Adrienne Gifford Cello Studio

Whether you are a cellist looking for practice tips or if you are curious about cello lessons, I hope this site will be a helpful resource. Learn more about me »


March 11, 2010 at 12:00 am

How to practice with a metronome

Ideally, working with a metronome helps you to internalize your own sense of steady rhythm.  It is helpful to practice with a metronome, gradually building the speed of a piece step by step.  But, we also need to be using the metronome to help us internalize our own sense of rhythm.   To do this, we want to be clapping along with the metronome before practicing with it.  Clapping with the metronome helps us to feel the rhythm within our bodies, since rhythm needs to be felt physically.  After a while, we are able to clap a steady beat without the metronome.  Then, when we practice our piece without the metronome, we are able to feel if we are playing along with our own steady beat or not.  Since most music is performed without a metronome, it is helpful to establish a very steady sense of rhythm.  A potential danger of  practicing with the metronome is that we rely on the metronome to keep us steady, instead of feeling the steady beat ourselves.  If used this way, the metronome becomes more of a crutch than a tool.  The metronome can be a wonderful tool if we clap along with it to begin to internalize rhythm.

August 11, 2010 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment


It is so important to develop good technique from the beginning. Developing technique requires knowing how to practice and correct repetition. Muscle memory is cumulative. If you practice with good technique and repeat the passage correctly, chances are, the habit will stick. If you correct a technical habit only once and move on, the incorrect habit will take over. Learning good technique requires correct repetition.

March 11, 2010 at 7:18 am Leave a comment

Pitch on a Cello

As a stringed instrument, you adjust the pitch on a cello by changing the length of the string.  You do this by stopping the string on the fingerboard.  Unlike the guitar, the cello has no frets to give you an indication of where to place you finger.  There are no keys, like on a piano or wind instrument.

Instead, cellists learn where to place their fingers by position.  In order to play the notes in tune, it is important for cellists to hear the note in tune.  That is why I believe that ear training is so important.  I try to train students to hear notes in tune before playing them.

To help give you an idea of what I mean by ear training, ponder the following question.  Have you ever had a song stuck in your head?  It is that inner singing that I hope to train, so that students hear notes in tune before trying to play them.  If at all possible, purchase the CD of the music that your child is working on. I believe that using the CD goes very far in ear training.

March 11, 2010 at 7:14 am Leave a comment

How to Practice

In learning a piece of music, it is far more beneficial to remain in the learning process than to try and force results.  You enjoy the process more and end up accomplishing more than you would by trying to obtain results at all costs.  I believe most people would agree, but it is easy to slip into a goal oriented mentality, such as trying to move as quickly as possible through the repertoire.

One obstacle to process oriented practice is the drive to simply learn more notes.  It is easy for all of us to get into the mindset that being further along in the repertoire will make us better cellists.  That is not the case.  Practicing with correct habits will lay a foundation for more difficult techniques that are required in more advance repertoire.

Another obstacle to process oriented practice is a lack of focus.  Often, it will come in the form of self talk.  It could either be inner commentary about the state of the piece.  Or, it could be in the form of any distracting thought that is not about the process of learning the piece.  When self talk becomes to frequent, it helps me if I stop and remind myself of the aspect of cello playing I’m exploring through learning the piece.

Another problem is getting into a practice rut; a boring mindless routine.  You can get into a pattern of repeating a passage in the same manner without thinking about what you are doing.  Then, it becomes very difficult to change.  The solution is to practice a bit less and to only practice thoughtfully.  Not only will you make genuine improvement, but your practice will be more interesting.

The benefits of process oriented practice are that you enjoy practicing and you build a solid foundation that will last.  So why not slow down and enjoy the process?

March 11, 2010 at 6:03 am 1 comment

About Adrienne Gifford

As a teacher, I aim to motivate students to love practicing and give them the tools to make beautiful music. Learn more about me »