First Lessons

November 23, 2009

My first three lessons were an interesting amalgam of excitement, new ideas, and disappointment.

First Lesson #1

This lesson covered very basic information about how to carry the cello, how to remove it from and return it to its case, and a basic review of the parts of the cello and bow. A brief introduction to playing pizzicato was also covered.


Cellos are fragile and no part is more easily damaged than the bridge. Care should be taken to not strike the cello against doorways, poles, chairs, et cetera. Ideally the cello case should be carried on your right side with the bridge facing away from you. This puts the scroll (or head) of the instrument in front of you where it can be seen, and very little of the cello behind you. Some cases, mine included, have a number of handles on them which would allow for alternative carrying positions, including a "bear hug" where the cello is carried vertically making it less susceptible to striking narrower openings.


While I have a soft case it is possible (and perhaps desirable) to purchase a hard sided case. When removing or return the cello to its case as much as possible use the neck of the instrument as a handle. The varnish on the rest of the cello is an important part of its sound and the less it is handled the longer the varnish will last.


We only played very briefly using pizzicato, or plucking the strings. The right thumb is placed against the fingerboard and the strings are plucked with the end joint of the right forefinger, or number one finger in cello parlance. (Having learned just enough of piano to number my thumb #1, switching to another numbering system is interesting.) Since the strings will likely have rosin residue on them where the bow operates (between the end of the fingerboard and the bridge) pizzicato is done over the fingerboard.

Lessons #2 and #3

The first instructor I had was seemingly only able to teach the same material in the same manner to her students. When I objected to her insistence that I carry the cello in her prescribed manner, even after I explained a physical limitation that made her method untenable, she wasn't able to adjust. So I sought out a new teacher.

My new teacher was far more relaxed in his approach than the rather frenetic and chaotic style of the first instructor. Unfortunately he was lacking in a solid teaching background and I wasn't satisfied in learning from someone who themselves was still learning. It felt like very basic things were being glossed over and I was unhappy with his lack of pedagogical  approach.

Even though I only had two lessons with my second teacher, I did pick up some information.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.