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34 votes
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Which instruments to physically familiarize with to become a better orchestrator?

I would strongly advise you NOT to buy any instruments. You don't need to. Do you imagine composers play lots of instruments? They don't. The only instrument Berlioz played was a guitar - tolerably - ...
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33 votes

Is it spelled "violincello" or "violoncello"?

... part of the violin family... Actually, as baroque violists love to point out, during the early evolution of these instruments, both violin and cello were part of the viola family. The viola was ...
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30 votes
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What is this upside down square fermata?

By convention, a square fermata has a longer duration than a rounded fermata. It's not "upside down". Traditional notation convention usually tries to put the fermata over the note head, ...
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  • 466
29 votes
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Should I loosen the tension on the bow for a break?

As a bowmaker, I would like to temper these answers a bit. Yes, if you leave a bow under tension too long, it will lose its camber (bend) faster. So that's true: one should get in the habit of ...
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28 votes

Are very cheap cellos acceptable for a beginner?

I'm going to suggest an alternative route. Get him an electric cello. The weak point in cheap instruments is the acoustics, and to meet the price point they have to be constructed in a more rough-...
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27 votes
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What does this symbol mean in cello music?

The ϙ sign is just the “finger number” for the thumb – high notes on cello are played in thumb position and the ϙ indicates the C is played not with any of the normal four fingers but with the thumb, ...
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23 votes

What's special about cello strings?

You correctly suggest that "a string of a given mass must be under a given tension to vibrate at the selected pitch". The issue is that you bought flatwound bass strings with the same gauge ...
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  • 4,633
22 votes
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Cello pressed at half length higher than harmonic?

This happens on all stringed instruments. There are two reasons for that. As you already noticed yourself, pressing down the string does require bending it a little, i.e. stretching, which increases ...
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21 votes

Should I loosen the tension on the bow for a break?

I'd add to Dr. Mayhem's list: You never know when something will interrupt your plans. You might be 20 mins into a planned 1-hour break, and then the doorbell rings, you welcome a friend, ... next ...
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19 votes

Is it spelled "violincello" or "violoncello"?

tl;dr It's violoncello. Language considerations Lots of classical music words usually have a specific language as their origins (mostly Italian), so, unless an extended literature can confirm standard ...
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18 votes
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Is it possible to play jazz on a cello?

Jazz cello is absolutely possible. Here are resources to get you started in your project. Note that most if not all of these come with contact information. You should not be shy about contacting ...
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14 votes

Should I loosen the tension on the bow for a break?

I would always loosen it off for that one hour break, for two reasons: Over time, tension will eventually damage the bow. Keeping tension on when you don't need to will just shorten the lifespan of ...
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  • 36.4k
14 votes
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Can I play the cello without pronation of the bow hand?

IANAMPT (music physical therapist), so take this as encouragement rather than direction. I would not let any physical disability short of losing your arm :-) stop you from trying to learn the ...
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13 votes

What does this symbol mean in cello music?

The o-like symbol refers to the thumb. You finger that note with your thumb of your left hand. The roman numerals refer to the string you play on. I is the A string, II is the D string, III is the G ...
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  • 1,037
13 votes
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Do pegs for stringed instruments require holes?

Yes, holes need to be added for the strings. Pegs for violin family instruments are usually sold as "blanks" that are ready for shaping and setting. Because of the wear and use of the pegs, the peg ...
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12 votes

Should I learn the violin first before I learn the cello?

As a music instructor, I always advise against a person purchasing their first instrument. It's impossible to know for sure how well you will enjoy playing that specific instrument, whether the time ...
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  • 121
11 votes

Are very cheap cellos acceptable for a beginner?

Your mixed feelings about cheap instruments are correct. For electronic instruments such as keyboards, cheap ones are somewhat acceptable, because they are mass-produced from stable materials and ...
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  • 736
11 votes
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Intonation of string instruments in chamber music

The piano might not even be playing. If it is, it is indeed probably the best reference. However in other circumstances it is possible that you would play a slightly different pitch for (example) an ...
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  • 3,429
11 votes
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Cello tuning by harmonics: Just intonation vs ET

It does apply to any instrument, but for cello it's perhaps most notable because we so often play with instruments that have E-strings: violins, or else guitars. If you tune a cello in Pythagorean ...
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10 votes
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Is it common to play several strings of a cello simultaneously?

It is common to play double-stops, certainly in solo pieces; and indeed also quite common to play 3- or 4-voice chords (these need to be "broken", i.e. you quickly excite the low strings and let them ...
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10 votes

Are very cheap cellos acceptable for a beginner?

They are absolutely acceptable. I recommend you look around on forums and generally on the internet to hear what real people are saying about the cello you're thinking about. I'm an adult beginner ...
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  • 2,564
10 votes
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High B-flat on cello

You get higher notes in cello pieces. Not often perhaps but they are there. Elgar's cello concerto and the William Tell overture would be two examples. Any professional cellist would not have a ...
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  • 4,831
9 votes
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Playing cello, should my left hand thumb clamps the neck like pliers do?

The answer to the main question in the title is : NO, be firm but as light as possible in your grip ! But it may take time to be achieved, and it does not always come naturally. Now to the ...
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  • 8,678
9 votes

Is it common to play several strings of a cello simultaneously?

Yes it is quite common. The technical term for this is double stop. Note, that independent of form of the bow the hairs are just fixed at the tip and the frog. So the hairs have really no choice but ...
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  • 10.1k
9 votes
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Chord in the Bach d-minor prelude

It is actually misleading to think about this music in terms of chords as we know them, as the system we use to identify and speak about vertical harmonies was still under development during Bach's ...
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9 votes

How to pluck fast 16th notes on cello

There are multiple possible ways how this passage (Jupiter, bars 170-190 that would be, I presume) could be played. I'll discuss three of them: Two-hands, single-finger, single-string Here's a ...
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9 votes
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What's this rectangular notation symbol?

As someone else has already said, this symbol indicates that the player should play at the heel or frog of the bow. These images are from an edition of Bach's 6 Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin (...
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9 votes

Why does this edition use an upside-down up-bow to indicate down-bow?

He explains this right at the start of the book (First Edition, from IMSLP). Tirez = pull, Poussez = push. In other words, ^ is a different notation for a down bow.
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  • 109
8 votes
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Breaking In New Cello Strings?

Hmmm, no I don't think I've noticed a particular break-in period myself, but maybe I just haven't noticed. If you've changed brands or makes at all, you might just have to get used to a new feel. I ...
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8 votes

What is the safest way to set down a cello?

The safest place to put your cello is back in its case. It really doesn't matter how you put a cello down on the floor or on a chair: there's still a reasonably good (bad) chance that someone will ...
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