Joseph Mendoes - cello expert
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Fred Ridall on July 10, 2017 @12:55 pm PST
Hello Joseph,
Let me just say to begin with that I have found your videos both very helpful and immensely enjoyable. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us all.
I am an adult learner of about two and a half years. There is one aspect of my playing that actually causes me some distress. Sometimes when I change bow stroke I get an awful tone that lasts for the whole length of the stroke. It seems to occur mainly (though not always) on the open strings A and D. If it occurs on stopped strings it is almost invariably in the first position. It never seems to occur in the higher positions. The problem is I can't understand why it is happening. I can practice a passage several times. Most of the time it will come out alright. When it goes wrong so far as I can tell I haven't done anything different to cause the terrible sound. I would say the vast majority of the time it comes changing from a stopped note on the A string to the open A. The problem is I can't practice getting it right because I don't know what I am doing wrong - if you follow. Have you encountered this before. It really spoils my pleasure in playing. I can even feel myself tensing up - thinking it's going to happen in a minute.
Any thoughts or advice you can give would be much appreciated.
Respectfully Yours
Fred Ridall
Joseph - host, on July 12, 2017 @5:34 am PST
Hello Fred,

This might be something as simple as old strings or a poorly adjusted instrument, especially if you are experiencing this sound on open strings. Professionally set-up instruments are quite easy to play these days, which means that even if you are doing something "wrong" you can still get a decent sound in most cases!

Assuming that it is not a set up issue with your instrument, the next thing I would check is your bow placement and speed. You could just be mismatching your speed relative to your placement, i.e. you are bowing too slow while staying close to the fingerboard. Try moving the bow a little closer to the bridge and see if that helps.

It really does sound like an issue with your cello, if you have access to a good instrument shop. take it in and see what they can do!

Fred Ridall on July 13, 2017 @12:31 pm PST
Hi Joseph
Thanks for your reply.
With all due repect I don't think this is a set up issue. The problem still exists whatever cello or bow I am using. I'm now having formal tuition and the lady concerned has already drastically improved my tone. She has had me playing in front of a mirror, coached me in a different bow hold, demonstrated how speed and pressure can vary the quality of the sound and above all the need to keep the wrist relaxed and the bow in contact with the string at all times. I made the foolish and arrogant mistake of thinking I woud be able to teach myself thd cello having already played the guitar. Now I accept the need for personal tuition. The lady in question has agreed to take me on as a regular pupil. I like the way she demonstrates solutions using my bow and my cello so I can't say she sounds good because she's got a better instrument. So all in all things are looking good.
Once again thanks for your time and patience.
Kind Regards
Hyun Jung Ro on January 16, 2017 @5:14 pm PST
What kind of mic system would I need to have attached to my computer or iPhone in order to take lesson via skype?
Joseph - host, on January 17, 2017 @8:46 pm PST
No special mic is necessary, but a standard usb condenser mic like the Snowball by Blue Microphones works really well!
Paul Becker on December 20, 2016 @4:01 pm PST
I have a cello student who is double-jointed in both hands. She can not curve her left hand fingers without them collapsing. What can I do to help her? She is an adult student. Thanks--Paul B.
Joseph - host, on January 17, 2017 @8:44 pm PST
Hi Paul,

There are a lot of variables to try changing, but the first one is to try having the student change what part of the finger they are using to get the string down. Sometimes having the student focus more on trying to play on the tips of the fingers can help. The other thing to check is that sometimes fingers collapse because of too much counter pressure from the thumb. Try to have them loosen that thumb, and maybe that will help. Dealing with double joints is really trial and error, so just keep trying changing whatever variables in whatever combinations you can think of until something works.
Flavio Rigon on December 17, 2016 @12:30 pm PST
Hello Joseph, could you answer a question for me?
The sound of my cello is "noisy", may be caused by aged strings ?
They perhaps are 20 years old. What type of strings do you recommend ?
Pirastro ? Thomastik ? Thank you very much !!!
Joseph - host, on January 17, 2017 @8:40 pm PST
Hi Flavio, what kind of sound do you want? Warm and beautiful, or strong and bright with a lot of power? I play on mainly gut strings these days, Pirastro Olivs. They are very warm. A Larsen a and d with a Spirocore g and c is a very bright, powerful combination that many cellists use, but for me I can't really imagine playing on anything but gut anymore!
Jialan Cai on November 7, 2016 @11:21 am PST
How should I control my right hand when I do Spiccato with bow swing, say between A string and D string?
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!
Daniel R * VSM MEMBER * on June 13, 2016 @6:34 pm PST
Hello Joseph,

You videos are very helpful and I am glad I found them! I am resuming playing cello after about 40 year absence. I played for 5 years in junior high and am remembering my fundamentals. What I am having trouble with is my right hand fatigues very quickly and my bowing becomes sloppy. I am trying very hard to keep proper form and also remember my instructor telling me often I hold my bow like a violin bow. I appreciate any info you have and thank you.
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!
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