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Playing cello with German grip


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Hi all -- I asked this question on a Pegbox thread but thought I would ask over here as it's not really a luthery question.

I wonder why the standard practice is to play cello with an overhand grip on the bow. Speaking as a novice cellist, I find I am able to produce a much louder, clearer, more consistent tone with an underhand grip than with overhand, and my bowing rhythm is more confident, and my bow does not wander out of straight path so much -- and this, using a standard cello bow not designed for underhand grip.

According to Giovanna Barbati's research, it seems like there were different practices between French/Italian cellists and German cellists in the Baroque period, and the French practice of holding the bow overhand won out.

I'm wondering what the downside is of using underhand grip... In the mean time, I have ordered a cheap German bass bow for further experimentation. How common is it for cellists to use an underhand grip? 

Caveats: I am as stated above, a raw novice; also am playing a very unconventional instrument.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Underhand grip is usually used to extract more force into the bow to increase the volume. With the additional force, you loose resolution in all of the other nuances that make up good right arm/hand technique. Though the cello is a little large, it's not large enough to require anything more than the traditional grip to extract sufficient volumes. Therefore, it's recommended to stay with the traditional grip for better control and resolution of the bow.  It may not sound as good now, but with practice, it'll sound superior. 

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I agree with funkyd04. Just last week I was playing sextets on bass with a german bow for two works and switched to cello for Rimsky-Korsakov and the rest of the evening. I prefer German on bass for control and increased dynamic range as well as a more relaxed arm position that lets me play for extended periods. When switching to cello in the same session without warm-up, I noticed how much less arm weight the cello could tolerate and quickly adjusted. Normally, I don’t switch on the same session and sight reading had taken more of my attention than the transition. 

I would personally only consider German grip on cello if I had issues in the right hand or arm.  My preference on cello bow is to use the stringvision rubber cover for the frog to get the results that you seem to be looking for. When I have used a German baroque bass bow on cello, I had issues with my hand angle and right leg when playing on the C string. You will be reaching less up on the A string though, which might be part of the control issue you mentioned.

I remember reading about a scandinavian cellist playing underhanded with great success (Finnish with a French bow?)

Let us know how it goes.

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