Joseph Mendoes - cello expert

String crossings on the cello

Improve your bow technique with these important tips

In this new video, Prof. Mendoes talks about "string crossings" and how to best approach them on the cello.

Released on August 2, 2017

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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. This is Joseph Mendoes with a video for So first of all, I have to address something because I haven't made videos in a long long time. It's been, I think it's been more than a year now or maybe, I'm not sure if it's been that long. But anyway, it's been a long time. I haven't made videos in a long time. So sorry about that. You know, I got very busy and it was very difficult for me to find the time to be able to do them, but thankfully things have changed for the better. And in fact, I have moved. I no longer live in California. I don't teach at the Colburn School anymore, and I'm now teaching solely online actually. So that's a wonderful thing as I've been dreaming of this for quite a long time and to have it actually happen is extraordinary.

So if you're interested in online lessons, I do have some availabilities currently so you can go on my website, and take a look and send me an email, or leave a comment or something on the website there and get in touch with me about that and I'd be happy to set something up.

Now for today's video, as I was going through some of my old videos, I realized that there was a topic that I've kind of brushed a little bit in different videos, in the video for the prelude to the first Bach cello suite, I talked about it a little bit. I talked about it a little bit in I think one of the bow fundamental I think...well, I only made one, the Bow Fundamental video.

But anyway, the topic is String Crossings. And it's a topic that is...well it's really multifaceted. There's a lot of aspects to string crossings that need to be discussed. But I would say that the number one aspect about string crossings that I think frustrates the most people is how to do them efficiently, how to do them smoothly, how to do them artfully and tastefully. And it's a really difficult thing. But first, let me just talk about just some basic things about what we need on the four strings here. We have a certain level that we need to hit on the C string. By level I mean this way. So I mean not an angle this way, but a level this way, that we need to hit in order for the C string to really sound its best. We need to hit that level in order for that C string to really ring. There's also a certain level for the G string and for the D string and for the A string. You see, I've missed that level there. And for the A string.

You need to be able to hit all these levels. And if you miss any of those levels, and again sorry, I'm not being clear here. By levels I mean for example on the D string, how close you are to the A string or how close you are to the G string? That's what I mean by level. And there is one level for the D string, that really works really well. Most of us can find it pretty easily. But anyway, that's what I mean by levels.

In order for string crossings to really sound wonderful instead of kind of a little bit scratchy or a little bit out of control, you need to be able to hit those levels. So for example, in any sort of situation where you have to go, we have to go on a slur like that, for example, in that one bowing that I showed you in that other video of the prelude, if you have to do that kind of bowing, what most people do is they try to minimize the motion, is they try to move just the tiniest bit and instead actually, they get both levels. To get the level on the D string all the way down here that you need instead of being here, you need to be here, you need to go further than what you think. And similarly on the A string, you need to be able to go much further this way. In fact, maybe on the camera you can see that I have a little bit of rosin dust here on the side of my cello right there and that's because sometimes I go a little too far. But again because I'm searching for that level.

So with string crossings that's the first thing, is you have to understand before we start talking about how to move, you have to think okay, there is a certain spot that I have to get to and that it does matter. If I'm playing on the A string and I'm a little bit too close to the D string, it's not going to sound the same or as good as if I get a little bit further away from the D string. Same thing on the D string. If I'm a little too close to the G or a little too close to the D, depending on where I am on the bow, of course, that can really have an effect on the sound. The C string is probably the biggest one because it's the thickest string and it's the one that's the hardest to get to sound. You need to make sure again that you're really at the right level. And I don't know if you can see here, but to get that level it's really really difficult. I have to get all the way here. If you're too close to the G string, then you see the sound automatically gets a little bit shallow, it's a little bit hard to start. If I'm here, the sound starts very very easily, it's very very easy to get into that sound.

Now let's talk about how to move. So when we're moving, what we want to try to move we want to move the smallest joints that we can the furthest that we can. And then only use larger joints or larger limbs when we absolutely need to, because as you include larger and larger limbs, you're moving more and more mass. And what we know about mass is, when we're moving a lot of mass, it takes a lot of energy to stop that mass once it's in motion. So to stop the mass right on the right spot, right on that right level it's going to take a lot, say if you're moving the entire arm like that. However if you're moving just the wrist and the fingers like that, then it's a lot easier to stop the bow at the right spot. And then if you're on that level, then your arm will kind of naturally come up to a certain point, unless you're dropping straight back down again.

So that's really the two things that I want you to focus on for string crossings, is when you're moving, when you're doing the actual moving, try to use the smallest joints that you can, the smallest limbs that you can, so that means the fingers and you know, the wrist and the hand and then as you need them, incorporate larger joints. So if it's a really big string crossings from, you know, from the C string to the A string, you might need to use a little bit of shoulder and a little bit of elbow. If it's just to there, you may not need much shoulder or elbow at all. And then the other thing, which I think is even more important, is what I talked about with making sure that the string levels are correct. That's something that a lot of people forget and again especially when they're doing this kind of bowing pattern, they normally don't go nearly far enough. So if you combine that far enough motion this way and that big enough motion this way with a real nice sense for efficiency that way, then I think it'll help your string crossings, especially in performing Bach, but really in anything. You'll help your string crossings be much more smooth, much more artful and much more under control.

So this has been a video for My name is Joseph Mendoes and I hope to see you again soon. Thanks.
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User Comments and Questions

Comments, Questions, Requests:

India * VSM MEMBER * on August 24, 2017 @2:54 pm PST
Your video on string crossing sounded good, but the black strip that was advertising the web sight covered most of the bow and string area .
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on August 24, 2017 @3:18 pm PST
I am very sorry about that India. The next time we'll make sure not to obstruct the important video areas!

Thank you for your feedback.
Jill Beer * VSM MEMBER * on August 2, 2017 @6:09 am PST
Thank you for coming back to virtual sheet music. As an adult learner, I appreciate your videos. I re-watch them to apply a little bit more to my playing every time. I take something away every time I review your videos. I can't always make it to regular lessons as my teacher is over an hour away. So again, thank you!
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