“I don’t think so,” I replied.
I opened the YouTube link he sent. “Looks like a kung fu movie,” I thought. “Wait, did that chicken just turn into a ninja?! Oh my god. Now he’s fighting that guy. And this music is awesome.”
The first thing I noticed was that the notes on the staff looked higher than Snoop Dogg. No problem, I could just move things down an octave or three. My mind wandered to my cello lesson, which happened to be the following day. I hadn’t played much this week. I pictured Nan, with her usual smile, asking me how my practicing had gone. “Well, I didn’t work on anything except for Chicken Attack,” I would have to confess. How embarrassing. I racked my brain for a way I could make Chicken Attack educational, more respectable. Then I noticed that playing it as written would put it in thumb position, which Nan had conveniently just gone over with me. “Perfect! I’m going to use Chicken Attack as a thumb position exercise!” I declared. My cat seemed unimpressed.
I sat down with my cello (which caused my cat to flee), and set my thumb on the A and D harmonics. I found I could play the beginning of the verse in the hand position Nan had showed me, without having to shift. Sweet. This was going to work well.
I was congratulating myself on my brilliance when my eyes fell on this high E:
Not too scary, though. I knew where that note was, after all: a whole step above my third finger on the A-string. But how to get from point A to point B? (Or, more accurately, point E to point higher E?). I wasn’t sure. “I’ll I just skip all those high Es for now,” I thought to myself. This allowed me to continue for a hot two seconds, until a wild F appeared:
I brought the music to my lesson the next day. As Nan and I went over it, it became clear that Chicken Attack would be no mere exercise. It would involve a range of techniques, from basic to advanced! It was the perfect way for a thumb position newbie such as myself to dive right in.
Are you new to thumb position, too? Want to join me? Here are a handful of exercises plucked (sorry) from my practice pad! (Note: the version of Chicken Attack I’m using has been transposed down a fifth from the original, to be a bit more cello-friendly).