Welcome to ModernCelloTechniques.com, a resource for cellists who want to learn how to create the beautiful and interesting sounds found in contemporary cello compositions. Within these pages you will find practice strategies for many specialized techniques, printable exercises for you to practice, and video demonstrations.

How To Use This Site

The site is designed so that it can be read on a tablet computer sitting directly on your music stand, or on your desktop or laptop computer with printable PDFs available to take into your practice room.

As you read through the site, look for headings that you can click to reveal hidden content, such as this:

You might find more in-depth explanations, musical examples, or videos in sections like this.

You will see many musical examples along the way, all of which you can click to enlarge. Try it:

Once you’ve clicked on an image, you will be able to move directly from one example to the next by clicking on the arrows that appear below the image.

There are more than 90 video demonstrations placed throughout this site, some of which are embedded directly into the pages, and many more that are revealed by clicking icons such as this and this:

Specific practice tips will appear in blocks like this:


Don’t forget to head over to the Downloads Page to get PDF versions of the exercises you see.

What Is Covered? What Isn’t?

This resource is intended for the proficient cellist who is new to the techniques often required by modern scores. The four main areas of focus are: harmonics, quarter tones, ponticello and tasto, and pressure techniques. Each topic will be introduced with definitions, examples of notation, and basic practice tips. Following that introduction, a series of pages will lead you through practice exercises and video demonstrations.

Performing contemporary music requires a highly developed set of musical skills beyond the techniques covered here. To become truly comfortable reading and playing contemporary scores, one should devote much practice time to the development of more general musical principles, such as:

  • Complex and compound rhythms
  • Mixed, asymmetrical, and compound meters
  • Atonal intervallic relationships and the tuning and shifting challenges they pose

In its initial form, ModernCelloTechiques.com attempts to acquaint cellists only with instrument-specific skills. It is my hope that future additions to this site will address the issues mentioned above and others.

ModernCelloTechniques.com is an academic project by Russell Rolen, doctoral candidate at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University.   The site is currently under construction and will be undergoing constant revision for the remainder of this year.

Many thanks for the continuing support and guidance of my committee members, Professor Rex Martin, Dr. Peter Webster, and Professor Hans Jensen.


Thanks also to Damian Dodd, who helped me record and edit the videos. Find Damian at www.saucereffect.com

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