Tips on Irking Young Cellists

Cellists are often irksome to non-cellists.  It’s not their instrument that’s bad; it’s their cockiness about the instrument, their disregard for the needs of other string players.  Their Subaru Outbacks become the targets for many angry looks as they putter around whistling Lalo or Popper etudes.  The younger members of this clan are even more exasperating.  Here are some easy things to do to annoy a young cellist.

Cases.  A cellist’s case is always in the way.  You leave the room for a short time and when you come back, the path to your seat is littered with cello cases of all colors, sizes and varieties.  If the cellist in question has a hard case, the solution is easy: give it to someone to use as a wheelbarrow, or better yet, a doorstop.  Even as a hiding place for bored younger siblings.  If the offending case is soft and floppy, an even better solution is available: umbrella.  If it’s raining, hold the case above your head, keeping yourself dry and giving the case back sopping wet.  If no inclement weather is scheduled for rehearsal day, no fear!  Doormats are always welcome.  Perhaps you need a stretcher because a violinist got a hangnail.  The possibilities are endless.

Endpins.  Cellists are so picky about their endpin length.  They play the instrument a little, then pull it onto their laps to pull the pin out a bit more.  If they don’t get it exactly right but still have to play, they’ll grimace horribly through the whole piece, giving more than one violinist and violist indigestion.  What can you do to rid them of this incessant problem?  What will make that pesky endpin difficulty go away forever?  Steal their endpin, of course.  Just slide it out of its little ring and slip it up your sleeve, to be used later for swordfighting practice in the back room.  No one will miss it.

Chairs.  Cellists are notoriously picky about their chairs.  It’s too high, it’s too low, it’s too saggy in the middle, it’s too bumpy around the edges, it’s color is too strange, it seems to channel the air uncomfortably.  Cellists can’t play without their perfect chairs.  You’re in a small concert hall where everyone has to stand?  Guess who can’t.  Yup– the cellists.  So what can we do?  Steal their chairs when they aren’t looking and replace it with a footstool or some such piece.  They’re too uncomfortable to play, but they’ve got to go on anyway.  It’s a flawless plan!

Dynamics.  Cellists go all over with their dynamics.  When they see pianissimo on the page, they go for it with full bows, closed eyes, rocking back and forth in their chairs, wide vibrato– and all this time they’ve been playing forte.  When it’s fortissimo, they play forte as well.  Their dynamic contrast is virtually nonexistent at best and completely nonexistent at worst.  What can we, the true musicians in the orchestra, do to fix this?  Con sordino.  When our friends the cellists aren’t looking– while they’re watching the clock and their watches by turns to see if one is slow, or when they’re telling their friends about the latest video game– slip the little mute up and over their bridge.  They won’t notice a difference; they’ll have their eyes closed.  The orchestra and audience will notice, however.

Tuning.  No matter how off their tuning is at first, a young cellist will only use his fine tuning pegs.  He doesn’t do the in-tune, out-of-tune, in-tune thing violins and violas do to get the pitches right; they just tweak until they can’t tweak no more.  It doesn’t matter to him if he’s still out of tune; he’s done the best he can.  If he’s called out for it, well, he’ll just ask the conductor to tune for him.  So what can we do to make his tuning experience… educational?  Tune his strings each to perfect fourths.  Now, if you’ve ever switched from any other string instrument to string bass or vice versa, you’ll know how devastating this is.  All of a sudden the strings are reversed.  Intervals are opposite, open strings are untrustworthy, and whatever you do, you cannot find the harmonic you wanted.  The perfect comeuppance for an imperfect cellist.

Use these tips and you’ll soon be the mortal enemy of everyone in the cello section.

Note: the opinions stated in this post are not the opinions of the author or any of those affiliated with the author.  The author claims no liability for any results of the procedures described here.  The author, believe it or not, is actually a nice person who likes cellos and most of their owners.


10 thoughts on “Tips on Irking Young Cellists

  1. The sad thing is, it’s all true. (I’m a cellist – I freely admit that we are terrible at pianissimo, really persnickety about chairs and endpin length, overuse the fine tuners, and really bad at putting our giant, annoying cases out of the way. Apologies in advance.)

    I’m now going to make an educated guess: you’re either a cellist yourself or you have a spy in the cellist camp. 😉

  2. (Apparently can’t reply to you last comment but would like to continue the conversation, so if this jumps to the top, apologies.)

    It’s great, because not only am I a cellist, I’m a SLYTHERIN, so it’s DOUBLE the superiority complex. 😉

      1. It’s from Harry Potter – it’s a Hogwarts house that people stereotype as conceited and thinking they’re better than everyone else. 😛

  3. I’m a violinist. I sort of envy the cellists sometimes, (partly because it’s harder to sound offensive with a cello), but then we play Pachalbell’s Cannon and I feel much better not to be a cellist.
    And they do tend to be a little stuck up when it comes to their instrument.

    1. Don’t even get me started on violinists…

      Kidding, but sometimes violinists are as bad as cellists. And I say that in the nicest possible way to both of you. Celli and violins are essential, even if they can get annoying at times.

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