Start the beginning cellist with short bow strokes on a steady rhythm in the middle of the bow. The student can focus on the distance of the bow from the bridge, and can apply a steady pressure and speed. It is also easy to keep the bow moving parallel to the bridge when the bow stroke is short and in the middle of the bow.

The area between the bridge and the fingerboard is the bowing “highway” and this highway can be divided into five bowing lanes. Lane 1 is closest to the fingerboard and Lane 5 is closest to the bridge. For the beginning bow strokes, bowing lane no. 3 (midway between bridge and fingerboard) is the ideal placement (also called “sounding point”) for the bow.

The Suzuki method introduces the so-called “takataka stop stop” or Mississippi Hot Dog rhythm because this rhythm includes the two fundamental on-the-string bow strokes – detaché and martelé.


One game for extending the bow stroke is to play the ta-ka-ta-ka rhythm in different parts of the bow - the frog, the middle, and the tip. Another game to help extend the bow stroke is called “bow wandering.” In this game the student plays short bow strokes, gradually working from the frog to the tip and back again.


To develop a quality tone, students must set the bow properly before beginning the bow stroke, play with even bow speed and weight, and release weight at the end of the bow stroke.

From middle to tip, the first finger adds additional weight to compensate for the lightness of the bow. From middle to frog the pinkie adds weight.

Two useful bow strokes for learning about the role of the fingers in the bow hand are down bow from middle to tip, with a sustain, or slight crescendo, and upbow from middle to frog. From middle to tip the index finger must add weight into the stick of the bow to compensate for the lightness of the bow. From middle to frog the pinkie must add weight to balance the heaviness of the bow.


When the student can produce a quality tone using short strokes in the middle of the bow, the teacher can provide exercises to extend the bow stroke. The key to developing the basic bow stroke is to involve the following motions:

1)The bow stroke needs to be activated from the trapezius muscle in the upper back.  The shoulder joint is flexible like a hinge and permits a slight swinging motion in the arm. Tell students to think about their armpits opening and closing, while always having a little bit of armpit air. The right arm never rests against the torso.

2)Tell students to let their elbows float. Think of the elbow as a tiny bird sitting in its nest. AS the armpit opens and closes, the elbow remains in the same position in relation to the body.

3) The wrist will flex and pronate slightly as the bow moves from frog to tip to direct weight to the sounding point, and supinate as the bow moves from tip to frog.

4) The fingers of the bow hand remain flexible and curved as the bow moves from frog to tip.

Notice the flexibility of the wrist and fingers. When viewed frame by frame, the leading motion of the elbow can be observed, followed by the wrist, and then the fingers. When the bow changes direction, the elbow changes first, followed by the wrist and fingers.

The speed of the bow and the amount of weight used change as the cellist moves from the high strings to the low strings, because the C string is considerably thicker than the A string. The student should move the bow slower and add weight when changing from the high to low strings to produce a quality tone.


1) Raised right shoulder. If students have this problem, tell them to pretend their shoulder is a balloon filling up with air. Once filled, count down from 10, gradually releasing air out of the balloon. This game usually gets students to relax their shoulder.

2) Raising of the elbow is another problem. Sometimes students point their elbow upward and outward toward the ceiling. Remind them that their elbow is like a bird that needs to sit in its nest to help keep the elbow down. The hugging and wing flapping games are also good reminders of correct elbow position.

3) Too much opening of elbow - if the armpit stays closed and there is too much opening and closing from the elbow joint, it is unlikely that the back muscle will be engaged. Stand behind the student (or partner students) and touch the trapezius muscle where it connects just under the should blad. That muscle should be engaged during the bow stroke.

4) If the student’s wrist is stiff and tense the bow will not be able to move correctly and the tone will be poor. The stiff wrist is often caused by problems with the bow hold, especially a hyperextended thumb. Review the bow hold frequently when learning to extend the bow stroke.