Beginner's Guide: 8 Tips to Learn Classical Cello
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. Choose the right cello for you
  2. Find a teacher that suits your style
  3. Listen to a lot of classical cello music
  4. Learn to read sheet music
  5. Practice the proper posture
  6. Start with simple scales
  7. Practice regularly
  8. Be patient and persevere

Imagine being able to create waves of emotion with just a bow and four strings. Dream of resonating the profound melodies of the likes of Bach or Vivaldi. If you've ever wondered how to play cello for classical music, you're in the right place. This beginner's guide will provide you with eight clear and straightforward steps to help you start your journey.

Choose the right cello for you

Just like a good pair of running shoes can make or break your run, the right cello is crucial to your learning experience. But how do you know which cello is the right one for you when you're just starting to learn how to play cello for classical music?

First, consider the size. Cellos come in various sizes, and the right size for you largely depends on your height and arm length. For an average adult, a full-size cello (4/4 size) is typically the best fit.

Second, consider the quality. While you might be tempted to go for the cheapest option, remember that a very low-priced cello could mean a compromise on sound quality. A reasonable budget for a beginner's cello is somewhere between $200 to $2000. Brands like Cecilio, Stentor, and Cremona all offer good quality beginner cellos within this range.

Finally, remember that the cello you choose now won't be your lifetime companion. As you grow as a cellist, you may want to upgrade to a better instrument that matches your improved skills. So, don't worry too much about getting the perfect cello right from the start. What's important is that you start somewhere!

Choosing the right cello for you is the first step in learning how to play cello for classical music, and it's a step that deserves your time and attention. Remember, it's not just about buying an instrument—it's about choosing a partner for your musical journey.

Find a teacher that suits your style

So, you've got your cello. Now, let's talk about finding your Yoda, your Mr. Miyagi—your cello teacher. If you're wondering how to play cello for classical music, a good teacher is key. They will guide you, correct your mistakes, and inspire you to push your limits.

But remember, not just any teacher will do. You need someone who suits your learning style. Are you someone who learns best by doing, or by watching? Do you prefer a teacher who's strict and pushes you, or someone who's laid back and encourages you to explore at your own pace? These are all important factors when finding the right teacher for you.

Another aspect to consider is the teacher's expertise in classical music. If you're keen on learning how to play cello for classical music, it's essential to find a teacher who is well-versed in this genre. They'll teach you the nuances of classical pieces and help you understand the emotions behind them.

Remember, the teacher-student relationship is a two-way street. Just like you, your teacher is also a person with their own teaching style and personality. Finding the right match might take some time, but don't rush it. The right teacher can open your mind to new possibilities and deepen your love for the cello.

Listen to a lot of classical cello music

It's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the case of learning how to play cello for classical music, it's also a fantastic learning tool! The more you listen to classical cello music, the more you'll understand the nuances of this beautiful instrument and its place in the orchestra.

Listen to the great cellists like Yo-Yo Ma, Jacqueline du Pré, or Mstislav Rostropovich. Pay attention to how they draw out the emotion in each note, how their bow strokes vary, and how they engage with the music. Listen to their interpretations of the same piece and notice the differences — music, like language, can be spoken in many dialects.

Listening should be a part of your daily routine. You can listen while you're commuting, working, or winding down for the day. This isn't just enjoyable — it's training your ear and helping you understand the sound you're aiming for when you play.

Remember, it's not just about the notes on the page, but how those notes are played. So tune in, listen closely, and immerse yourself in the world of classical cello music. You'll be amazed at how much it helps your playing.

Learn to read sheet music

The roadmap to playing any musical instrument is the ability to read sheet music. If you're wanting to know how to play cello for classical music, understanding sheet music is your starting point.

Sheet music is essentially a series of written instructions, telling you what notes to play, when to play them and how long to play them for. It's a universal language that enables musicians all over the world to play the same pieces of music, exactly as they were written, regardless of their mother tongue.

Don't let the rows of lines and strange symbols intimidate you, it's actually quite straightforward once you get the hang of it. There are plenty of resources available online that break down the process into manageable chunks.

Start by learning the basics: what each note looks like and where it's placed on the staff. Then move on to understanding timing, key signatures, and eventually dynamics and articulations. It's a process, and like anything worth doing, it takes time. But once you've mastered it, you'll have the key to unlock any piece of music.

Learning to read sheet music will open up a world of possibilities for you. Not only will it help you to play classical cello music, but it will also give you the independence to explore other genres, compose your own music, or even join an orchestra. So, take a deep breath, grab some sheet music and start deciphering those cryptic notes.

