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Cello is Squeaky


HyenaCellist
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I'm a beginning Cello player, and I'm usually able to get a clear and consistent tone on all the strings with 1st position fingerings.  However today, I've suddenly had bad problems with squeaking.

Details
- Open A and D stings sound fine.  A string is completely fine.
- The D string is 100% squeaky with any fingering.  It's impossible to get an acceptable sound.
- The G and C strings squeak a little bit open OR fingered.
-  It definitely feels like the bow isn't catching the strings enough, but I could be wrong because it catches just fine on open A and D.

Things that have changed between yesterday and today
I lost my old rosin (which was 6 years old but worked fine) and got a new, cheap one (light, soft) as a replacement.  I might have used too much rosin trying to break it in, because the lightest bow touch on the string coats the string in rosin, and I've done this 400+ times and it still coats the same amount.  I've practically never touched the bow hairs with my fingers, though I did wipe them gently with a clean, dry washcloth after the squeaking, trying to get some of the rosin off (didn't work).

I can't imagine the cheapness of the rosin being the culprit, because the seller is a reputable small business that I deal with a lot and they're trustworthy and wouldn't carry bogus products.  Maybe I shouldn't have combined the two types of rosin?  Did I use too much?  I'm really antsy because I'm afraid I might have ruined the instrument or the bow.  What am I doing wrong?

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Sadly, all rosins do not perform equally given air temperature, humidity and bow speed/pressure. For example, I was using a hypoallergenic rosin that turned to powder and failed to grab the strings when the air temperature dropped into the 60s Fahrenheit. It made a mess of the strings and the violin.

A different, very dark rosin grabbed so well it took much less bow pressure but caused rapid buildup on the strings (as well as inflicting a rash on my neck).

You can find an endless number of threads on rosin. so try a forum search. Better yet, just buy a variety of reasonably priced rosins and give them each a try until you find one that performs well for you.

 

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17 hours ago, HyenaCellist said:

I can't imagine the cheapness of the rosin being the culprit, because the seller is a reputable small business that I deal with a lot and they're trustworthy and wouldn't carry bogus products.  Maybe I shouldn't have combined the two types of rosin?  Did I use too much?  I'm really antsy because I'm afraid I might have ruined the instrument or the bow.  What am I doing wrong?

I have experience with violin & wrong rosin; not with a cello - but hope this will calm you down at least a bit.

I had a very bad rosin that was leaving bigger pieces of itself on the bow & the strings; of course it affected the sound, and my ability to play (even though still a beginner myself). I've bought a new one, was cleaning the strings often, waving the bow in the air & using the new rosin - and in a few days all was good again.

Having said that - of course I don't know if the rosin is really your problem (even though it looks like that) - can't you consult your teacher or somebody else experienced who can watch you playing, and tell you if it's really the rosin?

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I am sure I will get yelled at for suggesting this, but I am a noob cello player also (6 months now) and here is what I do every month or so. 

Clean the strings with alcohol VERY CAREFULLY. Do not get any on your cello.

Use something like a thick microfiber rag and put a little alcohol on it, not enough to drip, just enough to be damp. First vigorously wipe the strings with any dry cloth to remove the build of the resin. Then carefully to avoid any possibility of touching wood, wipe the strings with the alcohol rag. With the wet spot between two fingers hold the wet spot on the string and move it back and forth until the string is pristine.

I have tried a dozen rosins, and I can definitely tell you the rosins are likely your problem. The rosins are very sensitive to temperature, humidity, and bow - and probably your cello. I have 3 bows now and each likes a different rosin. The two rosins that work best for me are D'Addario (very dark)  and  Gustave Bernardel redish. Jade is okay, but not as good for me. If you read reviews on Rosins you will find everyone has different experiences - so you need to find YOUR rosin. I have about 10 different ones now. My luthier gave me like 5 or 6 different ones until I found Jade worked "ok". Then I started trying/accumulating my own from Amazon and various places. With my CodaBow Diamond a mix of D'Addargio and Gustave Bernardel works best - best being good warm smooth tone, little to no squeaking or scratching - easy bow changes and string changes. With my $90 Chinese carbon fiber bow the Jade works best. With my $75 Fiddlerman Carbon Fiber Bow (which is almost identical to my $90 Chinese Carbon Fiber bow) the Gustave by itself works best by itself. 

