As there are so many excellent resources online at the moment I thought this would be a good time to add some free cello exercises to our website. So I am attaching the three short exercises below as pdfs which you can click and print. Although I wrote these for my pupils I have found them useful warm up exercises myself.
The first one is an exercise for finding thumb position. It’s all in bass clef: Relax and Fly
The second exercise is based on The Lark Ascending and is for practising shifting from 1st to 4th position: Flying Fourth
Finally, here is a bowing exercise which is mostly on open strings and so can be used for pupils from fairly early on: String crossing exercise
I hope you enjoy playing these. I’d be happy to have feedback.
During this uncertain period when so many people are spending long periods at home, why not use your time to improvise? Below are four well known string pieces, which could be used as an inspirational starting point:
The Lark Ascending
It’s a good idea to start with a sense of structure. The key here is G major and the time signature 6/8. The mood is gentle, romantic and flowing with a sustained tune and some interspersed faster notes to give the sense of fluttering wings. Try improvising an opening section which alternates long notes followed by some faster notes. Lead this into a long sustained tune. Then end by repeating your opening.
Autumn from The Four Seasons
This is F major and in 3/8. The dotted rhythms create much of the confident character. Try starting and ending with the same dotted rhythm section. In the middle create a slightly different feel with more bouncy rhythms. Keep it all in the major.
Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings
The flowing waltz is the character here. It’s 3/4 and in G major. See how many bars you can keep going by playing a happy, relaxed waltz in G.
Pirates of the Caribbean
A minor is the key here and the time is 12/8. The characteristics of the music are fast bows, strong rhythms, accents and a sense of brutality and suspense. Try some fast bows followed by a fast rhythmic tune with plenty of crescendos and some forte passages.
I have just formed a cello quartet with three of my pupils.The main aim is to enjoy playing chamber music and have fun.But quartets also help develop important music qualities.You need to know your part well enough to be able to play rhythmically throughout and listen to others. And while you have the pleasure of playing in an ensemble, every individual part can be heard and is important.
What is cello quartet repertoire like?
We have started with three pieces which I have arranged for cello quartet: the Poldark Theme, one of the tunes from Pirates of the Caribbean, and the theme from The Magnificent Seven.Everyone has a chance to play the tune and all four parts are around the same standard. In time I am hoping the group will grow to become a cello ensemble, which may be able to play some of the string orchestral repertoire.
Before long I will publish some of my cello quartet arrangements.Meanwhile if you’d like to play cello duets with two per part you can browse Cello Duets
Cello orchestras are relatively rare. But the best ones can sound surprisingly good, given that a cello orchestra is composed of only one instrument. Compare the two versions below of ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story. The first is played by the London Cello Orchestra and the one underneath is full orchestra. Both are good, but I prefer the cello orchestra – maybe because the tune is so well suited to strings.
The problem with one instrument for a full recital is the lack of variety of sound. But the cello has the advantage of having a huge range – making it suitable for the tune and accompaniment. Although sometimes including just one extra instrument ( like the drum in the extract below) can be very effective:
New Sheet Music
We hope to be adding some cello string quartet arrangements – which could be played by cello orchestras – to our online shop soon. Meanwhile, if you’d like to commission a work for cello orchestra visit our custom music for strings’ page here
I have just started arranging music for cello quartet. This is new for me.Previously I have only written music for two instruments: string duet or cello and piano.
How is quartet writing different?
As far as I can see so far it is essential that there is a clear tune in the quartet throughout. Unlike duos, where there are two soloistic parts alternately accompanying and playing the tune, in a quartet most of the parts are accompaniment at any time. It’s important that the melodic line in the accompaniment, as well as in the tune, makes sense. And, as you see in Puccini scores – you can sometimes double the line of the tune with another part and it’s effective. Having two or one people playing on their own in places varies the texture. Special effects – like tremolos, col legno, slides, pizz – are just as effective as in duets.And rhythm – as in all chamber music – is crucial. You can see many of these aspects of good quartet writing in the cello quartet arrangement below:
Repertoire so far
So far I am in the middle of arranging three short quartets for an ensemble that is starting at the beginning of February. If you are interested in having a bespoke cello or violin quartet, or indeed a standard quartet, arranged or composed for you, contact us here The Prague Cello Quartet
Some inspiring cello quartets
Below are some inspiring (though varied) examples of cello quartets.
