While working on a section in the Shostakovich Concerto #1 I realized that I needed EVEN more sound, but I knew there was absolutely no more I could give in the way of bow weight and sounding point. It was then that I just decided to use the whole bow on every quarter note while maintaining the same equilibrium of bow weight and sounding point. Somehow vibrato factors into the appearance of a bigger sound as well.
Given the almost infinite combinations of Sounding Point, Bow Weight and Bow Speed, what are some things you do to get a bigger sound?
Eric replies: I'm an inexperienced cellist, but whenever I have needed more sound, adding weight to the bow is always what has worked. Increasing bow speed has always resulted in that "breathy" sound. I have also found that when I concentrate on not putting weight on my left arm, I am able to put a lot more weight on the bow. It also tends to bring out a better quality sound. I know I'm relatively unexperienced, but that's what I've found.
Steve Balderston replies: The older I get the more I find myself steering away from the whole arm weight/bow pressure thing. It seems to me that tone comes from the horizontal vibrations of the cello, and in order to find this one really can't try to vertically force it out. Try to see how the natural weight of the bow grabs the string and pulls it to one side or the other as you move upbow or downbow. Then move closer to the bridge. If you get ponticello chances are there is too much or too little vertical pressure or the speed is not correct. Once you've found the groove, see how far you can take it.... I try to imagine that I will blow the sides out of the cello from sheer horizontal vibrations. THERE is the tone, and it's almost infinite!
zambocello replies: More weight on the bow makes a different sound, not a louder sound. Volume comes from the amplitude -- the width of the string's swing -- not the complexity of the sound. Especially from a distance the intense heavy sound does not project. Sometimes the weight, while making an intense sound under our ear, clamps up the cello so that it doesn't project. While even though under the ear the "wide swinging" sound may seem a little unfocused, it projects! Other things being equal, more bow speed, not more bow weight, equals more volume.
MsCheryl replies: My biggest sound always comes from relaxing the right arm -- not bearing down. This sinks the bow into the string, allowing it to pull the string more, causing more vibrations. What I tell my students about adding "pressure" is that it would be like putting your hands around the throat of a singer and squeezing -- you actually choke off the sound.
Gary Stucka replies: It's not too easy to completely verbalize, but as stated in other posts, a bigger sound can be gotten through a combination of bow pressure, bow speed, and (IMHO most importantly) the position of the bow between the fingeboard and the bridge. It's also important to play with "flat" hair when trying to obtain a bigger sound. What do I mean by flat hair? Positioning your bow so that ALL of the bow hair is in contact with the string. ALL of these factors are variable with regard to the kind and amount of sound that you want to achieve. A mastery of the finesse of these variables blows the theory of "big person equals big sound" right out of the water.
Nico67: Beginner question ... What's the "sounding point?"
Andrew Victor replies to Nico67: The "sounding point," for lack of a better name, is what many people call the position of the bow on the string. You might consider it the distance from the bridge, or the relative distance from the bridge and the end of the fingerboard.
On really good instruments, each "sounding point" that you might select has its own tonal qualities, including sound volume and projection (due to way the frequency distribution at each pitch played varies with "sounding point"). It can often take more pressure to play closer to the bridge and/or faster bow movement.
One of the hallmarks of "artistic playing" is the controlled variation of sounding point to achieve the desired aural effects. It is not easy to do, but it is easier on the cello (where one can see the bow) than on the chin-held bowed strings.
One of the first steps in this direction is to hold the right hand a little higher than might feel appropriate or natural. This tends to draw the bow straighter on the strings and yields a better tone, allowing you to control the sounding point better (at least it works for me).
It is probably worth pointing out that there are cellos that do not allow much variability of sounding point. In fact some don't seem to sound at all more than halfway to the bridge. These could just be poor instruments, or they just might need some adjustment or setup changes. Also, there are instruments (violin, viola, and cello) on which variation of sounding point is not particularly effective in changing the tone color. These instruments tend to cost less, even though some of them may have really beautiful tone.
Using too much bow pressure can obviate the whole concept of sounding point on many instruments (see the rest of this thread).
Victor Sazer replies: Needless to say, there are many variables depending on the quality, intensity, etc., in addition to the volume you want to produce. However, for a bigger sound, you might have better luck playing closer to the bridge with a slower bow. If you guide your bow to go around the string so that you play your down-bows a bit on the upper side and the up-bows on lower, you are to able to "pull" the sound. The danger of using too much downward weight or pressure is that the sound can be choked. It is also helpful (even though the bow is drawn at right angle to the string) to have the bow a bit slanted so that the tip is slightly up on the down-bows and down on the up-bows. Then, rounding the ends of the strokes to form narrow figure eights helps connect the strokes to maintain consistency of sound.
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