im currently writing a piece for orchestra, and im not sure if the cello part is actually playable. Can a cello player play this

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in Adagio (around 70 bpm)?

I have never played cello myself, but I think the D would be played on the C string, the A on the G string, and the D and the F on the D string? This would mean they would have to switch between three strings really fast, and I don't know how difficult that is

Is it playable?

  • 2
    Some cellists can, others maybe not. Two things to help with the larger issues: 1) make friends of musicians who play the instruments you write for 2) have in mind a specific potential group of musicians to play your compositions. Even if they never play it, it helps you to understand what you can get away with writing. Jan 4, 2022 at 16:48
  • This is much easier than, e.g., the cello part to the "Spiderman Theme" , which goes pretty quickly itself. Or just about any chunk of John Williams scores. I'm not particularly high-level and I just tried it out - no problem at mm= 120 Jan 4, 2022 at 18:32
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    Seconding others here, yeah, this is no big deal for a non-beginner cellist. Doing it all under a 1-measure slur is slightly awkward, though. At 70bpm it's not that they'd be unable to conserve bow for that long, especially if the dynamic is quiet, but the "back and forth" motion is easier with a bit more room to work with. I'm guessing that even if you printed it this way to encourage phrasing, the performer would choose to slur one beat per bow, and honor your big slur by sustaining through the bow changes. Jan 4, 2022 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


Really it depends on the cellist, with enough practice it is possible. But as a cellist I am personally not skilled enough to do this. It seems possible, although if you are writing the music yourself try finding a way to get the chord needed or rearranging it into a divis or as a chord.

  • Could you clarify what is the main difficulty? Bowing, changing positions, something else? Jan 6, 2022 at 4:57
  • Probably the bowing, you could probably pull that off fingering wise, but this is just in my opinion im only a 6th year cellist
    – Joe mama
    Jan 10, 2022 at 17:12

I am a cellist and assuming it is written in bass clef it can certainly be played in 70 for a crochet, although the fifth between d and a is not particularly comfortable.

And now a short poem by the original author:

Cellists cannot play this fast - not even with some magic cast,
They also cannot play it slow, for important things they do not know.
They cannot play it good or bad, and if this makes you feel so sad:
A clef please do add!

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    Your starting paragraph sounded just plausible enough that I thought your answer really was that the passage is unplayable at 70 bpm. I'd rather remove that paragraph as a result.
    – Dekkadeci
    Jan 4, 2022 at 17:23
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    Ok, changed it. But I'm not deleting my beautiful poem!
    – Stef
    Jan 4, 2022 at 17:56
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    Barre first finger on C and G strings, open D, then 2nd finger on D. This should be trivially easy to play at much faster speeds than 70. And, yes, I'm a cellist. Jan 4, 2022 at 18:30
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    Thanks for contributing, and creativity is fun. I would second the suggestion to lead with the "real answer," though, especially when the joke is the exact opposite. Stack Exchange is a community and we have fun, but it's also a resource. Someone googling "can cellists cross strings" might see just your first sentence as a snippet. Jan 4, 2022 at 19:30
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    @CarlWitthoft Well, it contains a reasonably right answer, it just puts it after a "joke answer" that says the exact opposite. Stef, again, please edit to start with your "real answer," and perhaps channel poetic creativity into a different outlet. Jan 5, 2022 at 14:21

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