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improvising on the cello

Improvising on the Cello

By string teaching

Improvising on the cello encourages a great sense of freedom and for quite a long time I have been incorporating this into my cello teaching – occasionally with almost miraculous results. I had had no idea where to begin, but a lesson with pianist Lucinda Mackworth Young was a huge help. Lucinda showed me how simple improvisation can be and came up with many easy but effective ideas that have transformed my teaching and given me a strong basis to develop my own improvisatory approach .
Improvising on the cello

A sense of freedom
Why is improvising such a good thing? It gives you freedom ( I always have an image of Mel Gibson in Braveheart when I say that word ).The classical music world is focused on perfection, and frankly it is so hard to play an instrument to the highest level that the effort involved can create a sense of inhibition and stress. While it’s true that there’s no substitute for regular hard work, it’s sad if this means you cannot look at your instrument without a feeling of joy in your heart.

How easy is it?
As with anything, the more you practise improvising the better you get. I also think that the more you are aware of how composers put things together – of the chords, modulations and intervals and how they affect your feelings – the more sensitive an ear you develop and the more you can ‘own’ your interpretation in performance.

Improvising helps with composition
Roger and I have often used improvisatory ideas in our violin and cello duets and we know from experience how this can suddenly bring a sheet music arrangement to life. Oh for the days of baroque music where pupils were taught to improvise from the very beginning and expected to do so in live performance.