One of the things I enjoy is attending poetry slam events. They are quite unique as slam contestants have to come prepared with 3 poems, each one has to be under 3 minutes and they have to be presented without props or additional supports. The slams are done competition style, one poem per round. It’s fun to see what people come up with and always an interesting night. Conversations with fellow audience members are generally thought provoking and lively. This being said, my favourite part of the event is not necessarily the poetry, but the support that is given to the poets. If someone is presenting and gets stuck or forgetful, the audience does the most incredible thing ~ they all start snapping their fingers. This adds an immense amount of support to the performer and they tend to recover quickly and successfully. Often I have thought how nice this would be for up and coming musical performers to feel this kind of support, rather than the awkward silence and coughs that typically take place. Knowing that everyone in the room is rooting for you is a pretty special and wonderful thing. What does this have to do with extensions, you ask?

Well, extensions seem relatively easy, and they are, provided you utilize the right skill set and ergonomic’s involved, however they do feel HARD when learning them for the first time. I always think of the motion involved as being similar to opening a doorknob, most of the motion happens in the forearm to set the hand up for success. If you pay attention and remember to do this, I feel confident you will have an effective successful extension in no time. In my studio I work on backward extensions first, allowing the hand to feel the shape and get used to it well before attempting forward extensions. In my mind, forward extensions are a bit tricky as your hand must ‘fall’ into the correct shape. This motion, I believe, relies on the thumb being loose and flexible under the neck so I often introduce a bit of shifting work (see the video named Countdown) to prepare the thumb ahead of time. My students will work on backwards extensions for weeks prior to attempting either shifting or forward extensions. I find this technique is an effective way of learning extensions. When working on today’s video I would recommend accomplishing backwards extensions in very short practice sessions (maybe 10 per day) until they feel comfortable. Next I would move on to the countdown shifting exercise video. Then finally go to the forward extension video. Keep in mind that these are 2 and almost 3 (if you count the shifting exercise for a 1,2,4 hand shape) of the 4 hand shapes ( 1,3,4, 1,2,4 forward and backward extensions) you need to learn to play the cello, so take your time, don’t work beyond what feels good and comfortable and in a few to several weeks you will be on your way!

In the meantime while you are working away on these techniques, keep in the back of your mind the sound of several people snapping their support for you. A quiet, non intrusive symphony of support. Learning to play cello is a process that takes time, dedication and effort. Anyone who has taken the time to learn this amazing and beautiful instrument knows what it takes and I’m sure is snapping their support for you.

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