With the Jade on my Diamond I get a lot of squeaks and scratches on bow and string changes. Very hard to get the string vibrating cleanly, especially the C. 

Tone quality varies widely also based on the rosin, each seems to have it's own sound. 

How much rosin is another area that everyone seems to have their own opinion. First, I do not like he rosin to be soft enough to gum up the strings - those rosins don't get used. I want the rosin to grab the string, but I want the residue to be more power than gummy. I watched the David Finckel videos (Excellent information) and he recommends that you can not have enough rosin. I started that way and really piled it on, then I started backing down. I now use 3 or 4 heavy rubs full length every two or three days - normally - of practice (I practice about 2 to 4 hours a day). Sometimes I use more, but not often. At the end of a practice session I have a light coat of dust on the belly of the cello, and the strings are fairly solid white where I was bowing. That all gets wiped off (strings rubbed vinously with microfiber cloth) daily, belly wiped gently with a microfiber cloth every practice session. If a practice results in a heavy load of dust on the belly, I feel like I used too much and don't add any until it calms down. If there is no dust (not much) on the belly or strings I add more rosin to the bow hair. 

That is what works for me. My goal is tone quality right now and I am extremely critical on how each rosin sounds, and they all sound different - to me. The rosins that are very soft just don't sound very good to me. 

Oh one last hint - I watched a lot of videos about cleaning the bow hairs. MY opinion is that it is not necessary. I started out cleaning the bow hairs between each rosin change - cleaning as it taking the frog off and dipping the hair curled up into a jar/bowl with alcohol in it multiple times until all the rosin was removed. Then putting it in front of a fan until the hair was dry. I don't know if it damages the hair, I don't think so, but I don't see any point. Now I wipe the hair down gently until the cloth comes away "clean" and then add a little new rosin, play a few minutes to work it in, then wipe it down and add some more. A few times and I leave it alone, each successive day that I add more rosin I do that for a few days, then I stop wiping it down - most of the rosin is no the new one. And don't be afraid to mix the rosins on the hair. Some mixtures work well too.

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42 minutes ago, FrankNichols said:

[snip]

Thanks!  Getting different perspectives on stuff like this helps me get a clearer understanding on what criteria I should be considering.

Is it 100% safe to wipe the rosin off the hair with a cloth like you said?  Does it damage the hair's texture at all, or spread oils or residue on the hair?  I'd like to do that so I can test the new rosin by itself, and in smaller increments than "the entire top layer of the rosin cake on the bow all at once."

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13 hours ago, HyenaCellist said:

Thanks for your information.  But how would one go about "shwinging" a bow?

I ment to write swing, which is still the wrong word, sry. 

What I mean is to loosen the hair a little bit and hit air eith your stick. The very loose rosing dust may come free a bit (dont breath it, its not exactly healthy). Also dont brake your stick!

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9 hours ago, HyenaCellist said:

Thanks!  Getting different perspectives on stuff like this helps me get a clearer understanding on what criteria I should be considering.

Is it 100% safe to wipe the rosin off the hair with a cloth like you said?  Does it damage the hair's texture at all, or spread oils or residue on the hair?  I'd like to do that so I can test the new rosin by itself, and in smaller increments than "the entire top layer of the rosin cake on the bow all at once."

Wiping it GENTLY with.a clean cloth or paper towel. Avoiding contamination. Gently to not stretch or break hairs by bending them at either end. You are not RUBBING the rosin off, but wiping it off.

There is NO texture to horse hair, it is an old wives tail (pun) that there is a texture that results in the hair catching the string - it is the rosin that makes the bow slip/catch the string. If you don't think so, clean the bow hair once with alcohol (find youtube video or follow my instructions above) and let it dry completely, then try bowing a couple notes - if you got it clean, it will be completely silent. Look at the hair under a microscope and it is Smooth. 

"Top layer of rosin". I would suggest you try using less rosin - a lot less. Some people suggest 2 full wipes of the rosin over the hair and that is all. no rubbing it in or rubbing back and forth a dozen times. Start light and work up instead of massive amounts. If you put on two wipes and are having problems bowing clean notes, try one more, and repeat until it "feels" and sounds right. If you are new, I doubt you are going to be playing 4 or 5 hours of very fast and difficult pieces, so it is not a big thing if you have to pause practice every 30 minutes and add more. Using less will mean it will take less time to switch to a new rosin if you want to try some. 

