top of page

It is important to know how to practice. It is all to easy as a teacher to just tell a student to "go away and practice that"... Hopefully this page will help. If anything is unclear, please do ask for clarification. This will also allow me to improve the page

Have a glance at my YouTube playlist, How to Practice to watch me demonstrating practice techniques for pieces at various levels. This can be found in these playlists: How to Practice or Technique Lessons

  • Remember that if you make a mistake, you aren't a bad cellist, and you certainly aren't a bad person! Too often, we can start to get really upset with ourselves if we keep making mistakes over and over again. Remember, a mistake is an opportunity to practice something!

  • If you keep making the same mistake over and over, slow down. This is the first thing to try every time, and most of the time it will fix the problem!

  • ALWAYS start your practice session with a scale. They are very important, and help with a lot of the further techniques. For a few practice tips for scales, have a look at this video.

  • Luckily, the finger patterns for the scales on the cello are easy to learn.

  • When you start to practice a piece, start out by picking out the difficult sections. Especially fast passages. If you are struggling with fast sections, you should always try to practice with dotted rhythms.​​


  • If your piece has shifts in it, ALWAYS practice them separately. Take each shift out of context and practice it.

  • Once you've practiced the fast sections and the shifts, start off by playing one bar at a time.

  • Then put together two bars and practice them, then four, then eight etc.

  • Always make sure that at every stage you have 10 more correct versions than incorrect. A good game I've found works well is to have ten 1p (or any other denomination you like) coins which are awarded for correct playing of a passage and deducted for incorrect playing. To avoid a deficit, you may like to start off with ten in the pile, which can be deducted for incorrect versions which occur before coins have been earned!​​

  • Practicing in loops, going back and forth over a section without stopping, can often be a very effective way of practicing. I find that if I loop when practicing, I get a lot more done in a shorter time.


  • If you're not sure how a piece should sound, find a recording and listen to it. You should always try to find a recording of any piece you are playing, and listen to it a few times a day for the first few weeks you are playing a piece.

  • When you feel you've done enough work on your pieces, take a break from them and do a little sightreading.

  • Finish your practice with a piece you can play really well. Play a different piece every day. That way you will keep a few of your recently finished pieces up to standard in case you are asked to perform.​

  • I have videos of a lot of "problem passages" on my youtube channel. If you can't find one, let me know, and I can record it at your next lesson.
    Videos can be found at Dan Burrowes Youtube

When practicing, I find it useful to have a few apps handy.
Firstly, you need a metronome, I use "Pro Metronome".
You might also find a tuner useful. I use "INStuner". This can be used to tune the instrument, but then also to check the tuning of notes while playing.
To make scale practice more fun, you can use "SmartScales". If you want help with note reading, "Staff Wars", and if you need rhythm help, try Rhythm Sight Reading.
I'm sure one can also find android equivalents to all of these apps.
Metronome Use
  • Use the right earphone to hear the metronome. That way, you have the click right in your ear, and it can't be overpowered by the sound of the cello.

  • Start out with the metronome indicating subdivisions. Double the number in the metronome mark. After you've done this, spend some time with the metronome ticking at the mark required, and finally, at half the mark, so you're just being reminded of the barlines.

  • When you're working with a metronome, never start out at the target speed instantly. Set it about 15-20 clicks slower, and build up to the target speed over 3-4 repetitions.

  • Aim to get your pieces 10-15 clicks faster than necessary, so it feels easy at the concert speed.

  • Work in 4-8 bar sections, getting each one up to speed individually then putting them together.

  • Don't start playing instantly. Listen to the metronome for a few bars before you start. That way, the speed will be in your head before you begin.

Rhythm Training Exercises

1. Set metronome to roughly the natural step speed of the student.

2. Walk on the spot in time with metronome. Think about lifting knees 1/2 way through the beat.

3. Count to 4 on the beats as you're walking.

4. Clap on every beat 1

5. Clap on beats 1&3

6. Clap on all 4 beats

7. Clap quavers (twice as fast as the beats)

Do this every day, and you will find that counting and keeping in time will be much easier.

If it's too difficult to begin with, try starting slower.

Other exercises to try:
1. Clapping quavers while walking crotchets in time to a metronome.

2. Clapping crotchets while jogging quavers (with metronome).

3. Walking crotchets in time with metronome and clapping a rhythm from your piece.

4. Walking a difficult rhythm in time with a metronome.

5. Clapping at the same speed as the metronome while walking the rhythm.

Finger Strengthening

Young children will often find that they have trouble holding down the strings of the cello, and will often need to exercise their fingers.

I have a playlist of some of my exercises: Finger Exercises

bottom of page