Many beginning musicians wonder, “Is cello hard to learn?” The process of learning the cello is not difficult, but it’s important to keep in mind that the cello is not an instrument of instant gratification. It does require focused, daily practice time and a good teacher to guide you along the way.
How far you progress with cello is a direct result of the amount of quality time you put into practicing the instrument. Even someone who puts in just 30 minutes a day will notice a significant improvement after a few weeks, regardless of their age.
A student who continues to take cello lessons and practice beyond their first year has the potential to develop into a talented amateur, and a young student with the right dedication could continue their studies all the way through to a rewarding professional career.
How Long Does it Take to Learn the Cello?
For most beginners, it will take around two to five years to learn cello. This can vary depending on a variety of factors.
For instance, how much time do you have to commit to practicing? Do you have experience working with other types of instruments? Do you want to be fluent in playing the cello or just understand the basics?
Is cello hard to learn? It can be, but it will be easier if you put in the time.
Here are a few general tips for learning to play the cello:
- Choose a cello that is the right size for your body
- Don’t panic if you have trouble with certain sounds, at least in the beginning
- Learn how to tune your cello
- Buy an anchor (or rockstop) as you begin to learn the cello
- Rosin your bow properly
- Make sure you warm-up properly before playing
- Practice scales and strings regularly
The most important tip? Keep yourself inspired – and keep things fresh with new music and material. Whenever possible, consider taking lessons in cello so that you have someone to keep you track. Even instructional videos like this can be helpful:
Is Cello Hard to Learn?
How difficult is it to learn cello? The answer is…it depends! Cello difficulty varies depending on whether you are teaching yourself, if you have experience with the instrument, and a myriad of other factors.
When learning how to play the cello, very little is spoon-fed to you by the instrument. Keyboard and fretted instruments (such as the piano and guitar) are a little easier to learn the basics. Simply putting your finger on the right key or fret will allow you to produce the note you want to hear.
With the cello, you need to have a teacher guiding you through the early stages to ensure you’re learning in a healthy way. This will lead to a lifetime of enjoying the instrument. If you have the right teacher, anyone can learn the fundamentals of playing cello.
As with most instruments, the cello will come more easily to someone with experience reading notes and rhythms. Most of cello music is written down, rather than transferred aurally from teacher to student. But with a little patience, students of all ages can learn the musical language without prior knowledge or exposure.
Am I Too Old to Learn Cello?
Is it hard to learn the cello if you don’t have young age on your side? Not necessarily! Although it’s usually easier to pick up a new skill, whether that’s a new language or a new instrument, at ayoung age, cello difficulty isn’t something that is determined by age but instead by commitment.
If you dedicate the time to learning cello, you’ll find that it doesn’t matter how old or young you are.
Young students make great beginner cellists. Often with youth comes unbridled enthusiasm for learning a cool new instrument and a mental elasticity that helps them absorb new information like a sponge.
These advantages can carry a student a long way. The excitement encourages them to practice more on their own and their ability to retain information helps them progress quickly in their studies.
One difficulty that young students face though, is the challenge of critically analyzing their playing. As a result, they need an outside observer to help them identify things that cause them trouble, whether it is posture, intonation, tone quality, etc. Young beginners are also generally less coordinated than their adult counterparts and will remain that way until well after puberty.
Adult beginners have their own set of advantages. Firstly, they’re better in control of their bodies which helps them make changes to technique and posture more quickly. They also have a strong ability to critically analyze their own actions, and a better sense of how they want to sound.
As a result of their ability to critically analyze their own playing, adult learners can sometimes go straight to the criticizing part. This can lead to discouragement when they don’t immediately sound the way they want. However, the student is probably playing at a level appropriate to how long they have been studying.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practicing in between lessons is another necessity that makes learning the cello much easier. Without daily practice times, you will find your teacher going over the same concepts week after week during your lessons. Make a commitment to find a small chunk of time each day to practice playing the cello and you’ll set yourself up for success.
If you only have five minutes, play some open strings for tone quality. Have a little more time? Add in some scale practice. If you have even more time, pick apart the challenging sections of your newest solo piece. There is always something you can practice, but focus on the most important concepts with the time that you have.
Is Cello Harder Than Guitar?
If you’re a beginner, you might be wondering if this instrument is more difficult to master than others, like guitar, violin, or piano.
As is the case with many of the other topics we’ve addressed in this post, the answer is – it depends.
However, most people agree that cello is more difficult than the guitar. It requires very specific postures, tuning, and techniques. Guitar is easier to set up and doesn’t require the same fixed posture as cello. Plus, it’s a fretted instrument, which makes it easier to master.
Is cello harder than piano? Again, it depends on how you define “difficult”. Much of cello’s difficulty comes from the fact that bowing is difficult and there are no fixed keys to determine pitch. With the piano, this is no longer an issue – but you’ll have other issues to contend with. For example, now you have to play separate tunes with both hands, requiring a different level of thought and technique.
And finally, which is harder to learn – violin or cello? That one’s a toss up. Violin is just as difficult as the cello because it takes a lot of practice to get your fingers in the exact right spot each and every time. It can also be difficult to learn how to produce the right tone – while anyone can hold a finger in a certain place and drag a bow across a string the difficult part is doing it perfectly.
The same can be said about playing the cello. You need to practice your finger positions and postures to get the right tone each time.
Can You Teach Yourself Cello?
There are plenty of famous cello players who taught themselves the ins and outs of this instrument – however, it’s generally recommended that you hire a teacher if you want to learn the cello.
Cello is one of the most challenging instruments to learn because it does require some dedication. This is not an instrument that will give you instant gratification, like percussion.
You can teach yourself cello, but it’s going to require a lot of practice and dedicated time. Watching videos of lessons and players, studying sheet music, and just putting in the time are the key to success when teaching yourself this instrument.
Is Learning Cello Worth It?
Is cello easy to learn? Definitely not – but is it worth it? Absolutely. The cello is a gorgeous instrument that’s definitely worth learning how to play.
You no longer have to wonder if the cello is hard to learn. With a teacher guiding your technique, regular practice times, and a willingness to learn, you too can become an excellent cellist.
You won’t have to worry about twisting your left arm into an uncomfortable position like violinists, or pushing air through several yards of tubing using only your lungs like a brass player. Instead, you’ll get to enjoy the comfort of the relaxed seated position for the cello.
Is cello hard to learn? It can be. However, overall, the cello is an incredible instrument with a wonderful depth of sound and breadth of repertoire. To get started now, sign up for your first cello lesson right here at TakeLessons with one of our many talented instructors.
Alexander U. teaches cello, music theory, ear training, and conducting in Brookline, Massachusetts. He received a Master of Music in Cello Performance from the Boston Conservatory and is an avid performer. Alexander enjoys watching students gain confidence and learn more about themselves during lessons. Learn more about Alexander here!