Skip to main content

fedora strings performance

What Cello Rosin is Best?

By fedora strings performance No Comments

Although I am a professional cellist I have often not been sure what cello rosin is best and have sometimes suspected the whole subject is spurious. Mostly I have used a variety of high quality rosins – including Laubach gold, Laubach non-gold and sometimes borrowed violin rosin –  and have never noticed much difference.

Rosin problems


Recently though,  the rosin I was using ( Laubach) didn’t seem to stay on my bow easily or have much traction. I had read that Andrea cello rosin was excellent and for best results should be used  just after the bow has been rehaired, so different brands are not mixed.
cello rosinI was due a rehair anyway so I tried the solo dark variety and the results have been good. So far I am using far less rosin than I was before, the articulation is immediate and clear and there is a definite improvement in traction. Although this cello rosin is expensive – it cost £35 for a full  cake – it should last a long time.
You can buy it here


Other views

The brilliant cellist David Finckel has strong views on this subject and devotes a five minute video to it in one of his 100 cello talks – which you can view below:

The results for him are convincing, but this doesn’t mean it would be right for everyone. Luckily, buying rosin is less expensive than buying new strings and so it’s easy to experiment. If you are looking for a mid-price option my bow rehairer strongly recommends Art Craft no 7 dark rosin by Kaplan which costs around £7 a cake:
cello rosin 2

And why not try your new rosin out by playing our cello duets? The link is below:

Accord Cello Case

By fedora strings performance No Comments

I have had my Accord cello case for three years  now and it is almost unbelievably light.

Finding a dealer

Accord cases are hand made in Croatia so buying one here, in Cambridgeshire, was quite a challenge. Very few companies stock Accord and when I eventually found one dealer  who did, he proved unreliable. Finally my cellist friend Mark Bailey recommended talking to Stringers in London – and they were extremely helpful. They asked for detailed measurements of my cello, and arranged for  Accord to make a bespoke case.
Accord Cello Case

Was it worth it?

The whole process was not cheap – it cost £2400 – and it took two months for the case to be made. But this ultralight, carbon fibre  case weighs only 4.9 pounds and it is now hard to imagine ever using anything else. It is a very snug fit and there’s limited room for any extras like rosin or spare strings, but that doesn’t bother me as the lightness is a joy compared to my previous fibre glass case. This will certainly last my lifetime and for me the money has definitely been well spent.The link to Stringers is below:

Britten: a great string composer

By fedora strings performance

I have always felt Benjamin Britten is one of the greatest composers for strings, and  Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge is one of his masterpieces.
britten: a great string composer

More about the music
This string orchestral work  was inspired by his teacher Frank Bridge. The idea was that each of the variations would reflect a different side of Bridge’s personality but the writing transcends this formula and reveals Britten’s most vulnerable feelings. Even the apparently lighter variations – one of which is beautifully played below – have such sensitivity they touch the heart:

Other music for strings
Britten writes superbly well for strings and knows how to exploit their strongest characteristics. His use of pizzicato, in both Simple Symphony (a lighter string orchestral work) and the Frank Bridge Variations often demands virtuosity:

And even in larger orchestral works – like Peter Grimes – his understanding and use of string effects is exciting and inimitable:


Great string performances of Bach

By fedora strings performance

Here’s another great performance of Bach – this time from the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra playing on original instruments with energy and virtuosity:

Baroque is Best!
Was there ever a more exciting time to be a musician than in the baroque era? This was the time the modern string instrument family was created, as was opera, concerto form and above all the equal temperament system which opened the doors to the full expressive potential of music. Baroque music is strongly disciplined but only because it is so full of feeling,and sometimes it seems to have almost more exuberance than it is possible to contain. In Brandenburg 3 (above) he exploits the full potential of string instruments in a way which must have been especially innovative and thrilling in his day.

great string performances of Bach

Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings

By fedora strings performance

The link below shows a marvellous string orchestra performance of the waltz movement of Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings by a chamber ensemble called A Far Cry.

