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How to Play the Cello for Beginners

hi my name is Justin leopard welcome to consordini

i'm justin leopard professional cellist in Los Angeles and today we're

gonna go over basic setup with the cello perhaps you're a young student looking

for some initial advice perhaps hear an older person who tried to start cello

which is an awesome thing to start and in any case a lot of the basics are the

same so we're just going to kind of go over this starting with the chair so you

want a chair that's going to allow you to comfortably have your feet flat on

the floor and you don't want it to be so short that your knees are above your

waist this chair that I'm on right now would be the lower end of the spectrum

for somebody my size and it could even work to have a chair where my knees were

a little angled more like that especially for young students sometimes

finding a chair that means those requirements can be a little harder and

so having a short stool especially one that's adjustable is a really easy

solution for that the other basic posture thing and we're gonna go over

posture before the cello even though it doesn't really relate to anything yet

but the other basic posture thing is that you don't want to be slash back in

your seat and you also don't want to overcompensate by trying to bring your

chest too far forward the basic metric for determining whether you're sitting

correctly is whether you feel like the only difference between sitting and

standing is that your legs are bent so if I stand up straight and I bring

everything down but my torso is the same and I allow everything to rest

comfortably on my hips this is the side view this is gonna allow me to freely

play without hurting myself which is actually a big concern going into cello

and a lot of these things that we go over today actually are as much about

protecting you as helping you play well because when you play the cello it's not

only a lot of exertion especially when you get to practising several hours a

day or rehearsing even more hours than that it's also an imbalanced exertion if

you do yoga you're going to do the same exercises symmetrically but when you

play cello you one hand up here you have another hand

down here and that can create all sorts of issues when you're doing it every

single day and this can be a real problem some people have to stop playing

for years because of injuries they go so the basic thing about getting a chair

that's gonna allow your legs to sit correctly and that's gonna allow your

torso to sit correctly and this is the basic posture that we're always gonna

use with the cello okay so what do you need at this point

maybe you're just investigating or maybe you already have rented a cello or bada

cello in that case you probably will have your cello a bow and you'll also

need rosin which you might have gotten in the form of some sort of stick but

it's better if you can get what we call cake rosin because this is gonna allow

you to change the angle as your rosin and it's gonna will show you when we

rosin but it's going to be better in the long term for you and you also need a

cleaning cloth because the rosin that we use which is basically the same as tree

resin can easily fall on your instrument and with these instruments there are a

lot of weather sensitive issues one of which is that the glue that's used to

hold it together is actually not that strong of glue and the reason for that

is that if something happens we want the cello to fall apart rather than break

because it's relatively easy for somebody who knows what they're doing

to reglue a scene and never reglue yourself because these glue specificity

requirements are actually very important it's not something that just normal wood

glue is going to do even though that might seem like oh it's wood and it

should work so let's take a look at the cello maybe you already know these

things but it's nice to go over the different parts we have of course the

strings apgc are there note names they are supported

by a bridge the bridge is typically made of balsam wood which is very flexible so

when temperatures change it's actually the bridge changing more than the cello

changing that's going to cause some pitch things and it's not actually glued

on or anything it's just supported by the tension

the strings which are tens of pounds of tensions very lot of tension from these

metal strings the strings themselves typically have some sort of core with

wrapping so it's a little different than guitar strings which is sometimes just a

stretch of metal or just nylon down here we have fine tuners and up here we have

the large tuners and these can be quite finicky if you haven't already taken

some time to explore if your cello is disastrously out of tune you'll need to

use them and the most simple way to tune with one of these is to turn the cello

towards yourself and when you go down in pitch you're gonna rotate towards

yourself and this is true for all of them you can hear this pitch down and as

you go up you just want to push in at the same time so I'm pushing you that

will allow me to let go and some and it won't spiral back sometimes they they

fall out of place because these are also only held in by friction tension between

