Recommended Cello Books
Etudes, Studies, Solo books
Here are some cello books that I recommend. The books span different levels, from beginners through advanced. This is only a start. Check back periodically for more books.
The links point towards sheetmusicplus.com. If you prefer Amazon, there is a widget at the bottom of the page with most of the books listed.
Beginning to Intermediate Level
The Sassmannshaus Tradition, Early Start on the Cello, Vol. 1-4 by Egon Sassmannshaus, Kurt Sassmannshaus, and Michael Corssen.
In 1976 Germany's Renowned violin pedagogue, Egon Sassmannshaus, published his Early Start on the Violin series (four volumes), combining his knowledge of child psychology with a systematic approach to violin pedagogy. It became the most popular violin method in Germany. His son, Kurt Sassmannshaus, currently chair of the string department at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Dorothy DeLay's teaching assistant for 25 years, has joined his father as co-author to make the series available in English. They also joined forces with cellist Michael Corssen to make the series available for cello, recently published by Bärenreiter in the spring of 2009. The result is a wonderful new method available for cello teachers. I highly recommend that cello teachers of beginning to intermediate cello students have all four volumes of this series in their library. Beginning-Intermediate Level
The Sassmannshaus Tradition, Early Start on the Cello, Vol. 1 is beautifully illustrated by Charlotte Panowsky, giving it the feel of a children's book. As stated on the cover page, it is "A cello method for children age four and up". However, due to the illustrations and the oversized staff and notes, I wouldn't recommend the first volume for older students or adult beginners. In fact, the upper age limit would probably be seven or eight years of age. From the first volume, it is clear that the emphasis of this series is on note reading from the very beginning of study. This volume starts with simple rhythmic patterns on open strings and progresses through string crossings, third finger, the triad, first finger, string crossings, fourth finger, accidentals, scales on two strings, stroke patterns, slurs, and portato. In short, it is a wonderful volume for very young cello students. Beginning Level
The Sassmannshaus Tradition, Early Start on the Cello, Vol. 2 continues to develop the young student's ability to read music. It covers fourth finger as tonic, triads in C, F, and G major, dotted quarter notes, songs using second and third fingers, extensions, triads in E-flat, B-flat, and F major, sixteenth notes, alternating between normal and extended finger patterns, double stops, first finger as tonic, triads in A, D, and E major, and pieces in various keys and finger patterns. This volume also begins with a staff that is slightly smaller than the first volume but still larger than the standard printed staff. By the end of this volume the staff is at a standard size. Like the first volume, the second volume probably is more suitable for younger cello students, not older or adult students. Beginning Level
The Sassmannshaus Tradition, Early Start on the Cello, Vol. 3 is meant to be a supplement to volume two. The third volume is comprised primarily of duets and reinforces concepts and finger patterns learned in volume two. I like that it emphasizes half steps between the third and fourth fingers, first and second fingers, and second and third fingers. This will help the student with finger spacing issues on the cello (i.e. the different half steps feel differently in the hand). Other new concepts are introduced such as ornaments, triplets, minor keys, and half position. This volume could also be used as a stand alone book to enable a young cello student to become fluid in the first position. The duets between teacher and student also help with ensemble playing. Late Beginning Level
The Sassmannshaus Tradition, Early Start on the Cello, Vol. 4 is designed to follow the third volume. It is the most complete and systematic method book I have seen for teaching second through fourth positions, bar none. Based around duets, it begins by teaching second and third positions simultaneously, which helps the student feel the subtle finger spacing differences between the two positions. It introduces shifting, harmonics, syncopation, and keys with higher positions. The end of the volume has an introduction to the three finger positions and tenor clef. A similar book is Rick Mooney's Position Pieces for Cello, which also takes the student from second through fourth positions. The Sassmannshas book has a more serious or weighty feel than the Mooney book so the teacher will have to gauge the proper book for each student. A great follow up to the Sassmannshaus volume four is Rick Monney's Position Pieces for Cello, Book Two, which I also highly recommend. Late Beginning-Early Intermediate Level
Position Pieces for Cello by Rick Mooney
