If you’ve recently decided to learn to play the cello, you’ve made a wonderful, rewarding choice. The cello produces warm, rich tones that are very closely related to the human voice range, which has made it a beloved instrument for many centuries. However, the first few months of training are the most crucial for any beginner cello student. During that time there are specific factors that can either encourage you to continue, or dishearten you so much that you’ll want to quit.
Knowing the “do’s” and “don’ts” of beginner cello can help you steer clear of disappointment. These tips for cellists cover a variety of playing aspects, and will allow you to maximize your efforts the right away.
“Do” select a cello that is the correct size for your body. Like other instruments in the violin family, the size of the instrument must be in proper proportion to the player, and cellos are crafted in fractional sizes to meet specific needs. Your cello doesn’t have to be the most expensive model, but it does need to be properly sized for you. Speak with your instructor or the personnel at your local instrument shop for help in choosing the right size.
“Don’t” beat yourself up if you have a hard time producing sounds at first. Leaning to play the cello is hard, and it can be challenging to create sounds during the first few months of training. Remember that every cellist went through the same struggles. You can do it as long as you keep at it.
“Do” learn how to tune your cello. This is an aspect of training that is essential to grasp early on. Cellos are very sensitive to jostling and changes in the environment, and depending on your specific instrument, can require frequent tuning. Beginner cello students should check their instrument for tune every time they play it using an electronic tuner. This is crucial during the first months of training because otherwise, you can end up associating the wrong pitch with certain notes. Set your tuner at the 440 frequency and start with the A string, working downwards through D, G, and C each time you practice.
“Don’t” forget to purchase a rockstop (anchor). One of the most important tips for cellists, especially beginner cello students, is to arrange to have a cello anchor, often called a rockstop. This piece of equipment ensures that the end pin doesn’t slip on the floor or carpet while you’re playing. One of the most effective is an adjustable strap that fastens to your chair, but rockstops are very affordable, coming in at under $10.
“Do” make sure to rosin your bow properly. Applying rosin to your bow is an important aspect of playing because it has a huge impact on the sound. Too much and your bow will have too much grip, like trying to rub two pieces of Velcro together when it contacts the strings. Too little rosin and the bow will slide right off of the strings. Your bowing should be effortless, and over time, you’ll learn exactly when you need more or less rosin on your bow.
“Don’t” neglect your warm up exercises. Beginner cello students must respect the fact that playing the cello is very physical. Without performing warm up exercises for your fingers, arms, and neck, you risk generating serious injuries, some of which can be lasting. The best ways to prevent overuse injury are to take a few minutes before each practice session to warm up the muscles you’ll be using, be careful to maintain the proper posture and playing form, and take breaks in between long sessions to stretch your fingers, arms, and back.
“Do” have a professional perform your instrument set-up. Your cello will sound its best and have great playability if it has been set-up by a qualified luthier.
“Don’t” disregard your open string and scale practice. Learning the basic scales is essential for beginner cello students. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to focus on correct bow placement (open strings).
“Do” take your time while practicing. If you rush through exercises you can sprain your muscles. Moreover, you’ll just end up solidifying any problems that you’re having. Use deliberate practice methods that engage your entire mental and physical concentration. This will allow you to make steady, measurable progress that will help keep you motivated.
“Don’t” ignore your inspiration. If there is a specific reason that guided your choice to learn to play the cello, keep it at the forefront of your training. Some students use photos or posters to remind them of why they are learning, and this can be a benefit when you’re feeling frustrated or upset.
By following these tips for cellists, you can ensure that you get the most out of your practice and training sessions.