OK cellists: need your input

I finally figured out what’s been so damn confounding about Brandenburg and I need your two cents.

My sheet music comes with fingerings that make sense but contradict my standard D Major scale fingerings to the point where it throws me off as I’m playing (it doesn’t take much) like the repeated use of extended 2nd finger in the d string, likely because there are so often preceded or followed by g#s.  So I’m playing and get totally hung up on why F# is suddenly an extended  second finger note.

Anyway, don’t get too bogged down in the details. My
question is this, the notation makes sense, so do I scrap my own fingerings which are slightly awkward but largely familiar? I’d like to think whoever did the notation is a far more qualified cellist than I, and, in theory, with enough practice time to retrain my brain I might be able to adjust. But something in me is resisting giving up my own take on how things should be done to follow the anonymous pre-printed instructions. I’ll take it up with my teacher but I’m curious to know your thoughts on the subject.

Am I right to stick to my guns or am I missing an opportunity to grow by hanging on doggedly to my way?

Advice? Suggestions? Cautionary tales about just such a rebellion? What would you do?


About Eddie

Watch what happens when you give a writer a cello.
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2 Responses to OK cellists: need your input

  1. In the specific instance you mentioned, it sounds like you need to go with the extended 1st position as is notated in the sheet music. I don’t know how you are getting to the G#s if you’re playing F# with 3 instead of 2, but I would guess that it’s pretty awkward and slow (it would be for me!) I would ask your unofficial section leader about the fingerings if you are in doubt. In any case, you should ask her to show you good stretching exercises for the extensions — I have to stretch my fingers multiple times a day or I can’t make them. Also, I would ask if there are any exercises you can do to practice extensions. At the very least I’d try 2 octave D major (starting on C string) because that will give you practice extending. They’re really crappy to learn and actually can still be a bit of a struggle for me, but the sooner you learn them the sooner you will be good at them.

    But, if you feel you really can’t, scrap the fingerings. I change the fingerings in my pieces all the time and my teacher doesn’t care. As long as it works for me and I’m playing the song well, it doesn’t matter to her. Actually, since getting out of 1st position I don’t think I’ve kept a single piece with the fingering as written. Sometimes I play around with as many options as I can think up just to see which way works best for me and to increase my versatility. Fingerings aren’t set in stone and especially in an orchestra. As long as you are playing the right notes at the right time no one will care what finger is holding the string down.

    Also, I hope you’re having a ton of fun with the Brandenburg! They’re some of my all-time favorite pieces!

    • Yee says:

      My own fingerings for the scenario you described would match the notations on the sheet music. I would prefer to stay in a single hand postition between the F# and G# – i.e. extended.

      I think you can go with you own fingerings unless performing the extension between the F# and G# is disruptive – for example, if you have to play the notes quickly. If you’re playing slowly, you can hide the extra time needed to do the extension.

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