We are reader-supported. Links on our site may earn us a commission. More about us

How to play the cello?

If you are one of the people who has always been fascinated by the sound of the cello and you want to learn to produce the quality sound yourself, this is the text for you. You can start playing no matter how old you are!

playing the cello

The best start is to be well informed and arm yourself with patience because playing the cello is not the easiest thing you can learn, but it is extremely rewarding.

Don’t expect to be great from the start. This may sound harsh, but the cello is not a fixed-pitch instrument with a keyboard, like a piano, so it will take you a while to get used to the instrument and the way the tone is produced. We will list the things to consider at the beginning.

1. Find a mentor

By this, we don’t mean that you have to go to the nearest school and enroll, but rather you should think about what is the best option for you and explore the possibilities. One option is to find a private teacher or contact someone who is a professional cello player in your area.

If this is not an option for you, you can also look for a mentor online. With modern technology, there are more and more platforms that offer the possibility of learning one on one. However, if you like to research and learn on your own, you can start with the help of YouTube and material that you can find online.

2. Find the cello

When you start researching, you will realize that there are many options for buying a cello and that some of them are probably well above the budget you would like to set aside for an instrument you are just starting to learn. Don’t let that discourage you, because you can certainly find the right option for yourself.

The most obvious option is to buy a new instrument. That’s always a good option, but if we keep in mind that you need a bow, rosin, and maybe some spare strings to start with, it can all be a big expense. So we suggest you consider the option of renting a cello from a local luthier or even from someone who has an instrument they don’t use. This is a good option because you can test how much you like to play and practice the cello and later consider purchasing if you still want to.

Whichever option you choose, it would be good to consult with someone who has more experience with choosing the right size instrument.

3. Learn the basics

Now that you have a cello in your hands, you also need a suitable chair. It is important that there are no armrests and that you sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight.

Carefully unpack the cello and sit on a chair with your knees holding but not pressing the instrument. Your knees should be at the same level or slightly below your hips. Getting into this position will let you know that the chair is the appropriate height.

The next thing you need to learn is holding a bow, which we’ll show you in our video:

4. Cello tuning

The cello has four strings that are tuned to the fifths. The fifth is a certain distance between two notes; you will learn more about this when you start learning music theory.

In the beginning, it will be easiest for you to tune the cello with the help an applications that can tell you whether the tone you are producing is high or low. You will turn the peg in correlation to what the app is telling you.

You can see more about how you can tune a cello in our video:

5. Practice

After you have successfully tuned the instrument, you can finally start practicing. It is best to start with open strings, which means that you will not press the string with your left hand to get another tone. You can hear good examples on the Internet.

The goal is to get the same tone quality on all parts of the bow (which is demanding in the beginning), and it is achieved by a balanced distribution of the weight of the hand on the string. It is also important to ensure that you have a good contact point between the string and the bow.

When you think you have achieved a tone of sufficient quality, you can explore what a scale is and how you can play it on a cello. Although this is not the most fun, it is a very good base, and after a couple of weeks of practice, you will be able to try your hand at playing simple melodies, which will be much more exciting.

6. Cello maintenance

If you want the instrument to serve you well, you must keep it in excellent condition. It is recommended that you adopt some habits right at the beginning.

Always release the bow hair after playing. You will do this by loosening the screw (located at the beginning of the bow) a couple of times. Wiping the instrument and strings should also be part of your routine. You can use a plain cotton cloth for that.

Lastly, pay attention to where you keep the cello when it is packed. It would be good if it is leaning against the wall or standing in a corner, to avoid accidents that could damage the instrument.

In the end, it remains to be said that it is vital that you enjoy the process and have fun playing. The cello is an instrument that gives you many opportunities when you learn to play it, but like all good things in life, it requires work and patience.

If you want to find out more, visit our YouTube channel where, with the help of our tutor, you can learn a lot about the cello. Our channel will also offer more detailed information about what we’ve discussed in this article.