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Learning the cello: which aspects you should pay attention to right from the start

Maybe you like classical music; it may also be that you are fascinated by the special sound character of the cello. The decision is made, you want to learn the cello. It is definitely not one of the simplest of instruments. But your hard work will be rewarded with a particularly warm sound. Here are our tips:

Check it: Learning the cello - requirements of the string instrument

  • Difference between tone and sound
  • Practice meaningfully
  • Grip technique and change of position
  • Arch: posture and leadership
  • Intonation and ear training

Learn the cello - with diligence to motivating success stories

A sense of achievement is immensely important if you want to learn an instrument. In doing so, you should set yourself realistic and by no means excessive goals from the start. If you want to learn the cello, that means: If you practice fairly regularly and at the same time with the necessary concentration, you will notice after about half a year how the seeds of your musical diligence are slowly growing.

Violoncello: difference between tone and sound

If you want to learn the cello, you should be aware that it is generally not a problem to get a sound from the instrument at all. The only question is which ones and how beautiful they sound. So the challenge is to make the tones and melodies sound really pleasant. And with string instruments that has at least three components:

Make friends with bulky playing stance

It takes getting used to the playing posture if you want to learn the cello. You may not feel particularly comfortable with it at first. Somehow everything seems strange to you, probably even a little bulky. You and your instrument will have to (and want to) become friends with each other. Don't worry, you two will get to know each other better quickly.

Practice regularly without exaggeration

Regular practice is helpful for this. Just no long training orgies; they do more harm than they would support your learning success. The much-quoted head through the wall is clearly the inappropriate solution. Much better if you practice maybe 15 minutes a day for the first time, even several times a day. So always at short intervals, but really regularly.

If you don't have time on a day because there might be more important things like cramming for a class test, that's just the way it is. Under no circumstances should you “save up” the missed time and then make up for it in a stack. As I said, no painful exercise orgies. The regularity in particular helps to make lasting friends with the violoncello.

Avoid mistakes in the grip technique right from the start

You will learn to grasp the notes on the fingerboard with the usually left hand. The correct hand and finger position from your first musical steps is extremely important.

The problem is that posture errors that have crept in can only be corrected later with a lot of effort and with a lot of practice. A fact that applies to other instruments as well; in the cello, however, is of particular importance due to the special requirements of the fingering technique.

The challenge of changing positions

Due to the spacing between the strings, it is a special characteristic of playing the cello that the positions - the position of the gripping hand on the fingerboard - have to be changed quite often. This can only be implemented in a really sensible way with sensible gripping technology.

Whereas on a violin, for example, a scale can be played across the strings without moving the hand on the neck, the situation is different with the cello. Even for this minimum musical requirement, the gripping hand has to move, i.e. change positions.

Bow holding and bow guidance

If you want to learn the cello, you need to practice soulful bowing. Experienced cellists call the bow the "extension of the arm" and even describe it as the "actual instrument". With the bow in particular, your musical journey of discovery will, as it were, move into the next dimension. At least once you have internalized the basics for bowing.

In addition to dynamics and volume, he is responsible for the color of the sound. Cellists devote a lot of time to the most relaxed bow position possible. A well-known problem is the slight cramping in the bow hand, especially in the thumb. A constant topic among cellists, whereby you should do exercises for relaxed bowing at an early stage. Learning to bow on the cello only works if you are relaxed.

Intonation on fretless instruments

The next aspect of learning the cello is related to intonation. This is understood to mean the precise sounding - and thus precisely grasped beforehand - tones. Now a string instrument has no frets like a guitar that you could use for orientation. Also, you can't just press the appropriate key, as you can on the keyboard.

Continuous ear training as a compulsory string program

In order to target a note not just roughly but instead precisely, you have to know how it should sound. Against this background, learning the cello also means gradually training your hearing. This includes permanent self-control. Sounds dangerous; it is not meant that way. After all, there are various options available to you for this.

You are happy to practice in cooperation with others

Provided that your instrument is tuned correctly, you should play tones and short phrases such as arpeggios (breaking up chords) over and over again, if possible together with your music teacher or a friend or parent who may accompany you on the piano. First of all, this is about really simple tones and tone sequences and tone intervals (intervals), where you keep listening to see whether they match the other instrument harmoniously.

You can also use a tuner to check whether the notes are really as accurate as you "suspect" them. Admittedly, that is quite time-consuming. You will probably rarely do this at best. But this is also a good option if you want to train your hearing and learn the cello. String instruments can only sound as good as your inner hearing perceives the tones. The greater your understanding of pitch intervals and scales, the more precisely you will intone.


The question of the ideal bow arises for all string instruments. If you would like to find out more about it, have a look at our article on the subject of "Violin bow for beginners".

Keywords: cello, cello learning, violoncello