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It's Cello Time

So a couple months back I was pondering getting a violin because one of our students who worked with us was self-taught. I started to think about it and I wondered if I had it in me to do the same. I started looking up videos on how to play and I found a few that walked you through how to hold a violin and bow and setting the tension of the bow, etc. I looked at those for a couple days, then I decided to look at one for a cello.

Not the greatest move because A) I've always loved the sound of the cello and well.. B) I've always loved the sound of the cello. So I saw a video where a gentleman immediately moved into how to sit with the cello, hold the bow, the angle you hold the bow at for each string. He started playing almost immediately.

At the first note I said "I'm getting a cello"

So I put it out there on my Facebook that I wanted a cello. Then I reached out to one of the guys that takes the summer off the play upright bass in a group and asked if he knew anyone who was selling a cello (he told me about one that was being sold for real cheap several months back). He said he knew a guy, he'd look into.

Long story short I'm waiting for him to drop it off. A wonderful $600 is sitting, waiting to be traded for, what I think will be, a beautiful instrument.

It can't be a bad investment... Something I can hopefully learn and if not... well maybe if I ever have kids I can put them through lessons... Music is a wonderful thing to have in your life and... I hope I can make something of this...

13 blog comments below

I'm mighty jealous. I've also A) always loved the sound of cello, and B) always loved the sound of cello Wink I almost bought one 13 years ago, but used the money, instead to fly to the US and come back with my now wife. I suppose it was the right decision Wink I've never lost the desire to learn, but haven't had the money to spend on it (or it was a lesser priority to another piece of gear for an instrument I could already play).

One day I'll join you in your soon to be cello-ship.
Ankhanu on Sat Jul 05, 2014 3:39 am
I also love the sound of the Cello. Totally awesome. Cool
deanhills on Sat Jul 05, 2014 5:03 am
I'll leave this question here and look it up tomorrow...

I'm left handed... Cellos are designed for right handed people. The cello is also not designed in such a way that it can be restrung (??) to accommodate a left handed person. My question would be... could I still play left handed with a cello designed for right handed people?

The order of the strings would be completely different. As a right handed person the string closest to your bowing hand is low C then G, D, A. If I hold the cello so I'm bowing with my left hand then the string closest to my bowing hand would be A, then D, G, C.

I certainly feel more comfortable bowing with my left hand and it feels less awkward trying to get the right angles on the strings but I wonder what else might be affected if I continue to try and learn this way. I've seen videos where they talk about the 3 different ways people have tried to play violin if they are right or left handed.

In terms of moving my fingers down or across the fingerboard, going down doesn't really change much... Going across the different strings, well instead of my left hand fingers moving backwards towards my palm (low to high) my right hand fingers would move across the strings and away from my palm (low to high).

Does this make any sense?
TheGremlyn on Sat Jul 05, 2014 6:15 am
Cellos (and other viol-type instruments) CAN be restrung for left handers, but it does require some luthiery. Basically the nut (the part where the strings cross from the fingerboard to the tuning pegs) needs to be modified, filling in the string grooves and re-filing them for the correct string gauges... er, wait, no... the finger boards have an asymmetric radius, don't they? That would complicate things, requiring a full replacement of the fingerboard, which requires much more wood Wink

You can play left handed on a right handed instrument, but it will require a modified technique. There are, for example, some famous left handed guitar players who do this (e.g. Dick Dale), where others simply flipped the stings on their guitars (e.g. Jimi Hendrix). PLaying "upside down" has contributed a bit to their unique sound/style. Same could be done on a viol. Playing a right-hand setup left-handed will be a little awkward at first (but learning to play in any orientation will be), but as you begin building your muscle memory, it will become more natural; some chord structures might require extra care to avoid muting strings with your fretting hand, though.
Ankhanu on Sat Jul 05, 2014 3:10 pm
I did some searching around and no one seems to come up with any.... good... arguments. They all seem to fall back on "if you play left handed you'll never play in an orchestra". I can save them some trouble there, I don't want to play in one! Razz

Hearing you talk about technique and stuff is what I was really after and I was hoping to hear more of that from people who play the cello but I didn't get that.

I think, seeing as I'm teaching myself, I'll do my best to learn in the traditional fashion with the bow in my right. The fingerboard is certainly interesting without the frets and the strings are not as close for the board as I'd like so I sort of brush up against the neighboring string and that just sounds weird.

