Dear BettyLou,

I have been playing the cello for seven years now and I have begun playing the Lalo cello concerto. No matter how hard I try I cannot master the fast notes and it's taking me forever I have tried almost everything please help!!!

Yours Truly,


Dear Haze!

Herr Lalo is trying to tell you something, dear: he's not ready for you. There are hundreds of chatters around who want to vanquish major works after 20 months or so of cello lessons, but in my opinion, those people would barely be able to scratch out a decent C major scale after such a short time! I was 36 before my teacher allowed me the privilege of "The Swan." Obviously, the Lalo is not quite your speed (literally), so let's give it a rest. Never gauge your skill with the number of years you have studied, as that means nothing! I mean really! How many of those seven years were spent living it up, inebriated, dancing to the hypnotic throb of "trance" music sans cello? Lots of them, I bet! Good things come to those who wait! Godspeed to you dear!

Hi BettyLou

I am struggling! I used to play the cello in school, but my main instrument was the piano. I gave up playing when I left school, but now that I've moved to a new country (Korea), I have more time on my hands to listen to music, etc.

Searching the internet I found this site and signed up -- I want to start up again. But... as all beginner string players, I sound like a dying cow when I play! I come from a family of musicians, and I love cello music, but I always seem to give up before getting over the dying cow period because I just can't stand the scraping and squeaking. I know that a good teacher would move me on quickly, but, I have to teach myself as I can't afford a teacher here in Korea.

I have thought about maybe getting some pre-recorded accompaniment, but I'm not sure if that's available here. Do you know of any mail-order alternatives? If you have any ideas how I can get over this hurdle (which is considerable for me) I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks for donating your time to people like me!


Dear sweet, naïve Lorna,

There is no way around telling you this, so I am going to tell it to you straight: no teacher, no progress. You will cause more harm to yourself and especially those around you, indubitably, if you proceed teacher-free. The only recorded accompaniments I am aware of are in difficult cello repertoire, far beyond your level at this point. If you must, and I can tell from your letter you have the cello lust, I encourage you to peruse handsome Tim Janof's cello tips here at the gorgeous Internet Cello Society, and make the singular goal of learning how to produce a nice tone on open strings. Then, if you must persevere sans pedagogue, invest in some good tapes of Slava, Fournier and Piatagorsky (purchased from SHAR, of course) and watch them for hours on end, and try to study the intricate details of our mysterious craft that way. But beyond that, the cello is not something like the oboe or the viola that one can learn on one's own. The cello is something much, much more involved and in a totally superior stratosphere than those somewhat simple musical toys. Please let us all know about your progress, every microscopic detail, however slow and painstaking and truly tedious I am sure it will be.

Dear Betty Lou,

I recently started a full time job (non-music related) and am having trouble balancing work with practice, as well as finding time to exercise and see my friends. I'd like to be able to practice four hours a day, and I find myself only putting in an hour. I'm even willing to turn off the TV and spend less time reading, but I'm still not getting anything done. I don't want to sacrifice sleep. Help!

Thanks so much,


Dear Laura,

Honey, You are living in a dream world. With all those commitments, it's a wonder you can even arise come morning! Your first mistake was taking a full-time job, but I understand that unless you marry money, or come from old money, we must all eke out a living. BettyLou would pale at the thought of working full time, which would cut into her valuable practice and social time. But, in the interest of serving humankind, and giving back to the community, I have devised these clever hints that will iron out your predicament in a jiff:

  1. Practice while you watch your favorite TV programs. I love to work on Bach while "Seinfeld" or "King of the Hill" blares on my impressive 60" plasma screen TV.

  2. Combine visiting friends and exercise; a nice hike with a beloved confidant is a real timesaver. I love a nice leisurely 8-mile trek with my friend, Pretzeletta Johnson; gabbing about how much better we are than our dowdy neighbors. It's very liberating!

  3. Call in sick as much as possible -- take "mental health" days to enjoy all-day practice frenzies. I like to turn off my cell phone and have platters of comestibles handy so my considerable genius goes unfettered.

  4. Stop reading for cripes sake! The only reading you should be doing is sight-reading!! Read books when you cannot possibly play the cello -- jury duty, aircraft and space travel, and in the car: books on tape!

It's all about efficiency for you sweetie. Good luck, doll, and never give in to the cello lust!

Dear BettyLou,

I'm at the end of my rope. I've been trying to interview Yo-Yo for over six years now. I've asked him in person, I've spoken with his agent, I've asked Yo-Yo's friends to ask him for me, I've corresponded with his personal assistant, and I've even spoken with his personal assistant's assistant, and still no luck! What can I do, BettyLou?

The Interview Man

Dear Interview Man,

Your letter reminds me of my younger days as an ABBA groupie. I am not allowed to speak about it publicly, but I can tell you after several arrests, and deportation from Sweden in 1973, my fanaticism was finally cured. Judging from what you've admitted here, I can only assume that Yo-Yo has already labeled you a "stalker." You will probably never get through his formidable posse to interview him, sadly. Have you received notice of a restraining order? If you haven't, I am sure one is on way. You might want to consider a nom de plume and using the telephone as the conduit for all future contacts with his "people," because I know you won't stop. I have seen your photograph and I am sure Yo-Yo would recognize your handsome and rakish features instantly. In the meantime, set your sights on cellists more attainable, like Rachel Dratch from "Saturday Night Live" or that pretty Paula Zahn. Even Prince Charles, who has been known to scratch out a folk tune or two on the cello, and knows nothing of your zealotry (yet), may give you a chat before Yo-Yo does.

Dear BettyLou,

After playing the cello for about a year, I developed a small hole my index finger where it touches the A string when fingering the B-flat. Foolishly I ignored it. Now it has turned into a wart, which causes great pain when I play. My doctor tried freezing it off with liquid nitrogen but to no avail. Shall I avoid all the flat keys forevermore, or shall I go back to playing the saxophone?


HPV infected person

Dear HPV,

My research suggests that you should seek a second opinion. Are you sure a veterinarian didn't see you? What kind of back-woods country doctor are you consulting anyway?? Liquid nitrogen is not the only remedy for what ails you. Try contacting a dermatologist in your area that specializes in laser treatments, and you'll be on the road to recovery in a snap. In the meantime, utilize this hiatus from the "half" position to learn the dazzling array of alternative fingerings our instrument allows. Second finger, D string fourth position is the obvious solution here for your B-flat woes. I mean, there's a young man out there who plays the cello with his feet, and you're complaining of some pain on one finger? The saxophone? Maybe that IS your answer!!

Vexed? Peeved? Confounded? Ask BettyLou! Send all inquiries to BettyLou, maybe she'll deem your question worthy of an answer.

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