Joseph Mendoes - cello expert

Up and Down Bow Staccato on the Cello

Learn how to approach up and down bow staccatos on the cello

In this video, Prof. Mendoes talks about up and down bow staccatos and how you can apply them on the cello.

Released on November 1, 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, this is Joseph Mendoes with another video for Today I'd like to about a little bit more of a difficult technique of up-bow and down-bow staccato. Now, for those you of who don't know what up-bow or down-bow staccato is, a succession of notes played in one bow with one bow direction but that are separate. So, down-bow staccato sounds something like this. Up-bow staccato, something like that where you have a succession of these notes in a row. Now, the way to acquire this technique...well, first of all, most people who have this never acquired this technique. It kind of came to them naturally. That was not me. I don't have a natural staccato at all. It was something that took quite a lot of work, and I'm still working on it. I'm still trying to get different qualities out of it. But the way I got it was, actually, just through practicing other things, getting more and more flexible in my right hand.

To do a staccato well, you'll notice when I was doing that motion that there's a quite a bit of motion in the wrist and in the fingers of a kind of a tremulant variety, like that. I'll show you one more time, where there's this kind of motion happening. In order for that motion to happen, obviously, the bow hold can't be too tight. You can't be holding the bow too tight. It can't be too loose either. You need to have that right ratio between strength and flexibility in the bow hand. And also, the arm can't be really too stiff. Some teachers teach it that way where you keep the arm really stiff, but to me, it always sounds like that the string is getting choked when I hear a staccato being played like that. Generally speaking, I think a good staccato should have a little bit more of a ringing sound and not so much of a choked sound.

Okay, so, then how do we get this? Well, it's like what I just said. You have to work on getting the range of motion first. So, if I just play the same scale, just separate notes, and I just spend a lot of time on getting really nice bow changes and a really nice motion there, then if I work on that, then it'll gradually lend itself to a really good staccato. And once you want to try the staccato, then what you have to do is you have to see, okay, on the down-bow, you need to make sure that you're doing a kind of a're starting with a down-bow position that way. Because it's the fingers that are going to start by doing the grabbing here, not by stiffening the arm or anything like that, but it's going to be controlled mainly from the fingers. Now, for the up-bow, it's the same thing but the opposite. You have to make sure that you're in this up-bow position first, and, in fact, you need to almost exaggerate it. You'll notice how pronated my fingers are. They're, kind of, almost over-pronated. That's so that I can get that kind of motion in the hand. See, if I'm here, then I have to do a kind of a pulsing motion with the elbow or something like that, or even from the shoulder. But if I'm here, if I'm in this position this way, then I can use a little bit more of the fingers.

So that's how we get this down-bow and up-bow staccato. It's just by practicing and getting more and more of this range of motion in your bow hand. And you'll notice that the staccato starts to come with that. So, yeah, if you have any questions about this technique...and just to clarify, you know, you don't need to have this technique. I'm not convinced that it's something that you need to have in order to be a really great player. There're some players who had, what I would consider to be, a very good staccato, like, for example, Jascha Heifetz. Pablo Casals, even though you don't get to hear it in the recordings too much, supposedly had an excellent staccato, as well as did Emmanuel Forman. Piatigorsky probably had the most famous cello staccato of all time. But there's other players who really didn't have much of a staccato at all like Yehudi Menuhin. And, let's see, I mean, supposedly, Rostropovich, at least he never used one. We don't really have too much evidence of him using one, so it's not a technique that he really developed. So, again, you can be a great player and not have the staccato. You can also have the staccato and not be such a great player. So it's not one of the essential things, but it is nice to have in your, kind of, virtuoso bag of tricks. And so please consider using this technique of just working on your range of motion this way, and then starting to work on your staccato by finding that position first, making sure that you're in the down-bow position for the down-bow staccato and in the up-bow position for the up-bow staccato, and you should be fine.

So, if you have any questions, please leave them down below. If you're watching on Youtube, don't leave comments there. I will not reply to those. I cannot reply to those. I can only reply to ones on So please go to the website, check it out, become a member, and write whatever comments you like, and I'll do my best to respond to the ones including questions or things like that. And also, I have my own website You can go there and take a look at my blogs. I have several blogs up now, six or seven or something. Some of them are probably a little too long, but go ahead and read those if you're interested. And also I do teach online lessons, and you can contact me through my website for those online lessons. So, once again, this has been Joseph Mendoes for
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