Cello Beginner

Cello Beginner I: Week #6


We reviewed the quarter bow D major scale.  This is helpful to prepare for the rhythmic variety in Scarborough Fair.  Keep practicing the D scale in the various lengths we've learned in class.  Adding a metronome pulse as you play is particularly helpful.

We also reviewed the Scarborough Fair melody, part 1.  Keep practicing this slowly to coordinate bow changes and the fingerings.  Use the finger chart if it helps, but keep trying at least once per practice to play it without reading!  Your hands and ears learn a lot on their own if your eyes aren't reading.

Lastly, we reviewed part 2 of S.Fair, plucked.  

G scale

The G scale is exactly like D, just transferred down one string.  For our purposes, this is to prep for a couple notes we play in Scarborough (namely, 4 on the G). Here is the scale and recording for reference.  Play two notes to a pitch:

G0  G1  G3  G4  D1  D3  D4  D4  D3  D1  D0  G4  G3  G1  G0

Scarborough Fair, part 2 bowed

We went over the last section of S. Fair, open strings and with fingerings.  Remember our practice order: plucked, open bowed strings, bowed w/fingerings.  This will aid your mastery of the song and overall playing prowess tremendously if you do it in this order!

Open Strings, part 2:

A A-- A 2-- A A D D D G---- D D-- A D-- D D D G D---

Here’s a recording of that:  

Fingerings, part 2:

A4 A4-- A4 A2-- A0 A0 D4 D2 D1 G4---- D1 D0-- A0 D4-- D2 D1 D0 G4 D0---

We’re getting close to knowing the whole song!  You can play it all plucking this week.  Here’s a reference:


Notes on headspace

If you're ever feeling at any point that the class material is burning you out, or maybe you're just hungry for a little something outside of our curriculum, that's totally fine!  It's natural to want to just play the instrument without focus on technique and memorization -  this is music, after all.  Let yourself have fun with the instrument too.  Here are some suggestions for creative exercises you can try out:

  • Meditation Guru: Drone on the G or C (or whichever string is your favorite) and enjoy the sound and vibrations.  Treat it like a mantra or one of those ringing bowls, where you just focus on the sound and enjoy it.

  • Pop song replay:  Take a pop song or common tune you know/like and try to figure it out on cello.  Pluck it if the bow is slowing you down.  Some suggestions; Ode to Joy, Doe a Deer, New York by Alicia Keys, Falling Slowly from Once, anything by the Beatles.  Depending on the song this can be really challenging, but it is like calisthenics for your brain.

  • Horror movie soundtrack: String instruments are capable of some of the most horrifying sounds I've ever heard.  Play the cello "wrong" and discover some truly nasty sound effects.  A couple of my favorites: playing right next to (or on top of) the bridge with your bow; bowing the strings below the bridge, snap pizz the strings so hard that they thwack the fingerboard.  

  • Compose: Make up your own song!  Use the scales we learned for reference, or maybe part of the scarborough fair melody or rhythm.  A good trick to making your own music is to give yourself one or two perimeters (use the D major scale, only pluck, etc.) and go from there. It doesn't have to be Rihanna's next single or something you ever play for anyone else.  Let it be for you and just go with what sounds good to you.

Ginger DoldenComment
Cello Beginner I: Week #5


We reviewed the D scale, bowed.  Hopefully you'll be gaining a sense of familiarity and comfort at this point with the bow hold and left hand.  Still be mindful of your form, practice in front of a mirror, and check the pictures from previous posts.  If I've made any comments to you individually about form, focus on that especially. Practice form with the easy stuff (long tones and scales) before diving into the music!

We also reviewed part 1 of Scarborough Fair. Keep practicing in the following sequence: pluck the melody, bow the open strings, then put them together.  For each new section of the song, we’ll be applying this method.   

New: D scale, quarter bows

We learned to play the D scale with shorter bows.  Since Scarborough (and most music) has a variety of rhythms in it, it's good to practice using shorter bows as well.  Practice these with a short, scrubby motion like you're scrubbing the floor with a brush.  The scale can be one, two or four notes to a pitch. Here's a recording with 4 notes to each pitch:

Scarborough Fair

We learned the rest of the Scarborough Fair melody, plucked.  Here is the finger chart for that.