the wood and all of these things are part of why you know these are very very

special instruments that require a lot of skill to make as opposed to machine

made instruments a lot of the features of this instrument are craftsmanship and

that's one of the lovely things about them and why they get such a wonderous

wondrous beautiful tone this is the front of the instrument it's a softer

wood than the back of the instrument inside we have a sound post that goes

from the top to the bottom so sound will initially start from this string it'll

vibrate the bridge which will vibrate the front of the cello which will go

through the sound post vibrate the back of the cello and resonate in between

both as a chain bear coming out baffles and also the instrument itself so this

is how the cello produces sound and the first time you pick it up it's not going

to be set up already I'd already set up the end pin it'll be inside and if

you're in a really unusual circumstance you'll have an old-fashioned stick in

and pin but the overwhelming majority of you are going to have

one of these fastened wrench based end pens and there are a couple of ways to

determine the length of the end pin but you want to be able to achieve is an

angle that allows you to comfortably play the instrument if it's it's too

high like this it might be easier to see where some of the notes are but you're

gonna run into a lot of problems with the bow and the opposite is true if it's

too tall where it might be a little bit easier to do some both things but you're

gonna find it quite awkward to navigate the instrument especially as you're

practicing your skills going up so I think it's about thirty degrees angle

you don't want it to be 45 unless you might see some people do that but that's

a different approach the majority of us are doing this like thirty degree angle

so one approach you can use just initially is to set the cello like this

find that thirty degree angle find where it sits against the middle of your chest

not the now your solar plex but a little bit higher than that you want to rest

comfortably in between knees without squeezing it in place and if you have a

friend you can have them let go of the end pin it'll fall before but if it's

just you you'll just have to experiment a little bit maybe if if this feels a

little too high go down reset it just a very tiny bit when you first get this

set up you want to maybe just move with it a little bit when I move back and

forth like this the cello can move with me and it's not because I'm holding the

cello it's just because the cello is relaxed against my body and no matter

what I do the cello is a part of me and that's sort of that's a really important

part of this because you're kind of playing the cello from behind as opposed

to a piano where you're playing in front of it with this instrument it's

projecting away from us so we really want to feel like we're moving with it

like a dance partner when we play it okay so we're gonna set the cello away

for a second well actually I had forgotten I brought up rosin and

temperature and the important thing about having a cleaning cloth is that

Lauzon and actually there's a little bit of rosin on my cello now melts at only

about a hundred degrees so if if the cello is allowed to sit with rosin on it

it's very easy for the varnish and the rosin to actually melt together and

cause a goop that best-case scenario just isn't that harmful the worst case

scenario is something where you have to have a luthier take off those level

layers of varnish and rhe varnish it and this is hundreds of dollars so you

really want to avoid that so have a cleaning cloth this is actually just a

kitchen cloth because they're a little bit more abrasive some some people use a

lighter cloth but but the but the varnish itself is pretty strong you just

want something that's going to be able to take away the rosin and also

especially from the strings and also the wood of your bow so speaking of the bow

let's go to the bow and talk about rosin so like I said the rosin is from trees

it's basically the same as you know resin and what's cool about using the

bow the bow is a very special device because a lot of other instruments have

just a single attack if you hit a piano key it's hitting a hammer that hits a

string and there's just this point of attack and decay but with a bow you're

able to get something a lot more like breathing because they're actually

microscopic hooks in the horsehair we use horse have on these bows that will

continuously grab the string and that's what gives the cello it's really unique

you know full sound and the ability to do swells and all sorts of really

beautiful things but the hooks themselves are kind of soft so even

though there are these hooks in there they are not intrinsically going to grab

this string without the assistance of something sticky like the rosin so if

you do get a cake rosin what's nice about that is that as your rosin you can

rotate it and that way you won't get a consistent group you can see mine it's

worn away in the middle but there's not a consistent group if you get a one of

those stick raisins you'll get a consistent groove and then you'll end up

rosin more of just the edges of the bow than

the centre which mostly you're playing in the center so that's not as useful

sometimes you'll see people rosin over here like this

but in my experience you're gonna get a much better rosin by resting the bow on

your knee holding the rosin and there's just three steps to jump the first step

is you want to just do these little short motions all the way down and

notice that I'm rotating the cake as I'm doing it this is what's helping keep it

even and I just go up and down once and then this is a little trickier but it's

it's really not too bad then you want to go side to side and this is just helping

