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Old 09-25-2012, 05:03 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Violin / Cello

Hey yall, Ive been a musician for 10+ years and mainly play guitar and piano, but I have experience with Clarinet (4 years). I have always been really interested learning how to play either violin or cello and im starting to feel more inclined to play cello because of its wider range. Im aware of Viola, but im also aware that there is no standard size for violas and there are a lot of variables and I dont want to have to contend with that. If anyone could give me any comments or anything regarding playing violin or cello, learning the instruments, nuances of the instruments, etc. Anything that could help me......aside from just saying " go try one"....I know that. I meant anything that I wouldnt be able to learn from playing one for 10 minutes testing it out. Thanks for any input
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Old 09-25-2012, 09:44 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hey there, 5th Horseman,

I have played violin for (calculating, calculating) over 35 years (!) and I enjoy it very much, but I always envied the sound of the cello, and so two years ago I finally decided to buy a cheap Chinese cello online and learn to play it myself. And I love it!

So while I am an experienced violinist, I'm still a novice cellist, but I know enough about both to offer some suggestions for you. (BTW, I'm also a clarinetist, although out of practice currently.)

I feel your inclination to play cello is the right way to go. I wish I had played cello as my main instrument instead of violin. I like playing the violin, but I really love playing the cello. Of course, what I *really* recommend is that you play both! But if I had to choose, I'd choose cello. Here are my reasons:

I feel playing a cello is much easier than playing a violin because one's body position is more relaxed and there are fewer body position problems that can occur. I also prefer the cello's low sound because it blends into music, while a violin can sound more piercing.

While I don't think the cello actually has a wider range than the violin, it is definitely lower. The strings on a violin are (high to low) E A D G, while the cello is (several?) octaves lower and the strings are A D G C. The cello is basically like a giant violin on which you've taken away the high E string and added a lovely, low C string.

The advantage of a cello is that you *can* play high in position on the A string to get high notes if you want to the mimic the sound of a violin, but you also have those lovely low notes available. Few people frequently play very high on the violin E string in songs because it just sounds unpleasantly high, so I actually feel half of the E string is wasted on a violin. With a cello, you can enjoy the whole range of the instrument, from the lowest note to its very highest. No crystal-splitting high notes on a cello!

I also like the cello because playing it feels like holding a living, brumbling bear. You feel like you are hugging your instrument (because you really are). The violin is a little more distant from you. I prefer an instrument I can hug. You can feel the cello's vibrations through your whole body. It's a lovely, whole body experience. In case you've ever played electric bass, I have an electric bass and the feeling of fingering both instruments is similar in terms of how hard you have to press the notes and how wide apart your fingers are (it takes some time to build up strength and toughen fingertips) yet the cello feels much more alive and personal to me than an electric bass.

One issue for you to consider is how big your hands are. The sad truth for people with very wide fingertips is that this is a handicap when playing the violin, because it is impossible for them to place two fingers close together in the correct positions to play adjacent notes in tune. This means they usually can only have one finger on a string at a time, which makes playing the violin harder than it is for someone whose fingers are narrower and can hit the correct notes without needing to pull other fingers off the string. If you want to play a chord, you usually don't want one finger to simultaneously cover two strings, so having slender fingers is an advantage for playing a regular full-size violin. If you want to play a run of notes on a violin, having several fingers on the same string in the position to play the notes in tune and then removing one finger after the other makes the run easier to play. People with large fingers can't do that as easily on a violin as can people with slender fingers. Sometimes their finger might press two strings accidentally, which interferes with playing a desired note on the second string. (This can be an issue when playing electric guitar, too.)

If you are planning to teach yourself, I thought you might want to know that there are different violin "schools" that produce people who tend to play the violin in distinct ways. I assume the same is true for cello. I learned violin as a child, when learning any instrument is easier than when one is older, but I've found that switching to cello after learning the violin felt very natural and hasn't been hard at all. I learned violin with the Suzuki method, which I feel gives students very nice form: their bowing hands are relaxed with rounded fingers; their bowing arms tend to be relaxed, too (no stiff pinky fingers; no elbows sticking up in the air). I think you can't go wrong with the Suzuki method.

Comparing my experiences with the violin and the cello, I feel the cello is easier to play, as I mentioned earlier. One reason is that positioning the cello with respect to your body is easier than with the violin. You have to hold a violin using your chin and shoulder as a main support, and this can be hard for people to learn and can cause muscle fatigue. You need pads and chin rests to make holding a violin comfortable. Meanwhile, a cello is safely resting on the floor! There is less tension involved in keeping it in the correct position.

With a violin bow, you have to fight gravity more to move it and so more tension is involved. Also, with a violin you end up fighting yourself, so there is a constant tension. You support the violin with your chin/shoulder, and therefore you are fighting against your own bow arm, which is pushing down on the violin while you are using force and muscle tension to keep the violin up in the air.

With a cello, you feel that your bow is resting, relaxed, on the strings and the strings support your bow with the floor supporting the cello. You can relax your bow arm much more with a cello than a violin.

I think there is less that can go wrong when learning to play the cello compared to learning to play the violin. The one disadvantage to cello is that you end up shifting your left hand position more often than you need to with violin to play identical music passages, the reason being that the larger cello prevents you from playing as many notes with your hand in a given position on the fingerboard.

