Joseph Mendoes - cello expert
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Paula Gisela on August 18, 2016 @8:22 pm PST
Hello, Joseph. Thank you for the videos. I have a question for you and I really hope you can help me here, because my teacher doesn't seem to grasp the nature of my problem. I've been learning cello for a little bit more than a year now, and only recently have my arm started to hurt whenever I play. I thought it was because I was holding the weight on my arm, right under my shoulder, and keeping it from resting on the bow and ultimately, on the strings. Then I watched the video in which you explain the concept of arm weight and now I'm not so sure I'm doing things right. My teacher used that concept to explain how I should slide the bow on the strings, but I can't seem to catch the drift. Any thoughts or comment on this problem will be highly appreciated!
Joseph - host, on September 14, 2016 @11:07 am PST
Hello Paula,

First of all, sorry for the exceptionally long delay!

It is difficult for me to help you without knowing where the pain is occurring, but usually the pain is a result of some joint being locked. Starting with your smallest joints in your fingers, make sure every joint is unlocked and free to move all the way up to the shoulder. The next step is to try to achieve a pulling feeling when you play. Try moving your bow a little closer to the bridge to feel more resistance. This resistance can help you to feel what you should be pulling against. Combining free joints with a pulling feeling should end your issues with pain!
Bruce Bauer on August 4, 2016 @9:16 pm PST
Hello Joseph. Thanks for the helpful videos. I am an adult learner and currently intermediate level. My favorite cellist of the past was Jacqueline DuPre. She was similar to Piatagorsky with a flat fingered wide vibrato.
K on July 31, 2016 @7:44 am PST
Dear Professor,

I am a beginner and was wondering if cellists play absolutely perfect notes. Like a well-tuned piano. I sometimes wonder if it's ok to be almost right when I compare the notes I produce to a tuner or if I am required to produce notes judged perfect by the tuner.

Thank you very much.
Joseph - host, on August 6, 2016 @1:19 pm PST
Tuners can be useful, but it sounds like to me that you are getting hung up on playing perfectly in tune. Of course your end product should be as in tune as possible no one plays perfectly in tune but it is not the only musical value in existence. I have heard many performances that were perfectly in tune but rhythmically all over the place. Using a tuner the way you do might lead you to ignore other equally important musical values. Also, checking each note with a tuner may make you too self conscious which will tighten you up, causing more intonation problems!
Jose Manuel on April 26, 2016 @3:38 pm PST
Hello Joseph,

I have been playing cello for five years. I would like to let you know that by listening to your videos in a matter of days I have improve tremendously my playing. Thank you so much!
Neil Dickson on April 10, 2016 @6:58 pm PST
Hi Joseph! A couple odd questions:

What are your thoughts on carbon fibre cellos? My current cello is not in great shape. The lacquer is quite chipped or worn in several places, and it's been getting more worn, since I've been playing a lot more over this past year, so I may be looking for a new cello in the near future. Carbon fibre cellos seem like a great idea, though I don't know how they'd sound or where I'd test one out.

Any idea if V.S.M. accepts submissions for manuscripts? I've been trascribing the full orchestral score for Wieniawski's 2nd Violin Concerto for cello. I have to transcribe and transpose all of the accompaniment, because the solo part is down an octave and a fifth from the original, so the original orchestral parts wouldn't be in the right key. I don't want anyone else to have to go through this huge effort to be able to perform it on cello, so I'd like to get it out to as many people as possible. I'll probably look into if I can submit it under Creative Commons to IMSLP too. Do you think other cellists would be interested in it? I've been having a lot of fun practicing it, and my teacher and I have worked out some good fingerings and bowings, though it is still a gigantic challenge... the best kind of challenge, haha.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on April 11, 2016 @11:29 am PST
HI Neil and thank you for your comment and inquiry. I am sure Joseph will answer your first question soon. About publishing your own transcription on VSM, we can definitively consider to do that.

Please, send your music to my attention to:

I'll be glad to get back to you via email right away. Thank you again!
Joseph - host, on April 12, 2016 @9:03 pm PST
I myself have never played a carbon fibre cello, but I have heard them before and they sound wonderful. The Luis and Clark instruments are the best ones out there right now. They actually vibrate much more then a regular cello, so if you want a very live sound then get one!

Yuri Lourenço on February 14, 2016 @9:25 am PST
Joseph! Thank you so much for your lessons! Could you please teach us some exercises for developing thumb position vibrato?
Baard * VSM MEMBER * on February 5, 2016 @11:26 am PST
Hello again Joseph

I have two questions for you:
- I struggle with rosin....the advice from you professionals are to use a lot of it...and I find that improves my playing and the sound..initially....but after 15 minutes or so, my G and C string sound shit! I need to wipe them of before I feel good again - but you cannot do that during a concert. familiar? what do I do wrong?
I notice that my fellow cellists in the local amateaur orchestra play almost without any noticable rosin at all...probably because then you are safe from making strange sounds...

