Playing a musical instrument is one of the most complex human endeavors, requiring complete involvement in all three main aspects of human action: physical, intellectual, and emotional, in a balance that is constantly adjusting. Ignore any one element, and your performance will be incomplete. One must always strive to employ all three elements and it is a teacher's responsibility to guide a student through this process.
- Identifying and guiding the long-term career and artistic goals of the student. The goals should be realistically based on:
- Individual artistic needs.
- Student potential.
- Student commitment.
- A broad cultural and social context
- Developing a plan to achieve the long-term goals. The plan includes:
- Acquiring a comprehensive cello technique.
- Gaining knowledge of musical styles. The cello teacher should encourage and contribute to the student's musical development in a broader sense (including history, theory, analysis, performance practice, etc)
- Gaining professional experience: performing solo, chamber music, and orchestral repertory, and/or teaching.
- Developing work ethics: regular practicing, good work habits, preparedness, and punctuality.
- Assisting with the purchase of instrument, bow, and accessories (as needed).
- Career advancement tools (recordings, bio, resume, photos, newspaper articles, etc)
- Participating in competitions, festivals, masterclasses, and lectures.
- Attending concerts.
- Becoming familiar with the bibliographical material: cello curriculum, repertory, methods, books, and periodicals.
- Physical exercises to support cello playing (stretching, strengthening, conditioning).
- Understanding career options.
- Developing medium-range goals (6 months 1 year). The repertory:
- Will assist in the development of a complete technique, in a gradual manner.
- Will be varied in the analytical approach:
- Scales, arpeggios, double-stops, technical exercises
- Studies (etudes)
- Concert repertory (concerti, sonatas, suites, short pieces)
- Orchestral repertory
- Chamber music repertory
- Will be stylistically diverse, from Baroque to modern.
- Short-term goals (1 week 1 month), adjusted to the academic year.
Through the process of working on a piece, one employs a variety of learning and practicing techniques, which should continuosly be reassesed. Early in the cycle (semester), there will a preponderance of certain elements, such as:
- Specific techniques: bow arm and left hand
- Learning new music
- Elements of harmonic/formal/stylistic analysis
- Practicing techniques
- Memorization techniques
Later in the cycle, other elements will be emphasized:
- Preparing for the performance
- Artistic projection
- Physical endurance
- Sound projection
- Balance in the ensemble
Lesson Plan (Concise)
- Introductory Conversation
- Technique (warm-up, intonation, specific techniques, flexibility, strength, spatial orientation on the fingerboard, tone production, etc)
- Repertory (text, style, phrasing, sound projection, tone quality, etc.)
The student should be playing between 60% and 90% of the lesson time. Discussions should be clear and to the point. The teacher should be able to demonstrate passages on the cello.
How to Practice
- The practice routine (should be kept flexible)
- Stretch: 1-2 minutes
- Warm-up exercises, technique (scales, arpeggios, drills): 20-30% of your practice time
- Studies, chamber music, orchestra repertory: 30-40% of your practice time
- Pieces, concerti, sonatas: 30-40% of your practice time
- Practice stages
- Develop and maintain your technique (always in a musical context) this is a component of all practice routines.
- Read new material, decide on fingerings, bowings. Should be dome as close to tempo as possible, even if playing is not accurate. Should not take longer than 1-2 practice sessions for new material.
- Repeat the patterns you established. Spend time on those that give you more trouble.
- Practice the act of performance. Practice the memorization. Let go of your inhibitions, take chances, be creative, go for it.
- Practice Hints
- Practice regularly consistency is more important than a lot of practice at random intervals
- Be disciplined go through your routine, no matter how little you practice
- Set goals work on specific issues, or specific passages
- Think apply your mind to what you are doing. Practice thinking patterns, not finger patterns
- When you start, set time limits. "I'll practice today for 2 hours."
- Take breaks. Take a break at least every 50-60 minutes.
- Practice slowly. For some passages, one must play slowly up to 80 % of the spent.
- If it hurts, stop. Make changes.
- Practice techniques for studies and repertory
- Play once through the whole piece or a large section. Evaluate what went well and what needs practice.
- Go back to the beginning. Repeat trouble spots: a passage, a measure, a shift, a chord, an arpeggio, a sustained bow, a long breath, etc. This is like brain surgery and certainly very tedious.
- Put the detail (the passage .) in its context. Play it starting 1-2 measures before and plus 1-2 after. Evaluate. Whether the passage is solved or not, go on, but remember it. Come back to it the following practice session.
- Cover as many details as possible.
- Play again through the whole piece (or section). PERFORM IT.
- Some practice tricks
- practice passages with various rhythms
- practice passages on different strings or in different registers
- practice from very slow to very fast (using the metronome)
- practice in the dark
- record yourself and listen
- for strings or piano, some passages can be played as double stops or as chords
- invent your own variations
- The Daily Practice Chart (as I see it)
Age If you want
to be OK
If you want
to be good
If you want
to be great
6-10 yo 20 minutes 1 hour 2 hours 10-14 yo 45 minutes 1 ½ hours 3 hours 14-18 yo 1 hour 2 hours 4+ hours
If you have unbelievable talent, you can reduce the time by half.
If you don't get it very easily, double the time.
One of the measures of a good teacher is the knowledge of the repertory and the guidance of the student through the it in a gradual, logical, and individually tailored way. A comprehensive Cello Syllabus can be found on the Internet Cello Society website, which is also an excellent resource for many cello subjects.