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Are cellos in an orchestra similar to percussion in a band?
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Mouse
July 6, 2022 - 4:52 pm
Member Since: December 26, 2018
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I do not play in an orchestra, or in front of anyone, but with my first cello instructor, I was invited to join her little orchestra group. I kept saying, "no way" and finally had to say I would think about it. Well, she decided that was a "yes", when it was just a way to stop being asked, πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Anyway, at the next lesson she came in with the cello part of one of the pieces. Wow, that was boring. All it was was the same two notes almost through the entire piece, then a bunch of rests.

I was reminded of the percussionists in our school band. All most of them did was stand around, and occasionally ding a bell, while one drummer, pretty much the same drummer, did just about everything else. Really? Why would anyone enjoy that? πŸ₯΄

When I told her that I would consider it, all of a sudden there was no lesson material to learn from. It was only that orchestra piece, which had no business in my lessons, the two were not connected. The orchestra was on the side, the lessons were my lessons that I paid for in a music shop. The bonus was that I saw what the cello would be doing in the little orchestra she had, basically, nothing, like most of the percussion section in the school band. So, I told her I decided I did not want to do it. I don't play in front of people, anyway, but she would not take no for an answer. Not long after, she was no longer my instructor.

Now, this is meant to be lighthearted, and I have respect for anyone with the ability to play in an orchestra, or in front of anyone. Maybe, this was atypical, I don't know, I was just thinking of the similarity between this piece for the cello part that was mostly 2 notes and a bunch of rests, and what I observed when watching our school band.

Also, I play cello. I love my cello. There are beautiful cello pieces out there, but if my introduction to a cellist's role in an orchestra, small time orchestra, was typical, not sure what the draw would be for someone who loves to play cello. Is that the norm for a cello part in a small time orchestra? This was a really small orchestra. I can't remember what she said the makeup was, but it was really small.

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AndrewH
Sacramento, California
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July 6, 2022 - 5:51 pm
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In beginner-level orchestras, that's mostly what the cello section will see. And cello parts are often not much more interesting than that when playing dance music such as Strauss waltzes.Β 

But most music is not like that at all. By the time you're playing intermediate-level music, most orchestral cello parts are much more interesting; I would guess that they probably get the second-most melody of the string sections after the first violins.

Consider the attached file: it's the cello part from Holst'sΒ St. Paul's Suite. Holst wrote the piece for a high school orchestra, so it's intended to be playable by intermediate-level students. Even at that level, it definitely doesn't look like a percussion part.

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AndrewH
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July 6, 2022 - 6:03 pm
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And here's what a symphonic cello part might look like. This is the cello part from Brahms's 4th Symphony, which is on my orchestra's next concert program when we resume in September. I think it's fairly typical in terms of how much melody, harmony lines, and rhythmic material one would see in a 19th century orchestral cello part.

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Mouse
July 6, 2022 - 6:21 pm
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Thank you, AndrewH. Somehow, I knew you would clear this up for me. I am glad to see that because the cello, like the viola, has such a soulful sound, that can be just the opposite of that also. They really have a great range. Thanks for chiming in.

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