Welcome to University Cellist! I’m William Grubb, professor of cello at Butler University and the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservtory of Music. After teaching at the university level for more than 30 years, I know that cello students are dedicated musicians eager to develop their skills and musicianship. University Cellist aims to share with you tips on playing, repertoire and reading suggestions, how to care for your cello, the best cello luthiers, as well as a section profiling the Cellist of the Month. If you have questions or comments I would love to hear from all of you. In just 18 months more than 5000 viewers have visited University Cellist!
Looking for a new cello, but don’t have the many hundreds of thousands of dollars for an old Italian instrument? The living French luthier Frank Ravtin has won prizes at top competitions in Europe and America. He studied in Cremona and Paris, and top cellists around the world own and perform on his instruments. He has a long waiting list, but his instruments are worth it: they produce a warm, rich sound that can project to the back of any concert hall.
Have you ever heard a beautiful cello solo at an important emotional moment during one of your favorite Hollywood movies? There’s a good chance you’re listening to Stephen Erdody, one of the top studio musicians in Hollywood. You can hear Steve in blockbuster movies including “August Rush” where he plays the Elgar Concerto, and others including “Angela’s Ashes”, “Munich”, and “Memoirs of a Geisha”.
Steve studied at Juilliard where his teacher was Harvey Shapiro, an inspiring teacher who trained many of the nation’s principal cellists, chamber players, and university professors. You can also listen to Steve on his Grammy Award winning recording of the complete Haydn string quartets with the Angeles String Quartet. Stephen Erdody, a successful cellist that every young cellist should get to know!
Learn This One!
Looking for a short contemporary work for your next recital? Check out “Capriccio” by American composer Lucas Foss. This piece has it all: showy technical passages, and a beautiful middle section that slows down enough for you to show off your gorgeous sound. It’s a seven minute piece that sounds American, is clearly 20th century, but not too dissonant, and with its steady rhythmic energy, a real hit with audiences. It’s a piece that fits nicely on any well planned recital program. Check it out!
How can I produce a more beautiful sound?
The bow is the heart, lungs, and soul of our beautiful instrument. The bow makes the strings vibrate, which excites the air inside the instrument, making sound fly out into the concert hall. We must always be mindful of the way in which the bow and the strings meet each other—the contact point.
In my teaching, I describe five different contact points, numbered from one to five. Number one is the point where the bow meets the string closest to the bridge: at this contact point the bow must be pulled slowly across the string to produce a very well focused sound quality. At the other opposite end of the sounding point graph is number five: the bow meets the string right above the end of the fingerboard. At this sounding point the cellist must move the bow much more quickly to produce a light but beautiful sound.
If you keep in mind the five sounding points and the corresponding bow speeds, slow near the bridge, and fast near the fingerboard, your sound quality and sound colors will surely improve.
The Cello Suites, J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece
by Eric Siblin
Did you know that J. S. Bach’s employer threw the great composer into jail because he wanted a new job? Or that Bach once got into a knife fight with a bassoonist? All this and much more are in Eric Siblin’s book about the marvelous six suites for solo cello by J. S. Bach. This is not a dry historical account of Bach’s life and music: this is flesh and blood Bach and the wonderful music he left all cellists. A must read for any cellist who plays the suites.