Learning Cello Online - Frequently Asked Questions

Can I learn how to play the cello as an adult?

Yes! You can definitely learn how to play the cello as an adult! There’s enormous benefit to engaging the brain in new activities through all stages of life. Assuming no unknown physical conditions, there’s nothing that should keep an older adult from learning the cello. As with most anything in life, you’ll go as far as your own talent, practice and dedication will take you. Check out this blog in Cello Central Texas

Is it possible to learn cello online?

Yes, you can learn cello online when you follow a sequential curriculum and work with an experienced, dedicated cello instructor . A platform like Cello Discovery offers personalized feedback through the vibrant online community and private video exchange lessons.

There are also some Youtube channels with good content  for free.

Is the cello a difficult instrument to learn?

You might hear a lot of people say, “Why is the cello so hard to learn?” I don’t believe it should be difficult to learn. Most students who ask this question have not had expert instruction on learning how to play with a relaxed body. Nor have they been taught to make accommodations for their body/hand type. The question to ask is: What are your goals for learning how to play the cello? Are you hoping to be a world-class artist? Do you want to play the cello for your own enjoyment? Do you want to learn the Bach Prelude to Suite #1 (you know, “that cello piece”)? Learning how to play the cello is like anything else in life. If you take the time to follow the step-by-step pedagogy and you do it regularly, the cello will not be hard to learn (assuming you do not have any true physical limitations which will keep you from learning). You will learn to treat the cello like an extension of your body. For a more detailed explanation, check out my blog on the subject here: https://cellodiscovery.com/is-it-hard-to-learn-the-cello-the-truth-from-an-experienced-cello-teacher/

What are the best online cello lessons?

  1. Cello Discovery offers (by far) the most comprehensive online cello lessons. It’s a robust cello course and it’s very affordable. 
  2. The Cello Professor with Jamie Fiste is an outstanding source for free, high-quality cello lessons.
  3. The Cello Academy has some good guidance for beginners.

How much do cello lessons cost?

  • Private one-on-one lessons can cost as much as $70-$100 per hour. 
  • An online cello course such as Cello Discovery is $35 a month for a comprehensive, step-by-step method.

Here are the benefits of learning cello on your own:

  1. You decide what you want to learn.
  2. You can learn on your own time.
  3. No cost for private instruction.

Here are the problems with learning cello on your own:

  1. You don’t know what information is good and what information is bad.
  2. No accountability in the learning process.
  3. No structure for learning sequentially.
  4. Bad habits are easily formed.

Chose an excellent online cello course like Cello Discovery to help guide you as you attempt to learn on your own.

Learning to play the cello takes time. The first thing you need to do is set realistic expectations.

  • What do you hope to accomplish by learning the cello?
  • Do you want to be able to play cello with a band?
  • Do you want to be able to play in a community orchestra or a church ensemble?

These are all realistic goals and very attainable with great instruction and correct and consistent practice. As far as how long it takes to get there – that all depends upon your motivation level. If you work hard, it is something you can certainly achieve within a year or two. Time will be going by anyway, so why not do something great like learn to play the cello during that passing time?!

First, realize you are not alone. The vast majority of Cello Discovery members fall into two categories: adults who are complete beginners; and adults who played for a while as a kid and want to get back into it. It’s important to start fresh with the fundamentals and gradually work yourself back to the point where you left off as a youngster. Some things will come back easily while other things might be a struggle or a source of frustration. That’s why it’s important to start fresh with the fundamentals, and gradually work yourself back to the point where you left off as a kid. It’s not only the right way to learn, but it may also help you avoid some of the frustration that could cause you to stop again. Browse this page to see where you should pick back up https://cellodiscovery.com/all-courses/ You can also email us at info@cellodiscovery.com and we can provide some additional assistance to you.

What do I need to start learning to play the cello?

How do I rent a cello?

  • Go to a reputable string shop such as Linda West Cellos or Shar Music
  • Make sure you are sized correctly. Err on the small side!
  • Look for a rent-to-own option.
  • Make sure the strings are new and the bow has fresh hair.
  • Ask about rental insurance.

It’s important to find the right cello as a beginner because you need to play on an instrument which responds well and is fitted correctly to you.  More on this blog:

Once you subscribe to Cello Discovery, all of the lessons in each level will be accessible to you.

Nope! All of the music you need in the Beginning & Intermediate levels are accessible on the website. However, you are welcome & encouraged to purchase additional etude books, scale books and music literature to supplement your learning.

If you are looking to take private cello lessons in your local area, I recommend you start with your local string shop or with the local (professional) orchestra.

Most string shops keep referral lists of their favorite teachers. You should also ask for their personal recommendations as well. Most of the folks who work in the string shop are themselves string players and they know the professional community quite well! That is your best resource.

You can also ask to speak with the personnel manager for the symphony orchestra and see if they can recommend a great teacher for the beginning adult student. 


