The mellow sounds of the cello can enthrall even the most reluctant of concert-goers.
And watching the cellists play is a treat in itself. Despite their level of experience, many cellists make it look effortless.
Perhaps you’re a budding cello virtuoso, and you’re wondering: How long does it take to learn the cello?
Grab your cello and bow and keep reading to learn about the factors that can affect the speed you learn. We’ll also list some tips to help you to be well on your way to playing the cello at whatever level you desire.
Table of Contents
- 5 Factors That Affect How Long It Takes to Learn the Cello
- What’s the Best Way To Learn To Play the Cello?
- 7 Tips To Help You Learn To Play the Cello
- Northwest School of Music: Learn To Play the Cello While Having Fun and Achieving Your Goals
5 Factors That Affect How Long It Takes To Learn the Cello
Everyone is different, so how long it takes to learn to play the cello will vary with each person. Generally, though, most people can learn to play the cello at a satisfactory level within two to five years.
Many factors can affect a student’s progress in playing the cello, but we’ll look at these five in a little more depth below:
- Age of the cello student
- Level of experience
- Practice time and dedication level
- Musical goals
- The cello instructor
Like learning a foreign language (and many other new skills), young students tend to pick up new skills more quickly than adults. But that shouldn’t scare adults away because, with commitment and practice, adults can have great success learning to play the cello.
What makes children learn new skills so quickly?
- Children have younger brains than adults. which means their prefrontal cortex is still developing. Because of this, their minds are flexible, which makes learning easier.
- Children’s neural connections are faster than those of adults due to the elasticity of a child’s brain.
- Children have younger brains that haven’t experienced the degenerative brain changes that come with aging.
- Learning to play a fun, new instrument is just plain cool. A child’s enthusiasm can carry them a long way and provide the necessary motivation to progress rapidly.
Even though adults don’t have the young, elastic brains of a child, they do have some learning advantages going for them, like:
- Greater motor control
- Enhanced mental focus
- Possible music experience
- The desire to learn
- Ability to critically analyze themselves and their playing
Whether you’re learning to play the cello as a child or as an adult, having an instructor can be extremely beneficial. Not only can an instructor help you learn faster, but an instructor is in the perfect position to help both children and adults with posture, intonation, tone quality, and more.
If you live in the Salem, OR area and are looking for a cello instructor, we’ve got you covered. Our team of cello instructors would love to help you get started, whether you’re six or sixty — or anywhere in between. Register today and get a free session.
Prior experience playing an instrument or reading music can make learning another instrument — including the cello — easier and faster.
As a beginner cello player, having prior experience with music basics, like reading notes, rhythms, and sheet music, can accelerate the process.
And if you’ve played another instrument, especially another string instrument like the violin or viola, picking up the cello is likely going to be easier to learn.
Even though those instruments are played on the shoulder, and the cello is played resting on the ground, the familiarity with the strings, a bow, and hand position can speed up the time it takes to learn the cello.
#3: Practice and Dedication
Even if you don’t have prior musical experience, regular practice, and dedication can multiply your efforts, helping you to see progress more quickly.
With any new skill, it goes without saying that the more you practice, the quicker you’ll progress. But not all practice delivers the same benefits.
Practicing regularly and efficiently will be more effective than practicing without purpose.
Make an effort to set aside time each week — ideally four to five times a week — for practice in between lessons. You’ll be able to work on the things you’ve learned in your lesson, so you and your instructor can progress to more advanced skills rather than repeating the same concepts over and over.
Dedication is key.
Some practice sessions will be better than others, producing greater dividends than other practice times. But sticking to it, whether your practice seems effective or not, will help you gain ground over time with the regular repetition of new techniques.
Consistency is vital to regular progress and reaching your goals.
Speaking of goals … knowing your goals upfront can help gauge how fast you may progress.
If you’re interested in playing for fun and learning a few simple pieces, learning might happen quickly.
But if you have dreams of being a virtuoso or a professional musician, learning may take more time, effort, and dedication. It may take years before you reach an advanced skill level if your goal is to become a master cellist.
#5: The Instructor
Learning to play the cello with an instructor is ideal. Even though you could learn some of the basics on your own — or with YouTube — there’s no comparison to having an instructor.
For a beginner, having an instructor can get you off on the right foot by helping you learn the basics correctly. Additionally, as you progress, a private instructor can pay attention to specifics like technique, fingering, and posture, to lead you through more advanced concepts.
What’s the Best Way To Learn To Play the Cello?
