How to Play the Cello

By Contributor ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Cello Bows
  • Cello Cases
  • Cello Rosins
  • Cellos
  • Metronome
  • Music Stands
  • Pitch Pipes For Viola
  • Sheet Music For Cello
  • Straight-backed Chair

How to Play the Cello. The cello has a rich and sonorous baritone sound. It serves as the foundation of the string quartet. Between eight and fifteen of these instruments in a symphony orchestra immeasurably strengthen the bass section.

Fingering

Play with spaces between the fingers of your left hand to avoid tension. Squeezing fingers together produces tension.

Play with a flat wrist. Avoid a "high arch" angle.

Let your fingers naturally angle away from the fingerboard (the pinky should be the furthest away). When you need to use a finger, move your whole arm to allow the finger to reach.

Play with the fleshier part of your fingertips, but not with flat fingers.

Open your hand when you do vibrato. Avoid squeezing your fingers together.

Change fingers by rotating your whole hand, not by poking your fingers as if typing.

Keep your wrist in line with your forearm.

Move your left arm when shifting. During a shift upward, lift your elbow first as your arm does a natural circle downward in a clockwise motion.

Release your hand and shift to the note. Use the weight of your arm to move down the fingerboard.

Allow your elbow to do a circular motion counterclockwise when shifting back. Shift back as your elbow naturally rebounds upward.

Getting Started

Loosen and extend the floor peg of the cello so the cello body fits easily between your knees.

Use a pitch pipe or a piano to tune the instrument to match each string from the lowest to the topmost sounds of C - G - D - A. "A" is the top line on the bass clef staff. "C" is two ledger lines below the bass clef.

Place your right thumb at the side of the fingerboard near the bridge.

Place the pad of your index finger on top of the A string.

Apply slight pressure to the string and land on the neighboring D string. This is "plucking," or playing pizzicato.

Pluck the A string four times in a steady rhythm. Then pluck the D, G and C strings with a steady count or while using a metronome.

Speak the names of the strings each time you pluck to make a sound.

Place your left index finger three inches from the nut and your left thumb on the back of the neck.

Press the A string and pluck it. This note is "B."

Tip

Focus on the goal of knowing how each of the four strings sounds. Train your ear to recognize pitch changes and the qualities of sound. Sing the pitch of the string while speaking its name.

Warning

In pizzicato, draw the right index finger toward the palm of the hand to avoid picking the strings vertically. The string should not slap against the fingerboard. Always loosen the horsehair of the bow at the frog after a playing session. An adjustment of this tightening device is an unnecessary expense at the repair shop.

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