Cello Technique for Violinists

Many violinists find themselves teaching cello in the public schools and would like additional information. The article and videos are designed to give basic information on common problems violinists encounter regarding the left and right hands.

Left Hand Technique

Below are listed some technical issues that violinists should be aware of when playing the cello. They are all from my experience teaching violin education majors at Central Michigan University.

Left hand should be more square

When teaching violinists, I usually need to have them position their left hands more in the direction of the square left hand position (supination). However, I believe it is important to maintain at least a slight slant to the left hand. Many great cellists have played with a slant in the left hand, including Janos Starker, Jacqueline du Pre, Maurice Gendron, Willam Pleeth, Gerhard Mantel, Piatigorsky, and Rudolf Matz.

For more information please see the article on pronation and supination in the left hand

Fourth Finger Not Too Slanted

This is related to the first point. The 4th finger is often much too slanted when violinists first begin to play the cello. Make sure that the fourth finger only has a slight slant.

Maintain an Open "C" as much as possible

On the cello we keep the base of the index finger (the knuckle) away from the neck of the cello while violinists tend to keep it close to the neck or even touching the neck. Keep an "open C" in the hand, especially while playing on first finger. This will keep the knuckle base away from the neck of the cello. This will take some getting used to.

Keep the Thumb to the Left Side of the Neck

Cellists usually keep the thumb much more to the left side of the neck while violinists tend to place their thumb on the right side of the neck of the cello. Especially on the A and D strings, I suggest keeping the thumb to the left side of the neck. This also helps to maintain an open "C" hand position. This will also necessitate using arm weight to push the string down. When playing on the lower strings, move the thumb more to the back of the neck of the cello.

Keep the Knuckle Base Low

Violinists tend to have the base knuckles high above the fingertips with the fingers approaching the fingerboard from above. I always suggest having the base knuckles of the left hand only slightly higher than the tips of the fingers on the fingerboard. This is especially important for the 4th finger.

Cello Bow Hold for Violinists

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