Joseph Mendoes - cello expert
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How to approach the Prelude of Bach's Suite No. 1

Learn the best approach to master the most famous piece for cello of all time

Released on February 5, 2014

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Briana * VSM MEMBER * on March 25, 2016 @9:44 am PST
Love your videos! I recently returned to cello playing after a 20 year hiatus. For 13 of those years I sang barbershop (Sweet Adelines) and I cannot get over the parallels between singing and cello playing.

In barbershop they call the opposite of tempered tuning "Pythagorean tuning" to make chords ring (same terminology that you use) and get those screaming overtones. When I can get the Suite 1 Prelude lined up right :) it's very much the same sensation.

The hula hoop idea is very much like another barbershop idea where you take your hand and pretend you're pushing it through caramel or another thick liquid (queso? ;)) either back and forth or up and down, and then you transfer that continuous pushing forward to your voice. This is to assist in creating what in barbershop they call the "wall of sound" because you're unaccompanied, so there can be no holes . . . just like the Prelude.

Keep up the great work, and thank you again.
Darryl Mann * VSM MEMBER * on September 24, 2015 @6:25 pm PST
Measure 8. First two notes. 3rd finger or First? Book has 3rd but I'm really sloppy rolling. What can I practice to improve third and forth finger?
Nico on March 2, 2015 @11:07 pm PST
You don't play the bowing written on the score
Just to mention..
Either change the score on the video or at least mention your bowing to students if you choose to play it this way?
Joseph - host, on March 4, 2015 @10:05 am PST
Hello Nico,

Sorry about that! At this point it may be a little difficult to go back and change either my playing or the score! Of course there are many bowings that you can use in this suite, but the fundamentals I mentioned remain the same. Bach playing in general I think suffers from a poor understanding of the fundamentals of string playing, and that was what I was trying to convey, not a particular bowing over another. Sorry for the confusion!

Jim * VSM MEMBER * on November 2, 2014 @7:42 pm PST
Excellent discussion, fine playing by Joseph.
Felicia * VSM MEMBER * on February 26, 2014 @6:30 am PST
I excitedly watched your video as I am a former cellist turned mom of 5. Since the mini-van is already loaded to the brim, they play violin. I love to play bach and you inspired me to dust of my instrument and play "Soli Deo Gloria" and enjoy this Suite today.
Anna M on February 10, 2014 @9:15 pm PST
It's great to have these issues pin-pointed and also to hear these practical solutions! Exploring the distance between the strings is a fascinating way to think about string crossings. This thought process could be especially transforming to string crossings when they are combined with bow changes. This was very helpful.
Kathleen Barry * VSM MEMBER * on February 6, 2014 @10:54 am PST
Love to see your video on cello playing...!!would of liked to see you play a little more yourself. I look at your bow hold, how you keep your bow arm still and at the same height..loved the tip on the hoola hoop.
Joseph Mendoes - host, on February 6, 2014 @9:30 pm PST
Thank you Kathleen, I also love the hoola-hoop as well! Sometimes an object that has nothing to do with the cello can teach us a lot about cello technique. I am glad you like my playing, and I will certainly demonstrate more in future videos. Stay tuned!
p kennedy * VSM MEMBER * on February 5, 2014 @3:56 pm PST
very good, I like the extended format, please keep them coming
Joseph Mendoes - host, on February 6, 2014 @9:25 pm PST
Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed it!
Randy Smith * VSM MEMBER * on February 5, 2014 @5:39 am PST
Thank you for these videos. I am 53 and just took up the cello a little over a year ago. I live in northern Japan (I'm American), and didn't think I'd find a teacher, but I did find a high school teacher to plays cello and is giving me some instruction. Quick question: when I watch you and others play, it seems like your left hand is so effortless, but I have to work hard to not "squeeze" the string. Any tips on how to properly use the left hand when pressing the strings. One other great topic would be how you teach students to properly learn to make a good vibrato. Thank you!
Joseph Mendoes - host, on February 5, 2014 @9:22 am PST
Hello Randy,
Well first of all, I am glad you are playing the cello! It is a wonderful instrument, but perhaps I am slightly biased!
I am glad you found a teacher. Learning a stringed instrument can be pretty rough without one, so you made the right decision.
In regards to the left hand, squeezing is definitely the number one problem. A couple things can help. Try playing a scale without letting the thumb touch the neck of the cello. Let it hover over the spot it normally rests, and make sure that it stays as limp as possible. This will force you to use the finger only when pressing the string down. Also make sure you are not using any more force then necessary in order to get the string down. Try playing pizzicato; if you hear a clear ring to the note and not a dull thud, you have found the proper pressure. After playing thumb-free for a little bit, put the thumb back, and you should feel that you aren't squeezing as much. Vibrato then becomes much easier to learn, because a proper free vibrato has its foundation in a total lack of squeezing. This topic will be covered in a future video, so stay tuned!
Thank you for you comment,
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