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Adagio cantabile

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, May 16, 2017.

  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Looking for some practicing tips about how to sound more lyrical when encountering this musical expression. I presume things like long, slow bows, careful intonation, vibrato, all come into play, as well as reasonable bow/strings/instrument combination, but are there specific drills you have found to be particularly helpful?

    Regards to all
  2. CSBBass


    Sep 21, 2013
    I like to slow these kind of passages down--not hugely, but just enough that it makes the phrasing in the right hand a little bit harder than it already is, and also makes the counting etc a little more challenging since you have to very carefully place each note if you're trying to play it solidly in time (or even if you're playing with the time, it still feels much more deliberate at a slower tempo). This helps me a lot to have more flexibilty in the phrasing because the long notes and phrases don't feel as long when you can play them just as well at 70 or 80% of the tempo. It also helps me to avoid rushing--in phrases where the the bow usage is a challenge, it's easy to jump the gun because you're running out of bow. But again if I can do it well at a tempo even slower than the already slow tempo, I don't panic due to lack of remaining bow at the end of those notes and can sustain them as long as is required/makes musical sense.

    Another exercise I love is to be forced to stop at random points in the passage and hold any given note out before continuing. Something I'll do is put on a stopwatch and pick an interval of time (like every 5 seconds for example), to stop and hold the note for, say, two beats or two seconds longer than usual. I like using seconds as the measurement for how often to stop because it's unrelated to the tempo, and will therefore yield a random note and will keep you on your toes a little more while you're playing. Ideally, you'd have another person nearby who can tell you to stop and start and thus really randomize both which notes you stop on and how long you hold them (and if they know the piece and its challenges well, they can REALLY test you), but obviously if you can't get that something like a stopwatch at least yields some result.

    The point for me is to keep myself in the moment--if I'm not fully focused on every single note, I won't be able to stop on command on any single note. It also makes me really aware of my bow usage, and makes me experiment with different bow distributions for a given passage etc. The biggest challenge I have with this kind of music is staying present with the music and having everything I do every time that I play it be the result of a conscious musical decision, not just what happened because I wasn't paying attention and was breezing through the passage. Preparing the technical aspect of the piece so that I know exactly how every single note will be executed (where in the bow, how much bow, what kind of vibrato, how loud or soft, what kind of attack and what kind of release, does it grow/shrink/sustain, and how does ALL of that relate to the note before it and the note after it), even though it may not seem that hard in these passages, really helps me to avoid that sort of musical inattention blindness so that I can always be fully listening to my musicality, tone quality, rhythmic precision etc.

    Of course, all of this is helpful for faster, more technical pieces too, I just find that it's often neglected (at least, I'm always fighting the tendency to neglect it) when the ink looks "easy".
    s van order likes this.
  3. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    Great advice! One thing I'd add is slow your vibrato down and relax. Breathe slowly, I find that helps, and keep the shape of the phrase in your mind, make sure the phrase is going somewhere.
    CSBBass likes this.
  4. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Yep, wise words, thanks everyone!