The cello can be one of the most challenging instruments to pick up, but it’s never too late to start learning. Larger than a violin, the cello is a string instrument that appears in nearly every orchestral group and is an essential piece of a standard string quartet. Its large body creates a beautiful sound that can be used in both bass lines and melodies.
Both cellos and violins are similar in design, each with four strings primarily played using a bow or occasionally plucked. Due to their size, however, cellos typically cost more than violins of the same quality. The cello can also read music in bass, tenor, or treble clef, whereas violins are limited to just the treble. And while violins are positioned between the neck and shoulders, cellos are held upright.
Although most instruments can’t be mastered quickly, new cellists especially shouldn’t expect fast results or instant gratification. If you’re ready to begin playing cello, you should plan regular practice time over the next several years.
It will take around one to two years to learn the basics and two to four years to gain an intermediate skill level. But like any other instrument, mastering the cello will take a lifetime of learning.
Is It Difficult To Learn Cello?
Especially for adult beginners, learning to play the cello can be difficult at first. It’s not as easy as learning piano or guitar, but people with prior musical experience may pick it up more quickly. The difficulty will vary depending on the individual musician’s background and the style of music being learned.
Cellos are especially in-demand due to their versatility in musical styles and genres. They are most commonly thought of as classical instruments, often heard playing in symphonies. However, the cello has been featured in many other genres over the years including jazz, pop, and even rock music.
If a cellist is looking to play a simple pop song, the music may be straightforward and easy for beginners to learn. Classical pieces can range in difficulty, but they may take a bit more practice to pick up. If the desired song is a more complex jazz number, advanced skill levels and techniques may be required.
By starting with simple music and scales, new cellists can master the essentials before moving on to more complicated songs. Even the most advanced pieces are rooted in the basics, so regular practicing and continued dedication are key to making progress and growing as a musician.
Factors That Affect How Long It Will Take To Learn Cello
There are a variety of factors that typically affect the time it takes to learn cello. That being said, everyone learns differently, so there’s no exact science as to how long any person will need to become an expert cellist. If you’re looking to start playing the cello or wondering why you aren’t advancing as quickly as you’d like, consider the following circumstances.
Age is a significant factor when learning any new skill, and cello playing is no different. Children can typically pick up on new skills more quickly than adults due to the brain still being in its most flexible stage. Similar to how learning a foreign language as a child can be easier in the long term, the musical language is better understood in a human’s early years.
However, there are still many benefits to learning new instruments as an adult. In addition to having the focus and musical understanding to better grasp the cello, adult beginner has decided for themselves to begin learning without parental influence. It may, however, take a bit longer for a fully-developed brain to pick up on the new concepts.
Prior knowledge of music or already playing another instrument can accelerate some of the beginning stages of learning the cello. If the cello is the first instrument a person has learned, they’ll need to understand the basics of reading sheet music before cello-specific lessons can begin. Even knowing the best strategies to effectively practice is a skill that comes with time.
However, if a person already understands the basics of musical notation, reading cello music won’t be an entirely new skill set. If an individual already plays another stringed instrument like guitar or violin, manipulating the strings and forming proper hand positions will translate to the cello as well.
Like with any new skill, dedicating time to regular practice is essential to growing in the cello world. Many beginners may think practicing one to two times a week will be sufficient, but irregular practice can result in progress being lost between sessions, and it will take longer overall to become skilled.
In order to make the most of practice time, the cello should be played daily. The additional time will help speed up the learning process, and repetition helps cement in new techniques. Practicing should also be an efficient use of time; undivided attention, proper posture, and good technique should be a part of both regular songs and practice scales.
What is the Best Way to Learn Cello?
Thanks to technology, many instruments can now be self-taught through online lessons, articles, or videos. However, there are still many benefits to working with an instructor one-on-one or in a group. In addition to preference, the ideal style of cello lessons will depend on the musical background and learning aptitude of the student.
Learn Cello With an Instructor
Private lessons with a good teacher can help accelerate the process of learning the cello. An instructor can help with your hand position and show you how to hold the bow properly, ensuring you break any bad habits early on. They can also provide you with appropriate songs for your skill level and guide you on the most effective ways to practice.
While working with an instructor can be beneficial, musicians also need to practice daily in order to retain lessons and continue to improve their skills. However, being enrolled with an instructor can help hold students accountable for practicing between lessons and sticking with the instrument long-term.
Although private instructors can be extremely effective for beginners, hiring the right teacher can be considerably more expensive. One cello lesson typically costs $40 – $90 on average, but the exact price will vary depending on location, demand, and the teacher’s credentials. Cellists with advanced degrees will typically charge more, while college students or young adult musicians may be better suited for beginners on a budget.
Learn Cello On Your Own
Learning to play cello on your own is definitely possible, and it’s an ideal option for many people. Online cello lessons can be done from anywhere and are typically either free or fairly inexpensive. Although these videos make it easy for anyone to get started, having experience in another instrument such as a guitar can make the process a bit easier.
When attempting to learn the cello on your own, you’ll need to be diligent and disciplined in order to stick with it. Without an instructor, you’ll have to hold yourself to regular practice sessions, and people with little patience may give up if they don’t see significant progress early on.
Especially in the beginning, self-taught cellists need to ensure they’re learning to play with proper posture and technique in order to produce the right sound. Skipping over the basics can lead to poor cello playing, and bad habits can be hard to break down the road.
Be sure to start with skill-appropriate songs and incorporate scale practice into each playing session. With enough practice and dedication, you could become a skilled self-taught cellist in around two to five years.
Tips To Begin Learning Cello
Keeping the Cello In-Tune
To begin playing cello, you’ll first want to make sure the instrument is in tune. Using a tuner, adjust each string to the right pitch to ensure you can play the correct notes.
Rosining the Bow
Rosin is a substance similar to sap that creates friction between the bow and the strings, allowing the cello to create sounds. The bow should be rosined before playing and again every few hours during longer sessions.
Using a Floor Anchor
In order to prevent slipping during cello performance or practice, a rockstop or other floor anchor should be added under the instrument’s end pin.
Learning Basic Scales
Once you’re ready to begin to play the cello, be sure to start with basic scales. This helps with proper posture and technique before moving on to more complicated music.
Listening to Cello Music
Listening to cello music often can also help to improve ear training, which is essential to understanding your instrument. This can also introduce you to the different musical styles your cello is capable of.
Remember that learning an instrument is a lifelong journey, and the cello cannot be mastered in a matter of weeks. Be patient and continue to play, and it will get easier every day.
Is the cello harder than the violin?
Although the difficulty of an instrument is subjective, many musicians who play both report that the cello is actually easier to play due to its more natural position. However, it should be noted that since cellos are significantly larger than violins, playing it may be more difficult for children or people with smaller hands.
Can I learn the cello at 30?
Musical instruments have no age limit, and it’s never too late in life to learn a new skill. In fact, adults may be able to learn quickly due to their established musical understanding and ability to focus. Adults typically have an easier time sticking with the instrument as well since they’ve decided for themselves to learn to play the cello.
How long should a beginner practice cello?
While it’s absolutely essential for beginners, even seasoned cellists should plan to practice five to seven days a week in order to retain new skills and keep their technique sharp. Ideal practice sessions should typically run 30 to 60 minutes at a time to avoid physical injuries and mental burnout.
How long does it take to get decent at cello?
Many beginners, especially people who already play violin or guitar, are able to pick up the basics of cello in just a few weeks. However, it will definitely take longer to become truly comfortable with playing the notes and maintaining proper form. To be able to play the cello decently, it will likely take several years of regular practice and continuous improvement.