One of the best ways to map the fingerboard for your mind and fingers is by learning scales. Three-octave scales, in particular, can be used to teach nearly all of the notes on the cello.
When I saw how well the exercises worked, I just knew that I had to find a way to use that same concept to teach cello scales.
I started writing studies for a three-octave G major cello scale and tried them with several students who had never played a three-octave scale before.
I wasn't surprised when they figured out the exercises; it was a pretty easy concept. But I was absolutely shocked when, at the end of playing the 4 pages of G scale exercises, those same students were able to play the scale straight through, without stopping, and in tune!
Before this, I had wheedled and cajoled and talked my students through their initial 3-octave scales. And, after they finally learned the scales, some of them played scales in tune but some just didn't.
This book was a game-changer for me and my students, cutting out months and years of frustration, and helping them master entire three-octave scales in all of the major and minor keys.
If we take time to think about the steps in scales and teach them to our fingers, it is possible to truly learn scales, play more in tune, and play in tune more consistently.
To celebrate the release of Learning Three-Octave Scales on the Cello, this post gives you the major scales written out with all of the whole and half steps so you can think about and remember each space.
And if this whets your appetite for scale mastery, check out the new cello scale book!
Tips for Playing Cello Three-Octave Scale Steps
II = D string
III = G string
IV = C string
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!
I fell in love with the Romberg Cello Sonatas when I started using them regularly as teaching pieces. It took me awhile to fully the understand the breadth of cello technique that Romberg teaches in his Sonatas but when I did, I was entranced.
From shifting and positions to rhythm patterns and bowing challenges, the Sonatas gave my students a music experience that prepared them for much of what is to come in cello study.
Students would finish studying a Romberg Sonata and be playing at an entire level or two above their original level when they started the Sonata. They would be much more competent than when they had started, easily playing exercises, etudes, and pieces that would have given them pause before Romberg.
Other teaching pieces didn't give cellists that same skills that Romberg's Sonatas did. As I saw the effect that playing Romberg's music had on my students, I came to deeply respect this music that so wonderfully transformed my students.
Two of Romberg's Sonatas became my favorites: the Sonata in E Minor and the Sonata in C Major. I use the Sonata in E minor as the first Sonata after a student has started shifting and has learned fourth position (plus a little second and third positions). I might use one or two other pieces after that, depending on the student, and then we are ready to start the Sonata in C Major.
Over the past 20+ years, I've taught a lot of Romberg to students. It's gotten to the point where I can predict mistakes before they make them. It was getting boring hearing the same mistakes over and over. I really wanted to expand the influence of Romberg on my students and teach all of the skills that he required in his Sonatas.
So I wrote The Romberg Sonata in C Major Study Book for Cello and now, teaching that Sonata is much more exciting! Where I used to sit and drone corrections over and over, I can now have my students play the exercises and improve in front of me. We can spend the lessons working on phrasing and expression instead of rhythm, shifting, and bowing.
I love hearing them play the Sonata excerpts after they've played the exercises. Where students used to stop or struggle, my exercise-powered students sail through. They play confidently and they enjoy the music they're making instead of wallowing in frustration.
Here are some pages of free cello exercises; Preparatory Studies that have a few bits of technique that you will use in the Romberg Sonata in C Major:
And when you've tried those studies, move on to the much more comprehensive Romberg Study Book available in print here and as a download here.
Why play an entire book devoted to a Romberg Sonata? Because teaching students to be both solid and creative musicians is fun! Because playing well brings joy. And because mastering this wonderful Sonata might be the most satisfying thing you've done all year!
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.