A helpful book to take students from second through fourth positions. There is also a section covering half position. Each section begins with a "target practice" to find the position on the fingerboard, using open stings as a reference. Each piece is composed as a duet with an accompaniment part for the teacher, which is great for ensemble playing and intonation. Beginning-Early Intermediate Level
Double Stops for Cello by Rick Mooney
This is an excellent book for cellists early in their studies. Most double stop cello books are too difficult for beginning cellists so this valuable resource fills the gap. Double stops are great for intonation and developing proper hand position. Late Beginning to Intermediate Levels
Position Pieces for Cello, Book Two by Rick Mooney
This book assumes that the student is familiar with first through fourth positions and begins with the "three finger positions" (fifth through seventh positions). Personally, I am grateful for a much needed book covering the three finger positions in a systematic way. Also, this book serves as a method for teaching tenor clef (two birds with one stone!). It also covers the four finger positions in tenor clef as well. It's a great book. Each section is preceded by finger pattern exercises with a geography quiz. As in the previous book, the pieces are written in duo form with a lower part for the teacher to play. Intermediate Level
Thumb Position for Cello, Book 1 by Rick Mooney
This book covers the main thumb position patterns. Each section is given a different pattern for the student to learn preceded by finger pattern exercises. The last section combines the different patterns so the student will have to figure out which pattern is being used in a given passage. An advanced Thumb Position for Cello, Book 2 ("Thumbs of Steel") is also available. Intermediate Level
Learning the Tenor Clef by Pat Legg and Alan Gout
This book is organized completely differently than Rick Mooney's Position Pieces Book 2 yet it has many excellent qualities. The first difference is that it is organized around key signatures - relative majors and minors - instead of finger patterns. The books starts in C major and ends in C minor. Another difference is that it begins at a more elementary level than Rick Mooney's book, which may be more appropriate for some students. Also, I appreciate that it has solo pieces with piano accompaniment for each key, implementing the notes learned in tenor clef. Intermediate Level
Intermediate Etudes in the Positions for Cello compiled by Francis Grant
This is an oldie but goody! This was my junior high etude book with Kathleen Lester of the Milwaukee Symphony and I still have the same well-worn book. Francis Grant played in the Cleveland Orchestra and after his retirement he devoted himself to full time teaching, publication of pedagogical books, and performance practice. He has a whole collection of etude books entitled, Fundamentals of Violoncello Technique, that are selected studies from the etude books of Romberg, Lee, and Kummer that take the student from first through thumb position. This book combines selected etudes of Schroeder, Dotzauer, Kummer, Lee, and others that take the student from 2nd through 4th positions. I still use this book today in my teaching of younger students. Intermediate Level
Technical Studies for the Violoncello, Vol. I by Julius Klengel
I used this scale book growing up and still use it today with many of my students. The book has scales, arpeggios, and scales in thirds from two octaves through four. Alternate bowings are provided. It is a well organized technical study. Intermediate Level
Technical Studies for the Violoncello, Vol. II by Klengel
Cello Technique Geeks Unite! This book is dry and boring but really good for you! It's kind of like eating your spinach! Basically, the second volume of Klengel's technical studies contains all the scales but in a variety of scale patterns. There are 12 scale patterns to practice with alternate bowings for each pattern. This book is good for facility.Intermediate to Advanced Level
My First Schroeder for the Developing Cello Student compiled by Amy Rosen
This etude book serves as an introduction to Carl and Alwin Schroeder's etude books and were chosen from Vol. 1 of A. Schroeder's 170 Foundation Studies and C. Schroeder's Violoncello Method. Many of the exercises are shortened in length, have been transposed, or have the notes doubles. The etudes do not go beyond three sharps or flats, include extensions, have four note slurs, and stay in first position. The book includes duets for teacher and student and pieces at the end of the book. There are free downloads of the piano accompaniment at Carl Fischer. Beginning Level
Solo Cello Books
Solos for Young Cellists Arranged and Compiled by Carey Cheney
This series has 8 volumes of cello solos with piano accompaniment. It is a wonderful collection of pieces representing a variety of techniques, styles, and genres. It comes with accompanying CDs performed by Carey Cheney on cello and David Dunford on piano. The difficult ranges from elementary to advanced. Beginning to Advanced
Cello Music: The Ultimate Collection, Parts I and II
If you would like to have an instant library of all the primary cello literature and etude books at a low price, here is your chance. This is an outstanding collection of cello music in two CDs.
