The violoncello or cello is a bowed or plucked string instrument with four strings.
Good posture is important when playing the violoncello (commonly known as the cello). The player should be relaxed, balanced, and comfortable, sitting upright on the edge of the chair. The cello is held between the knees, also resting on the chest, and the neck of the cello a couple of inches above the left shoulder. The length of the endpin should be such that it allows the cello to be at around 45 degree angle to the floor while resting on the player's sternum.
The player should warm up with exercises aimed at the flexibility and strength of the hands.
The bow should be drawn left to right (and back), parallel to the bridge. The best point of contact (hair on string) is half-way between the bridge and the end of the fingerboard. The goal is to produce a clear, resonant tone. For starters, the cellist should try to play on only one string, playing repeated notes of equal length, until the sound is good and the bow hold becomes more familiar.
Start by playing repeated notes on every string, then combinations of alternating strings. Different rhythm patterns can be used.
Putting force into the bow and having a strong hold is very important to the sound that it produces on the string. If you are unsure if you are playing the wrong note do not play quitely because this causes you to make a very screechy abd sound on the strings.
To practice putting force into the bow try this : hold it with your fist instead of your fingers. Now bow. Do you hear/feel the difference? Now hold the bow by the tip and bow, the frog puts weight on the bow to make a nice sound across the strings. Now hold the bow normally, flex your fingers and try to recreate the sound you just had. This does not mean to press down too much but to apply correct and even pressure on the strings during the whole bowing action.
The cello strings are, from highest (thinnest) to lowest (thickest): A, D, G, and C.
Fingers are numbered thus:
- First finger - index finger
- Second finger - middle finger
- Third finger - ring finger
- Fourth finger - little finger
The thumb is also used, mostly in upper positions.
When the left hand is placed next to the player's chin, it is called first position. There are five "neck" positions (1/2 through 4th), three "transitional" positions (5th-7th), after which there is "thumb" position (thumb comes from under the neck and is positioned on top of the strings, while the 4th finger rarely plays). The positions grow in number as the player's hand moves toward the bridge of the cello.
Thin tapes or stickers can be used to mark the placement of fingers on the fingerboard and increase consistency of intonation. As this becomes more secure, visual reminders can be removed, and the player relies on listening for good intonation.
Left hand fingers should be perpendicular to the string ("little hammers"), stopping the string on the fingerboard, in order to produce a clear pitch. The left hand thumb is positioned behind the second finger, centering the hand and facilitating extensions (stretches) and vibrato. The hand should not squeeze the neck of the cello.
Scales and finger exercises are fundamental to left hand technique and knowledge of the fingerboard. They should be practiced regularly, with centered intonation, and projecting sound. A variety of bowings and rhythms can be used.