Practice the proper posture

When learning how to play cello for classical music, remember that the cello isn't just an instrument—it's an extension of your body. This is why maintaining proper posture is so important.

First things first: sit up straight. Slouching or hunching over your cello can lead to discomfort or even injury, and it won't do your playing any favors either. So, sit tall, keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed.

Your cello should rest against your chest, with the C peg (the one closest to your head) around your left ear. Your knees should be bent at a comfortable angle, with your feet flat on the ground. The cello's lower bouts (the curved parts near the bottom) should rest between your knees—this will give you stability and control.

As for your hands, your left hand should form a "C" shape around the cello's neck, with your thumb resting against the back. Your fingers should be curved and relaxed, ready to press down on the strings. Your right hand, meanwhile, will hold the bow. The grip should be relaxed—imagine you're holding a small bird: tightly enough that it can't escape, but gently enough that you won't hurt it.

Proper posture might feel strange and uncomfortable at first, but like any new skill, it gets easier with practice. So be patient with yourself, keep at it, and soon enough, it'll feel as natural as breathing.

Start with simple scales

Once you're comfortable with holding the cello and maintaining the correct posture, it's time to start playing. And there's no better place to start than with simple scales.

Why scales, you ask? Well, scales are the building blocks of music. They'll help you understand how notes relate to each other, improve your finger placement, and increase your familiarity with the cello's fretboard. Plus, practicing scales is a great way to warm up before diving into more complex pieces.

Start with the C Major scale, which is one of the easiest to play on the cello. It starts with the C note (the second thickest string), and simply goes up and down the notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C and back down again. Remember to use your left fingers to press down on the strings, and your right hand to move the bow across the strings.

Once you've got the hang of the C Major scale, try moving on to other scales. The G Major scale, for example, is another good one for beginners. It's just like the C Major scale, but it starts on the G note (the thickest string).

Practice your scales slowly at first, paying attention to the sound of each note. With time and consistent practice, you'll start to play them more smoothly and quickly.

Remember, becoming proficient at playing the cello—like learning anything new—takes time and practice. So, don't rush. Enjoy the process and take pride in your progress, no matter how small. Before you know it, you'll be playing your favorite classical pieces with ease.

Practice Regularly

Now that you've gotten your feet wet in the world of classical cello, the journey to mastery truly begins. One of the keys to learning how to play cello for classical music is regular practice.

Keep in mind that practice isn't just about the quantity—it's about the quality. It's better to have shorter, focused sessions than to mindlessly play for hours. Aim to practice a little bit every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. This consistency and repetition will help reinforce what you've learned and build muscle memory.

During your practice sessions, work on different aspects of your playing. Spend time on scales, exercises, and pieces. Revisit challenging sections and don't shy away from them. It's through tackling these tough spots that you'll grow as a cellist.

A good practice session should leave you feeling accomplished and a little bit challenged. Remember, progress might be slow, but every minute you spend practicing is a step forward on your cello journey.

So pick up your cello, find a quiet spot, and start playing. Because every practice session brings you one step closer to playing classical cello music just the way you dreamt it.

Be Patient and Persevere

Learning how to play cello for classical music isn't a race—it's a marathon. Patience, therefore, is a critical part of your musical journey. You might not nail that tricky Bach suite or perfect the Elgar concerto in a day, a week, or even a year. And that's okay. Remember, even the most celebrated cellists started from scratch, just like you.

There will be moments of frustration when a piece you've been practicing for weeks still doesn't sound right. Times when your fingers refuse to land on the right notes, or your bow doesn't glide as smoothly as you want it to. When these moments come—and they will—remember to be patient with yourself.

But patience alone isn't enough. You also need to have perseverance. Keep going, even when it feels like you're not making progress. Because the truth is, even on days when you feel stuck, you're still learning. You're still becoming a better cellist.

Each note you play, each scale you master, each piece you conquer—it all counts. And before you know it, you'll look back and be amazed at how far you've come. So remember, be patient, persevere, and keep making beautiful music with your cello. The journey to learning how to play cello for classical music is as beautiful as the destination itself.

If you enjoyed our beginner's guide to learning classical cello and want to continue exploring the world of classical arts, we recommend checking out 'Classical Painting in the Modern Day' by Eric Drummond. While the focus is on painting, the workshop can offer insights into the broader world of classical art and may inspire your approach to learning the cello.

Additionally, don't forget to explore Daisie's classes to find more resources and workshops that can help you on your creative journey.