Are you sitting right? Do you have pain in your neck or back? Or are you suffering from RSI? Well, you are not alone.
A comfortable playing position is in my opinion one of the most important topics for every cellist. Not only for a beginner. The search for an optimal body alignment continues throughout the first years of learning. Even advanced players must evaluate their sitting position from time to time and check if it’s still good. So let’s not forget about it.
Fortunately almost all cello methods, tutorials, books, and papers mention this issue. So check what advice your coursebook gives you, it might slightly differ from what I am about to say here. However, the principles remain the same.
Why is a good posture so important?
As with almost any human activity, which requires repetitive motions of some parts of the body and a fixed position of other parts, there is big possibility of tiredness, overuse or even injury. It happens only if we keep going while ignoring the signals coming from our body. Office workers know this as repetitive strain injury (RSI) is often addressed; sitting positions, the height of the desk and the chair are adjusted, etc. Nobody wants to work in pain for hours, similarly we don’t want to play an instrument when everything starts to hurt. To avoid any discomfort, we should pay close attention to our posture.
What is the best cello posture?
Principles of good position with the cello should actually begin without the instrument. Let’s become aware of our posture while standing or sitting. Good in this case means balanced, avoiding unnecessary tensions but at the same time active.
Do you know yoga or tai chi? Then you are familiar with the idea of grounded feet, soft knees and your head freely balanced on your neck – as if your head was suspended on an imaginary string attached to the ceiling.
The same applies to our sitting position: grounded feet and sitting bones, upright back and balanced head. There is a difference between total relaxation of the body and a posture that is free of tension, but alert and poised for action at the same time.
A good chair is extremely important! The chair should be slanted downwards, so that the knees are a little bit lower than the hips. It decreases tension between the hips and upper tights and allows the torso to bend slightly forward. Now you may be thinking where to get such a chair. Most often if chairs are slanted, they are slanted backwards. So the best is to get a chair that has a flat seat and use a stiff, slanted cushion. You can get one from Telemann or Amazon.
The posture with the cello
We should consider that a cello is a pretty big instrument. It has to fit somehow in front of you, between your knees. The principal rule is that you should adjust the instrument to yourself, not the other way around.
For now put the cello on its side next to your chair. Sit on the edge of the chair with your legs wide and feet flat on the ground. Relax your shoulders and neck. Bring the cello to yourself, the neck of the instrument on the left side of your head, and the upper bout pointing to the middle of your sternum. The teacher will now adjust the length of the end pin and the strap.
Notice how you feel. Take your time. Allow yourself to embrace the instrument. The first step is done, you’ve just sat with the cello, ready to play. Congratulations!