WHen I started and was trying a lot of different brands, I cleaned my rosin with alcohol every change. From what I read you had to do that to know how the new rosin worked. Now, I think that is a little over kill. I take a white paper towel and wipe it back and forth, at first I can see a slight discoloring of the paper from the rosin coming off the hair. fold the towel and do it again. Repeat until there is no dis coloring. Then try to bow a note - if there you can and there is dust on the string, you need to clean a little more. I do the same as with the strings also.- I put the paper towel between two fingers and slowly softly wipe back and forth with the paper towel bent over the har and held between two fingers one of top of the hair one under the hair. There is no need to be rough, just lightly wipe a few times, fold and repeat until no rosin appears, try it on CLEAN strings (no rosin on them) and if it slips instead of sounding a note, you have most of the rosin off the hair.

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3 hours ago, WorksAsIntended said:

I ment to write swing, which is still the wrong word, sry. 

What I mean is to loosen the hair a little bit and hit air eith your stick. The very loose rosing dust may come free a bit (dont breath it, its not exactly healthy). Also dont brake your stick!

Yup, I also blow the excess off if I can see it piled up on the hair. And maybe the word I would use would be "flick" the bow kind of like casting a fishing line with a fishing pole. A short quick flip out and back or flick. I also will sometimes play really loud - heavy pressure on the strings down by the bridge for a few notes, which will result in.a large cloud of dust. Then clean the strings and go back to practice - basically scraping the rosin off the hair onto the strings.I try to avoid getting too much rosin now, and instead work my way up by putting on some, and it that is not enough, put on a little more until I am happy with it, instead of putting on too much and working it back down to less.

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Good advice from FrankNichols -- but I would never "flick" a bow to remove rosin from the hair!  I mean you might be holding a stick (potentially) worth thousands of dollars (with luck, someday you will), you should not treat it like a bamboo fishing pole. Even as a 4 year old I was taught to treat my instrument with such care and respect that the few times in my life I have held a Stradivarius violin I found there was no other way to treat it than the way I treated my own --and the same with bows! I have seen people flick bows - I have also seen people break bows!

It is fine to wipe the hair with a paper towel or a microfiber or cotton cloth. It is also OK to clean the hair with alcohol (being careful, as Frank said about alcohol-cleaning of strings, to keep liquid away from a valuable stick - and especially away from tip or frog where you don't want any liquid to get to the wedges that hold the hair in place). I've been doing alcohol cleaning of strings and hair for 5 decades. I've learned to use the alcohol pads sold in drug stores to completely eliminate danger of dripping on to instruments-also hold the instrument vertically when doing this so the strings (or hair) are never above the wood. If I bow is in such bad shape that your next choice is a re-hair, there is absolutely no risk in alcohol cleaning first. It works for me-repeatedly.

Cellist David Finckel advocates using lots and lots of rosin; most other professional cellists don't. My experience is that using lots of rosin is a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy - the more you use, the more you need to use ---- until you need to clean up the hair and start again - but it can give you that powerful sound that you get when the amount of rosin on hair and string are perfectly matched.

Over the years I have used dozens of different rosins (only ever used up one - my first cake (of Thomastik cello rosin) that was probably 20 years old when I started on it in 1949 - and it actually was still around in 2001 when my granddaughter lost it). The best rosin I have found for cello in the chronological order I thought they were best have been: Liebenzeller, Tarisio/Andrea, Magic, Leatherman (my current choice for all my instrument types). Many others, however, are quite good (and less costly). For me a major factor is that when I am playing in an ensemble, I don't want to have to re-rosin during a 2-hour session because my sound "goes off" - and that started to happen at about 90 minutes for me 15 or so years ago with Liebenzeller (both gold and meteoreizen). Of course, I don't really know if that happened because the rosin was "fading" or because I was and my bowing was starting to get sloppy. 

Another important factor regarding rosin choice is ambient temperature - rosin is a glassy substance that softens with increasing temperature and hot-weather playing can require a different rosin than does colder weather. And rosins that are good for violin may not be as good for viola or cello.

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