Joseph Mendoes - cello expert

How to play the Dotzauer Etudes

Step-by-step approach to one of the famous studies for cello

In this video, Joseph tackles the famous Dotzauer Studies, in particular, Etude No. 11 by giving a clear and easy-to-learn approach.

Released on June 4, 2014

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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 everyone. My name is Joseph Mendoes. I'm here with another video for

I wanted to do a video on the Dotzauer Etudes, actually, the first volume of the 112 studies for cello. I think that this first volume is really, really valuable for a couple of reasons. Each etude, with the possible exception of, I would say, five or six of them in the first book, I don't find them terribly useful...

But, most of them have a very, very specific technical aspect to them. They address one particular thing very, very, very well and kind of almost repetitively throughout the etude, but not in a way that makes it boring to practice. In my opinion they're very interesting harmonically, and some of them are actually quite musically deep and satisfying.

These etudes, at least with some of my students, get a little bit of a bad reputation. Some of my students feel like they're a little bit boring or a little bit, you know, well, boring. But, largely it has to do with how you practice them and how you view them. If you view them with enthusiasm and with the right spirit, you can play them and practice them in the correct way.

Now, there's one in particular I'd like to highlight today. It's number 11 I believe. It goes a little bit like this.

Anyway, it's largely a string crossing exercise as you can see. We want to practice making sure that we get these string crossings very, very smooth. Now, this is something I talked about a little bit in fact, in the very first video I did for, the video on the first Bach Suite. You know, the...We talked about getting the string crossings very, very smooth and exploring the space between the strings.

Basically, we want to be doing this here as well. We don't want it to sound like whenever we have a string crossing we slap it. We want to avoid that completely and try to get this as smooth as we can.

Now, there's another aspect to this as well. We want to make sure that we're doing every single bow change, every single change of bow, from down to up or up to down, with the maximum amount of smoothness. So, We want to be listening for this. Now, this is something that is... I know there are differences of opinion on how to achieve this.

It's my belief and feeling that the bow change is something that is best done by the fingers and the fingers alone. So, you can think of it like this. When the bow is to the end of the bow, or you get to the end of a bow, and then you want to change, your fingers need to be the ones doing the change. The smaller joints are best suited to these kinds of things, to do these things very smoothly.

For example, if I try to do it from the shoulder, if I keep everything here locked and I don't move it at all, then I do it from the shoulder, you can hear it. There's a little bit of a click at the bow change and it's not very smooth.

The reason for this just has to do with, I'm probably going to misquote poor Isaac Newton here, but one of his laws of motion that has something to do with the relationship between mass and movement. That, you know, when you have something moving in one direction and you need it to change direction, you need a large amount of energy to get that large mass moving in the other direction.

Now, this is why I try to use the smallest amount of mass to do this change as possible. Because that means it's going to be the easiest to control. It's going to be the most effective at getting this change of direction to happen smoothly.

So, that's why you'll see me in this etude doing the changes primarily with the fingers. I'll demonstrate in the etude one more time. The rest of the etude progresses like that.

Now, another kind of basic fundamental idea that we need to grasp here is the dynamics in this etude. You can hear I'm doing very subtle crescendo and diminuendo as I go up and as I go down. This is written into the etude in most editions, I hope. This D is louder than the first D. We want to be making sure that that really comes out.

I always find personally that in order for dynamics to really come out, I need to be thinking of them on a very large scale. I need to be exaggerating them as much as I possibly can. I think that's important, too, just to kind of start off with that idea in your brain.

Then, to actually accomplish this I think we...I don't remember in what video that was, actually. Maybe it was the bow fundamentals video. I talked a little bit about the arc of the bow, that the bow need to feel that, that comes up as you approach the tip like this in order to really sustain.

A crescendo has almost everything to do with this. A crescendo, the only things we're going to manipulate past actually doing that and kind of exaggerating that even more is accelerating the bow speed a little bit. I think you'll see that when I'm doing this. You see I suddenly use a lot more bow when I want to play a little bit louder.

This goes along with this playing on these little curves. Those curves go along with it. Because if you just increase the bow speed but you're not really kind of lifting on every down bow, lifting meaning, you know, this elevation change here. If you're not doing that every time and you increase the bow speed, you'll just get this. The bow will be slipping instead of getting really solid, good quality sound.

Now, later on in this etude there are some interesting things to do with the left hand. I know I've been talking about the bow only. Let's see if I can remember where. Yeah, starting here.

There, of course, we have a shift. So, you can work on your shifting. And, it's the same things we talked about in the shifting video, making sure that your thumb is really, really free and making sure that that finger is releasing before you actually move. That's really important, too, to make sure that the finger is not...So we hear that big slide. Now here, when we start to have these E flats and B flats, this is where you actually want to make sure that your first finger is really free.

