#02  Acoustics : The Cello endpin

The role of the cello has progressed, from the simple rythmical bass, the continuo, to a "singing" position. Accessories have changed a lot: strings, endpins and finetuners contribute to a more comfortable playing position, unbeaten and unrivalled in power and virtuosity.


Why did this endpin, created only 100 years ago, triple in length ?


The playing positions

WITHOUT ENDPIN : This is the baroque position, following the example of the Viola da gamba, the instrument is held in an upright position between the legs. The emission of sound is "horizontal".The musician's body which is wrapt around the instrument, limits the projection of it's sound and also limits the position of the bow.
The upper part of the body is far away from the neck of the instrument, making it more difficult to see one's left hand, especially for the high notes, unless one bends over. Such a position doesn't favour the virtuosity of a relaxed musician.

The position of the instrument didn't change much, contrary to the position of the musician: he can lean on his feet to bend over the cello; he builds up strength in both hands by force of gravity. He can find precision when reaching for the high notes and can hear his own playing better.

The physical body and the musical instrument became more stable and therefore created a more intimate link between them. The body no longer blocked the sound vibration of the wood. On the extreme, this position show us the coiling up of the body around the violin cello (B Michelin).
Nervousness before an audience can result in alot of tension in the body. The head tilts towards the floor, legs tighten up towards the chair. With this cocoon shape, can he really offer a strong projection of sound right to the back of the hall?
It's probably that which initiated the use for a longer endpin; because the cello comes back up and presses on the ribs, just below the chest.

It was not advised for women to play the cello, but Viola da gamba, until the end of the 19th century for pretentious reasons of indecency. That macho argument fortunately didn't prevail. One of the first pictures of a female cellist taken at the beginning of the century, is Guilhermina Suggia, the first wife of Pablo Casals.
One would think that the use of a long endpin was widely used thanks to women, for morphological reasons, because the upper part of the instrument doesn't hurt the chest.
It's then that the way of playing changed. The instrument tilts backwards and the sound travel upwards.
. The instrument is further away from the body. Thanks to this new playing position, new freedom of movment, flexibility and agility can be enjoyed by musicians.
The arms press their weight more naturely on the strings: There is less tension in the musician's back. The body is more open and also feels more secure since the strings are right under the hands, easy to see and one can hear himself better.

However, some disavantages appear depending on:
The slanted endpin's point, grips less and the risk of sliding is greater.
The rod is longer and more supple: the instrument is more flexible under the bow.
The sound projection is directed upwards, since the instrument is slanted backwards. Is the balance of the concert hall and the orchestra modified?
The force that presses the cello towards the floor, creates an effect of twisting at the bottom of the instrument, in the bottom piece of wood. Is the instrument made to counteract that pressure?

The world of music travels alot and the cellist knows it well with his big flight case !

One used special steel tubes to strengthen that rod which was too flexible under the cello , and only one material answers to thoses specifications: carbon fiber which is extraordinarily light and ridgid.

How to solve the problem of the endpin badly fixed to the floor, about to skid away…
Either the point of it is always blunt, or the floor is too new, or there is a marble or tiled floor.
Respecting that one can't stick the endpin directly into the surface of the floor, it is then recommended to place one's own wooden rostrum under one's chair.
One won't solve the problems with gaget type accessories. If one can plant the end bit, one should do it because the quality of sound is dependent on it.
Try using a tuning fork on a piece of rubber, you can't hear a thing… It's the same with the cello endpin; this point of connection to the floor must be a firm and solid centre for the vibration. Under this condition the cello, like the branches of the tuning fork, will be a vibrating loop and it will project it's full amplitude.

The cello's extremity goes as far as the end of its endpin, and that is why its support is important to the sound quality and to the comfort of playing.