Joseph Mendoes - cello expert

Thumb Position Vibrato on the Cello

Tips to improve your vibrato in thumb position

In this video, Prof. Mendoes shows you how to improve your vibrato in thumb position.

Released on April 6, 2016

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Video Transcription

Hello, this is Joseph Mendoes with another video for Today I would like to answer a question that was asked on the experts comments page on the website. The question was about thumb position vibrato.

Now there is something about thumb position vibrato that is troublesome to us cellists. You learn to get a really nice, beautiful round sound in those lower positions and even in fourth position we get that really nice sound. But then as soon as we get over this part of the cello we get in a thumb position, things really get a little bit nasty. And we tend to play with kind of a very tight, restrained vibrato.

The reason for this, I think has to do a lot with the thumb and the first finger. I think the first finger is really the one for most people that's very uncomfortable to vibrate well on in the upper positions. And the reason why is because of it's proximity to the thumb. The thumb, I think, is the big enemy here.

So when you're practicing these upper position vibrato notes, what I want you to focus on is making sure that the thumb is staying free. Do not lock it down, either next to, like that, sandwich it next to the index finger, or lock it down on the string. This will restrict your vibrato. It will not be as full as it could be if you make sure the thumb is free.

So essentially the rule is the same. Whether you're in the lower position or you're in the upper position, here or up here, it doesn't matter. The thumb always needs to be limp. Now I know this is a little bit scary to think about, having your thumb be kind of free and wild like that in the upper positions. But if you're really thinking about where your thumb needs to go when you're gonna put it down, it's able to operate independently in the same way that any of the other fingers do.

So I have another exercise for this. I tell my students to learn how to operate the thumb from this back joint, like that. You need to learn how to operate the thumb from there in the same way that we operate the fingers from this joint here, we need to learn how to operate the thumb from that joint there. And you can see me demonstrate that there. You see, there's no rotation this way in order to get the thumb down, it's all isolated right in that joint. And that's where it needs to be in order to make sure that it's really free.

So another way to get this is to do this exercise, to play back here and then shift up and make sure that you're able to get the same sound. If you can get the same sound, then you know that that thumb is really, really free.

I hope that's helpful. You know the same goes for the other fingers, I just didn't mention them because generally those other fingers are freer in the thumb position. That's what I've found with most students, is that they're freer because they're further away from the thumb. The further away we get from the thumb and thumb position, usually the better off we are. So make sure that thumb stays really free, really flexible. Learn how use the thumb from that back joint there when you're playing in thumb position and your vibrato on all the fingers will be much freer. And then use this exercise to make sure that the vibrato is the same no matter what position you're in with that first finger.

I wanted to briefly mention that I have a new website, Hopefully the link will be up in the upper corner there of the video if you're watching this on Please visit this website, it will be, well, there's information on the website about online lessons with me over Skype, which work very well. And it has information about how to contact me for that. There'll be blogs, there will be eventually instructional videos. There will be product reviews, all sorts of various things on this website, all cello related. I hope that you'll go to that website and subscribe and then you'll get regular updates from me on what's going on at

If you have comments about this video, please leave them at the website. Do not leave them on YouTube, I will not be able to answer them. So please leave them at and I can't wait to see those comments about this video.

Once again, this has been Joseph Mendoes for
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User Comments and Questions

Comments, Questions, Requests:

Zachary Earle on February 8, 2017 @2:21 pm PST
Hi! Im a cellist and I am struggling with thumb position. Ive seen your video and Its helped me a little. Can you do another video but maybe at different angles?
Joseph - host, on March 19, 2017 @9:10 pm PST
I am going to make some videos soon, I will try to include one on thumb position with some different angles!
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