-secondly...any specific sheet music tip for rehersing to improve my 2 and 3 position across string movements? I find most etudes I know are focusing on shifts on one problem during my orchestral work is that my intuitive playing is too bad....I need to "figure it out" you understand?

thankyou for your nice videos - I follow them all! have a nice weekend

BÃ¥rd, Norway
Joseph - host, on March 9, 2016 @8:55 am PST
Hi Baard,

First of all, sorry for the late reply!

The rosin issue is a pretty personal one. I know players who don't use much at all, and then there are players like the late Joseph Silverstein (longtime concertmaster of Boston Symphony and one of the truly great violinists) who use to rosin between pieces in a concert! It all depends on playing style.

That being said, I think what you are experiencing is more of an issue with technique then with equipment. I assume that the times when your lower strings sound bad are when you are playing soft? If that is true then you may want to using a slightly faster bow speed. That is my best guess, I of course could do better if I could see and hear you in person!

As far as cross position work goes, you should try Dotzauer no.13 found here:

In order to make this work, you need to re-finger the etude so that there are no string crossings during the three note slurs. This will cause you to have to play in mostly 2nd and 3rd position with many string crossings.

Hope that helps!

Baard * VSM MEMBER * on March 9, 2016 @1:28 pm PST
great advice - I think you are spot on. thanks a lot
Neil Dickson on April 10, 2016 @6:30 pm PST
This is going to sound strange, but if you want better "adhesion" to the string, I found that some bass rosins are stickier than cello rosins, so you can get a more booming intense sound, good for huge romantic pieces, though it might be too much. My current C string, a Jargar Forte Silver Sound, is a bit too booming already, so I probably wouldn't do it now, but it might work for you.
Erin K. on January 8, 2016 @6:21 pm PST
Hello Professor:
I am an "older" beginning cellist and have only been playing for about 10 days. I've read about sore fingers for beginners, but I am experiencing a little bit of numbness on the fingertips as well. Have you heard of this before? Please advise. Thanks!
Joseph - host, on January 9, 2016 @6:05 pm PST
Hello Erin,
This all depends on what fingers! Is the left hand? If it is, then I am not really sure what the cause is. It could be a variety of things. Is it only numb when you play, or is it numb at other times as well?

What is more common is numbness in the tip of the right thumb. This is usually caused by holding the bow with an inward-curved thumb. The nerve ending at the tip of the thumb is very sensitive, so this can become numb over time.

Please tell me which hand and I might be able to help better!

Erin K. on January 10, 2016 @3:40 pm PST
Thanks for your answer! I should have been more specific. The numbness is in the fingertips on the left hand, on the soft pads that make direct contact with the strings. I noticed this from day 1. The "buzzing" feeling is like when your mouth is waking up after a visit to the dentist, where novocaine has been used. I thought at first this feeling was due to the pressure used to press on the strings, and to the fact that I am new to playing the cello. And perhaps that is the case. At this point I think I am starting to develop calluses (a little), and my fingertips (left hand) continue to be less able to feel the tiny details of other objects, such as string or hair or a crumb. Since I am not yet taking lessons from anyone in person, I cannot ask my own teacher. Thank you again for taking time to answer my question, and thank you VERY MUCH for all of your wonderful videos! I am watching them 2 or 3 at a time and learning a tremendous amount from you!
Jack Diana on December 7, 2015 @9:33 pm PST
Hello Joseph, I just watched your video regarding arm weight. I am struggling with the same questions. Especially since my teacher wants me to do both, 1) bow with dead weight in the arm and 2) bow hold loose enough to drop the bow. They are impossible!!!! I have spent that last week trying all kinds of combinations. I think arm weight is used in proportion to other things but not chronic lifting of the shoulder. Would you agree? How else could one play piano if arm weight was not varied? I would be happy to take a virtual lesson or two if you would prefer to talk over FT or Skype. Please let me know. Thank you for your videos!!!
Redgerm * VSM MEMBER * on October 8, 2015 @5:37 pm PST
Hello again,
Any suggestions for creating proper thumb contact with the string when playing a non-harmonic thumb position? I am working on Suzuki Cello Book 6, Rondo from Concerto No. 2 in D major by Bréval. (Measure 45, for example).
I wonder where the weight should be coming from to make good contact/sound from the string...arm or possible torque of my wrist? A lot of the time I am producing mushy notes.

John Roberts
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