Joseph Mendoes - cello expert
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Cello Bow Fundamentals

How to approach the study of the bow on the cello

Released on March 5, 2014

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Ro on December 5, 2014 @8:36 am PST
Hello Joseph,
How can I play with two strings. Because it is very difficult, can you explain how to do it with the bow?

greatings from Holland. Ro
Joseph - host, on December 15, 2014 @12:08 am PST
I assume you mean playing two strings at once with the bow? I agree, it is difficult to do it well! The margin for error is very slim, because if you lean on one string more than another you can disengage one of the strings, resulting in a stoppage of sound. Try playing the highest string, and then slowly make the bow touch the next string down, so that you are playing both of them. As soon as you hear two strings ringing, keep the bow on that same plane, and you should be fine!

Ro on December 4, 2014 @12:12 pm PST
Thank you for this lesson, and to explain the bow.
I like your lesson.
Matt on September 22, 2014 @2:45 am PST
Hello Joseph, I am a professional violinist and violist and music educator who also plays a little cello and bass (cello rocks). I've been trolling youtube in search of the most pedagogically sound videos to offer students of mine in order to more effectively automate and reinforce learning in the rehearsal/class setting. I'm interested in a number of videos you have made, but I would like to see one short two minute video addressing one particular issue with which I see many many students having problems: stopping the string without pressing the thumb. According to the ONLY ONE other cellist I seem to be able to find on YouTube whose videos are helpful, the string is pressed, to use the words of your other video, "fully down," not by counter pressure from the thumb or any kind of squeezing in the hand, but rather by letting the weight of the left hand sink down and back towards the body so that the weight comes into the fingerboard through the fingers, thereby stopping the strings while leaving the thumb completely free, and the other fingers also free to rotate forward and back as the rest of the arm pivots around their contact points. Does this sound about right to you? If so, and if you have the time, do a brief video that explains these mechanics as well as the distinct difference between them and the pressing-up/counterpressure-via-the-thumb method that seems to be common in many of the students I observe. Thanks!
Joseph - host, on September 24, 2014 @8:03 am PST
Hello Matt,I will do a video on this, there are a few exercises that can help to eliminate the problem of the thumb, but how quickly the problem goes away depends on how the student practices. It can be difficult to be mindful of this not only while practicing, but also in orchestra rehearsals and any other situation that the student is playing in. The way you described it is fine, I would use different language (I find the concept of "weight" to be inaccurate in describing the actual feeling.) The key is to feel balanced on each finger. I will do a video on this soon!Joseph
Moriole on August 6, 2014 @9:08 pm PST
Hi, Thank you for this video. It is enlighten me. I'm practicing about < 1 year but I'm kind of having problem with my bow practice: bow hold and bow pressure in different part of the bow. I really hope to see the topic with bold hold and idea on how to practice with different bow pressure in different part of the bow some day!
Have a good day
Anna M on March 12, 2014 @10:50 pm PST
I knew that shifting between sounding points was a good thing to practice but I didn't know how to do it smoothly. Thank you for explaining the correct motion so clearly. Is it beneficial to play with the bow significantly over the finger board in very quiet orchestral music?
Randy Smith * VSM MEMBER * on March 9, 2014 @3:51 pm PST
Thanks so much for your help. I think I have rosin evenly applied the whole length of the bow, and the problem of "slipping" seems to happen at various places on the bow, so I'm wondering if I am just not applying proper pressure to the string at those times. BTW, I also am very much looking forward to your next lesson(s) on vibrato.
Joseph Mendoes - host, on March 10, 2014 @9:56 pm PST
Hello Randy,
I think I might have a solution for you. First, draw a down bow on the D string and when you get to the tip try to "pluck" the string with the end of the bow. There should be a spot on the end of your bow where the hair ends and the wood begins, and the wood should stick out a little. It is that part that I want you to "pluck" the string with at the end of your bow. Do this several times, and you should notice that in order to do this well you need to play on an arc, with the bow starting at the frog closer to the G string and ending at the tip closer to the A string. Playing on an arc instead of a straight line will allow you to increase you leverage as you play a down bow and maintain the proper pressure on the bow for a good sound. The next video will be on vibrato, but maybe at the end of it I can add a demonstration of this exercise so that it is clear!

Let me know how it goes!

Sue Leitch * VSM MEMBER * on March 5, 2014 @3:48 pm PST
Could you do a video on vibrato? I am a violinist and use a wrist vibrato and I seem to have trouble trying to do cello vibrato.
Joseph Mendoes - host, on March 6, 2014 @11:26 am PST
Hello Sue,
I have good news for you! The violin vibrato in principle is no different then a cello vibrato, even if you use a wrist vibrato. The primary differences are of course the overall position, as well as the range of motion (which needs to be much bigger on the cello then on the violin.)
My next video will be on vibrato, and I hope it will bring some clarity to the issue!
Richard Wintercorn * VSM MEMBER * on March 5, 2014 @3:00 pm PST
I'm nearing 79 and have played off and on since five yrs. of age. A consistent problem I have is getting an F in the fourth position on the G string to "sound". The bow seems to slip on the string without "grabbing" to cause a proper vibration of the string. The idea of bow angle with respect to the various strings was never stressed by my instructor. I've tried different rosins with some success. I've extended my bow index finger which has helped. What could be the main problem?
Joseph Mendoes - host, on March 6, 2014 @11:36 am PST
Hello Richard,
What a great question! It could be a variety of things. Sometimes a wolf tone can exist on the f on the g string, which can cause a delay. Another possible cause (this is the one I think it might be) is that your bow is not in the right spot. The cello can be a bit stubborn in the upper positions on the c and g strings, and playing a little closer to the bridge can make the string respond correctly. Every note on the cello has a corresponding "sweet spot" that we must find in order to have it sound its best, so try experimenting with that. If that does not help, please write again, because I have a few more suggestions!
marianmacleod * VSM MEMBER * on March 5, 2014 @8:29 am PST
This is VERY helpful. Thank you! I started playing cello (having never played a stringed instrument before) at age 61. I find vibrato difficult, and hope you will deal with this soon. Thanks again.
Joseph Mendoes - host, on March 6, 2014 @11:22 am PST
Hello Marian,
I am so glad you started learning the cello! It is by far the most noble instrument, don't you think?

My next video will be on vibrato and vibrato related issues, I hope it will be helpful!
Randy Smith * VSM MEMBER * on March 5, 2014 @6:00 am PST
Thank you for these videos! I don't know if this is a rosin issue, or a bow technique issue, but I often notice than when I start to pull my bow on a string, rather than getting the bow to grab and start the string vibrating well, there seems to be a delay, where for a split second the hair seems to slip on the string, then suddenly grab and take hold of the string to get it vibrating well to give a good sound. I think I have plenty of rosin on my bow; could it be too much rosin? Or is it more likely an issue of how much pressure I need to apply to the bow? Thanks for any help you can give me long distance!
Joseph Mendoes - host, on March 6, 2014 @11:20 am PST
Hello Randy,
First of all I am very glad you are enjoying my videos! They are fun to make.

If the hair is slipping on the string, it is probably not an issue with too much rosin. If rosin is the issue, then it may be that you have some clean spots on the hair at the frog or at the tip. Does this happen only at a certain spot in the bow, or is it an issue no matter what part of the bow you are starting on?
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