A4 A4-- A4 A2-- A0 A0 D4 D2 D1 G4---- D1 D0-- A0 D4-- D2 D1 D0 G4 D0---

Here's a recording of that:

Ginger DoldenComment
Cello Beginner I: Week #4


We reviewed the D major scale, bowed.  Please keep checking in with your left hand form!  Here are some important things to remember:

  • The fingers (and thumb) should all curve, the wrist should be straight, and the fingertips should come down on the string at a perpendicular angle. Practice the "superman" sequence to reinforce this form

  • When you lift the fingers, hover them just above the tapes  

  • For fingers 2, 3 and 4, the previous numbers should also be down and pressing on the string

Bow hand:

Everyone's bow hand is coming along nicely!  Check back in with the photos, and remember to lean into your pointer finger, not away from it.  Pronating is key; the sensation will feel like you're turning a door knob to the left with your right hand.


Scarborough Fair melody, part 1: Bowed

We learned to bow the melody of part 1.  First, we learned the bowing pattern without the fingerings (only playing open strings).  Here is that pattern:

D-- D A-- A  D DD D---- A A A-- A A A D A-----

And here is a recording of that:

After that, we bowed the melody with the fingerings.  Once again the finger pattern is:

D0-- D0 A0-- A0 D1 D2D1 D0---- A0 A2 A4-- A2 A0 A1 D4 A0-----

Here is a recording of that (with metronome):

As promised, here's a video that goes over everything we worked on in class this week!

Ginger DoldenComment
Cello Beginner I: Week #3

Hi  Everyone!  Here are the notes for the week.  


D scale, plucked - We learn this with the bow this week but practice it plucked first, then try with the bow.  Practice keeping your left hand fingers curved, matching with the tapes, and keeping your hand, arm and shoulder relaxed and neutral. 

Bow Hold - Keep working on your bow hold!  Make sure that the fingers are curved, the palm is open, and the fingers are where they need to be.  Most importantly, make time for this every practice session.  I promise it will get easier but we can't go anywhere on the instrument without it.

Long tone, D string - Practice the "hand glide" by tracing the bow stick with your hand, so your arm gets some practice moving in a straight line first.  Use medium speed to play the D string,  don't be afraid of weird noises but rather try to eliminate them by shifting the pressure, speed and location of the bow. 

Long Tone - A string

We learned a long tone on the A.  Notice that the A is a bigger reach - the elbow needs to lift up and open more as you bow.  Since it's a thinner string, it won't require as much pressure as the D to get a sound.  The A however is a finnicky string, so make sure your bow angle is forming a "+" on the string or else it won't sound as good!

D scale, bowed

We practiced playing the D scale with the bow.  Like the plucked version, we're playing two notes to a pitch.  Here are the fingerings again and  a recording to help you: 

D1  D3  D4  A0  A1  A3  A4  A4  A3  A1  A0  D4  D3  D1  D0

Scarborough Fair, Part 1: Melody pizz

We went over the first part of the melody for Scarborough Fair.  This week we'll be practicing pizzicato (plucking).  Here is a chart of the fingerings. The dashes indicate a note that's longer than one beat, and the number of dashes tell you how many beats to hold it:

D0-- D0 A0-- A0 D1 D2D1 D0---- A0 A2 A4-- A2 A0 A1 D4 A0-----

Here's a recording of that melody, with a count-off

And here it is again, with a metronome.  I encourage you to practice with a metronome individually. It helps a ton!

Ginger DoldenComment
Cello Beginner I: Week #2

Review - Bow Hold

This is one of the trickiest elements of cello playing, so have patience!

  • The fingers are curved and relaxed, not gripping the frog too tightly.  

  • There is a natural space between each finger; they are not squeezed together nor are they forcibly stretched out

  • The thumb is curved and its tip is touching right where the stick meets the frog (there is a natural “corner” that the thumb sits in)

  • The pointer finger is bent at the second knuckle and is curving around the stick of the bow.  The pointer is your “steering” wheel; it will help the bow stay straight and create volume.

  • The other fingers (middle, ring, pinky) are just naturally draped over the frog. Don’t overthink their position too much; they are just along for the ride and should stay relaxed.


How to practice: Pencil hold and lift reps

Practice holding a pencil with the bow hold grip. See below:

  • Make the “C” shape with your hand, fingers spread

  • Grip the pencil lightly in your fingertips

  • With your left hand, take the pencil out of your right hand and replace it with the bow.

  • Put the bow down, relax your hand, and repeat ad nauseum (at least 5-10 times)

Bow Grip reps

  • Once you’ve practiced the pencil-to-bow exercise 5-10 times (or until you’re ready to quit this class because cello technique is the worst), practice shaping your bow grip directly on the bow.

