TONYROGERSCELLO.COM

I love teaching adults.  About half of my private students are adults.  I have started adults on the path of learning the cello, from absolute beginners, to those picking it up later in life.  You can too!


Whether you are retracing steps you fell off earlier in life, or scratching items off your bucket list, learning the cello as an adult can be a rewarding challenge (albeit a difficult endeavor).


Just to warn you, adults can face great challenges in their training...first of all and perhaps most tragically, they usually don’t have anyone to play along with.  Music is to be shared between people, and this is much of the reason for and the mission of the Austin Cello Choir.  See if a cello choir or other adult amateur orchestra exists in your city.


Secondly, because adults already have an appreciation for music, they may discourage quickly.  If you are a new adult student of the cello, remember that you are doing something quite difficult.  I often encourage my adult students early-on to suppress this reaction of disappointment.  It is good to remind them that most kids can just hammer away at an instrument and be satisfied, whereas adults want their playing to sound good immediately. It takes a very long time to master the aspects of the left hand, and some would say a lifetime to master using the bow.  If the left hand is pressing down strongly in the right place, the key to good sound lies in the use of the bow.  If it sounds bad, look to your right arm, not your left hand.  Play long open strings and try to keep a consistent sound.  Try to replace the muscles you are using with arm weight at the frog, transitioning to torque of the wrist with the thumb and first finger muscles.  Remove tension from the body.  Keep your shoulders low, and do not force a sound with your right arm, and it will sound better. Do not be discouraged.

 

On this topic, the best I have read is by adult cello student and now professional Ethan Winer.  Check out his blog on learning the cello as an adult.


Another resource , I have read and enjoyed is a book by cello educator Cornelia Watkins. "Rosindust" is available through Amazon.  


Third, I have found that a higher percentage of adult students suffer from double jointed 1st and 4th fingers.  They have fingers that have never had to be strong in this way, and the small tendons and muscles need slow deliberate exercise to retrain the hand on how it must work with the cello.  3-4 and 0-1 exercises are the first step to solving this problem.



The most important thing I feel i can tell a fresh adult student is to get involved in a regime of playing exercises, if nothing else, everyday. The everyday part I can't stress enough. Once you get going it is easy to continue, but you have to START everyday. Reward yourself for your work. Good luck and drop me a line if you need any advise or want to schedule a FaceTime lesson.



Best Regards,


Tony Rogers





advice for adult beginners.

ADDITIONAL TIPS TO ACCELERATE IMPROVEMENT

Playing the cello is a difficult thing, especially so these days when we are all just busier and more distracted. The violin/viola/cello was invented during a time when people had more time to themselves, in an age when winters would slow life down seasonally and provide a time to be alone.  Time was in great supply.


Take Notice:  Rapid Improvement requires many many many many many many hours of practice. Cello has to become "your thing" in order for you to get good.  It is a priority that must be made. You will not learn by "winging it" at lessons.  You will frustrate yourself, and your teacher. Follow my practice tips, and you will get better, i promise.



PRACTICE TIPS:


     1.      LEARN HOW TO PRACTICE.  Practice is 50% troubleshooting, and 50% attempting. During difficult sections, a good student will stop often, ask themselves, "what makes this so hard?" They will then make changes to their playing to try and make the passage easier to play, using advice from their teachers, and their own intuition regarding their own progress.


     2.     Practice MORE OFTEN.  Even just 15minutes a day is WAYYY better than an hour twice a week.  


     3.      Have a BALANCED PRACTICE.  Micro-focusing is an important aspect of practice, no doubt. In fact, playing the same 2 measures of a piece over and over (and over) is the path to betterment.  That being said, try not to get bogged down on any one thing.  This can be daunting and slow your drive to pick up the cello.  Each time you practice, work on at least 3 different items after a warm-up.  This can be bowing exercises, finger exercises, and the piece you are working on.  Always make your practice about several subjects.


     4.      Keep a PRACTICE JOURNAL /use your LESSON SHEETS. Tackle those items identified in lessons.  Follow your teachers advice, because they know best.  Each time start your practice...try to return quickly to what you have learned after each time you separate yourself from the cello.


     5.       CHANGE THE PAGE. Pick up that stupid pencil and write down what you keep forgetting. "Why do i always want to play that C natural as a 3rd finger?" you ask.  "Because you haven't used your pencil", I say!


     6.      GET A MIRROR, especially starting out.  Barely anyone follows this advice right away, and the first few months of cello playing will likely be spent learning that your 1st finger is too sharp.  Keep an eye on that. Memorize the easy early music so you can watch your hand's motion.


     7.      SCALES! Start your practice with one or two every day. Scales may seem simple and boring, but they are hardly that.  Scales teach a student to study and perfect your technique and hand position, intonation, tone production, and is the place to start your learning of relaxation while playing.


     8.     RELAX.  Once you start to be able to play a piece well, try to take a little of the edge off.  Becoming better is not about trying harder, but instead it is about giving up what used to be the most difficult part, and being able to focus on something else.  If your left hand has got it, and your bow arm is cooperating, the next step is being able to play it effortlessly.  You can only find this place by purposefully relaxing your shoulders, arms, thumbs, mind, body and spirit.  Yo Yo Ma can play the most complicated passages, and no one ever says, "My God, he is working so hard!"  They say, "How is he doing that?  It looks so effortless!".



I hope these help you a good practice session makes me feel marvelous. Similar to intense exercise, but even better.