There are two ways to learn to play the cello:
- Teach yourself
- Learn with an instructor
There may be a few exceptional beginners out there who have a natural affinity for music and can learn on their own, but most people will benefit and make more steady progress with a teacher.
Learning to play the cello with an instructor may be best for the following reasons :
- Instructors help beginners learn the fundamentals properly, like posture, hand position, and how to hold the bow. They can help new students by addressing bad habits before they are formed.
- Instructors can help choose the right songs for your skill level. There’s hardly anything more frustrating or defeating than trying to play music that is too advanced.
- Instructors can provide tips to make practice at home more beneficial and productive.
- Instructors provide accountability.
Even if you are one of those people who can learn the cello on your own, it’s likely that you’ll be able to only progress so far and may then need an instructor to help you get to the next level.
7 Tips To Help You Learn To Play the Cello
#1: Find an Instructor
As discussed, instructors are key to helping students learn the basics and advance to where they want to be. A good instructor will listen to their students’ goals, praise success, and encourage continued progress.
Finding an instructor that fits your personality, understands your goals, and offers the perfect balance of praise and critique will play a huge part in your success.
The instructors at Northwest School of Music are committed to helping you reach your goals and have fun at the same time. Register today to find the instructor that’s right for you.
#2: Set Goals
Knowing where you’re headed helps you plan the way to get there.
An instructor can help with setting goals that are realistic and measurable. They can also provide advice on at-home practice, so you can break skills into manageable pieces and then progress to get where you want to be.
#3: Practice Regularly
Practicing regularly is a must to have success in playing the cello. But how you practice may be even more important than how much you practice.
Practice should be focused and purposeful.
Simply playing songs over and over will not deliver the maximum benefit that focused practice will provide. Stopping to work out difficult passages, paying attention to finger and bow placement, and working on technique will maximize your practice efforts.
Practice sessions should include a mixture of:
- Warming up
- Playing songs
- Drilling challenging passages
Practice will inevitably, at times, feel like drudgery. But consistency and perseverance pay off, and seeing progress makes practice more fun and less like a chore.
How Long Should a Beginner Practice Cello?
Beginning cello students should try to practice five to seven days a week and aim for 30 to 60 minutes at each practice session. If that seems unattainable at first, start small and add a little more time as you progress.
#4: Listen to Cello Music
Just like athletes can learn by watching others play their sport, musicians can learn and be inspired by listening to music. Listening to polished cello music helps students hear what beautiful technique sounds like, so they can practice imitating it.
Whether you like listening to classical music or more contemporary genres, resources for listening to cello music abound, including:
- Subscription services like iTunes or Spotify
- Amateur, collegiate, and professional concerts/performances
- And more
#5: Don’t Get Discouraged
Learning a new skill can be hard.
You’re probably not going to learn to play like Yo-Yo Ma overnight.
So, when it gets hard:
- Take a break
- Stay focused
- Persevere; and
- Go listen to some more beautiful cello music (see #4)
You’ll never progress if you give up. But hard work pays off, so be realistic and patient and keep working at it.
#6: Play in a Group
Playing with others just makes the whole process more fun.
Group lessons can be an entertaining way to learn the cello with others at your same skill level. As you progress, playing in an orchestra can be an enjoyable outlet to meet new people, expand your repertoire, and learn to play other types of music.
#7: Choose the Right Cello
Cellos come in about six different sizes, measured according to the length of the back. The smallest cello is the ⅛ size, measuring 48” to 50” in height, while the largest adult cello is the 4/4 size with a length measuring 63” and up.
It’s important to choose the right size cello to make the most of your practice and lesson time. An instructor or instrument dealer can help you find a suitable cello for your size and age.
Considering your goals can also help when choosing an instrument.
If you’re going to study music seriously and plan on performing, getting a quality instrument is probably a good idea — or start with a less expensive instrument to learn and plan on purchasing a better one later.
Northwest School of Music: Learn To Play the Cello While Having Fun and Achieving Your Goals
Since 2006, we’ve been providing quality music education to students — both children and adults.
Learning to play the cello can be challenging, but learning from a talented teacher can make the learning process less daunting and more enjoyable.
Northwest School of Music cello lessons are open to students aged five to adult. With year-round lessons and flexible 30, 45, and 60-minute lessons available, we make it easy to get started and find a lesson time that works for you.
Our trained and experienced teachers are committed to keeping you motivated by having fun and helping you reach your goals. We also provide low-pressure performance opportunities to show off what you’ve learned.
Contact us today to schedule your first lesson.