June 22, 2016

Alum Creates Innovative Cello Strap

Michael Block Creates Cello Strap
Photo: Strings magazine

Cleveland Institute of Music alum Michael Block (BM ’04, Aaron) has engineered an innovative new strap for the cello that allows cellists to perform while standing. The officially named Block Strap started as an idea which manifested itself in multiple variations that utilized guitar straps, rope, tape and dishtowels. Now, with the kinks worked out, Block’s design is sold commercially with testimonials from Yo-Yo Ma, Natalie Haas and Boston Symphony cellist Alexandre Lecarme.

“I didn’t quite realize what I was missing by only sitting until I had the experience of standing,” Block told Strings magazine in an interview. Block works in various musical genres and really felt the impact of the device during a concert where he was performing with a bluegrass ensemble.  “When it came time for my solo, I was able to just take one step forward toward the mic, and that was such an incredible feeling—I felt like I could embody the arrangement and make it visible,” he says.

Block took great pains to make sure the strap allowed for full use of the instrument without having to change his technique. “Normally the cello is probably at a 45-degree angle to the ground, and that allows you to sort of sink in with your bow arm to get a deep and varied sound, because the cello is resisting the bow,” he says. “But when you’re using a simple guitar strap, the cello unavoidably hangs more vertically. You have to press into the instrument in order to make a sound with the bow; you can’t really use any arm weight in the same way that you’re used to while sitting.” To avoid this problem, Block connected the strap to the scroll adding support in three locations on the instrument.

Block has sold more than 350 straps in the past year through his website, cellostrap.com, where, on the homepage, he promises that his device is “the first product designed so you can stand/move/dance while playing the cello!” Read the full interview with Block in Strings magazine.