make sure that hairs that are overlapping with each other or anything

like that are getting the rosin and then the final thing is just to do a few big

sweeps that helps make sure that the rosin is even one of the reasons that

people most need bow REE hairs and you you're gonna need a rehear that even if

you don't break any hairs the hairs go bad and it's really important to have

healthy hair well one of the one of the reasons that people will break hair is

the quickest is over rosin and this just adds so much weight and stickiness and

problems you just want to rise in the right amount to get a good sound and to

not need to rehear too much okay so we've talked about what type of chair

you might need and basic posture setting up the end pin different parts of the

cello and how to rouse in the bow so that brings us almost to the end of this

video and I'd like to leave you with your first homework assignment maybe you

have a teacher and if not I would highly recommend finding somebody who knows how

to teach because again these are incredibly complicated instruments and

you can find out a lot on your own but you're gonna find out a lot more from

somebody who's already studied how to use it correctly but in the meantime

it's good to just try to practice getting your tongue and getting your bow

hold so that's this is the final part of the video that we'll go over you have

the cello resting its comfortably between your knees without being tight

comfortably against you without being too high or too low and

the bow hold is going to be the trickiest part of all of this so far so

expected to take a few weeks if you're practicing a couple hours a day expected

to take a few weeks to really find a comfortable bow hold though your bow

hold should be light and flexible and that's the tricky part about it you

don't want to you're definitely not gonna grip it like this and you don't

want your fingers to be clamped on it these aren't gonna allow you to get a

very vibration as' sound from it what you want is to let your fingers fall

just casually on the bow and I put my middle finger right at the start of the

Frog this this thing done here is the Frog right at the start of that that's

kind of how I line it up first fingers on the grip here pinkies about at the

tip although hand size definitely plays a factor in this and on the other side

you want to bring your thumb just into this crook here no no if your finger

should be straight like this you want a little bit of flexibility you can see

that with the same amount of tension as we just holding my hand here I'm

actually able to completely support the bow in my hand and there all sorts of

different things you can try from holding with two fingers comparing that

to other fingers see like that one's a little bit harder so that that helps you

see which fingers do what in holding the bow up and the other tricky thing is

that your wrist isn't going to be straight when you play the cello and

this is because your arm is not straight compared to the fingerboard if your arm

are straight compared to the fingerboard then your wrist could be straight but

you can see this is incredibly awkward because we have to bring our elbow in we

have to move our wrist so that our hand is still straight with the fingerboard

so you can see my hand is going out my fingers are pointing to you the

fingerboard is going down the strings are pointing to you but it leaves my

wrist what we call pronated that's supposed to supinated and definitely not

straight so what you want to evaluate is if the bow is perpendicular to the

strings and if the bow is perpendicular to the strings this is the correct way

for your wrist to be definitely you want to be relaxed you can already imagine if

you're tight practicing hours a day and most of the time your wrist is bent that

is going to cause major major problems in tendinitis is a huge one as it's

carpal tunnel that you just leave when you can find that relaxation point you

just want to experiment with getting a really nice sound from your open strings

and this is gonna come from you assisting the cello not forcing the

cello in resonating again first from the string to the bridge to the front to the

back in between and out the more relaxed you are the bigger the sounds you'll get

believe it or not and so I'm just gonna play a little bit of the C string to

finish this video

I hope this video was really helpful for you and you're able to get started with

setting up the cello and experimenting with how to make some beautiful sounds

with this instrument I wish you all the best of luck in your journey studying

cello and I invite you to contact me with any questions if you would like to

know more information from my point of view thank you so much for watching once

again my name is Justin leopard and this is coming to you from consordini.com