Warming up on the cello used to be quite a boring process for me. I would usually try a few scales and shifts or perhaps technical exercises. While there is nothing wrong with any of that, I now begin warming up by inventing a tune or playing by ear and then improvising – including improvising in thumb position. I have found this to be 100% more beneficial. For me it reinforces the pleasure of feeling at one with your instrument, of realising that you too can compose – and that interpretation is most effective if you make the music you are playing sound like it is your own.
If you want to practise a particular type of bowing when warming up on the cello , why not invent your own series of chords to try it with? If you want to practise a particular shift – say a major 6th – why not also invent a short piece based on that particular interval? In the past I’ve found that if you give a first performance there is a relaxing sense of freedom. None of the critics or audience know how it is meant to go, so you have a completely free hand as long as you look confident! Why not apply that same confidence to unaccompanied Bach?
Escaping confines within the classical
Have you ever been struck but how much more relaxed folk and pop musicians usually look in performance? Some of this is because the music is easier and more repetitive. But is it also because a lot of the music has been composed or arranged by the performers themselves? How wonderful it would be to be able to carry that sense of pleasure in performing into the classical world.
Our own improvisation
Roger and I have found that improvising and composing music definitely helps our arrangements and keeps creativity alive. You can hear some examples of our arrangements on our Moonlight and Music cd which you can buy by clicking the link below: