From the December 2016 issue of Strings Magazine | BY SARAH FREIBERG
Recently, one of my students related the sad tale of a disastrous performance that occurred because he had forgotten his usual rug to anchor his endpin, and the slippery floor wouldn’t hold the more conventional rock stop that he had brought.
Of course, at a number of inopportune moments, his cello went flying, as did his fingers and his concentration. This got me thinking about the variety of endpin holders that are available, and their advantages (or disadvantages).
Probably the best way to secure a cello is to have a really sharp endpin—I know, as I have a silicone-carbide tip and it will stick in almost anything. I’m sure that the rug in my studio has thousands of pin-size holes in it. I took an unscientific poll of cellists about their favorite rock stops, and more than one insisted that going au natural, without a rock stop, is the only way to go. Many rehearsal and performance space floors bear the telltale holes of cello endpins—as I can attest to seeing at Boston’s Symphony Hall, where, ironically, I play Baroque cello, cradling the instrument between my legs, never having to worry about a slipping cello. One cellist suggested learning to hold the instrument in a Baroque manner, just in case your endpin holder fails you.
Many venues won’t appreciate those tiny holes, and many spaces boast unfriendly surfaces, such as marble. Cellists should always have rock-stop options on hand. There are a few basic types of endpin holders, each with its pros and cons.
1. Endpin Holders that Mount Directly onto the Endpin
Little rubber endpin covers are very inexpensive and useful when you have a soft case but a sharp endpin—just this week one of my students inadvertently stabbed her leg with her endpin. I gave her an endpin cover, or tip, which I always keep on hand. However, they don’t work so well to keep the instrument from sliding when you are playing, certainly not on my studio rug. Another example is the Wolf Super Endpin Stop, a rubber ball that fits over the endpin tip with three screws. A pro is that, once it’s on your cello, you are unlikely to forget it. Hopefully, once installed, it fits in your case. Cons: It may not hold on all surfaces, and, according to some customer reviews, the rubber ball, which is “grippy,” may wear down, as it is fairly soft.
2. Free-Standing Rock Stops
These are small objects; easy to fit into a case, music bag, or even a pocket, and are much better at holding your cello in place than the traditional little rubber donut that was the only thing available when I was a kid. Supersensitive’s bumpy-topped Stoppin endpin holder is made of a durable sticky plastic, and comes in two sizes, but sharp endpins may shred it.
Dycem specializes in non-skid rubber products, and makes the Black Hole cello stop, which I always have in my case. The Pinstop grips the floor—once you press it into place with your foot. The three-footed Viva is made from polycarbonate with a metal cup for the endpin, replaceable feet, and comes in a variety of colors, and is better if you hold your instrument more vertically than if your endpin reaches way out in front of you. Many cellists favor one or another of these four, but beware of dirty floors. Not so much because the rock stops won’t hold on a filthy floor (they may do very well at first), but they may then be dirty the next time you use them. Most of them clean up with a bit of warm water—you just have to remember to do so before the next use.
3. Endpin Holders that Connect to a Chair
These endpins have the advantage of not being able to slip too far away while you are playing, although I feel unbalanced when using one that fits only around one chair leg, and have found that it moves if I get too enthusiastic in my playing. The popular Xeros Endpin Anchor consists of a two-inch-wide adjustable woven strap outfitted with a metal cup featuring a non-skid base for your endpin, and, on the end a large “D” ring to fit around one chair leg. It folds up nicely for transport. A con to this type of endpin holder is that it may not fit all types of chairs, or all heights of players, as it extends only 32 inches. Also, if you are using it for different players at a recital, or just using it on chairs of differing heights, you will need to adjust it. If you prefer positioning your anchor around the front two chair legs, try a rope or nylon strap connected to a wooden multi-holed wooden bar, such as the Multi Position Chair Anchored Cello Endpin Stop. This is a bit more bulky to carry, but offers a variety of holes so that if a number of cellists are performing one after another, they could all use the same rock stop without having to adjust to fit their endpin lengths. Another choice is the British-made Cellino Cello Spike Anchor, which I have yet to try. It features a small cello-shaped endpin rest, two plastic clips that loop around the front chair legs and adjustable nylon cords. None of these are great if your chair doesn’t have separate legs to anchor them to.
4. Sound-Enhancing Endpin Holders
Many cellists prefer to anchor their cellos in wood for improved sound, and Artino’s SP-10 and SP-20 in walnut or maple feature a number of holes for the endpin with a nylon strap attached to a wooden chair-leg anchor, while the SP-4W Sound Anchor Endpin Stopper includes a walnut/rosewood hollow box with a resonance hole (for increased resonance), as well as a chair-leg strap. There is also a metal option (the SP-3), with a resonance hole but with or without the adjustable nylon strap. The CelloStone is a set of two large travertine tiles that are matched with each individual cello to both enhance the sound and mitigate the wolf tone.
According to testimonials on the website, cellists appreciate the noticeable difference in sound quality and ease in playing while using the CelloStone. However, the tiles are large and fragile, and there is no mention of whether they slip at all.
5. Creative Solutions
Many cellists invent their own endpin-holder solutions—one cellist uses a rubber welcome mat, while another fashioned a long strip of six-inch wide carpet.
One of my colleagues will grab a car mat if he’s forgotten a more conventional rock stop, another a case strap. Old belts can do the trick—or, as I saw on YouTube, a common eraser. However, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have a couple of different options in your gig bag—like a Xeros anchor and a Stoppin or Black Hole. Try a few, and see what work best for you.