Joseph Mendoes - cello expert

Bow and Endpin Tips

Effective tips for your bow and your cello endpin position

In this video, Prof. Mendoes gives you some useful tips about bow holding as well as the endpin position during your cello playing.

Released on May 6, 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 Mendos with another video for I hope all of you have enjoyed my latest videos. I really appreciate all the comments and I received a couple of emails as well. First of all, I want to apologize for not getting back to you yet. I will reply to those very soon. My only excuse - it's a horrible one - is it's my busiest time of the year, and I also have a faculty recital here at the Colburn School coming up in several weeks on May 1st. I've been very busy getting ready for that among my normal work schedule and everything, but I do promise that I will get to those very soon.

Today, I wanted to go over an interesting bow exercise that I don't think I went over in the video - well, I think I've done a couple videos - about the uses of the bow and more general things. Today I'd like to talk about another way to think about how to sustain your sound and another little useful trick to help you sustain your sound. There's a very simple exercise that you can do either on open strings or with a scale, however really you choose to do it. It's just a very simple bow division exercise.

Now, I imagine most of you have done this kind of bow division exercise before, so this may be not new to some of you. I preface this by saying this is nothing novel or anything that I've really come up with. The thing I do find is, when people do this, they do it maybe not quite paying attention to enough details and they don't really get the full benefit. It's a basic bow division exercise, and it goes like this. You just start off on open string or you can do it on a scale. You divide the bow in half and you stop the bow right at the halfway point, and then you go all the way to the tip, and then you stop the bow again. When you restart the bow in each of these spots, you want to make sure that you're able to get the same attack.

You can kind of see how I'm wiggling the bow around on the string a little bit. I'm making sure that the bow is really, really firmly attached to the string before I go, so that I get that nice, clear beginning. I want to make sure I get that very clear grab every single time when I start the bow. So, that's in half, then you divide it into quarters, and then you do the same thing. You can kind of see where this is going. You divide it into quarters, making sure that, in each part of the bow, you can stop the bow and re-grip each time. Then you divide it into eight parts, again trying to get the equal accents every single time you move the bow. Sometimes we do this and it sounds great there, but then as we go further, it gets softer and more and more fluffy. So really, this ability to stop the bow at any spot - especially with the eight - and get that same attack is really important. Then of course you move on to 16, and then the ultimate challenge is 32, which some of you probably want me to demonstrate, but [chuckle] okay maybe I'll give it a try. Well, let me do 16 first. There's 16 on one, and now let me do 32 on one. You see, I struggled a little bit at the end there, so I've got to practice it. That's the basic idea.

Now you can do that with a scale, to practice it on all the different scales, with any kind of division that you care to do. I think this is actually very critical, the ability to do this and to do it well, to make sure that you can get that articulation anywhere on the bow. This is also a good way to practice any sort of up-bow or down-bow on the strings staccato strokes that you need to do in quick succession, because that's essentially what this ability is. It's the ability to control from the hand - that's what I didn't do actually, sorry. I'm doing this backwards. I should have started with this concept first. First of all, my idea is that really the power that you're getting, to generate enough torque to grip the string in that way to create that sound, that little bit of a bite at the beginning of the sound. That's coming from really this - I may have demonstrated that in a past video - but it really is coming from that.

So your thumb is here, and your index finger is there. You see, so if you play with your index finger more on the top, you're going to have a lot less power, because you're only able to press down from this top joint. You don't have as much power coming up from the thumb. But if you're here, now you can turn the bow - and you can see it, I'm struggling to hold it with my other hand, because there's so much power there - and I'm really able to get a lot of power if I'm staying in that position. I don't know if you can also see this or not, if I hold this up close enough with the right angle, I don't know if you can see this divot that's in the side of my finger here. I imagine some of you have this - let me see if I can put it, there you go, now I think you can see it - that's from me being exactly on the side of this thing, not being really here, but being here. You also notice, it puts my arm into a really good position as well, where my shoulder is not too high, or things aren't too slunky and too low here - slunky, I'm not sure that's a word, but anyway - it really helps to get the whole arm position in the right position, without having to think too hard about it once you're there.

