The Cellist’s Guide to a World Class Sound

Dounis encouraged his students to discover their own sound. A sound with personality and depth. A sound that is immediately identifiable as the performer and as unique as a fingerprint.

A Cellist’s Guide To A World Class Sound

To achieve a world class sound you must master the following 10 fundamentals: 

1) The arc or curve

Learn to pull not push the sound by always following an arc with the bow.

2) The open and close of the bow grip

The bow grip is always alternating between active and passive. There is a slight firming on the up bow and a release on the down. The grip should always feel comfortably flexible.

3) Using leverage instead of dead weight for pressure on the string

The arms should feel suspended or weightless, freeing all the joints. Then, using the leverage of the thumb and 1st finger, and the downward reaching wrist, apply pressure to the string. Never use arm weight.

4) A balanced vibrato which begins in the end joint of the finger

The vibrato must open the sound.  Balance the finger by plucking the string with the left hand then vibrating. Feel the vibrato begin in the tip of the finger or end joint.

5) Listen to and play along with great artists

To find your own sound you must discover what sound attracts you and learn its attributes. Later, using the Dounis principles, you will produce that sound.

6) Parlando

Every bow change has a slight release of pressure or “parlando.” Since the wood is flexible, you can sink into the string through the wood. It feels like you are “carving the string.” 

7) The left hand follows the voice  

Your left hand vibrato must follow your singing.  On every note, the vibrato changes speed and width. By studying your singing, you learn all the different changes of your voice’s vibrato, then you must train your left hand to follow them.

8) The smoothness of the touch

Smoothness is the key to the correct touch. By touching any smooth surface and then imitating that on the string, you can develop that awareness.

9) The Direction of the Pressure and the Line of the Pull

The direction of the pressure on the down bow is vertical but the line of the pull is horizontal.  On the up bow both the direction of the pressure and the line of the pull are horizontal.

10) A strong concept of sound

You must be aware of the details of your sound: i.e. bow speed, distance from the bridge, focus, firmness of the grip, amount of pressure and a vibrato that sizzles and oscillates from below to the pitch.

Whew! That is a lot to absorb.

For fastest results, practice each fundamental separately.  

This is just a guide...

To understand these fundamentals and any related ones that play a supporting role will require further explanation and demonstration.