Cello Beginner

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:


Ginger DoldenComment