Are Cellists More Social than Violinists?

March 16, 2012 at 04:31 PM · Upon seeing how supportive and congenial the cellists were at the Piatigorsky (Cello) Festival in Los Angeles, The Strad Editor Ariane Todes wrote this blog that brings up an interesting and controversial question: are cellists more sociable than violinists? Hmmmm!

Here is the blog:

Replies (30)

March 16, 2012 at 05:12 PM · OK, I'll bite. In a word, yes. Cellists have a reputation for being somewhat "clubby" and liking to hang with each other. Stories are legion about YoYo Ma sneaking into the back of the cello section to play the symphony after his concerto is over, then going out for beer and shoptalk with the cello section. Ever hear of a violinist doing that? Cellists (and violists) are less likely to get wrecked about who's sitting where, and cellists don't even HAVE shoulder rests to fight about.

March 16, 2012 at 05:12 PM · Interesting question and interesting article.

In my experience, I don't find cellists more sociable, necessarily; but I do find them, on the whole, less uptight, less Type A, less prima donna-ish.

As we know, violin is among the most un-ergonomic of instruments, and I can't help wondering if this might be a factor.

March 16, 2012 at 07:34 PM · Cellists have one great attribute - they always lead the fiddles and violas into the nearest pub, and often drink the most. They don't go into intellectual cross talk and often let the fiddles get to the girls first. On the whole they are not too bad, and as they have an easy instrument to play they can enjoy taking it easy ... and they don't mind taking up with the fiddles cast offs ... (And I'm speaking from personal experience of course).

Also, female cellists can be hot stuff (on the cello of course ...)

March 16, 2012 at 09:34 PM · Peter, I got a good chuckle out of your post. :)

March 16, 2012 at 10:28 PM · And we all know the Tommy Beecham jokes about lady cellists ;)

March 16, 2012 at 10:37 PM · I heard a story about Yehudi Menuhin playing a concerto in Worcester Cathedral in the first half of a concert, and then after the break slipping into a spare chair at the back of the seconds to sight-read the second half of the programme. Somehow, that wouldn't seem to sit right with Heifetz or one or two others.

March 17, 2012 at 02:00 AM · I also heard a rumor that Zukerman slipped into the back of the Chicago Symphony. Can you imagine having someone like that as your stand mate? It's like having a 2-hour free lesson.

March 17, 2012 at 04:44 AM · This is similar to vocalists in bands. The girls tear their clothes off for the lead singer, but the bass player is always the coolest guy in the band with the smallest ego.

March 17, 2012 at 07:57 AM · Mind you - to redress the balance, I've also met plenty of difficult, unfriendly, and/or nuerotic cellists ...

March 18, 2012 at 02:27 PM · I confess I tend to go for a drink with the brass players after the concert - they a lot funnier than us violinists. Cellists are lovely, though, especially the female ones!

March 18, 2012 at 02:42 PM · Aren't orchestras a little odd in general regarding socializing? I've been playing in ours for 6 years now...and while I know everyone's name (in part because I do the website :D)...there are some individuals there who don't even know the names of the others in their section...

BTW...I have a fondness for the boys on the basses...;)

March 18, 2012 at 03:45 PM · "BTW...I have a fondness for the boys on the basses..."

SIZE matters?? (wink)

March 18, 2012 at 04:45 PM · I've noticed that the lower the instrument's range, the nicer and more relaxed (IN GENERAL) are the people who play it.

It also works the other way around:

Think of your typical trumpet player, vs. your typical trombone player, vs. your typical tuba player.

Typical flute player vs. typical bassoonist...

Typical violinist vs. typical violist vs. typical cellist vs. typical bassist...

I'm sure that part of it is that the higher instruments are more exposed and generally have harder music besides. If you're a section bassist and you miss one note, no one will ever know, unless you actually play in a rest -- and even then, only your stand partner (probably :-p ). If you're principal trumpet, however, and you miss one note, EVERYONE IN THE AUDITORIUM WILL HEAR IT AND WILL KNOW EXACTLY WHO IT WAS.

I wonder if playing an instrument like that creates Type-A personalities, or if the high instruments attract the people that are already like that.

March 18, 2012 at 05:14 PM · I'm sure you are right Bruce, but even so it's a bit risky to generalise too much. I know a famous quartet where the first fiddle is very laid back, the second fairly, the viola very, but the cello the least.

I know two second fiddles who are rather ratty, a viola who is very laid back, and a cello who is often a bit narked.

Well, me, I'm as laid back as hell, (as a fiddler) but I was less laid back as a viola player. I've known excellent trombone sections where the first was a bit touchy, but the other two incerdibly laid back.

What gets me though is ratty conductors, as they've got the easiest job and the band always gets the blame when they mess up.

March 18, 2012 at 05:16 PM · Nicer..... .. Ouch, that hurts, Bruce.

