Joseph Mendoes - cello expert

How to Increase the Power of Your C String

Learn how to play the right sound on your cello C string

In this video, Prof. Mendoes tells you how to increase the power of your cello playing on the C string, with practical and easy-to-understand tips.

Released on September 2, 2015

  
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hello, this is Joseph Mendoes for another video for virtualsheetmusic.com. So, today I'd like to talk about something a little bit... well, all these things we talk about are kind of specialized, but this one is... I just wanted to reveal to you a little kind of special secret trick for getting more power, actually, not just more power in general, but specifically more power on the C string. The C string, as all of you know, is our lowest string. It's the string that is the thickest, it's the hardest to get to respond, it's the hardest to get to speak, and also it has a kind of a reputation for being a little bit of a soft string, as well, and I think there're some reasons for this.

First of all, part of it has to do with the design of the cello itself. Some of you, all of you, hopefully, can see this little corner of the cello here, I forget what this is called, I know there's a technical term for it, but this part of the cello actually gets in our way when we're playing on the C string. When I'm playing on the C string, as you can see my hand here is already now hitting into this part of the cello. So, in order to avoid that probe, most of us instinctively do is we... Most of us actually then bow on the C string closer to the G string. So you see instead of being here at this angle, we're starting here much closer to the G string and we kind of stay there.

I want all of you to try this actually. I want you to actually start exaggerating, you can kind of see the tip of my bow coming towards the camera like that. Exaggerating starting with this kind of extreme angle as if you started that downbow, then the bow of the cello will go straight directly down into the cello and make a huge gash. I want you to start there and then scoop a little bit this way. You see me kind of scoop that way. Scoop a little bit that way, but then as soon as you pass this corner, I want you to pull the bow back all the way in so that the hair is almost touching this part of the cello right here. As far low as you can go and what I want you to try is to try to keep your bow all the way to the tip that way. And what you'll notice, hopefully, is what I notice when I do that is that I actually get a lot more power on the C string and it's a lot easier to sustain on the C string, in order to do this.

And there's a lot of really wonderful uses for this. The first one being the Brahms E minor sonata but the first Brahms sonata has many many passages on the C string that really have trouble speaking. You know Brahms was a great composer but he didn't write for cello with a lot of knowledge about what the cello can do. A lot of times in his work with piano and also in the double concerto for violin cello and orchestra, the cello gets drowned out quite a bit, and if you use this little trick on the C string, keeping that bow all the way there, and just kind of working around this corner, I hope you can see this, you can kind of see the corner here, and what I'm doing when I bow is... and then pulling it around that corner. See, if I just go straight at the angle that I want, I'm going to hit that corner of the cello. This way, if I just swing around, then I can keep a lot of power, and so I just kind of turn that corner and I keep it right there. And I can have a nice big sound for that... And it's marked piano in the part I know, and then I can get that nice deep sound that we all want on that C string. If I don't do that, the sound to me sounds kind of shallow. This way I can really get all of that, all those overtones and everything to ring.

So, you know, that's definitely one part to playing on a C string. Another part that will really help you is actually to learn this little trick of rotating the cello. I think I maybe mentioned this in a different video, but I actually rotate my cello a little bit as I play. If you have a bent endpin this might be a little bit more tricky to do. For example, if I'm playing on the C string I tend to swing the cello a little bit out. You can see me adjust that way and I'll start on that C string and it's even easier for me to get to that spot to be able to play and then when I'm back on the A string then I turn the cello back this way.

So the cello really becomes mobile, and it really helps. I want you to try this actually. Try turning the cello a little bit out when you're on the C string and then turning it a little bit more this way. And you just kind of learn how to manipulate it by kind of adjusting your body and making sure that you're not... You shouldn't be squeezing the cello too much with your legs or anything like that. You should be able to keep it really free and just go back and forth like that. If you do those two things, if you practice getting around this corner of the cello, right here, this one. And making sure that you're not staying too close to the G string when you're on the C string, but actually getting as far away from that G string as you can without hitting your cello. You're always turning that corner. You're going to notice a huge volume increase in your C string. And on top of that, if you're working on rotating the cello out a little bit, then you'll get that really nice, beautiful sound on your C string that you didn't know you had.

Anyway, this was just a little video about the C string here. I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any comments or questions or anything like that about other problems with the C string that you might be having, it speaking clearly and other things, I have some other ideas for you. So please feel free to leave comments down in that comment section. Remember if you're watching this on YouTube you'll have to go to virtualsheetmusic.com and you'll have to log in there in order to make comments that I can see and that I can reply to. Otherwise, I will not reply to them. So please go to virtualsheetmusic.com and comment there. Once again, this has been Joseph Mendoes with another video for virtualsheetmusic.com.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Jamie * VSM MEMBER * on July 15, 2016 @11:40 am PST
cornices?

Maybe that's part of why the C is so over-powering on the Luis&Clark carbon fiber cellos... no cornices, slimmer at the c-bouts, and the cello is easy to rotate to the left so the bow can be flatter but maintain full access to the C string - instead of scooping
Sincerai on October 27, 2015 @5:20 pm PST
Dear Joseph , thank you for your kind reply to my question on confidence.
I truly believe what you have advised and its certainly a very different view to what I believed was just my lack of of confidence .i took my cello and went ahead with your words in mind and something I never thought possible happened , it was like a door had opened , honestly , it sounds dramatic , but a passage I had struggled so hard with came off the bow like I had done it a thousand times , the Bizet Carmen suite 1 intermezzo in C clef . I've only just learnt about this clef from books so please forgive me if I have written this wrongly. Many many thanks to you for all you have helped me to achieve since finding your videos Joseph.
Sincerai on October 13, 2015 @7:53 pm PST
Amazing information that transforms my playing every time. I would love if you could post a video on confidence in performing.
I always stay safe at the back :( and actually fear enjoying what I achieve and being part of the whole musical thing when playing in company.
reply
Joseph - host, on October 26, 2015 @10:26 am PST
Thank you for your kind words, Sincerai!

I understand your fear, I go through the same thing all the time. The important thing to understand is that you have a special, unique personality , and that is the best thing that you bring to any group you play with. Fear results from a combination of your desire to perform well and your knowledge that you probably wont live up to the high expectations that you have. The problem is that your expectations do not take into account your unique personality. They only deal with technical insecurity. Allow yourself to explore more expressive ideas when you practice. Focus on phrasing, dynamics, beauty of sound, variety of color, and all of the other things that normally get sacrificed to the god of intonation when we practice. You will notice that not only does your intonation improve, but your overall feeling about the cello will improve too. Why? Because you are allowing your unique identity to permeate the music you play. You are not simply trying to achieve a technical standard. You are simply being yourself at the cello, the way you are yourself when you do anything else. And that is a beautiful thing!

Joseph
Kathryn Arriola * VSM MEMBER * on September 21, 2015 @8:53 am PST
Wonder tip. You could definitely tell a difference in tone quality when you rotated your cello to play on your C string. I will have to give this a try.
Briana Jessen LeClaire * VSM MEMBER * on September 20, 2015 @8:49 am PST
That was interesting and helpful - thank you. I noticed the other day that particular corner is freshly broken off my cello and I have no idea how or when it happened. I guess there's no need to have it repaired any time soon.
Redgerm on September 2, 2015 @11:17 am PST
Interesting video about C-String bowing techniques. Thanks again.
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