Student Corner

Practice is the single most important thing you need to do as a student to become better at cello. It has been said that even with great talent, it requires 10,000 hours to master an instrument. That is 2 hours a day for around 14 years! Although it may seem daunting at first, practice is a labor of love and a path to, not just mastery of the cello, but personal mastery that can be applied to all aspects of living. It is simply a way of life. Through practice we master our mind and our existence. It is a form of meditation that hones our focus and gives us the skill of great concentration.

It is pertinent not only that you practice, but that you practice correctly. How do we practice correctly? Correct practice is efficient practice. The goal is efficiency. Reduce the amount of time to complete our goals. There is such a huge body of music that we must master, it is crucial that we spend our time wisely, such that we have the time to take on the monolith of repertoire. Just playing a piece over and over, although you will see improvement, is not even 10% as effective as when an efficient method is applied. How do we practice efficiently? Here are a few steps that will point you in the right direction:

A Practice Method:

  • Record yourself.
  • Point out errors and develop a path to correcting them quickly.
  • Do not repeat errors without working on them.
  • Intonation can be fixed via a tuner.
  • Rhythm problems can be fixed with a metronome.
  • Rhythm problems can be fixed with clapping and counting and a metronome.
  • If you hit other strings (A and G mostly) they can be fixed by focusing on not hitting them.
  • Fix ONE PROBLEM AT A TIME. Focus. Focus. Focus.
  • Unwanted harmonics can be fixed with focus.
  • Weak attacks can be fixed with focus and applying good technique (a good teacher is crucial).
  • Inconsistent bow speed can be fixed with focus.
  • Practice in front of mirror

These are just a few of the things that can be worked on. There are hundreds of different focal points that can be thought about. Find the keywords that are strongest. These words become a mantra that you focus on while practicing. One problem at a time is crucial to fixing that problem. The cello is a subtle instrument. Attention to detail if so important.

There are 3 basic forms of music that we practice regularly.

We practice:

  • Repertoire (Sonatas, Concerti, Bach Suites, Solo Pieces etc.)
  • Etudes (Technical Studies)
  • Scales and Arpeggios

I get asked very frequently by students, “why do we practice scales?” The reason is simple, though perhaps not obvious. It is to develop our understanding of the cello and to create a vocabulary of different “dialects”. Each key is a new dialect that helps us have a good understanding of a piece before we even begin reading it. We will have good knowledge of which notes are likely to occur and in what patterns. Scales are crucial!

Etudes further develop patterns of understanding. They enable us to master difficult techniques and fingerings that we will encounter in the future. If you master Etudes and Scales you will be very near understanding most pieces before you even have played them once. That is why we learn them!

I have taken some time to record certain volumes for practice. You can find them here in mp3 format:

All for Strings 1:


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