Are you a beginner cellist? Or just feeling like a beginner since you played 10 (or 20, or 30) years ago and took off some time to have a life?  You aren’t alone.  There are many cellists who start at 30, 40, 50 (me!), or later and find enormous pleasure in the pursuit of this extraordinary challenge.   In the same vein, there are many who played as youngsters for a few years who put down their instrument, only to be called back to it later in life.

Welcome or welcome back!  Now you are joining an orchestra (or cello choir, or  chamber group) and nervous about your entrance.  Here are some ideas to make it easier.

Be prepared.  You’ll feel better if you start off with the essentials.  Your instrument and bow, a rock stop, a stand, a pencil, rosin,  and maybe a stand light.   You’ll probably be handed a stack of music which looks impossible and you’ll be ready to bolt.  Don’t do it.  Be brave.

Look over the music.  Look at the key signature and time signature.  These are starting points for all your music.  If you see 3 sharps and you aren’t used to the key of A major, look around for all the G’s and mark them with a sharp so you’ll have a reminder.   The time signature tells you how many beats in the measure and what type of note gets one beat, so peruse the music.  If you’re playing 4/4, mentally count the beats- one for a quarter note or “one and two and…” for eighth notes.  It helps to have the rhythm going in your head.

Now make it easy on yourself.  You don’t have to play every note.  In fact, it’s good practice to play the first note of a measure (or a group of notes) and keep your eyes moving so you don’t get lost.  It’s a great skill to have and one that will be used throughout your cello life.   If you miss a note, no worries.  There are lots more.  Just keep your eyes moving and jump back in.   No one is paying attention to you because everyone is working as you are to play the music.

Finally, breathe.  Keep breathing.  It seems obvious, but when you tense up you may hold your breath and we all know breathing is good for you and your music.

Come back next session and you’ll find that you’re enjoying the music, the camaraderie, and your progress.  Welcome to making music with friends!

2 thoughts on “Be Brave

  1. David B Teague says:

    I’ve played something in the bass clef since I was a freshman in high school in 1951. Tuba in college bands through advanced degrees in math, a couple of seasons with the Charlotte Symphony on tuba (back when an amateur could play there). I was quite good, and could just play almost anything put in front of me.
    I moved to WCU and switched to string bass. I hacked at it for 30+ years and finally got serious with it. I found a real teacher who taught me to COUNT, to LISTEN to reference recordings, and LISTEN to my neighbors in the orchestra.
    Then I switched from 4ths to 5ths and that is another long journey that I may relate another time.
    Bottom line: Learn to count rhythms. THEN ALWAYS COUNT in everything you play.
    Listen to recording of what you want to play, and to recordings of yourself (but be kind to yourself), and LISTEN to your neighbors in musical groups.

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