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I am currently learning cello after playing violin for about 7 years. I was self taught on violin for the first few years but I eventually took lessons with different teachers. Now I am taking cello lessons off and on via skype.

I was watching youtube videos about playing cello and in one of them a teacher was explaining vibrato to her student and demonstrating exercises. In the comment section someone said "You can tell that the student played violin before". That suggested to me that there are things that people who played violin before do that look or sound awkward on cello. I am aware of some things to look out for like

  • Violin players tend the place their thumb too far to the right of the neck like on violin

  • Violinist's vibrato tends to be too narrow and fast for cello.

What else should I be looking out for? I discuss this with my teacher as well but there is no such thing as too much information.

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The hand motion for violin vibrato is different than that for a cello. On cello it is more of a rocking back and forth between the index finger end and the pinky finger end. You already know how violin vibrato works. I had the same comment made to me when I took up cello after violin (and classical guitar, which nobody ever commented on my vibrato so I thought it would be fine for cello.) You have to decide how important it is to learn it the cello way. The bow hold is also quite different and I found that more difficult to do.

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The main difference is size, I know this is stating the obvious but it means that the gaps between fingers have to be bigger and the overall movement of the body and each movement that would be subtle on a violin would have to be much bigger and bolder on a cello. What the YouTubers said about violin vibrato is exactly right, the cello has a broader personality and therefore needs a broader set of movements from the instrumentalist to produce a sound and to get that beautiful cello/vibrato sound.

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Vibrato and bow hold have been mentioned, as well as the size considerations, but there's one significant difference related to size that hasn't been mentioned, so I'll cover that briefly:

The left hand thumb is used as a finger, especially in advanced cello playing. I would say most pieces above a certain level have at least some thumb position. There are two Rick Moony books to get you introduced to playing with the thumb - I believe the first is just "thumb position," and the second is "thumbs of steel."

It's very difficult to get your thumb to the same level of accuracy and strength as the other fingers, but it's well worth it. Oh, and it can be painful until you get a good callous :P

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