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All things cello – learning to play as a beginner!

Updated: May 19, 2022

Have you ever considered playing the cello, but you are not sure how to get started? Do you need some help with buying your first cello or do you want to know what it takes to learn to play it? We have good news for you. Polina our very own cello teacher will answer the top questions every beginner asks!

Cello spielen lernen
The violoncello - is a beautiful instrument

Anyone can learn to play the cello at any age - is this true?

Yes! If there is a wish – definitely! Learning to play the cello is not out of reach and not more difficult than playing the guitar. So it is like with every other instrument and with every other music student, the journey starts at the very beginning.

How do I know whether Cello is the right instrument for me?

If you like a beautiful instrument with a rich warm sound, similar to the human voice, the cello is perfect for you! The advantage of the cello is, that its physic is very natural. The seated position with the movement of the hands and arm 'hugging' the cello is unique.

Is more difficult for adults to learn to play the cello than for children? How do you teach an adult vs. a child?

In general, everything is easier for a child to learn, whether it is a language, sport, or musical instrument. The teaching method depends on the pupil, his or her character, experiences, and goals. But the similarity of the teaching method is to bring joy to making music. Adults are usually a bit more focused and know what they want.

Where can I get a cello?

You can find a cello at a musical instruments shop, specialist cello shops, or a cello maker. A cello can be rather expensive so may want to consider renting one before you know which one is the right fit for you to buy. A decent cello costs at least several hundred Swiss Francs if not thousands. Kids that are still growing better rent and wait with a costly purchase. Last but not least, renting will give you the option to try different instruments until you find the right fit. If you buy a second-hand cello, make sure you involve an expert that can help you.

Cellounterricht für Kinder

What makes a good cello?

Cellos are traditionally made with a spruce top and maple sides, back, and neck. Poplar is sometimes used for the back and sides. These are the types of wood you’d typically find, but very cheap cellos are often made with laminated wood. If possible, avoid laminated cellos. They will never be able to produce the same sound quality as spruce and maple models.

What about electronic cellos?

Acoustic cellos have a very rich sound that electronic cellos can’t match, yet. It’s not recommended that this be your only cello, but as you get more serious or want to branch out into different music genres an electric cello is perfect. They are incredibly quiet and can be played connected to headphones. If you’re interested in playing in jazz or rock groups the electric cello gives you the type of sound you need. They’re extremely fun to own, and a great addition to your instrument roster once you start advancing.

Is the cello a loud instrument? Is there a way to tone it down for the neighbors?

A cello produces a fairly loud sound. There are mutes available that make the cello quieter. However, if the sound level is a major concern, and there is no practice room available, then an electronic cello may indeed be an interesting option.

What else do I need to get started?

Depending on where you buy or rent the cello, you’ll get the advice you need. You will need a cello, a bow, rosin for the bow and a case to transport it. A specific chair that can be adjusted in height is also a good investment. Insuring your cello might be a good idea too since it can be very expensive. Changing strings can be tricky so you might want to leave that to the experts.

Cellospielerin an einem Konzert

How long does it take until I can play a song?

In my lessons, we already play a little song as a duo in the first hour. Perhaps with any kind of learning, be it a language, a musical instrument, or dancing, there is a need for regular practice. At the end of the day, you don’t only train your ear but also your hands, fingers, and arm. Muscle memory is key. Only 5 minutes a day can make a big difference but it is also ok to put the cello aside for a week and then start with a fresh mind!

What do I learn from a cello teacher that I cannot learn from YouTube?

YouTube is a great platform, where you can find tutorials for thousands of things. But you don’t have feedback, which is so important for learning to play the cello. Also, in lessons with a teacher the student experiences the most powerful thing – playing music together in real-time, playing a written piece, or an improvisation. This will bring you further and accelerates the learning curve, promised.

What can go wrong when you learn to play the cello from YouTube or learning apps with no feedback?

Although cello playing is very logical, the nature of stringed bowed instruments is specific. On the piano, you can learn a song with YouTube tutorials, and it will sound fine. But with the cello, it’s more difficult to get the sound out of the instrument. There are also challenges such as the coordination between the left and right hand, the way the fingers of the left hand are placed on the fingerboard, and the holding position of the bow. Sometimes playing on stringed bowed instruments incorrectly can lead to pain in the arms or back. The teacher’s role is to help the student find a comfortable position that does not cause tension in the body.

What do your students typically learn in the first three lessons with you?

It’s about getting to know the instrument and becoming familiar with the cello. We explore the sounds and learn the first pieces. And of course, it’s important to get to know each other, the expectations, and the goals.


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