I noted that the tailpiece of this cello doesn't have any fine tuning pegs so I'd have to use the main pegs at the top. This is causing some frustrations because those really aren't meant for precise tuning and when I get close and turn a little more (sharp or flat) it sometimes jumps! So I looked at tailpieces and they're not that expensive. I also looked up how to do that yourself and someone on Yahoo Answers just about flipped out at the question! Then I saw a video of someone replacing it on a violin and then one where a bridge was being reset on a cello. Combine those two and I'm sure I could figure it out and note mess up the sound post.

I'll probably be looking around for places that do repairs for strings in the meantime. I'll still probably replace the tailpieces myself since it looks like I just have to carefully loosen the strings and move them aside and unhook them from the current tailpiece. Then the cord that goes around the bottom (I've forgotten the name right now) has to be adjusted to the correct length. Someone said you use a lighter to flatten the plastic ends so they don't move and then secure it. Then you make sure the bridge is oriented correctly since it sounds like they're only held in place by tension. I saw how those were precisely placed and the strings would hooked up and fitted into the bridge. Then you sort of gradually tighten the strings evenly (the guy in the video started from the outer strings first) and then ensure the bridge hasn't shifted.

I did see another video where I guess the tailpiece hadn't been replaced properly but who knows what happened there.
TheGremlyn on Sat Jul 05, 2014 10:32 pm
Hands, fingers and arms are a little sore. I'm trying to get the grip down on the bow and the watching the angle across each string and trying to make sure the bow doesn't float up and down the length of the string. I'm also watching the motion of my bow arm and making sure my elbow doesn't go back too much but it seems that motion was more natural for me. The weight of the bow is a little tricky and that's why it floats a little so if I'm not looking I may find I've lifted it up or I may have left it fall slightly.

As far as figuring out the notes I'm just looking at the C string and I'm using the pizzicato technique where I pluck the strings with my bow hand. I have my tuner in front of me the entire time I'm playing, watching for tuning. I'm working on a few notes of the C scale so open C, then D E F and back. It's going to take a long time but I guess I'm working at learning where the notes are on the fingerboard and then hearing the note and aiming to get it in tune. I can usually tell when the note is way out but the closer it is the harder it is for me to hear if it's a little sharp or a little flat.

I've got a lot of fingering charts to help me with where the notes are, roughly. What I'd like to do is mark the fingerboard with little dots or maybe tie elastic bands around the fingerboard to mark where the notes are, roughly.

I think this will be my routine for a while and I hope, in a month I'll have made some progress. The cello is not so loud as my Bari Sax so it's easier for me to pick it up and play it and not worry about my neighbors.
TheGremlyn on Sun Jul 06, 2014 3:22 pm
Yeah, I wish I were giving cello-player experience, but it's just general-stringed musician experience.
Yeah, swapping out the tail shouldn't be much difficulty, alternatively, I'm pretty sure you can just by the tuners and fit them into the holes the strings go through/anchor in the tail, might save some money and effort. I could be wrong in that, but I'm pretty certain I had that option with my old violin, when I was looking into upgrading some parts.

The bridge is held in place by string tension, and placement is important... to a degree. Placement affects the scale length, the length of string between the nut and bridge that actually gets played, which affects the interval distances you need to finger to hit each note. As long as it's basically in the right spot, you'll be fine, making slight adjustments to your fingering hand position if your note ends up sharp or flat. It's a little more critical with fretted instruments, where you can't as readily shift the fingering (it's set by the location of the fret wire), but fretless it's up to you to compensate, which you're already learning.

Rather than elastic bands, use cut strips of masking tape, that way you can put them in place without removing strings, and they will cause minimal change to the board itself.

I've played bass viol a couple times, just messing around, and it's a bit interesting; a big version of a cello. I've never tried bowing, though, that adds a whole new dimension of skill Razz
Ankhanu on Sun Jul 06, 2014 3:38 pm
Successfully plucked my way through a C major scale on the C string. One position charts I printed off showed me that the distance between each half step decreases, which kind of makes sense. Mind you I should probably be more aware of the positions one the strings so I'm using the correct finger (1, 2, 3, 4) at each point and then I shift my hand down and restart accordingly.

