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Top 10 Pointers for Studying the Cello - Alex Simring

Updated on March 5, 2014

Learning Cello by Alex Simring

This is what I suggest if you want to learn a musical instrument. More about the author Alex Simring can be found at his personal website.

Have you ever thought of performing the cello? Will the cello be right for you? Will it be a while before I'm playing my first tune? The following is a guide to understanding the cello.

1. Should I be playing the cello? Consider long and hard about whether or not this is a trip that you want to commit to, or if this is just a spur of the moment decision. There will be some formidable devotion required, and performing the cello is not inexpensive! If you have always adored the sound of the cello and have half an hour each day reserve, consider starting immediately.

2.What is the ideal time to start learning the cello? If you are thinking about whether to teach your kids the cello, the youngest age would be 3 years old, but 4-5 years old would possibly be more appropriate. I started playing the piano from age 4 and then began the cello at age 5. I consider commencing with the piano is the best strategy for any kid to start a string instrument. It supplies the chief beginnings and may even lead to relative pitch. The piano is a comparably straightforward thing to begin, and a great base for the more difficult task of playing the cello.

3. is it too late to embark upon performing the musical instrument now? Definitely not! It is never too late to start playing any musical instrument, although the ideal age is probably prior to 10. There are many examples of late onset cellists, such as John Holt who began the cello at age 40. Granted that you may not become a world famous performer, beginning to play the cello when older has bounteous advantages. I reckon that performing the cello at age 40 is a very different experience compared to performing at a younger age. I have greater musical grasp and experience, and I consider this enhances my pleasure in playing the cello.

4. How big should the cello be?

That will depend on how old are you?:

1/8 size - 4 to 6 years old
1/4 size - age 5 to 7
1/2 size - age 7 to 11
3/4 size - 11 to 15 years old
4/4 size - age 15 and older

Another way to judge would be based on height.

1/8 to 1/4 size -below 4 feet
1/2 size - 4 to 4 1/2 feet
3/4 size - 4 1/2 to 5 feet
4/4 size - 5 feet and more

5. Should I rent or buy a cello?
Hiring a cello is strongly recommended for your first musical instrument. The cello will come with a bow and a case. The case can either be a soft cloth case or a lightweight fibreglass case. Do without cumbersome wooden cases at all costs, as the musical instrument itself is heavy enough. Consider wheels for the cello case if heavy lifting is not likely to be possible. Cellos can be rented at several music stores, but perform an online search for "rent cello" to discover a regional store.

Alex Simring has written some more about how to learn the cello.

6. Do I need anything else?

Make sure that you have something to hold the music, a device to stop the cello from slipping, something to play and something to give grip to the bow - in other words a music stand, a doughnut, resin and some music. Getting an extra set of strings is optional, albeit probably not essential at the very beginning. Hold out against the temptation to buy lots of educational books and music, unless you intend on learning the musical instrument completely on your own. Another plan of attack is to delay doing anything before speaking to a musical instrument instructor, who would be better suited to telling you where to get your musical instrument and other tools from. They can also provide you with music or make recommendations about what to pick up.

7. Is getting a cello teacher worth it?

Certainly. I would endorse it, particularly if you are serious about figuring out the musical instrument. A good place to commence seeking out a music lecturer would probably be a Conservatorium of Music. Instead of trying to find a music guide on-line, I consider it is a much better solution to go to a center of musical excellence. A major institution similar to the College of Music can cater to instrumentalists of all skill levels, including adult starters. They at least will consistently be able to guide you in the right direction. You may decide you only need a few lessons to get started, help pick an instrument and foster a repertoire. Lots of people do this on a regular basis for several months, and then have a lesson from time to time. For younger pupils, weekly lessons are suggested. No book or video can properly demonstrate how to perform the musical instrument. Expert tuition is compulsory. Find an educator you are moved by and this will provide the desire and counseling which is imperative for success.

8. The anatomy of the cello

The following is an outline of the structure of the cello.

