Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fiddle practice and 5-string celli

A friend from the fiddle group and I got together this morning to work on some fiddle tunes. We started with "Bill Cheatham," a tune she wants to learn to play better, and I want to learn accompaniment for. I used the written out accompaniment from the Fiddlers Philharmonic series, which sounded fine, if a little sparse. It's a very simple accompaniment, based on chords. I am thinking of alternating playing the tune and the accompaniment, or writing a slightly more interesting accompaniment. Other tunes we worked on: Long Black Veil (which I think is particularly appropriate played on the cello), Whiskey Before Breakfast, Ashokan Farewell, and Old Joe Clark, which is the first tune we both learned, but you can always add something to it.

We're going to meet again next week and keep working on tunes. This is great, working with one other person at a similar level, so much easier than trying to work on tunes with 20 other people playing at the same time, and who don't have cello fingering issues to work out.

Which reminds me: I saw a five-string cello for sale at Etsy. A five string cello (with the addition of an E string) would make many fiddle tunes easier to play on the cello. On the other hand, they might not sound so good on a $195.00 cello. On yet another hand, if you are one cello playing with 20 fiddles, mandolins, banjos, guitars, and tin whistles (and are not Rushad E.), is anyone really going to hear you anyway?

I don't understand five-string cellos because I have never seen cello E strings for sale. Does one simply tighten up another A string? I wrote to the seller and got back this response, which makes no sense to me:

this is the same cello like you have, just add one more C string and EQ or you ocan turn to EADGEC like bass guitar. thanks

If anyone has any insight into this, I would appreciate it!


CelloGeek said...

you can buy a cello E string - do a Google search on it and you'll see some for sale online. My standmate from orchestra has a 5-string cello and one day I got to try it out. It was hard to remember that I didn't have to shift up on the A string and could just move over and play on the E string. It was also hard to remember to extend back to play a "f" and not a "f sharp"

Maricello said...

Thanks Cellogeek, for your helpful advice! Funny, I never found one before, but this time when I looked, I found a Spirocore high E string for the cello quite easily.

I started out playing fiddle tunes on the fiddle, so am used to the violin positions (first position in the fiddle-friendly keys of G, D, and A). For me, when I am playing fiddle tunes on the cello that I originally learned on the fiddle, I tend to think of fourth position on the A as the E string.

But, I don't think I'd play a five-string cello in classical orchestra. That might start to get confusing!

Terry said...

Sorry Maricello, I couldn't help myself, I took it. I'm sure they'll be more since it looks mass produced.

Do NOT try to use an A string as an E string. Something will berak, hopefully the string.

I understand some people use a guitar E string and since cello E strings take a while to order.

My teacher usually plays a 5-string, although her really good cello is a 4 string. She plays the 5-string in orchestra, no problem.

Terry said...

I'll give you a report on how ot works out.

Maricello said...


I am glad you bought it! I am looking forward to your report. Don't worry, I wasn't on the verge of buying it, but I have become more favorably inclined over the past couple of days, especially after reading various Internet articles about five-string cellos. If Bach wrote for them, they're good enough for me.

I am sure there will be more too, judging by the assortment of musical products sold by this vendor.

Anonymous said...

We bought my son a in-expensive cello from a place in CA we found on E-bay. He has 3 cellos now, one for church, one for home to practice and one for school. The one we bought from CA is a 5-string and he uses it at church. It's electric but we are having a little trouble finding the "E" string also. SharMusic.vom is a good place to look. My brother is a violin luthier, repairmen, etc. and that's where we get almost all our strings if we don't find what we need on Ebay. I don't think using a guitar string is wise. Right now I am looking for a "E" string for the 5-string cello. The cello does have a very nice tone and my son has not had too much trouble with switching back and forth from the 4 to the 5 string. The E-string we have is a Larsen but it is frazzled where it sets on the bridge and is getting weak up at the tuners.
Any suggestions for that, let me know.
Thanks pdlanders@insightbb.com

Carl said...

I have a 5-string cello. A high E guitar string (acoustic or electric, don't matter as it is usually unwound) will do (and much cheaper).

Carl said...

I have a 5-string cello. A high E guitar string (acoustic or electric, don't matter as it is usually unwound) will do (and much cheaper).