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Top 11 easy cello songs for beginners

The cello has given birth to some of the greatest musical works in history, as well as many of the best musicians of the past and present. Absolutely every cellist we admire was once a beginner and had to traverse the difficult path of learning to play the instrument.

Whether they’re world-famous or playing in their living room with friends or at a family gathering, they’ve learned these songs that one could argue are as important as the most iconic pieces. After all, they are the first rock you lean on to climb any mountain.

About me

Manuel Villar Lifac, writer at Higher Hz

Today, music is both my passion and my livelihood. Throughout my career, I have performed live in grand theaters, recorded with renowned international musicians, and composed and produced music for film and television.

Besides my enthusiasm for playing, I love teaching, a pursuit I’ve been dedicated to for over 15 years.

I was just a child when I started studying music, and since then, I developed an insatiable thirst for this art. Over more than 25 years as a cellist, I always strive to maintain the openness to learning that a beginner has.

This keeps fresh in my mind what it feels like to start while also providing the perspective of an experienced player.

How I chose the songs for this list

From this perspective, I have mostly selected the works I consider ideal for a beginner, having discerned what key factors need to be considered.

Most would say the first and most important thing to consider is that the song should be easy to play. But surprisingly, I disagree, and I’ll explain why.

Of course, if you’re a beginner, it helps if the music is easy, and the technical challenges you’ll face on the instrument are minimal. Still, there’s a crucial factor that is more important and has the highest priority: you must like the song.

Ideally, you should not only like it but be passionate about it, seduced by it, and have it awaken all your enthusiasm! Think about it: isn’t that why you decided to learn to play the cello in the first place?

It’s very common for beginners to choose songs based on what they consider easy, without considering the above point, a mistake that, unfortunately, is also very common among their teachers.

The problem is more serious than it seems. When you’re a beginner, it’s not easy to enjoy playing the cello because you have to overcome many musical and technical difficulties, and you can’t simply play fluently.

Learning a new instrument can be a very cumbersome task, especially in the initial stages, and this is something very important to acknowledge.

No matter how easy the piece you choose, what you have to do is incredibly difficult, and if the song doesn’t excite you, it’s very likely you’ll get frustrated quickly or give up the instrument altogether.

On the other hand, if the song you chose is not very easy but you’re extremely excited to learn it, you’re more likely to enjoy the process no matter how difficult it is, stay focused, and spend more time practicing more frequently.

A very important point I want to emphasize, which is in line with what I just said, is that if you’re a beginner, don’t spend too much time on exercises, scales, and etudes. Yes, they represent an important part of your learning, but in the right measure, which is small.

Bassist Jeff Bradetich explains this excellently in his book Double Bass: The Ultimate Challenge, which, of course, focuses on learning the double bass. However, I find that much of its content is simply wonderful when it comes to learning literally any instrument, whatever it may be.

Jeff shows us that both a beginner and an intermediate, a semi-professional and a master study exactly the same things, but in very different proportions.

For example, when you’re advanced and on the way to becoming a true professional, you must spend most of your time studying techniques. But when you’re a master and have an excellent technical level, it’s best to spend most of your time just playing music.

For a beginner, what’s most advisable is to spend the vast majority of your time playing songs, while the time spent on technique should be minimal. Initially, what matters most is developing your musicality, not your technique.

Here’s a list of the best cello songs and tunes for beginners:

  1. Minuets – J.S. Bach (Suzuki Cello 1)
  2. The Happy Farmer – R. Schumann
  3. Minuets – J.S. Bach (Suzuki Cello 2)
  4. Hunters’ Chorus – C.M. von Weber
  5. Musette from English Suite No. 3 – J.S. Bach
  6. Theme from Witches’ Dance – N. Paganini
  7. The Two Grenadiers – R. Schumann
  8. The Song of the Birds – Pablo Casals
  9. The Swan – Camille Saint-Saëns
  10. Élégie – Gabriel Fauré
  11. The Song of the Black Swan – H. Villa-Lobos

Minuets – J.S. Bach (Suzuki Cello 1)

Let’s start with the easiest pieces, those for true beginners, yet still among the best. When it comes to finding the best, I always turn to Johann Sebastian Bach. His music is so rich that I consider it especially suitable for nourishing oneself as a musician.

It’s not only good for your technical development if you’re taking your first steps with the cello but also excellent for your musicality. Simple, yet with all the depth Bach always offers.

It’s important to mention that these songs I’m citing are works by Bach adapted for the cello and especially for beginners, which is why I cite the source as the first book of the Suzuki Method.

This book is one of the most widely disseminated worldwide for teaching all string instruments.

