How to Keep a Cello—and Endpin—Rock-steady in All Conditions

By Emily Wright | From the May-June 2020 issue of Strings magazine

The first written recollection of a cello with an endpin dates from the late 18th century. Prior to that, the instrument was supported any number of ways: between a player’s lower legs, on a stool, with a strap to attach it to the body, so it could be played while walking. Indeed, many surviving instruments from the 1700s have evidence of such a setup; the Davidoff Strad has so-called “procession holes”—now meticulously patched—that led scholars to surmise that cords were strung through them so the player could participate in ambulatory church and theater processions. A French text from 1741 mentions a bâton, and William Crome’s 1765 treatise mentions a wooden peg. The advent of the endpin gave rise to something we still contend with today: a slipping instrument. The Musikalisches Handwörterbuch (Weimar, 1786) proposes the solution of installing a very sharp metal end and spiking a hole into the floor.

And thus, it began.

Since then, cellists have been collecting war stories about skidding endpins wreaking havoc. I certainly have my own: In the last three decades, I’ve endured two movements of a Corelli concerto grosso with my right foot keeping my standpartner’s cello from sliding, her rock stop having flipped and rolled under the conductor’s podium. I’ve silently pleaded with my own instrument’s endpin strap as it ominously rotated away from me while playing a Bach sarabande. I’ve even given up altogether during a High-Holy-Days gig and held the thing baroque style rather than take a chance on some industrial carpet during Kol Nidrei.

Between instrument configuration and floor type/condition, the variables are myriad. There is no single option that will work for every cellist in every situation. That said, here’s a tungsten carbide–tipped stab at what’s available, and what players around the world think of them. 

Category One: Straps

Straps are useful on a number of surfaces: low-pile carpet, hard floors, even outdoors. Most feature some sort of ring that goes around one or two legs of a chair, a length of adjustable material, and something at the end to house the tip of the endpin. When I polled members of the Internet Cello Society, the Xeros anchor came away with the most recommendations, and for good reason: the circular cradle at the end creates a single point of tension that goes a long way to prevent lateral sliding. The Xeros bass model offers a V-shaped cradle, which some cellists actually prefer. Both models have rubber on the bottom of the anchor for an extra bit of grip. It’s simple and affordable, and for many, it works.


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Another option: viol-shaped single straps with multiple hole shapes to accommodate folks who keep a rubber tip on, as well as those with dull and sharp points. As with the Xeros, there are multiple similar models, and the differences between them are not immediately obvious, but Moreyes and Artino both have examples. Some prefer this model because it frequently comes with ample strap length, so that it can be looped around two chair legs, which makes for added stability.

The Pin Point Perfection strap’s simplicity is beautiful: It’s a tiny dome of wood with a small hole in the center attached to a thin loop of leather that goes around a single chair leg. Small enough to fit in a trouser pocket, this stopper gets rave reviews. (Tip: if you can’t find the right angle with the strap looped around the front leg of the chair, take out the length and try one of the back legs.)

Category Two: Sticky

Rock stops maintain a fraught relationship with real-world conditions. On clean, flat, even-textured floors in a moderately humid setting, they should be as reliable as straps. So, depending on how often these circumstances are available to you, they may be a valid go-to choice. A swept floor and an unobtrusive (well-aimed, please) spit on the underside can make many rock stops serviceable.

Dycem’s Black Hole brand seems to have a devoted fanbase, with players pointing to its grippy bottom that creates a strong suction on most hard surfaces. The other ubiquitous rock stop on the market is the Original Slip-Stop, whose bottom is not quite as tacky as the Black Hole, but lots of people seem to use it with no issue. The cup is a little larger, which younger players might find easier to work with.

Viva La Musica’s triangular plastic/polycarbonate stopper is small but mighty, and one of the more effective non-strappy models on uneven surfaces, like gap-riddled hardwood or tile with wide grout: The feet are meant to straddle problem areas and do hang on firmly when the floor is clean. Super Sensitive’s Stoppin endpin rest looks like a giant square gummy candy, with a tightly packed lattice of flexible material that gives cellists freedom to set their endpin a number of places without needing to adjust their seat or the rock stop. Although there are multiple sizes, the consensus points to using the larger one with an exposed point (as opposed to leaving a rubber nub on). Again, all bets are off on carpet or a dusty floor, and a sharp endpin will chew it up after a few years’ use.


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Conrad Götz’s beautiful, carved wooden rock stops have conical ebony centers, which may or may not have sound-improving features, but look incredibly elegant and muster a hefty amount of stick on the bottom. PinStop was inspired by the reusable adhesives used to outfit skis with climbing skins, and boasts the ability to grip on nearly any surface, including carpet and grass. It’s not fancy, but the people who use them buy them in bulk. 

Category Three: Resonators, Hybrids, and Everything Else 

Many cellists prefer to make a small hole in the floor when they can, myself included. Of course, some substrates are not good for this: concrete and marble prove especially challenging, and not every venue takes kindly to cellists leaving behind a scattering of nonsense Morse code on their floor. For those instances when you can make a hole, a very sharp tip is required in order to match the security of a strap. An easy upgrade to a carbon-fiber endpin with a tip that is both able to be sharpened and replaced can make a huge difference. New Harmony is a favorite of students and professionals alike, with options for straight and angled carbon-fiber hardware. 

To make a hole, remove the endpin and push straight down firmly, twisting the point into the surface. Put the endpin back in, place the endpin in the divot you’ve just created, and move the cello around a bit to widen the hole. This should help it stay in place, and also test whether everything is secure.


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The Stahlhammer endpin’s design also seems to help with stability, and it’s available in lightweight carbon fiber as well as aluminum/carbon fiber. Emmanuel Feldman’s patent-pending TekPin is a sort of riff on the Stahlhammer’s iconic shape, employing a more severe angle to the lower segment, so that it sits essentially perpendicular to the floor. It does seem as if you’d have to work really hard to get it to skid forward, but my curiosity about lateral stability remains. It’s a beautiful design, to be sure.

Some endpin holders aim to do more than just secure the instrument. About 15 years ago, a wave of resonance-boosting hollow wooden blocks made their way into a few of the violin shops around Los Angeles. Indeed, there were real differences in projection and tonal vibrance, so much so that they were only useful for solo performances or outside of the usual chamber setup. A second generation is on the market now. The Artino SP-3 series has a strap that goes around one or two legs of a chair and has a hollow disc at the end for the endpin to sit in. The resonating chamber comes in wood or carbon fiber. MasamiAIMI makes a high-end stopper simply called the “Advanced Endpin Holder for Cello.” It resembles a flattened honeycomb with a metal fitting in the top, the holes projecting the sound forward and back up at the player. Some have commented that it is not very effective on carpet, both in terms of focusing the tone and holding the cello securely.

Kapaier’s silica rock stop is extremely sticky—so never use it on carpet—and it comes with a removable strap for extra security. Keeping the bottom clean is essential to its function, even with the strap attached. This is one of the few hybrid designs out there that tries to be the one product you need. As with the Stoppin, it will probably need to be replaced after a few years’ use with a sharp tip.

In a pinch, cellists are a creative bunch: using a belt from around their waist or one of the neoprene straps from a case to stop a sliding instrument. Not an ideal onstage aesthetic, but it’s better than nothing. The moral of the story is that every cellist probably needs a few different pieces of kit in addition to the very sharpest endpin possible to prepare for the variety of surfaces and chairs we encounter in the wild.

https://stringsmagazine.com/shutdown-skills-series-learn-to-devise-the-best-cello-fingerings/