I'm not a big fan of leaving fingers down that aren't in use. I think I have this in common with the late great Hungarian cellist Janos Starker. He taught this as well, to never leave fingers down when they're not being used.

I think this is really important for intonation. Because there's always something that you can be doing with another finger to get ready to play the next note., when I play that F, for example, and I get to here, you'll see I'm able to freely go back. If I started like this, now I kind of need to pinch back. You see, I need to do that kind of move, and it could end up being clunky. Now, you know, you could do that if you practice it a lot, but this way it doesn't require much practice.

You can see as I go through this passage how much my first finger is really staying up. Sorry. You'll see even here where I have to go a large distance I'm making it feel like it's not a large distance, because I'm starting with that first finger up. If it's here, this is when I'm going to squeeze and do something like that. Then, it makes it really easy to get to that position, to get to that note if I start in this position. Same thing there.

Anyway, there's not too many more examples until the end of it. Whenever I try playing through the whole thing for you, hopefully this will go pretty well and I'll be able to demonstrate a lot of these things in this etude.

I hope I remembered to show you everything in that etude. There's even more things to work on, such as just the beauty of your sound, and making sure that you're applying vibrato in the right way, and making it sound really musical and as poetic as possible. I think if you're focused on doing all of those things you'll have a lot of success with this etude.

I hope you discover more of these Dotzauer Etudes - which you can find on the Virtual Sheet Music website for purchase. Yeah, I hope you enjoy these. I hope you learn to love them as I did and as I continue to do.

So, enjoy, and I will look forward to seeing your comments. Once again, this has been Joseph Mendoes with a video for
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User Comments and Questions

Comments, Questions, Requests:

K on August 1, 2017 @6:32 am PST
Hello professor.
I am trying to learn the cello on my own and while I can hold the left hand fingers down for notes that are to be played, I have absolutely no idea how to hold a g-sharp on the d string and at the same time play b on the a string. I also don't know how to play the double stop with b on the g string and f sharp on the d string using only the third finger. Thank you
Joseph - host, on August 1, 2017 @9:21 am PST
OK, for the first question, try holding the g sharp down first, and release all of your other fingers. Then, without changing too much of the position of your fourth finger, reach back to the b on the a string with a relatively flat first finger. You will end up getting the string down with a very different part of your first finger then you normally use. Your first finger should not be curved, it should be pretty straight, depending on how big your hands are.

For the second question, I don't use the third finger! I shift down to second position and use my first finger. I do that because I found it impossible to play most fifths in tune with my third finger, so I only use it for fifths when I absolutely have no choice.

I hope that helps, please write back if you need a clarification!
K on August 1, 2017 @11:13 pm PST
Thank you very much, professor.
I think that was something I needed to know - that I can actually straighten my fingers sometimes if needed and that's the way to do it. May I know where my thumb should be - should it still be at the back of the fingerboard?
Joseph - host, on August 2, 2017 @11:13 am PST
The thumb should be free. Try not to worry about where it is located, focus more on making sure it is not squeezing, and the thumb should always be where it should be.

Hope that helps!
peggy on June 29, 2016 @7:08 am PST
I was wondering if you have any videos on how to do the specific exercises in the Francis Grant cello book 1? I would really like to hear how they are supposed to go.
Camila on August 31, 2015 @4:20 pm PST
Thank you for this videos! This are thing that you in common don't see or count with..I have the same question of someone in the comments: "Could you please explain a little more how to release fingers in the shift that you are talking about?"
peggy on October 18, 2014 @6:54 am PST
Did you do any videos on the lessons in the lesson book with this very long name- Francis Grand Cello Series, Fundamentals Of Violoncello Technique volume 1 first and half position, by Francis Grant, A new method based on the celebrated schools of Dotzauer Romberg Lee and Kummer(Dotzauer/Grant book). It would be awesome if you have them somewhere:-)It is yellowish goldish in color and has a brown frame around it.
Randy Smith * VSM MEMBER * on July 13, 2014 @5:57 pm PST
Thank you for these helpful videos! Especially helpful to me, as I get to listen to you in English. My teacher is Japanese, and though I can follow along in Japanese fine, there are times I feel we still have a bit of a language barrier, when it comes to the fine points of learning cello technique.

I purchased the Dotzauer Etudes, and have begun practicing, particularly No. 11, as you taught that one in this video. A question: I am guessing that the letters above the score in these etudes, for example, LH, UH, WB, refer to bow position, right? So it would be lower half, upper half, whole bow, etc? The etudes I have been given to use from my teacher don't have English markings, so I want to be sure I have these understood correctly.

Thank you!
Anna M on June 18, 2014 @10:44 pm PST
Could you please explain a little more how to release fingers in the shift that you are talking about? I think you were referring to the 1st finger needing to release, but should the 3rd finger release too? Is there an exercise that would help me learn to release my previous finger when I shift?
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