On a side note I had a look at the position of the bridge and I could peer through the F hole to see the sound post and I looked up a cross section of a cello. One of the legs of the bridge is supposed to be over top (sort of) of the sound post and the other over the bass bar. I also read and watched a video about replacing the bridge or resetting it. The legs of the bridge could be centered on the notches of the F holes. My bridge is actually set back so the corners of the legs of the bridge, closest to the fingerboard, are in line with the notch. I can see markings on the body of the cello that would guide the placement and it looks like the bridge needs to be brought up a bit.

I think when I get the set of strings I ordered and the tailpiece (I did look at getting those fine tuning pegs but I didn't see how they would fit in the current piece) I'll restring and replace the tailpiece and reposition of the bridge. I'll watch a view more videos on this before then. I looked at how the strings are supposed to be set on the tuning pegs and they're a little sloppy on mine... I watched one person feed the string through and then turn the peg and guide the string to make an X and then the string is guided towards the appropriate side of the peg without overlapping. Mine don't have that X shape and there is some overlap in the strings. Not to mention the way the strings were fed through there is anywhere from 1 cm to 1 inch of excess string poking out.

I know I did some research on the Cello but once you actually have the darn thing you realize you really just glanced at the cover of a book. I'm just looking at page 1! This happened when I got my camera. Now that I can look at the Cello and hold it and turn it I just have all these questions and I'm noticing things about the instrument that I couldn't see in a picture or video.
TheGremlyn on Sun Jul 06, 2014 7:24 pm
Did you consider an leccy cello? Electric instruments have come a long way tone-wise and a good electric instrument matches the tone and timbre of a medium priced wooden instrument nowadays. The advantages are:
a) Easier to lug around
b) Left handed versions no problem
c) Amplification to annoy people at long range Smile
d) MIDI - you can make it play just about any sound you can think of

When I was working in the studio we had a couple of fans of electric string instruments - both professional players with big orchestras. They had to use the wooden instruments at 'work' (London Philharmonic) but used electric instruments when doing backing or studio session work.
If you want a couple of names to Google & check out - for quality but pricey try :
Yamaha - their Cellos are the SVC range and they are superb - the bogs bollox. You will pay over 2 grand (UK pounds) for a new one and about 1200-1500 US dollars for a really tidy used one.

Listen to the quality though....
Cobra - niche maker, same sort of prices but more exclusive;

If you want cheap cheap cheap - which you DO if you are a novice/learner then stop drooling at the two above and trade in for a :
Harley Benton HBCE 830 - this is just about the bottom of the budget range (a few hundred dollars new) - cheap but perfectly usable instrument.

Just a thought....
Bikerman on Sun Jul 06, 2014 11:11 pm
That's quite fascinating to listen to and see that in action. I never thought you could get electric and that would take a lot of the worry away. I've been reading way to much into cellos and not that long ago I found out about bridges that can warp over time if they're not adjusted on a regular basis. The act of tuning them from the pegs at the top can pull the bridge forward and the tension can pull the top section forwards and I've seen pictures of ones that have snapped. This also resulted in research into bridge replacements and you can't just buy one because they have to but cut and fitted to the instrument. I'm asking around to see if anyone services these instruments but right now most stores advertise their ability to work with guitars.

Going electrics would be interesting and I wouldn't have to worry about sound posts fracturing, falling out, etc, etc. Depending on how I do with this little one it could be something to look into in the future and it might be easier to maintain?

This is a whole other world for me that just got a little bigger now that electric ones have been thrown in. I never knew they existed but I really shouldn't be surprised. I'm pretty sure I've seen an electric violin.

I'm not entirely sure how I stumbled upon her but I recall looking for a specific song and found an orchestra version featuring her. Then I went on a Youtube trip and looked at a bunch of her songs. She looks like her eyes are closed towards the end!
TheGremlyn on Mon Jul 07, 2014 1:23 am
Plus, if you want to be Eddie Van Halen for a while the electric Cello can do that too..
Bikerman on Mon Jul 07, 2014 8:43 pm
I'm crazy about the looping that cellists are doing like this guy ... he's totally into his cello. What a performance. Also his own composition. Sounds like great fun if one is on the creative side of things. He does it with a smartphone too in some of the other productions by him .... how does one do it with a smartphone?

This is also great:

deanhills on Tue Jul 08, 2014 6:39 pm
Fantastic videos! The second has a lot of energy in it! The first I think I've seen people doing loops using an app on their iPad called Cubasis. I bought that one just to play around and it's got some interesting features and I like that you can throw on some headphones, sing or play your instrument and hear what you actually sound like.
TheGremlyn on Tue Jul 08, 2014 8:13 pm

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