Bowing Terms Every Beginner Cellist Must Know

Most beginner cellists tend to focus on the basics of playing the instrument. But as you go with your advanced lessons, some complicated terms might get you confused. That’s why it is important to know the basic and advanced bowing terms. Here’s a list of words, starting from the general ones up to specific bowing terms that will help you in learning and understanding more about  playing the cello:

  • Crescendo and decrescendo. These terms are used when identifying the softness and loudness of a sound, crescendo for higher sound, and decrescendo for the lower sound. 
  • Legato and staccato. Legato refers to the tones that are connected or joined while staccato is the detached form of musical notation. 
  • Allegro and adagio. Allegro and adagio refer to the tempo of music. Allegro is the fast and quick tempo ranging from 120 to 156 beats per minute while adagio is the slow tempo marking that counts from 66-76 bpm.
  • Martelé. Also known as the hammered stroke, this bowing technique requires you to end each successive note abruptly.

In learning bowing techniques, aside from getting familiar with musical notes, you also need to know basic symbols, especially when music teachers verbally instruct you which part of the song and how he wants you to bow. 

Up bowing (⋁). When your teacher or conductor tells you to do some up bowing, that means you have to do some strokes that start from the tip of the cello bow going to its frog. 

Down bowing (∏). The counterpart of up bowing, this indicates that you must draw the bow in a downward direction which starts from the frog to the tip. 

Legato (). As mentioned, legato is a bowing technique that requires smooth and connected strokes. You may indicate the word legato on your notes or you can create a large parenthesis-like marking over or under the note. 

Staccato. ( • ). When indicating a staccato, you can place a dot above or under a specific note. This is the opposite of legato which requires short, accented bowing. 

Pizzicato (pizz.). This is not really a bowing technique since players are required to pluck the strings instead of bowing but a section indicated with pizz is commonly followed by another bowing technique called the arco. 

Arco (arco). This simply indicates that you must pause from playing the pizzicato and go back to bowing the strings.  

There may be a lot of confusing words and bowing terms that you’ll meet as you start playing the cello. But as you go from basic to advanced techniques, these terms when applied will be much easier to understand and remember. When learning the cello, you have to identify their differences as there are a lot of terms that you’ll learn in the long run. However, these terms are just guides to properly play the cello. When you improve your skills, you can always find your own style and mix and match these techniques to create your own masterpiece.


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