Learning Cello
Progress/Cello App

I’ve been sick and traveling (thankfully not at the same time) but have been managing to make some progress on the cello.  While far from perfect I’ve got the C scale down fairly well and can almost do it in my sleep.  Been working through scale exercises, and a few mondain pieces from Suzuki.  Ode to Joy isn’t sounding too bad at this point.  

I need to get an apartment or a bigger boat.  The office is almost constantly occupied.  I need to come in at 5am or stay really late to get a solid hour of practice in.

Still having trouble reading music and associating that with fingering (I’m terrible at memorization).  I’m writing a simple html5 app to help me with that.  More on that when it’s done.

Might schedule another lesson soon.  Want to get a bit further along on reading music first as that was the main assignment.

Cello Lesson with Mannfried Funk

I started taking cello lessons again with Mannfried Funk, a former Seattle Symphony member. He’s got a great teaching space in his home on Phinny ridge but also makes house calls (not an option for those of us who are “homeless” :).

He’s a super likable guy and very patient.  Something I need to get up on YouTube is his comical dog - who literally sings along when he’s playing (stops after a bit - it’s not a distraction).  

If you’re looking for a Cello teacher in Seattle (or the Eastside) I’d highly recommend him.

You can find him at:


Much more about his teaching and career.

Large collection of cello Q & A.

Hans “Enke” Zentgraf YouTube Cello Lessons

The previous two posts were both cello lessons by Hans “Enke” Zentgraf.  I couldn’t find information about Hans online (at least not in English).  As far as I can tell he works out of Munich, Germany.  I guess he used to sell this material but I was unable to turn up an info on his products.

As I get through his lessons I might write up more details.  Until then - here’s a link to all of his lessons on YouTube.  Put up by http://www.youtube.com/user/Queixoso.

Part 1-1 Beginner 
Part 1-2 Beginner 

Part 2-1 Pizzicato 
Part 2-2 Pizzicato 

Part 3-1 Position Change
Part 3-2 Position Change

Part 4-1 Major scales and Thumb
Part 4-2 Major scales and Thumb

Part 5-1 Summary and Vibrato
Part 5-2 Summary and Vibrato

Play with Piano Chapter 1 
Part 6-1 Waterfall, Daydream
Part 6-2 Waterfall, Daydream

Part 7-1 Galamian, Accents, Rhytms
very good explanation of fingering techniques
Part 7-2 Galamian, Accesst Rhythms

Part 8-1 Accent Bowing
Part 8-2 Accent Bowing

Part 9-1 Double Stops, Thumb 2 
Part 9-2 Double Stops, Thumb 2 

Play with Piano Chapter 2 
Part 10-1 Windscreen Wipers, Lolliepop Man
Part 10-2 Windscreen Wipers, Lolliepop Man

Play with Piano Chapter 3 
Part 11-1 Hallowween, Weeping Willow
Part 11-2 Hallowween, Weeping Willow

Play with Piano Chapter 4 
Part 12-1 Mellow Cello, Moto Popeto (sp?)
Part 12-2 Mellow Cello, Moto Popeto (sp?)

Play with Piano Chapter 5 
Part 13-1 Cossacks and Tarantella
Part 13-2 Cossacks and Tarantella

Play with Piano Chapter 6 
Part 14-1 Gretchaninoff - In aller Fruhe - Morning Stroll and The Joker
Part 14-2 Gretchaninoff - In aller Fruhe - Morning Stroll and The Joker

Part 2 of Beginner Cello Lessons by Hans “Enke” Zentgraf.   More on bowing.

This guy is quite amusing but has some great tips.  A few years ago when I took cello lessons my teacher went over many of the same things.  Great series.

Cello Books

The primary book I’m using is Cello Playing for Music Lovers: A Self-Teaching Method.


This is a very thorough book and, so far, I’ve been enjoying it.  Per her recommendation I also picked up 170 Foundation Studies for VioloncelloThe Art of Cello Playing: A Complete Textbook Method for Private or Class Instruction and Suzuki Cello School: Cello Part Volume 1 


The 170 Foundation Studies are standard practice drills, scales, finger exercises, bowing practice, etc.  It’s boring stuff but, it’s what makes you better.  I generally spend 30 minutes a day practicing from this book.

The Art of Cello Playing is a great companion to the Cello Playing.  What she doesn’t cover, he does.  I’ve been working through both books, trying to keep them at the same level.

The Suzuki book contains simple songs to practice.  A nice break from scales.  If you take lessons it’s likely your teacher will teach from this book (or so I’ve heard).  

The number one reason I took up cello was to someday be able to play Bach’s Suite’s for Solo Cello.  This is the first piece I’m going to work on.  Debatably the “easiest” part in the 6 suites.  Suite for Solo Cello No. 5 in C Minor, BMW 1011: IV. Sarabande.  

Here’s Yo-Yo playing this at the Great Buddha in Nara, Japan (a must see if you’re ever over there).  

It was amusing.  When I was a waiter at the Harvest in Cambridge, MA I met Yo-Yo once (I was his waiter).  He was a great guy - very Dali Lama like, not at all pretentious with a love-able kindness emanating from him.  Anyway, as Kat will attest to, I pretty much only listen to Bach and had several of his CD’s on me at the time.  So, I was able to get an autograph.  He thought it was funny that a 20 something was listening to Bach on his bike ride to work.  Well - it was Cambridge, MA - not that odd.  With the exception of a couple of autographed copies of Clinton’s book this is the only other autograph I’ve ever gotten.

Buying a cello

I would have loved a traditional cello but, since I live on a very small sailboat I went with an electric cello.  They’re more portable, aren’t as susceptible to the elements as a traditional wood instrument and the best ones are still cheaper then a starter cello.  I ended up going with a  Yamaha SVC-210 Acoustic-Body Electric Travel 4/4 Cello

There are some advantages to using an electric cello.  They’re super quite unless you run them through an amp.  This makes practicing much less of an annoyance to the people around you.  When wearing headphones they sound just like a normal cello.  

You can also route them through things like Apple’s Garage Band or do what Zoe Keating does and run it through SooperLooper or Ableton Live 8 to create multitrack music… which is nice until you’re good enough to play with others. 

If you’re thinking of going with a real cello I’d highly recommend renting one.  Many places will put the rental price towards a new cello and, from what I’ve heard, you’re not going to really know what you want for the first year.  By renting you can try several different makes before dropping a ton of money on one.

Learning Cello

I’ve wanted to play cello for a very long time.  So, now that I’m 40 I figured I better start soon.  This simple blog will be about that process.  For now I’m self teaching, so I’ll post resources that I find along the way for others trying to learn cello on their own.