How I Play the Cello

Video Clips of
Cello Technique
Judith Glyde is Professor of cello, Director of the String Quartet program and Chair of the string faculty at the University of Colorado. She studied with Bernard Greenhouse, formerly of the Beaux Arts Trio, receiving a Bachelors degree at the Hartt College of Music and a Masters degree at the Manhattan School of Music. A founding member of the Manhattan String Quartet in 1970, she left the Quartet at the end of the 1991-92 season, moving from New York City to Boulder. Her philosophy is based on the teaching principles of Greenhouse, himself a student of the renowned pedagogues, Diran Alexanian and Pablo Casals.

How I Play the Cello

The goal of my playing is to produce sound without tension and with the least amount of effort, using the larger muscles instead of the smaller ones. I strive to maintain the natural weight of the body throughout each motion and concept, from intonation, to bow strokes, to sitting at the instrument. The students in the cello class have a (somewhat humorous!) saying: "The use of the term 'pressure' (in itself a word which implies tension) is not allowed in Judith's studio!" All of my statements below are, of course, generalizations. There will always be "another way"! If you have any questions or comments about the following, please feel free to contact me.

Cello Technique Video Clips**

Below are short shockwave movies featuring Judith Glyde and former CU student, Summer Boggess. These videos demonstrate use of the above concepts:

Left Arm
Right Arm

Left Arm: The Pivot and Intonation

The Pivot simply means to rotate the forearm, shifting the natural weight of the body from one finger to the next (and in larger motions, for example, in the extension or in a change of position, the back may come into play). Except for a very brief moment, you will not have two fingers down at the same time. When this becomes a supple motion, you will have a relaxed hand at all times and intonation will become a matter for the ear, instead of a tension-filled relationship of one finger to the next.

Left Arm: Position Changes

Whether you are changing strings or shifting positions, anticipate and initiate the motion from the large muscles of the back. Note again, the pivot, the rotation of the forearm, instead of a horizontal motion of the forearm.

Left Arm: Articulation

Again, pivot the arm to distribute the weight from one finger to the next. On upward scales, tap the fingers down; on downward scales, "click" the fingers off, as in left-hand pizzicato. Always keep in mind that projection of sound is often a matter of articulation rather than a dynamic problem; and, in some cases, a matter of sounding-point with the bow.

Left Arm: Repertoire Sample - Saint-Saens

The opening of the first movement of the Saint-Saens Concerto is a good example of the necessity of an articulated and strong left hand for the excitement and energy needed for the passagework. Constant pivoting to balance the weight of the fingers and left-hand articulation is the key. Attention should also be paid to the sounding-point of the bow, and to the amount of bow utilized (as you move toward the bridge for volume, use less bow).

Right Arm: Drawing the Bow & Seating

To draw the bow on the string, use the natural weight of the arm to "push" and "pull" the bow. As the platform revolves, notice the use of the larger muscles in the back to initiate these motions. The shoulders should be relaxed at all times, and you should feel that your arm is completely relaxed. Also notice the seating position - the body should be balanced on the chair and "pivoted" forward from the "sit" bones to meet the instrument.

Right Arm: String Crossings

The main principle of the string crossing is that you do not want to take the natural weight of the body off of the string. To make the string crossing, use a body motion, tilting on the hips, keeping your head balanced on the spine. By not using much shoulder or arm motion, you avoid misuse of the rotator cuff as well as avoiding producing the sound with pressure.

Right Arm: Bow Changes

To make a smooth bow change, keep the natural weight of the body on the string and keep the shoulders and arm relaxed (weighted) at all times. Rotate the forearm (the motion is as if you are turning a doorknob) as you move toward the frog or toward the tip. The principle is one of anticipating the change itself.

Right Arm: Repertoire Sample - Bach, Bouree I from Suite No. 3

In this example, I keep in mind the style of the Baroque, of Bach. I am, therefore, careful about the sounding-point of the bow (not too close to the bridge) and the amount of bow used. A "scoop" bowing, rather than a horizontal detache, works beautifully for this energetic movement. This "scoop" bowing is an arm/body motion, useful for bow articulation in this period of composition.


Judith Glyde's Home Page
College of Music, University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Colorado at Boulder