I will have to see my therapist today, maybe he recommends I switch to cello. Or if things are really bad it will be the double bass. All those years of practising for naught....

April 2, 2012 at 03:41 AM · I often find violinists that are difficult to socialize with but haven't found that the case with violists or cellists yet. Then again, I know WAY more violinists than violists or cellists, so that may be why!

April 2, 2012 at 03:45 AM · Is there a cello equivalent of the Shoulder Rest War?

April 2, 2012 at 07:27 AM · Possibly. Could be an end pin war to end all end pins ...

April 2, 2012 at 12:31 PM · Really? Are there cellists who don't use end pins and belittle everyone who does, claiming it will ruin the sound of their priceless instruments? Or is it linear vs. bent end pins?

April 2, 2012 at 12:47 PM · Cellists seem to have as bewildering array of endpin stops to choose from - or not - as violinists have shoulder rests. Maybe they fight about that. As to drinking, in that great Rostropovitch video, he insists that cellists have a much greater capacity for alcohol consumption than violinists. I wouldn't know from personal experience, as a hamster could drink me under the table!

PS I have heard of solo violinists occasionally sitting in with the orchestra in the back of the section - Perlman, Dicterow and Kreisler come to mind. The great K, though, admitted that when he tried it, he immediately got lost!

April 2, 2012 at 02:07 PM · For safety you should never really argue with a cellist because if they resort to using their endpins these can be pretty fatal.

I've heard of bent endpins. What about bent cellists though?

And yes, cellist have a big capacity for pints of beer, along with double bass players. Must be their big bellies ... (on the cellos and basses of course ...)

April 2, 2012 at 02:36 PM · In my experience (3 orchestral jobs) fiddlers have seemed to me to be more twitchy than 'cellists, paranoid even. Like so many of my colleagues I have suffered persecution mania. It's the death-rays from conductors that does it. Never fails !! But, as a 'cellist friend once remarked "just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they AREN'T out to get you".

April 2, 2012 at 03:28 PM · I often used to try and give the conductor the death rays! As one gets more experienced you can ask them awkward questions and ask them also to explain which is meant to be the down beat ... OR "are you doing the bar following your up beat in the same tempo?" OR "would you like us to follow you or the soloist?" OR "should we play on your beat or just play in time?" OR "whatever happens we will follow the singer - you can just relax." OR "Do you really want an accent on every note, as you are indicating?"

Sometimes you just have to feel sorry for them, after they've taken the easy option ...

I've never particularly thought of violinists being more twitchy - but perhaps I've never noticed. I remember a singer asking a violin colleague once if he ever got nervous and he looked at her in amazement, as he sipped his pint of beer. I think leaders (concertmasters) sometimes do, as they have to hold the show together if the conductor is a liability.

April 2, 2012 at 07:05 PM ·

I think this video is appropriate for this discussion... It's obvious cellists have more fun!

April 3, 2012 at 04:01 AM · I think it's just the competitiveness of many violinists. At an orchestra festival I attended recently, auditions were held for the first chair of each string section. As far as I know, only one or two people from the basses, cellos, and violas auditioned for the chair, but more than half of the 1st violin section auditioned for concertmaster/mistress. While I do know a few nice, laid-back violinists, I've met far more in the low strings section:)

And I like the point made about the relationship between the range of the instrument and the personality of its performer. It makes so much sense!

April 17, 2012 at 12:06 AM · Yeah it's the fact that violinists are more competitive than cellists because there's usually more violins than cello so there's more competition. I also noticed that in my orchestra all the cellists are kind and just go with the flow ;)

May 29, 2012 at 08:07 AM · You are just jealous because we can play in 5th 6th and 7th positions and make love in a lot more ... (wink)

P S I was once a viola player a but got released for good behaviour - so now I only play fiddle.

May 29, 2012 at 10:01 AM · I wonder if its ALL violinists or whether there is a gradation through the section: thus the first desk will only hang out with the first but as you go back they get progressively more social?

I bet the last desk will even go for a drink with the violas...

May 29, 2012 at 11:06 AM · A lot of this is speculation and maybe it might apply more in non-professional circles, but in reality in professional orchestras we all hang out together, and drink in the pub together, and play lots of wrong notes together. We stand together also against all oppressors, including management and conductors, and general people who want to cause a problem (like politicians).

So you would often catch me drinking with the brass and the woodwind - and even with other viola players and fiddlers. I never discriminated either when it came to which section the latest young lady that I fancied belonged too. It makes life interesting to experience the different techniques and colours that other section players bring to the mix... (I'm talking musically of course, just in case you thought otherwise ...)(wink)

May 29, 2012 at 06:35 PM · Gotta say, the basses are usually the most fun. I guess after all the humiliation of hauling those things up stairs, on subways, in elevators, they have no pretense left.

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