Now once you're there, you can easily do that exercise. Whereas, if you're more here - holding the bow a little bit further back in the hand like I see sometimes - it's not impossible, but it's really, really hard to get a lot of power. If you're here, what we get is as much power as you're going to need.

Anyway, I just wanted to mention one more thing. I know, today was maybe about two different things. I also just wanted to talk a minute about end pin length. I mentioned this briefly in video on sitting, but if any of you have any questions about the end pin length, the most important thing, I think, to understand about the end pin, is to understand the reason why it came about. The reason why it came about was largely for reasons, supposedly, of sound and comfort. I'm less of a believer, actually, that it makes a huge in terms of the sound of the cello. I know this may be an unorthodox opinion, considering so many of the 19th century cellists, some of them used end pins, some of them didn't. The first person really to use the end pin was Servais. I think he was Belgian. Was he Belgian? I think he was a Belgian cellist who became quite famous actually for using the end pin. Not every cellist, in fact, both famous cellists, David Popper and Alfredo Piatti, both did not use end pins. Popper was supposedly known for a very large sound, as was some other cellists like Robert Hausmann, who was Brahms' favorite cellist, did not use an end pin. So, the end pin really is more for, I think, the comfort of the player, and maybe a little bit for power, but not a tremendous amount, not a tremendous difference.

Anyway, you can experiment with this, by just taking your end pin out, just like this, just completely out, and trying to hold the cello. You can't really see this, but I'm actually holding it right between my legs and I'm letting it rest. I notice that there's not a significant lack of power at all. You can try this to kind of gauge to see actually where you think your end pin should be, because, for me, that position of holding it between the legs is actually, instead of having it resting on the end pin, not so uncomfortable of a position. I could see myself sitting like that like current modern-day Baroque cellists do. But then you want to take your end pin and adjust it, so that really the cello just feels the same, and I want you to experiment with this. I know some of you have your end pins way up here and, of course, some people use the bent end pin and are way up here, but if you've always struggled with these kinds of things, then please try this method. Just take the end pin completely out, rest it between your legs and lightly grip it there, and play for a little bit, and see if you don't notice any sort of freedom or a natural feeling about it. Then, simply extend your end pin to that length. You might find that it's shorter than what you're normally used to, but give it a shot and see if you like it.

So once again, this has been Joseph Mendos at I hope you enjoyed this video. I know it was way, way all over the place. We talked about the bow and also a little bit about the end pin and sitting. I hope you benefited from this, and please leave comments down below. If you're watching on YouTube, and you leave comments on YouTube, I will not see those comments, so please go to the website, which should be somewhere on this page if you're watching it on YouTube. Leave comments on that website, that way I can respond to them and can answer all of your questions. Thanks again, this has been Joseph Mendos for
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User Comments and Questions

Comments, Questions, Requests:

Sincerai on October 13, 2015 @8:30 pm PST
Enjoying watching these videos and love and envy your sound , you must have worked very hard over the years . Passing on that knowledge is generous and I am looking to join in the coming weeks .
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on October 14, 2015 @8:51 am PST
I am very glad you enjoyed the Joseph's videos. Please, feel always free to contact us with any questions or ideas you may have, we will be glad to hear from you. Thank you for your interest.
Sincerai on October 15, 2015 @6:02 am PST
They are absolutely inspiring and I am so grateful that you put these things out there for those who most often cannot afford the luxury of professional lessons , or even if we can get money to seek lessons , the teachers such as Joseph are nowhere to be found unless you live in the city ? So this site is a wonder that I will pass on to others who seek to be musicians.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on October 15, 2015 @10:33 am PST
Glad to know that, indeed! We are working to provide you with more tools and "real" music lessons, in the next future... stay tuned!
Joseph - host, on October 26, 2015 @10:33 am PST
I want to apologize for my delay!

Thank you for your comment! I just wanted to talk a little about what you said about working hard. Yes, I have worked hard, but most of my work comes in the form of thinking about the cello, not so much practicing. I do practice, but many of my discoveries come from trying hard to understand the principles I was taught, and also bringing everything I have been taught under harsh criticism. We all have wonderful tools for confirming and dis-confirming the truth, and the most important thing is to test everything and figure out what is right, including anything I say! I have been wrong many times in my teaching career and I am probably wrong about a few things now!

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