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  • #3605 Reply

    Elizabeth Davis

    Since we have several folks here who play both upper strings and lower strings, I’d like to talk a bit about some of the biggest differences in technique.

    The most obvious difference is hand position. On upper strings, your left hand/fingers are more at an angle to the fingerboard, and the bow is turned so the wood is further away from you than the hair. On cello, since the instrument is facing down and away from the player, everything is opposite. The highest string is furthest away from your bow hand, you want the wood to be closer to the fingerboard than the bridge, and your left hand fingers are more “squared” to the neck.

    On the right hand especially just about everything in cello playing is about right angles and being relaxed. Your fingers to the bow, the bow to the string, everything makes a “plus” or an “L” shape. We want gravity to help us as we let power flow from our backs down our arms through our wrist to the bow into the string.

    And the bow grip… our bow should rest on the bottom two phalanges of our fingers. I’ve seen too many students try to hold their bows with the pinkie up on the stick. That’s great for violin, but on cello, your pinkie should be more over the stick – as one of my young students told me, “pinkie on the frog eye!”. Think of it as laying the bow on the ends of your finger so you can see that first knuckle between stick and hair, and then gently holding it up against your middle finger with the corner of your thumb resting at the corner where your frog meets your stick. Like this image (though I would have the student put his middle finger on the metal ferrule, not the hair):
    sample cello bow hold

    If you have a specific question, please feel free to ask it!

    #7356 Reply


    Very informative post! I have played violin for about a year now, and have often wondered of the differences. I was aware of the bow hold, but your explanation was very comprehensive. Thanks for sharing!

    #8468 Reply

    Lydia Tran

    Hello! I’m a violinist, but very interested in learning the cello as well! I noticed you posted a picture of your right hand while playing, could you maybe post a picture of your left hand too? Thank you! 🙂

    #12059 Reply

    Chris Guleff

    Great topic! I recently enrolled in a cello class after having played violin and viola since I was a child. Since my arthritis and carpal tunnel often make playing the violin and viola uncomfortable — difficult to reach viola C string on a full-size viola — I thought that playing the cello would be less painful. As it turned out, left-hand technique WAS less difficult, but for some reason I got cramps in my thumb joint holding the bow. Due to time constraints I had to drop the cello lessons, but I almost think I could make a go of it playing the cello.

    #12427 Reply


    Thanks for the posts. I just started the violin, and I have also purchased a viola because I am also interested the cello for the same reason.

    #13708 Reply

    Gayle Thompson

    I grew up playing the cello. Mostly playing classical music and I always wanted to play the violin. After college, I sold my cello and purchased a violin and have been playing it ever since. Recently, I started playing the cello again and was surprised at how much strength it took in the left hand. Both are beautiful instruments.
    I did at one time try to learn viola, but with it being so close in size to the violin I found that I had difficulty keeping in tune on either instrument after a while! So I gave up the viola.

    #13966 Reply


    I’m a violinist and love the sound of cello music. I played around on a few in a music store with a few tips from the internet. Thanks for the bow hand tips!

    #14443 Reply

    This is a great post. Very clear information. Thank you for sharing.

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
Reply To: Differences between playing violin/viola and cello
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