I have a piece in which there are notes exceeding 1 kHz (B5). I can only currently play up to 440 Hz on my cello. How can I do so? If it's hard, are there any strategies?

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  • 6
    The score would be much clearer if it had a clef Commented May 21, 2022 at 0:12
  • 2
    @346 bass clef (or even tenor clef) is inappropriate when the notes are that high. Commented May 21, 2022 at 1:50
  • 2
    @346 Why is it written in the wrong clef? Commented May 21, 2022 at 5:57
  • 3
    @Tim in my experience cello parts move to tenor clef (very common) and then to treble clef (somewhat less common) rather than using 8va. Barber's Adagio goes to at least G♭5, so no 8va needed. Another example: youtube.com/watch?v=i6rU9AYzCws&t=30s. Even D6 is better written without 8va in treble clef. (The correct notation for two octaves is 15ma, by the way; writing 15va is similar to writing "2th" for "second.") The problem with octave numbers, though, is that there are different systems in use, so it's not completely unambiguous whether A4 or A5 is 440 Hz.
    – phoog
    Commented May 21, 2022 at 8:12
  • 4
    The fact that the piece has notes that are over an octave higher than you can currently play is a sure sign that it's too advanced for you at the present time. On the other hand, I wouldn't take any composer/arranger who writes eight ledger lines seriously.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented May 21, 2022 at 8:40

1 Answer 1


You have to use what is called a “thumb position”. The thumb rests horizontally on the A and D string while you play this with fingers 3,2,1,3 on the A string. The difficulty is the amount of pressure needed so high up the board and landing on the right spot.

  • 2
    The point about thumb positions is that the thumb does not just rest on the strings. The thumb actually provides most of the pressure to the string, so that the fingers only need to press down with a manageable amount of force. Also, if the notes are really high, you can even press down on the strings in the air between the board and the bridge.
    – ndim
    Commented May 21, 2022 at 8:52
  • @ndim thanks for clarifying the role of the thumb. It has been 20 years since I played the cello. Commented May 21, 2022 at 12:16
  • No, you do not need to go into Thumb Pos. There is a different hand position if you choose not to use your thumb but only fingers (typically 1,2,3 only) in higher positions. Commented May 24, 2022 at 12:53
  • @ndim I would prefer to say you touch the strings past the fingerboard rather than trying to press down on them. Commented May 24, 2022 at 12:54

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