I love the improvisation at the beginning of this… and the sunglasses…
We hope our customers feel we demonstrate fab string playing and arrangements, but we know we aren’t the only ones out there. There are other creative string arrangements around. It isn’t always easy to discover these because google usually presents the largest companies first. So here are some examples of less well publicised small groups who are selling excellent string arrangements:
Brooklyn Classical is a real find. They sell a range of classical arrangements, including cello duets with piano. They also have videos of their work. I love the imagination they use in their trio arrangement of Bach’s Prelude from Cello Suite 1 (below). Even purists would be impressed! Their website is here: Sheet Music
Nathan is a well known virtuoso cellist who sells his own cello duet and violin and cello duet arrangements of snazzy pop tunes. The video above shows some kids playing one of these rather well. You can also see videos of Nathan playing the arrangements with his friends on You Tube. Nathan’s website is here: Sheet Music
James Barralet is another impressive cellist who also writes string arrangements. The cello octet below is an inspiring arrangement of Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s taken from a 30 minute cello octet Film Medley – but I’m sure you can adapt the music to make it much shorter if you want. This 58 seconds has definitely won me over.
James Barralet’s repertoire of string arrangements is wide, as you can hear from the performance of Monteverdi’s Pur Ti Miro for cello quartet below. You can buy James’s sheet music here:Sheet Music
Finally, SJ Music is one of the smaller websites which sells interesting string arrangements including cello duets, cello quartets and cello octets. And of course at Fedora Strings we have a wide range of violin and cello duets, cello duets and cello and piano arrangements, which you can browse here
One of the services we offer at Fedora Strings is custom sheet music for strings. Most people feel this is a luxury – a bit like hiring an interior designer. But in the same way that interior designers can be far less expensive than you think , having an arrangement created for you isn’t always pricey. It’s a bit ( but not quite) like a suit, in that it can be individually tailored to your specification!
Make contact for Bespoke Sheet Music for Strings
The first step is to have a chat with us about exactly what you would like. Is the custom sheet music for strings for a special occasion or for a present? Is it to play with friends? Would you like it to be a particular standard – easy, intermediate, advanced? Prices start at £50. There’s a small deposit to pay, but if you aren’t delighted with the final piece we won’t charge you any more.
You can choose an arrangement of classical music, a folk song, a nursery rhyme, a carol or a new composition. We write for custom sheet music for strings and can arrange solos, duets, trios, quartets and for string orchestra. We can also vary the standard of the music in different parts if required so that beginners can play with more advanced players. And we always aim to be creative and imaginative in our writing for strings.
Why ask for a bespoke music arrangement?
I suppose the answer to this is so that you can enjoy music as much as possible. A bespoke arrangement or composition will be adapted to what you want and you are therefore likely to enjoy it more.And we can add some exciting special effects which are not technically hard and will add character and be fun.
…the main thing is, if you’re interested in a custom arrangement contact us. We may be able to come up with ideas you haven’t thought of that would really be effective for you. And having an initial chat implies no obligation.
The music is based on the carol Ding Dong Merrily on High and has three variations. It lasts around three minutes and the standard of music is around Grade 6.
And remember we can arrange music for you
Remember – if you would like a Christmas carol arrangement of your own, for your own ensemble or as a gift for a friend, we can compose one for you at a reasonable price Click here to find out more or email us direct at firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the cello duet arrangements that we sell on our website have just been reviewed by the September 2019 edition of Music Teacher Magazine. The duets that have been reviewed are: Four Famous Opera Arias arranged forTwo Cellos. They can be bought individually on our site, or all four can be purchased together at SJ Music – who publish the duets.