The cello isn’t an instrument that is difficult to play to some degree, but some are a little easier at the beginning, a piano or a guitar, for example. You can get a recognizable tune from them the first time you pick them up. It might not sound brilliant, but it is a tune, and you can recognize it.
The Cello is Different
Like most orchestral string instruments, the Cello does not fall into that category. In fact, it is not an easy instrument to play, and some say it is the most difficult. Therefore, here are some Do’s And Don’ts For Beginning Cellists to help you on your way.
A rewarding choice
If you have decided to play the cello, you have made a great choice. No instrument sounds quite like it. Since it was created in the mid-1600s in Cremona, Italy, at the Amati School of Violins, it has grown in stature.
The Modern instrument was fashioned a few years after the originals by Antonio Stradivarius himself. Yes, him. He studied and learned his trade under Nicola Amati, grandson of the founder Andrea Amati. You could say the cello came out of the Amati school in Cremona.
It is the closest instrument to the human voice. It is warm and rich with great depth to it. The sound alone is probably the reason you may have chosen to play it. It is not the principal lead instrument of an orchestra, although it quite often gets its solo parts. Furthermore, it tends to sit and underpin the string sections with great harmonies and rhythms.
It Will Not Be Easy
Press a key on the piano, and you get a note that is in tune (assuming the piano is, of course). Press a string down on the cello, and you could get anything, either in tune, or more likely, not. Or, in some cases, if the bow action is wrong, nothing at all.
Getting a sound that is in pitch is not easy. Getting a half-decent sound at all can be quite difficult. There are no “guitar frets” to guide you on here. You will experience the same problems that all students of bowed string instruments have.
But with the cello, they are compounded by the width of the ranges between notes as well as by a bowing action that is unique to the instrument.
The First Few Months
The early period of learning an instrument can be very frustrating. But at least with some instruments, you can start to make some simple music. You can hear a little bit of progress. Not so easy with the cello.
There could be many reasons why the sound is either very bad or not there at all. Not only has the fingerboard hand got to be mastered. But the bowing hand as well. And that can often be the problem early on.
A Crucial Time
Those first few months are where so many give up. You need to find ways of accepting your disappointments. The key to it is to remember a few cello do’s and don’ts. So, let’s take a look at a few don’ts first.
There’s no need to give yourself a hard time if progress seems slow. Or if you cannot seem to get a decent sound. Remember, every cellist you see in every orchestra in the world has been through these exact same problems at some stage.
- Don’t forget to warm up properly. Playing the cello can be a physical thing. Your fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders need to be warmed up. And don’t forget your neck and shoulders. Warming up those muscles will prevent any strains that could very well occur.
- Don’t forget to take adequate breaks during practice sessions. During these short rest periods, you can stretch your fingers and hands a little.
- Don’t forget to learn and practice your scales. Learning basic theory is essential. It is the building block of your performance.
- Don’t forget bowing practice on open strings, concentrating on correct technique.
Once again, don’t get too disheartened when it becomes a struggle, as it will. Remember the reason you wanted to play the Cello in the first place. Knowing the do’s and don’ts for beginning cellists will help you develop your skills at a pace that suits you.
Let’s Have a Look at some Do’s
Make sure you find the right cello size for whoever is playing it. They come in various sizes. A full-size Cello is described as 4/4, but there are other sizes. You may find 3/4, 1/2, and 1/4, and 1/8 sizes. You can even buy 1/10 size cellos for very small children.
The size you buy relates to the size of the player, not an age group. Some smaller adults play a 3/4 size. Nothing wrong with that.
Setting up the instrument is important
It needs to be in optimal condition to produce a good sound. There are small things that may need adjustment. I would advise taking it to a professional Luthier who will set it all up for you. It won’t cost much. You won’t be able to do it on your own for quite a while. It will only need to be checked after setup, maybe once per year.
Learn to tune it as soon as you can
An obvious thing to say, really, but if it is out of tune, you are never going to get the right sounds. Wooden stringed instruments like the cello can be affected by their environment.
Wood will react in heat and cold, so it may need tuning regularly. If you haven’t got a piano or keyboard, then get yourself a digital tuner. From the thickest string, it is tuned C, G, D, and A. The D’Addario Eclipse Cello/Bass Tuner is a great option that has been specially designed for lower-pitched instruments guaranteeing excellent results.
Learn to Rosin your Bow
Another vital aspect of creating a good sound is the hairs on your bow. They will need to be treated with Rosin regularly. Rosin is a material that is extracted from trees. It solidifies and, when applied to the hairs on the bow, provides grip. Take some time to read about Rosin and how to apply it. It isn’t difficult, but it is an important process to master.
Sherman’s VP-01C Bow Rosin – Cello – Dark is well worth the money, but if you want something cheaper, the Rosin 2 pack Big size Rosin Natural Rosin for Violin Cello Viola Bows is a superb value for money option.
Let’s talk about practice
Never rush what you are doing. Take your time to get it right. Be organized in your practice sessions and set a regular time of the day. Make sure you are prepared to play. Do your warm-up and don’t try and play for too long. Break it down into segments if you wish with small rest breaks.
Never, ever leave a technical issue until you are sure you have mastered it. “Missing the beat” and ignoring something you find hard will come back and bite you later when you really need it. If it helps keep a daily record of what you do and how you feel about it.
Buy what they call a “rockstop”, or a “cello anchor.” This sits on the floor and holds your endpin in place to stop it from moving around while you’re playing. The Cello Endpin Anchor Non-slip is a quality, very affordable option for novice cellists.
A Few More Considerations
Just a few do’s and don’ts to help you on your way. If you are serious about learning, then The Art of Cello Playing: A Complete Textbook Method can help.
And if you are buying a beginner cello, then a package may be the best idea to ensure you have all you need, something like this Cecilio CCO-500 Ebony Fitted Flamed Solid Wood Cello package.
Looking for Great Stringed Instruments?
We have a nice selection to help you out, so check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Electric Cellos, the Best Electric Violins, the Best Cremona Violins, the Best Student Violins, and the Best Violin For Kids you can buy in 2023.
And don’t miss our handy guides on How to Tune Your Cello, How to Replace Your Violin Strings, A Guide to Choosing the Right Violin Strings, 6 Easiest Musical Instruments for Adults to Learn, and What is Considered a String Instrument for more helpful information.
Do’s And Don’ts For Beginning Cellists – Final Thought
If there is just one piece of advice I would give, it would be this. “Keep At It.” If you persevere, you will get there in the end.
Until next time, let your music play.