Cello and Bass: Lower Strings Challenges

One frequent initial hurdle encountered by many string teachers is the task of finding the right size instrument for the beginning cellist or bassist. Many schools only have ¾-size basses. Unfortunately, this means that some middle schoolers might actually be playing on instruments that are too big for them. “Many junior high students could be playing on the ½-size bass,” says Geoff Neuman, orchestra director at Green Valley High School in Henderson, Nevada, and conductor of the Las Vegas Youth Symphony.

The next challenge is presented by the particular requirements of posture for both cello and bass. Cellists struggle with “keeping the left arm from being droopy,” and when a cellist drops the left elbow, the hand position is affected. Says Neuman of maintaining proper posture, “We cannot get lazy and let up on the kids [in this area].”

Mastering finger shifting is another major task that cellists and bassists face right away. “In order to play most anything, the student has to shift, if only into half position,” says Neuman. Cellists have to learn how to use extensions in order to keep up with what a violinist can do without shifting at all.

Read the entire article by Cynthia Darling on page 49 of your February 2009 issue of Teaching Music.

— Nicole Springer, February 4, 2009 © National Association for Music Education.