Here's a video that shows some of the many position problems that can occur when people learn violin:

Three Common Left Hand Problems with Violin:
Shows how complicated body position issues can be when learning violin


Three Common Left Hand Problems (Violin) and How to Fix Them - YouTube


I said that part of the ease of playing cello is that you don't have to fight gravity as much with your bow hand (your right hand). This is the reason the bow hold for a cello feels very natural and is easy to form: you're basically just dangling your four fingers in space in front of you and then fitting the bow up into your hand. The bow rests very easily in your hand. With the violin, I think it takes longer to figure out how to hold and maneuver the bow, and it produces more hand strain than with the cello.

You can see this man in the video below describing the cello bow hold at the end of the video by just dangling his hand out in front of him and fitting the bow "frog" up into his hand without changing the hand's position very much:

Cello bow hold
Nice and relaxed


Bow Hold Principles [Part 1] - YouTube

I hope this helps you with your decision!
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Last edited by VEGANGELICA; 09-25-2012 at 10:05 PM.
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Old 09-25-2012, 11:04 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thank you very much for the detailed response, I really appreciate it and it did help a lot. Do you have any idea what a good starting cello would be price wise ?
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Old 09-26-2012, 05:38 PM   #4 (permalink)
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You're welcome and I'm glad the information helped.

Yes, I do have an idea what a good starting cello would cost, because I had to research this myself before I bought my cello. I have two answers, one that music teachers would probably like and one that they wouldn't.

(1) Answer that music teachers would probably like: You can expect a good starting cello plus bow and soft case to cost $1,000 - $1,600 US Dollars.

I read this webpage How to Buy Your First Cello while researching cello costs and characteristics before buying a cello. I agree with the site, which says that you should search for a cello that is all wood (maple back and sides, spruce top) and has an ebony or rosewood fingerboard and tuning pegs, and a maple bridge.

The safest way to buy a cello is to go to a reputable local instrument store where luthiers actually fix instruments, so you know they know the quality of the instruments they sell.

If you want to buy a good starting cello online, I think the following cellos look like they are high quality but reasonably priced, and very likely they would serve you well as a starting and a "finishing" cello (no need to upgrade):

(A) Samuel Eastman VC100 Student Cello -- $1,495.00 (but they say call for special price) which does not include bow and case (they sell those, too.)
Samuel Eastman 100 Student Cello

^ The Samuel Eastman VC100 Student cello is a very good student cello that is sold online as well as in my area by a reputable instrument dealer who also sells more expensive instruments costing many thousands of dollars. This music store takes pride in the quality of the instruments they sell, so I think an Eastman cello must be quite good.

(B) Stringworks Artist Cello -- $1,395.00
which also does not include bow and case.
Buy Cellos | Artist Cello | CodaBow - Cello - Violin - Viola - StringWorks.com Maker

^ I haven't heard much about "Stringworks" cellos, but it looks like a high quality cello and organization to me.

* * *

(2) Answer that might make music teachers cringe: You can go cheap and expect to pay $300 - $400 for cello, bow, and case from a lower quality manufacturer if you are willing to get a "good enough" cello, meaning it is good enough to play but may have some structural problems.

I chose to live on the wild side and buy a cheap Chinese cello made by the Cecilio company (which is based in California but sells cellos made in China) because I am of the philosophy that the sound one gets out of an instrument depends more on the skill level of the musician than on the instrument's quality, and I also didn't want to spend $1,500 (!).

I bought the Cecilio 4/4 CCO-200 Handmade Solid Wood Student Cello with Hard and Soft Case, Bow, Rosin, Bridge, Strings and Instrument Stand, which now costs $320:

Amazon.com: Cecilio 4/4 CCO-200 Handmade Solid Wood Student Cello with Hard and Soft Case, Bow, Rosin, Bridge, Strings and Stand: Musical Instruments

The Cecilio CCO-200 cello has maple back and sides and a spruce top, plus rosewood fingerboard and pegs. When I received the instrument, I noticed right away that the bow was cheaply made and badly warped, although I can still use it. I think the cello's fingerboard may have warped since I first got the cello, because within several months I had to shift the bridge from its ideal position to make sure the strings didn't hit the fingerboard over its whole length when I pressed a string with my finger to cause a note to sound. (Using guitar speak, the action was too low.)

I've intended to look for a taller bridge to correct my cello problem cheaply, but since the cello still plays and sounds okay as is, I haven't yet done anything. Even with these problems, my cheap Chinese cello still sounds like a cello.

You can read my Amazon review about the Cecilio CCO-200 cello here, if you'd like:

Amazon.com: Leia's review of

If you buy a cheap cello like this ^ online, there appears to be a significant risk that something will be or will go wrong with the cello. (Reading other people's reviews may scare you away.)

I don't regret my purchase, because I was lucky in that my Cecilio cello actually works, and I enjoy making music with an inexpensive instrument because I feel smug that I don't need an expensive instrument to get the sound that I want.

I'll admit, though, that I've been toying with the idea of upgrading to a better cello in a couple years (although I'll start by upgrading to a better bow and figure out what's wrong with my cello's fingerboard and/or bridge).

It probably would have been wiser if I had simply purchased a higher quality cello right from the start...but I didn't want to spend a grand!
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Originally Posted by Neapolitan:
If a chicken was smart enough to be able to speak English and run in a geometric pattern, then I think it should be smart enough to dial 911 (999) before getting the axe, and scream to the operator, "Something must be done! Something must be done!"

Last edited by VEGANGELICA; 09-26-2012 at 05:44 PM.
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