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Learning the cello

The cello has been an instrument favorite of mine for many, many years. One day I woke up and thought, I want to learn the cello. Ok, maybe it was a more gradual decision, but the short of it is I made a decision. I was going to become a cellist. I thought I’d share my journey so far with the hope my struggles become useful to others.

Looking down at the strings and the bridge of the cello

Starting out on this venture I reached out to the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center (PMAC). They started off (kindly) by letting me know I wouldn’t be able to start lessons without the instrument (of course). Through this interaction, I came to find out that there are different size cellos! It was so much easier when I was in grade school and my band teacher ordered my instrument for me. I scoured the internet for some guidance on what size I needed. The tricky part for me was the sizing charts base the size of the cello on the age of the student and assumes that the age falls in with their height. But as an adult and still being the height of a kid, it wasn’t as straightforward. I ended up going with a 3/4 size cello even though my age on the chart said otherwise.

Through the recommendation of the ladies at PMAC I reached out to Ralph’s House of Music, in Dover, where Ralph himself ordered the cello for me from an online rental company, Music & Arts. Within a couple of weeks the cello arrived and my journey of learning how to play the instrument began.

I began lessons right away but I quickly found difficulty with coordinating the proper way to hold the bow. I also had other questions start to multiply ‘Am I sitting correctly? Is my arm relaxed? Why am I playing two strings when I only want to play one? Are my fingers in the right position…’ so many questions. Back to the internet for some clarification! I spent hours watching YouTube videos on bow hold alone. I not only worked on finding as much information on technique as I could but I also looked through the lists of beginner music books to help me along. I found artists that inspired me and listened to them intently.

I am still taking lessons and practicing as regularly as time allows. I even played my first solo in front of a group of supportive adults who are also learning instruments for the first time. I may even join a string group in the new year. If you find you are ready to learn the cello, I’ve included some links that may help you on your way.

Happy Playing!

Cello size guideline:

Finding the Right Size Cello

Instrument Rentals:

Ralphs House of Tone in Dover, NH

Music & Arts

Lessons in Portsmouth, NH:

PMAC – Portsmouth Music and Arts Center

Tuning  + Metronome Apps:


Metronome by Soundbrenner

Tuning  + Metronome Hardware:

Korg TM-50 Combo Tuner/Metronome


Prodigy cellist Sujari Britt – be ready to be amazed!

“Stranger Things” Cello Medley – Nicholas Yee

Takénobu performs “Moonshine Still”

Apocalyptica – ‘Cello Lesson’ – Video Webisode 8/11 of ‘7th Symphony’

Take On Me – a-ha – Brooklyn Duo at Carnegie Hall

Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?

Bohemian Rhapsody – String + Piano Cover – Brooklyn Duo ft. Dover Quartet

Music Books:

Essential Elements for Strings – Book 1 with EEi: Cello

First Position Scale Studies for the Cello, Book One

Suzuki Cello School Cello Part & CD, Volume 1 (Revised Edition)


Bow hold thumb placement

Cello Lesson: A Relaxed Bow Hold

How to Hold a Cello Bow : Cello Lessons

First Position Tutorial for Cello | Sarah Joy

How To Put 1st Position Tapes On a Cello for Cello Beginners

First Finger Position : Cello Lessons

How To Make a Better Cello Sound | Sarah Joy

Scales and notes:

How To Music – C, G, and D Major Scales On the Cello | Sarah Joy

Cello Hacks: Grade 1 Scales and Arpeggios

Getting Started Reading Cello Sheet Music

One Response to “Learning the cello”

  1. Stephen Koscica

    As long as one has the sincere desire to learn, learning to play an instrument will be ‘easy’. You don’t have to slave away at practicing all day, but getting 30-60 minutes at will quickly ‘add up’ for you and your cello over time. Finding a good teacher that knows how to keep your enthusiasm going and at the same time show you (in person) how he/she does these physical things, makes it all far easier.


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