If you want to REALLY learn the cello such that you make a beautiful sound, understand note reading, understand concepts of bow distribution, shifting, tuning & expression – frankly, it’s impossible to do all that in a month. It’s important to learn with sequential, detailed steps, and that takes time. Master the steps and then move to the next step. Why would you want to learn the cello in a hurry? Enjoy the journey. Don’t rush it.

Can I teach myself to play the cello?

You can certainly teach yourself to play the cello with the right guidance and a systematic approach. Here are a couple excellent sites for learning the cello:

Cello Discovery – A very comprehensive site for the adult learner loaded with information and detailed guidance. 

CelloBello – Created by Paul Katz. Great educational videos.


Videos are strictly for Cello Discovery members. You may watch them as many times as you wish, but they may not be downloaded.

Interactive music is an extraordinary way to learn music. Most of the lessons have interactive music built right into the lesson page. To access it, you will simply click a link. The link opens the page of music detailed in that particular video lesson. When you play the music, you can hear the cello part alone, or with the accompaniment, or the accompaniment alone. You can speed up the music, slow it down or loop sections which are difficult for you. And another awesome feature is the cursor – it follows the music as you play! So if your note reading skills need some work, the interactive music will help you get much better, much faster.

You are in luck – there certainly is! Check out www.ViolinLab.com for THE best violin instruction on the web!

Looking for free cello lessons online?

There are several resources for free cello instruction on the internet. I wrote a short blog on some of them. Additionally, Cello Bello is the largest, non-profit site for cello info at all ages and stages. Quality information and instruction. http://www.CelloBello.org.

If you are new to the cello, I highly recommend renting a cello before purchasing one. Many rental companies offer a rent-to-own option which is a win-win. If you are making good progress on the cello and are ready to look for a high-quality instrument to own, it’s wise to consult your cello teacher, another cello professional or someone who you trust in the industry. A good starting place for rental or purchases is through Shar Music. https://www.sharmusic.com

There could be several reasons why your cello sounds bad.  

  • You are playing too close to the bridge.
  • You are using far too much rosin.
  • You are not drawing the bow perpendicular to the string.
  • You are either applying too much or too little weight to the bow.
  • Your strings are of poor quality or have gone “false” (they have outgrown their lifespan).
  • You have a small crack somewhere in your instrument.
  • You have some jewelry or a belt buckle or a button which is vibrating against the cello.

Watch this video to see if you are making any other obvious mistakes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDw9dPKHn7A&t=42s

Assuming you do not have any medical condition keeping you from playing without pain, it could be a couple things…

  1. Watch yourself in the mirror and see if you are lifting your shoulders. You might be keeping the elbow down but still lifting the shoulder. Try taking a big breath in, lifting your shoulders way up to your ears then exhaling and dropping the shoulders down as far as you can. Do this often when you play. The weight of sound really comes from your back and through the shoulders and the natural gravitational pull downwards will help with the tone and should relieve the tension.
  2. You might be pronating the shoulder slightly inwards creating an angle in your arm which is not ergonomically natural.
  3. Is the cello leaning on you or are you leaning in to the cello? You want to be seated towards the edge of your chair leaning slightly forward so that your weight is going in towards the cello, not visa-versa. This will help take the tension off of your back and shoulders.
  4. It’s possible you are playing on an instrument which is too big for you. Many women and a fair number of men are more comfortable with a 7/8 cello vs. a full size. A cello which is too large will feel cumbersome and awkward to play – which in turn creates unwanted tension.
  1. Many violinists who transition to the cello have a difficult time with the left hand. When playing the cello, the fingers on the left hand should be nearly perpendicular to the strings of the cello whereas on the violin, there is much more of a finger pronation back towards the scroll.
  2. When playing the cello, the stick of the bow needs to be angled TOWARDS the cellist. Violinists angle the stick AWAY from the body. It’s all about pushing the weight towards the bridge.
  3. When transitioning from the violin to the cello, the strings will feel backwards in relationship to the height of the arm while playing the string. On the violin, when the bow arm is in it’s highest point the player will be playing the lowest violin string. On the cello, when the bow arm is in it’s highest point the player will be playing on the highest string of the cello. That takes some getting used to.
  4. Cellists play regularly in three different clefs – bass clef, tenor clef and treble clef. Note reading could be a challenge at first.
  5. On the positive side – the concepts of weight on the string, speed of the bow and the contact point of the bow on the string will certainly correlate between the cello and the violin.

Cello Discovery is not hosted through one of the enormous online teaching platforms on the Internet, and all the high costs which go along with that. I’d prefer to call our lessons affordable vs. cheap. 🙂

Carolyn Hagler has designed this program exactly to her specifications for optimal and successful learning. This is a premium option for learning the cello at an incredibly affordable price. Learning an instrument should be an option for everyone.

I am not currently selling music online, but you can watch some of my performances and tutorials on Youtube or hear music on SoundCloud.

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