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