Advanced Level Cello Books
Violoncello Technique by Mark Yampolsky edited by Gordon Epperson
When I was in High School my teacher gave me this scale and arpeggio book. It is an excellent resource. Included are scales, broken thirds, arpeggios (tonic, sub-dominant, dominant seventh arpeggios), triad with inversions, thirds in double stops, sixths in double stops, octaves, broken thirds in octaves, octave arpeggios, octave scales, tenths, arpeggios in double stops, scales in chords, chromatic scales, and a scales in natural and artificial harmonics. Whew! What is unique about this scale book is that Yampolsky makes the exercises musically attractive by varying the bowings and rhythms in each key.
An Organized Method of String Playing, Violoncello Exercises for the Left Hand by Janos Starker
This is not an etude or exercise book in the traditional sense of the term. Starker has put together a book that will enable you to map out the fingerboard in your mind, help you think in term of positions, and give you an efficient way to practice. At the end of the book are applications of the principles presented in the book via examples of how to practice specific passages from the repertoire. It may take a while to figure out how to use the book but study and ponder it and you will understand its organization.
40 Studies, High School of Cello Playing by Popper
Do I even need to mention this etude book? Starker once said that there is no technical problem that Popper cannot solve. You can also download it at virtualsheet music.com. Popper Etudes instant download
12 Caprices for Cello by Alfredo Piatti
Like the Popper, these advanced studies are well-known by cellists. Many of these Caprices are performable as concert pieces.
The Ivan Galamian Scale System for Violoncello Arranged by Hans Joergen Jensen
Hans Jensen, Professor of Cello at Northwestern University in Chicago, has done a great service in this two volume set by making available to cellists Galamian's famous violin scale system, known by all serious violin students.
Changing the Positions by Sevcik Arranged by Orlando Cole
Sevcik is probably best know for his violin method, School of Bowing Technique for the Violin. Changing the Positions is a valuable work that was arranged for cello by Orlando Cole, Lynn Harrel's teacher.
Studies For Development Of Agility Of Fingers by Cossman
Again, most cellists know this book for its brutal trill exercises in double stops. But don't let this deter you. The exercises are mandatory for developing finger independence and strength. Just be careful not to over do it.
Classroom String Books
String Explore, Book I by Andrew H. Dabczynski, Richard Meyer, and Bob Phillips.
While not as popular as other beginning string method books for the classroom, I think String Explorer deserves a careful look. Arco Dakota and Rosalyn Le Bow lead the students through a method that introduces them to traditional and alterative styles for strings. The music theory component is excellent and world music is also introduced. There is an accompanying CD that includes a popular style drum beat, which aids in rhythm. Beginning
Sight-Read it For Strings, Edited by Andrew H. Dabczynski, Richard Meyer, and Bob Phillips.
A great book by Bob Phillips, et all to help students develop good sight-reading habits. It will help them be aware of not only key signatures, meter, and notes but musical road maps and musical patterns.
Fiddlers Philharmonic by Andrew H. Dabczynski and Bob Phillips
Fiddlers Philharmonic is great for classroom teachers who would like to teach fiddling as part of their curriculum. There are separate books for violin, viola, and cello/bass. Accompaniment CDs are also available. Each fiddle tune has three parts that are interchangeable between the instruments so you can create you own arrangements. Also available is Basic Fiddlers Philharmonic, Fiddlers Philharmonic Encore, and Jazz Philharmonic. The Jazz Philharmonic has written out improvisations. One of my former students, Eric Hudson, has been using these books near Grand Rapids and has had amazing results. The students love playing the tunes and are highly motivated and energetic about learning them. One great aspect to playing fiddle tunes is that it gets the students' fingers moving quickly at an early age. In other words, they are great for teaching facility. Well, the proof is in the pudding! Here is a video of Eric's group playing some tunes from the Fiddlers Philharmonic and Jazz Philharmonic (Eric's the tall guy in the backgroud playing fiddle). Keep in mind, none of these students have been playing longer than three years and many of them have only been playing for two years!
Stay tuned for more cello books!
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