The Happy Farmer – R. Schumann

This famous work by Robert Schumann was originally written for the piano and is a classic of the repertoire, although it’s commonly played on all types of instruments.

Its endearing melody is as cheerful as the title suggests, and besides being relatively simple, it’s very fun to play.

You probably won’t recognize the song just by hearing its name, but you’ll surely recognize it when you hear it, as it has been widely used in numerous audiovisual productions.

Minuets – J.S. Bach (Suzuki Cello 2)

If you enjoyed the previous Bach pieces and want to continue progressing, you can also play the Bach Minuets from the next volume of the Suzuki Method, gradually increasing the difficulty while maintaining the Bach style we love so much.

These pieces are as graceful as the ones we saw first, with the added element that they’ll be very useful for practicing shifting from first to second position.

Hunters’ Chorus – C.M. von Weber

This nice excerpt from Weber’s works is an excellent option to play when you are at a beginner’s stage and are looking to play something that demands a little bit more agility.

I find this piece to be excellent for learning to pivot between fourth, eighth, and sixteenth notes.

Another good quality of this piece is that it will introduce you smoothly into articulations such as accents and staccato.

Musette from English Suite No. 3 – J.S. Bach

This piece is perfect for continuing to learn the second position on the cello, with several shifts between the first and second position, only this time you’ll be doing it in G major.

It’s important at the beginning to practice positions in different keys to develop good finger placement, and this well-known melody is perfect for that.

Theme from Witches’ Dance – N. Paganini

An essential aspect to start incorporating is the different bow strokes.

Even if you already know how to play quarter notes, eighth notes, and sixteenth notes, the distribution of these rhythmic figures can result in very different bow strokes.

This piece by the famous violin virtuoso Niccolo Paganini will introduce you to the dotted eighth and sixteenth note pattern and the classic bow stroke used for this rhythmic figure, so commonly utilized in string instruments.

The Two Grenadiers – R. Schumann

This work by Schumann is not only very beautiful but also has the characteristic of being longer than the previous ones.

When you’re starting out, there’s a big leap to make when you want to move from playing very short pieces to pieces that have a more considerable length, as that’s training in itself.

Additionally, it’s a perfect piece for developing playing with different dynamics and expressions, as it has very clear intensity changes.

The Song of the Birds – Pablo Casals

After covering several songs for those at the most basic levels, we can afford to move on to works that are true cello classics and that we could even say are some of the best pieces written for the cello, despite their low level of difficulty.

Although these works are a canon of the cello repertoire, they can be tackled by those who already have some playing experience but still consider themselves at an entry level.

El cant dels ocells (The Song of the Birds) is a classic piece by the world-famous cellist Pablo Casals. Its melody has exceptional musicality, and it’s possible to play it using just a few positions.

This melody, played solo by a cello, sounds simply beautiful, even without accompaniment.

The Swan – Camille Saint-Saëns

This piece is another classic composed specifically for the cello, which is not only relatively easy but also one of the most famous cello pieces of all time.

I particularly recommend this piece for its musical development, which, as an instrumentalist, will demand a considerable level of interpretation and musicality.

Le cygne (The Swan) will take us to a much higher level of expressiveness than the previous works without having to overcome too many technical obstacles beyond position changes and good handling of long notes with the bow.

A good vibrato will be absolutely necessary in this song.

Élégie – Gabriel Fauré

Since we’ve been developing good vibrato and expressive playing with The Swan, what better way to continue than with Gabriel Fauré’s Élégie?

This melody is much sadder and darker and will require even better handling of vibrato, dynamics, and long bow strokes to smoothly connect the phrases.

This piece has some brief virtuosic passages, but they are much easier than they seem at first glance, and you’ll always be able to play the main melody of this classic.

The Song of the Black Swan – H. Villa-Lobos

Not as well-known as the previous ones, but definitely as beautiful and musical as them. The level of difficulty is similar, as are the technical obstacles to overcome to play it.

This Brazilian classic has a different sound, with a much more modern touch than the other pieces I’ve covered here, while still being a classic.

It’s always advisable to play works of very diverse styles when you’re starting out and not limit yourself too much to the same composers as always.

Final thoughts

These are just some suggestions based on my personal experience and the works that are the standard of the genre and instrument.

However, never forget that the best piece when you’re starting out is the one you most want to play, and many times it’s nothing more than any popular melody you like.

After all, the cello is the instrument most similar to the human voice and is perfect for playing the melodies sung by your favorite singers.

Whether it’s an essential piece of the classical repertoire or a song from the popular music repertoire, please feel free to mention it in the comments section.