Scroll - the scroll is the ornamental curve found at the top of the cello.

Pegs - The 4 stings of the cello wrap around the pegs. Sometimes the peg is used to tune the pitch of the musical instrument, even though it is more common to tune the cello with the fine tuner found below the bridge.

Fingerboard - This is the long part of the cello that is attached to the body.

Strings - the four strings runs down over the fingerboard, passing over the bridge and attaching to the tailpiece. The pitch of the open strings are C, G, D and A.

Bridge - The bridge is found at the middle of the cello, and elevates the strings above the fingerboard.

F-Holes - The F-holes are where the sound comes out of the cello.

Tailpiece - the tailpiece is found at the end of the cello. Usually made of plastic and is designed to hold the strings.

End pin - the spike comes out from the end of the cello. It is usually made of metal and is pointed and it holds up the cello to prevent it from slipping.

9. What position is the cello held?

This is best demonstrated by your teacher. Learning how to do things the right way is particularly important at the beginning, and you should start off your cello trip with poor methods which become engrained permanently!

Pick an appropriate chair, preferably a seat without arms. Make sure the posture is upright and the back straight. Keep the muscles of the upper back loose. To feel this, try the following. Bring your shoulders up to your ears and feel how unnatural this is, and then bring the shoulders all the way down. This is the natural position for your shoulders to rest.
The cello should sit on the chest. The neck of the cello should be gently resting on the left side of your neck. The peg for the C string should be near your left ear. You can adjust the endpin in relation to your height or the height of your seat so that you'll be comfortable while playing. Sitting at the edge of the seat gives you slightly further control. The left fingers rests on the strings with the thumb positioned behind the fingerboard. Remember not to put too much pressure on the thumb - the thumb should only be placed with gentle pressure.

10. Good bow technique?
Holding the bow is not complicated, but it is extremely arduous to pick up proficient technique, and your mentor will aid and explain how it's accomplished correctly.

The way the bow is structured will give clues as to how best to hold the bow.. The top of the bow is called the tip and the other end is the frog. The bow is held in the right hand at the frog, and this has a screw which can be used to loosen or tighten the hair of the bow. Resin is generally applied to the bow hair prior to commencing a playing session, and this gives some stability to the bow to allow it to have adhesion on the strings.
The thumb and index finger form a C shape with the other fingers resting gently on the bow. Make sure to keep the grip gentle and rounded, but firm enough to hold the bow with control. The thumb will be on the frog, and there is often a small dot indicating where to place the thumb.

If you have ever thought of picking up the cello, why not begin now? The musical instrument can be begun at any age, and gives a terrific musical outlet. It's challenging but can also be a journey you won't regret. The single most important thing to know about playing the cello is about tracking down a competent trainer who can steer you in the right direction. Important information will be given to you about how best to pick up a cello. Suggestions will be made as to which music you desire to embark upon your repertoire with. You will be provided skillful schooling as to methods to play the cello. And most importantly, you will gain the encouragement of your teacher and if possible come part of the musical society. Playing solo musical instruments is wonderful, but I favor orchestral work and string quartets.

Alex Simring Cello Anatomy

Alex Simring cello 1

Alex Simring Bridge
Alex Simring Bridge | Source
Alex Simring Fingerboard
Alex Simring Fingerboard | Source


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    • Doctor Kristy profile image

      Kristy Callan 

      9 years ago from Australia

      A very comprehensive guide. you clearly know what you are talking about.

      I liked the example of John Holt, the cellist who started playing when he was 40. It gives hope to the rest of us who are past the age of ten! Five was a young age for you to start. You must be really good by now!

      It's a good youtube video about the parts of the cello, so well done on making that.

      I'd love to watch a video of you actually playing the cello. I'm sure it'd thoroughly impress anyone considering taking up the cello, and maybe convince them of what a good idea it is. It's one of the most beautiful instruments in my opinion.

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      What an interesting intro to learning the cello. Voting this Up and Useful.


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