Starting to play in positions on the cello can be daunting!
However, after you have played in first position for awhile, the other notes on the cello are begging to be learned! So many great cello repertoire pieces use positions and learning shifting can help you reach more notes, make playing across strings easier, and even avoid open strings if you want to.
1. Learn Cello Fourth Position
This method was written for adult learners and includes pictures and diagrams that help explain where fourth position is. Exercises and short pieces on each page work together to teach a skill. This book is available as a PDF ebook on www.learnstrings.com and as a print book on www.amazon.com.
Are your shifting books too hard?
These books have very easy studies that can make shifting an easier, more gradual process. Each study focuses on a single shift and the exercises progress slowly to allow you to get comfortable with shifting.
3. Free Preparatory Exercises for Pattern Shifting and Serial Shifting for the Cello
Half and Whole Steps
4. Study the Position Exercise Books
Preparing for Saint-Saens
The Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor is a work for cello and orchestra (or piano), written at an advanced level. Studying this Concerto often takes a year or more; it's a major work!
While there are no clearly marked or numbered movements, the Concerto does have three fairly distinct sections that might correlate with our idea of typical concerto movements.
Some techniques used in the first two movements are octave shifts, fast shifting (sometimes called "runs") into the high positions, double stop fifths and sixths, spiccato, and thumb position.
Free Saint-Saens Preparatory Exercises
These free preparatory exercises can help you get ready to start studying the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto. They work on some of the basic techniques needed to play the first few pages of the Concerto: bowing, octave shifts, chromatic scales, and more.
Books to study in preparation
The Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto is much easier to learn if you have acquired a solid grasp intermediate and advanced cello technique. You should be able to read bass, tenor, and treble clef and play in thumb position. You should have learned three-octave scales and it would be helpful if you have also studied octave shifts, double stop sixths, and double stop octaves.
Like these exercises? Now, you can learn the rest of the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto using a Study Book!
We are very excited to present this new release:
The Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1 Study Book for Cello, Volume One!
This past year Theresa Villani, a wonderful cellist and cello teacher, wrote and asked if I had any exercises for bowing on open strings for one of her students. I had a few pages of an incomplete book, which I was happy to share. She wrote right back and said "Please make a book out of these!" (Incidentally, that's how a lot of books get started; share your ideas on this page.)
Over the next few months, in between writing The Romberg Sonata in C Major Study Book and The Saint-Saens Concerto No. 1 Study Book for Cello, I got to work on the open string book.
After I had written about half of the book, I sat down play through it, rather reluctantly. It seemed almost a waste of time to sit and play through so many pages of just plain open strings.
But then I made some discoveries and found myself really excited about open strings!
1. Playing open strings really well is hard! They look easy (at least at the beginning of the book) but this is deceptive. Because the sound is so exposed, I found myself getting super picky with the sound I was producing. This in turn led me to work on fluidity in bow changes, relaxed wrist and fingers, and getting the string vibrating with the least possible motion from my hand.
2. Playing open string bow studies is a great way to isolate the bow, especially when you are struggling with note-reading. I have a student who started lessons a few months ago and was unable to adapt to note-reading. We started playing Open-String Bow Workouts and just a month later, he was reading all of his music much more easily.
3. Playing open string bow studies can help cellists at every level. I've used this book with a student who had just started playing a few months earlier and also with some of my intermediate and very advanced students. It helped them all, in different ways.
The beginning students used the book to discover what the bow can do. The intermediate students used it to listen more and improve their tone. And the advanced students played the slow exercises very slow and the fast exercises very fast to expand the range of their bow technique.
4. Playing so many open string studies gave me an incredibly smooth bow motion! I mean, wow. I was surprised and rather rueful; it was humbling to realize how much my bow can still use work.
To celebrate the release of the new book of Open String Bow Workouts, we are offering the above mini set of (all-new) cello open string studies for free!
When you play these, focus on correct form and how you're holding the bow. Keep the bow arm shoulder, wrist, and fingers as loose and relaxed as possible. The thumb should be gently balanced on the bow; never squeezing.
Listen for the smoothest, most even sound during each note and keep the bow moving at the same speed while you change bows so there is no variation in sound.
Cassia Harvey can't ever find or play enough exercises. She searches for rare and out-of-print studies and etudes in her free time. If you know of any, please let her know. Seriously; it's an obsession.