Getting Started with Beginner Cello Lessons

A new student playing cello for the first time!
A new 9-year-old student playing cello for the first time!

Thinking about starting your child (or yourself!) with cello lessons? Fantastic! Here is some advice for getting started.

1.  Definitely take lessons – Playing cello with correct form does not come naturally. Without regular instruction, you are bound to get started with some bad habits that could lead to pain, injury, and failure to advance your skills down the road. It is much easier to start out with good form than it is to fix problems later. Even if you’re not sure how serious you or your child are about playing the cello, you should begin with weekly lessons in order to get started on the right foot.

2. Rent an instrument – Even the “cheapest” cellos are expensive. Don’t lock yourself into a purchase when you are just getting started. Children generally need to start out on a smaller-sized instrument and progress toward a full-size cello as they grow and get stronger. Go to a local violin shop (I recommend Quist Violins in Bellingham), and they will measure you for the correct instrument size and set you up with all the equipment you need (cello, bow, case, rosin, etc.). You will pay a reasonable monthly rental fee, which will credit you toward the purchase of a cello if you choose to buy at a later time. After a year or two of renting, if you decide to continue with your cello studies, at that point you should consider purchasing an instrument. If you decide not to continue, all you have to do is return the cello and stop renting – much less hassle than trying to sell a cello.

3. Be sure you have time to practice – When you are starting out, it’s really important to practice frequently. The good news is that you don’t have to (and really shouldn’t) spend a lot of time in each practice session. It is much more productive to spend 10 or 15 minutes every day than it is to spend an hour once or twice a week. If you are not able to commit to frequent practice, you may have trouble making any progress on the cello, which can be frustrating. So make sure you have a little bit of time to dedicate to this new pursuit. I am happy to keep teaching in cases where the student isn’t practicing much – we can still have fun making music and keep working at it together, but, to be honest, the student isn’t likely to make a whole lot of progress.

4. Have some patience – Every cellist starts out sounding…well…the opposite of how Yo Yo Ma sounds. This is because it takes time to get your cello to produce a nice sound, for your fingers to be strong enough to completely stop the string to make a note sound solid, for your ear and coordination to get the notes to be in tune, for you to be able bow a note without making a scratchy sound or hitting more than one string. It is important to keep at it and keep practicing in order to make progress, and eventually it will all come together. Because it will come together!

If you have any questions about getting started playing the cello, please contact me at

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Cello Lessons in Skagit County, Bellingham

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