Ask Harry WimmerQ & A#7

I wish I could improvise
on the cello!

Q. I wish I could improvise on the cello. Where do I begin?

A. Just as with Vibrato,where the MOTION can be taught (but not the underlying
EMOTION), there are many things you can do to develop a better feel, a greater looseness
on your fingerboard
(see exercise below).

With that new-found freedom and confidence, you'll be much better prepared to venture
out into even modest improvisation. It can be great fun!

Exercise 1The Loose Goose: Getting Around the Fingerboard


(a.) Find and play all "C"s (there are 4 locations)
(b.) Do the same on these notes:

(c.) Play , now play the "C" 1 octave above and 2 octaves above.

Play again, then play 1 octave below and 2 octaves below.

(d.) Repeat this exercise using the notes in 1(b.) as starting points.
(e.) Play a 1-octave A Major Scale & Arpeggio up & down beginning on
(G St)

Now play it again beginning on the C String. Explore the possibilities:
single string, unconventional fingerings, thumb position . . .

(f.) Place any finger anywhere on the fingerboard and play, by ear,
a scale & arpeggio from that note.


(a.) Pick out short fragments of well-known themes or folk songs.
Find them on the 'cello and play them in as many positions (registers)
as you can find. Transpose them into other keys.
(b.) Next time you here a catchy 'Pop' tune or jingle, try to remember it,
then find it on the 'cello. Good practice!


Next time you are reading some chamber music, don't follow the printed
edition slavishly. Take chances, especially in the simpler passages,
and vary the bow strokes so long as they still express the basic musical idea.


In Baroque music, don't be afraid to add occasional passing notes to the bass line.
(Telemann won't mind!) You will not be arrested if you embellish a melody line
with an occasional (discreet) trill or other ornament, or play a tasteful flourish
on the inevitable fermatas!


In the privacy of your home or (bath)room, where no one can hear you,
"mess around" on your cello: try all the vulgar slides, sound effects
(or whatever!) to your heart's content. It will free you for the moment
from the tyranny of the printed page and the relentless striving for perfection
inherent in classical music performance. . .


If you found this Q & A helpful, or for further questions and comments, e-mail Harry Wimmer

On toQ & A #8?Home

For still more topics, return to Top 10 Q & A's or to Ask Harry Wimmer.

Learn more
about the ongoing
The Joy of Cello PlayingBooks.
Order all books online

This site created and maintained by Harry Wimmer ( Thanks to Shirley Givens (
for her imaginative illustrations. Thanks to Kevin Wimmer ( for his selfless and expert assistance.
Design and content ©1999-2001 by Harry Wimmer. Artwork ©1999 by Shirley Givens.
All materials on this website are limited to personal, non-commercial use.