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I'm writing a solo cello piece, and I'd like one of the strings to stopped at the first harmonic (specifically, the G string) for the duration of the piece; The trick is, I need this to be done without the cellists fingers, so that they are free for other strings. I was thinking maybe an earplug tucked between the string and the fretboard might provive the right amount of pressure, but I'm not sure, and I don't have a cello to test this out on. Maybe there is already an established way to do this, but I've never seen it before.

Cellists, do you know of a better way to achieve something like this?

  • There something like that for guitar, weaseltrap.com/capo.html. Perhaps they might do a custom order for a cellist? – piofusco Feb 9 '15 at 5:47
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    It's an intriguing idea, but I really doubt it's possible. An earplug would probably be too much pressure and take up to much string space to do anything other than mute it. Could you provide a few details about why you want to do this? I'm assuming the cellist needs to be able to play notes on the A, D and C strings but that the G never needs anything other than the harmonic? This evening I'll try a few things on my cello and see if anything does the trick. – Pat Muchmore Feb 9 '15 at 12:57
  • That's correct, I'm hoping to allow C and D strings to be played normally at the same time as a sustained harmonic on the G string. Thanks for your help! – Casey Rule Feb 9 '15 at 13:55
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    I might try a wedge of soft wood, such as balsa. This could be easily placed under a single string,but it'll be a 'hard stop,' so you'll get the pitch you want but not a harmonic. The problem you'll have is convincing a publisher to issue a wedge with each printed copy of sheet music! – Carl Witthoft Feb 9 '15 at 15:52
  • That's kind of what I was thinking might work - or a triangular piece of rubber - something that creates a thin node point. But you'd need to make sure it doesn't work itself loose while bowing that string, I guess... – Bob Broadley Feb 9 '15 at 20:46
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Use something hard pushing the string away from the fingerboard. Hard, just like the objects in John Cage's compositions for prepared piano: screws, clothespins, very hard rubber, etc. Of course cellists don't want to damage their fingerboards or strings, so some compromise must be made.

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(N.B. It is not a "fretboard", the cello has no frets; it is a fingerboard.)

An alternative would be to swap from a solo cello piece to a piece for two cellos. I would not necessarily call this a duet since one cellist would just be playing the first harmonic on the G string for the duration of the piece. This would also give you the option to change the droned harmonic occasionally during the piece.

There may be something in the ether at the moment of this kind of ensemble. I recently saw Nico Muhly's drones & violin and his drones & viola performed as part of the A Scream and an Outrage weekend.

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