
The easiest tunes are folk , nursery rhymes, hymns or carols. Many of these lie within one octave and have simple structures with repeats. Choose an easy cello key – C, G or D major – and start trying to work it out by ear and practise until you can remember the finger patterns.  Baa Baa Black Sheep, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Frere Jacques, Humpty Dumpty, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Kum-ba-ya, Au Clair de la Lune, Tallis Canon,To Be a Pilgrim, Jerusalem, Scarborough Fair, Morning Has Broken, Lavender’s Blue, Good King Wenceslas, The Holly and the Ivy,O Come All Ye Faithful, Pop Goes the Weasel, Old Macdonald  and Lilliburlero all begin on the first note of the scale so are a good place to start.

You can find out more about our cello duet version of Lilliburlero here:

https://www.fedorastrings.com/product/lilliburlero-cello-duet/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Carols for String Duet

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 Christmas Carols for String Duet

Yes, it’s December and the latest addition to our online shop is a Christmas carol for string duet – Variations on a Christmas Carol – and Christmas carols for string duetthere is  both a cello duet and a violin and cello duet version.

It’s not just a carol!
If you have already heard more than enough Christmas carols this year I sympathise and can reassure you that although this new work is based on Ding Dong Merrily on High that is just the starting point, and the music has three very different variations which are not at all carol-like in mood.

Variation Form
Some wonderful music has been written in variation form: Britten’s Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge, Arensky’s Varations on a theme of Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a theme of Paganini  are the first three that come to my mind. It is surprising how easy it is to totally vary the mood by changing the key, time signature, rhythm or texture. And sometimes you get miraculous melodies that are unforgettable, as below:

 

String Duet Albums

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We are now selling four string duet albums of our best selling music divided into four categories: Six Great Baroque Tunes, Six Great Romantic Tunes, Six Great Folk Songs and Six Great Broadway Songs. Each album contains six works for the price of four – and each song includes the individual parts and score.
String duet albums

While it is true that music of different styles has different characteristics  – the styles also have many things in common.
Why categories?
It seems to be a human need to categorise things and I once read a very funny short story by Garrison Keillor  about a journalist who obsessively wrote articles based on lists – something you see  a lot of especially around Christmas.  Our categories though are intended to offer good value and the chance to explore some wonderful music at a bargain price.

Baroque Sheet Music Albums

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Baroque Sheet Music Albums

We are now selling our most popular selections of violin and cello duets in themed albums at a bargain price. The first is a baroque sheet music  album and contains the scores and individual parts of six great works priced so that you can buy four arrangements for the cost of six.
 baroque sheet music albums

About the arrangements

The music included in this album is: Air on a G String, Pachelbel Canon, our award winning Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Chiome D’Oro, Charpentier’s Te Deum and Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary. This is an excellent way to get to know some wonderful repertoire from this most exciting of all periods of music.