Modern Cello Techniques


Quartertone excercise from Modern Cello Techniques

Modern Cello Techniques is a fantastic new website dedicated to extended cello techniques by Chicago based cellist, Russell Rolen.  Of special interest to my blog readers who also are interested in Arabic and Turkish music, there is a section on Quartertones and a page with some samples from usage of them by Western classical composers.

Be advisd, though, that Western composers use quartertones and microtones in very different ways than you’d find them used in Middle Eastern or South Asian Music so don’t expect to find much that would be useful for pedagogical or learning purposes if you’re interested in non-Western microtonality.  Also, see my caveat about the whole issue of microtones here and here which help to explain some of these differences between the West and the Rest.

What’s really wonderful are all the exercises such as the one picture in this post.  As I slowly brainstorm how to start an Arabic Orchestra, I’ve only given passing thoughts on how to train the string players how to learn the ‘scales’ used in the music.  I actually hadn’t thought of approaching it in the same methodical way that our Western music training does in the copious number of method books for instruments that we have.  Mr. Rolen’s website just pointed me in a direction that I hadn’t thought about in this context and I may have to start developing some form of method book for training Western Classically trained string players in many of the Eastern Classical music styles!

4 thoughts on “Modern Cello Techniques

  1. My dear friend Cameron Powers (of “Musical Missions of Peace”) has exhaustively studied all things maqam, especially Arabic, and produced materials for study– exercises and listening material! There’s a handful of VERY used scales, as you know, and hundreds of esoteric offshoots, but a quick intro to rast, bayati, hijaz, saba, huseini, nahawand, and a few more gives a pretty useable palatte. Applications in the form of dulab, semai, popular tunes, and a few standard classical egyptian works allow for fun technique builders… Great to read about your promotion/interest/findings in these realms!


    1. Yes! I know–I’ve been meaning to get copies of some of his publications but just hadn’t had the chance to yet. My biggest concern is to figure out a way to train a relatively large group of strings in the style and scales. Method books are good for individual instruction (though as you probably know, classically trained strings would appreciate the technique books in their own clefs) but I would also need some set of drills, exercises for a larger group setting. I’m going to eventually talk to folks like Bassam Saba and George Boulos and Michael Ibrahim who do lead large Arabic/Middle Eastern ensembles and get some suggestions and advice from them–but thanks for the reminder about Cameron–I’ll have to look into his manuals!


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