3.2 Cello Ergonomics

Sitting position with and without instrument

Find a stable position for the upper body and the shoulders, so that the arms and hands are free. Begin with Exercise 8.2 xxx  in sitting position to find a stable position for the upper body. The power you need to achieve good tone quality in the instrument depends on the position of your body and the position of the instrument in relation to the body’s centre of weight. Next, find a good position for the left hand, considering the effect it has on the shoulder musculature and the other muscles in the neck and back.

Try different positions for the hand in relation to the cervical spine and shoulders. Place the instrument where it feels most comfortable – the same position as when sitting without the instrument. Compare also with double bass positioning.

Now take the instrument and try to let the upper body follow along with the arm and hand movements that result from the hand and fingers moving to different places on the fingerboard.

Then, when moving fingers over the fingerboard, let string-change movements flow smoothly over the fingerboard and let the body follow along with these movements, which can be felt all the way from down in the pelvis. When you reach up into the higher positions, let the body follow along with a little bend forward from the hip region.

The bow

Observe how much power you use to hold the bow with the thumb, index finger and middle finger. It is the power in this grip that is crucial regarding pain in the thumb and the arm in general. Try to see how loosely you can hold the bow and still maintain control.

Begin with an exercise without the bow. Stand at ease on the floor with feet a comfortable distance apart from each other (under the hips). Try a movement with the bow arm; move the arm forwards and backwards in a straight line. Then try to make movements in circles, ellipses and figures of eight, etc. with the feeling that the movement comes from the elbow. What does it feel like in your body, and how is your breathing?

The thumb should not be in an overstretched position in its middle joint, as then the thumb muscle will become overstrained and the thumb’s joints will lock.

3.1.6.jpg
Illustration 3.2.3. Aim for relaxation in the thumb/index finger grip with a bend in the thumb’s joints.
 

3.1.7.jpg
Illustration 3.2.4. This places strain on the thumb-knuckle joint, which becomes more locked and tense.

 

Hand position

The grip reflex in the hand is always present with increased activity in the thumb when the fingers are active. This can lead to unnecessary tension in the hand and in the musculature of the arm. The left thumb should ideally be inactive, instead forming an important and flexible support. If you have a short little finger, there will be less strain on the musculature if you distribute the weight more effectively when the left little finger plays. The opposite also applies when you play with the index finger, when the weight of the hand flows through the finger and the pad of the finger. If you play with overstretched fingers they are more likely to lock.

Cello_3.2.3.jpg
Illustrations 3.2.2–3. The weight is now on the index finger, and the forearm is turned a little inwards.

Cello_3.2.4.jpg

Cello_3.2.5_1.jpg
Illustration 3.2.4–5. The weight has now moved to the little finger and the forearm is turned slightly outwards.

The position of the fingers is also crucial for speed and precision. Try to put your hand on the fingerboard with all the joints of the thumb stretched, and feel the freedom of motion in the fingers compared to when the thumb’s joints are slightly bent.

Cello_3.2.5_2_3.2.5_3.jpg
Illustration 3.2.6. All of the thumb’s joints are stretched and locked in this position.
Illustration 3.2.7. The position of the hand becomes more stable and free in the joints, and the knuckles can be seen more clearly.

Try to distribute the weight from the shoulders down through the arm and to the pad of the finger; feel how this forms an interconnected chain without requiring you to press or squeeze the fingers against the fingerboard.