  • Hold the stick of the bow in your left hand (contrary to what this picture indicates, it’s not a good idea to touch the bow hair as that can make it rather dirty over time)

  • Drape your right hand over the frog and carefully make the bow grip. Take your time to make sure that each finger is curved and where it needs to be

  • Take your right hand off, relax it, and repeat

Once you’re feeling comfortable, try releasing your left hand and just holding the bow with the bow grip.  You’ll feel your pinky act as a counterweight to keep the tip from dropping.  Do not squeeze! It may feel like you’ll drop it but you won’t, I promise. If it does drop or slip, repeat the exercise above, making sure your fingers are where they need to be.

Long Tones

We practiced long tones, which are long, slow bows on the open strings.  This is one of the most fundamentally important exercises we’ll do.  If you practice nothing for the next 8 weeks, practice long tones.  That’s a joke, please practice everything, but ALWAYS start your routine with these!

Place your bow on the D string.  Your bow should be equidistant from the bridge to the fingerboard.  Note that your bow will be at the correct angle on the string if you see a cross-hair shape form between the string and the bowhair. See pictures below:






  • First practice bow glides: Place the bow on the string near its tip. How the bow tip with your left hand. Keeping the bow grip intact, glide your right hand along the stick back and forth. Observe how your right arm needs to move to follow the straight line of the bow stick.

  • Once you've tried that a few times, now place the bow on the string near its frog. Lean into your index finger so that you feel a little pressure build up between it and the stick.

  • Pull the bow across the string!

  • Move with a medium-ish speed, don’t be tentative

  • Watch that it stays straight - you’ll need to adjust your elbow and wrist as you bow to achieve this.

  • Apply a little more pressure with the index finger as you move out to the tip. Lighten it back up when you return

  • Repeat several times. Let your ears be the judge to adjust speed, pressure, location, etc. Feel free to explore with the sound!




















Ginger DoldenComment
Cello Beginner I: Week #1

Week # 1

Hey Everyone,

It was so great to meet you all this week. You all did great! As we mentioned, recaps will go live on the website after every session. It's a good way to help remember what we did and will help keep you up to speed in the event that you have to miss a class.

Parts of the Cello and Bow

I've attached a diagram showing the different parts of the cello and the bow. Most of this stuff you will pick up through context in class, but it will be helpful to review this sheet so you know what we are referring to as we go:

Parts of the Cello


Cello hold

We broke down holding the cello into a couple of steps last night. Here's the procedure we went through. Follow the chart and instructions below:

Cello Hold

Left Arm Position

Now that you’re sitting comfortably with your cello, let’s position the left hand on the fingerboard:

  • With your left shoulder relaxed, reach your left arm out in front of you, straight and strong (like a “superman” pose)

  • Curve your hand and fingers, as if you’re holding a soda can (keep your wrist neutral so you pour one out for your homie)

  • With the fingers still curved, bend the elbow and find the thumb and finger stickers on the cello neck with your fingertips. If you need to glance at the stickers that’s fine, but remember to return to a neutral position with your neck, shoulders and back.

  • Keeping the fingers curved, apply pressure with your four fingers while keeping the thumb pressure as light as possible.

  • See image below for reference. This is a great exercise to practice in front of a mirror. Check for curved fingers, a flat wrist, relaxed shoulders, straight head and back.

Left Hand Playing Position

Countdown on the D and A: Pizzicato

We learned to pluck (pizzicato) a left hand warm-up.  Refer to the diagram below for hand shape (minus the bow in hand).

Pizzicato Position

NOTE: While plucking this exercise, don’t worry if the sound is more of a “thump” than a ring; that will develop in time.  What’s important is that your posture, left arm and fingers, and plucking hand form are all correct.  Remember to breathe throughout the exercise and stay relaxed!

  • With all 4 fingers placed on the D, pluck the following pattern:
    4,4,4,4  3,3,3,3,  2,2,2,2  1,1,1,1,  0,0,0,0

  • Repeat on the A string.  

D Major Scale

We learned the D Major Scale on the cello. Scales are really useful musical exercises where you play all 8 notes of any given key in ascending and descending sequential order.  Fingerings and recordings are below. Pluck two notes per fingering:

  • D0 D1 D3 D4 A0 A1 A3 A4 A3 A1 A0 D4 D3 D1 D0


The first recording is with breaks, where I instruct the fingerings as we go.  Feel free to play along with the recording:

When you’re comfortable with the first recording, try the next one. This recording is without instructions and no breaks:


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