This performance brings the dance character to life wonderfully well  and the group are playing by heart, which can give  an added sense of freedom as long as you are experienced enough to feel confident.  A Far Cry clearly is, and the results speak for themselves.


Tchaikovsky serenade for strings

Great string performances

By fedora strings performance

Great string performances
It is hard not to admire the great string performance of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto by Rachel Podger and Andrew Manze at the Proms a few years ago (see the last movement in the link below)

About the playing
Their interpretation is of full of energy and the different styles of the two soloists adds to the vitality. I also love the fact that this is a robust, romantic version of Bach played on ‘modern’ string  instruments.

Great string performances



Inspirational string performances

By fedora strings performance

You tube is a wonderful resources and full of inspirational string performances
The first I’ve chosen to highlight is Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings – a work I fell in love with years ago and have often played in string orchestra, though without a conductor. Here it is, performed most beautifully by the Royal Northern College’s String Ensemble:

Much as I love string music of all kinds I have always felt nothing is quite as special as string orchestra sound at its best – which it is here.
inspirational string performances






The Cello Stone

By fedora strings performance, string teaching

Cellist Robert Brooke and American geophysicist Debby Miles have just come round to my house to show me the cello stone – a new invention of Debby’s.

A new cello invention
The cello stone is a spike holder made of travertine which aims to eliminate  wolf notes on cellos and enhance and clarify tone quality by absorbing unwanted vibrations and allowing your instrument to sing more freely. As a non-scientific person it’s hard for me to understand how the process works – but it involves measuring the vibrations of your cello’s wolf note and finding the optimum proportion for your spike – no matter what height you have it at.

Does it work?
I definitely noticed an improvement in tone when using the ‘cello stone’ and my cello felt more open, free and clear. The wolf note was also considerably diminished, almost eliminated. After an afternoon spent experimenting I have now borrowed the ‘cello stone’ to try it more thoroughly.To find out more visit Debby’s website  or contact  Robert Brooke – who is selling the stones from Cambridgeshire – on 07946 532263.
The Cello Stone

Biking improves cello playing

By fedora strings performance No Comments

Biking improves cello playing
A few weeks ago I started biking  on an exercise bike for twenty minutes a day- the first time I have ever done any regular exercise –  and I’ve been delighted to find that biking has definitely improved the technical side of my cello playing. Perhaps it should be obvious that a job which involves  intricate co-ordination is likely to be improved by being physically fitter, but it  had never occurred to me, and no teacher or other professional player I have ever met has mentioned this.
biking improves cello playing
Although  other forms of exercise may work well, biking seems to be extra good for enhancing co-ordination. Two years ago I went with a friend who has early stage Parkinson’s to a small spa town in Northern Italy where they have developed an exercise programme which can dramatically improve Parkinson’s symptoms; they have discovered that just fifteen minutes biking every day  is especially effective.
Biking improves cello playingAlexander Technique
It’s easy to focus on the artistic and perfectionist sides of playing an instrument and forget that – if you step back a bit emotionally –  the cello and piano are large instruments that need quite a lot of physical grappling to get around with ease. Alexander Technique  can be very helpful in teaching optimum use of the muscles of the body and encouraging relaxation, but if you find things easier generally you are probably less likely to tense up or over use your muscles om the first place.
I don’t write as an expert in this area, I’m simply passing on my own experience; but it’s been so positive  that I am likely to stick to this particular non New Year’s Resolution, even if I don’t stick to any others.


Recording string duets at Wadenhoe Church

By fedora strings performance No Comments

Roger and I have been recording string duets of our own arrangements at Wadenhoe Church and we are now selling these online. Wadenhoe Church is idyllically situated at the top on a hill – isolated from roads and noise.  Its atmosphere is tranquil and it is a beautiful place to work with excellent acoustics ; we are extremely grateful to the parish for allowing us to record there.
Recording string duets at Wadenhoe Church

Sheet music sales
Our violin and cello duet sheet music sales are going well – it’s quite weird that the internet has made it so easy and quick to sell to clients at the other end of the world – and we look forward to putting the recordings on line later this month.