by Dr. Ozan Tunca

Reprinted with permission from AMERICAN STRING TEACHER, Vol. 54, No. 3 (August 2004). Copyright 2004, American String Teachers Association.

Scales, etudes, performance repertoire, and orchestral excerpts are the basic teaching materials for the cello student. In addition to scales and arpeggios, etudes provide both the facility and the technical foundation for the student's development. Etudes offer a concentrated study of one or more technical aspects in a short musical form. Depending upon the author and the date of composition, etudes differ both in style and technical demands. Cello students entering universities are most likely at different playing levels and although they may require different study materials, there are some common cello etude books that apply to the majority.

It is only natural for teachers to use their own past training as a source for determining the proper etudes for their students. Teachers consider the level of difficulty and the efficiency of etudes and can compare them with a pool of other studies that they have encountered over the years. On the other hand, in order to be informed about teaching materials other than the familiar ones, teachers need a source that lists the availability and the level of such materials.

My research was done by sending surveys to randomly selected cello professors in American colleges and universities. Respectively, Popper, Schroeder and Duport are the composers of the most commonly used cello etude books. Popper's book is the most chromatic one, Schroeder's is a collection of etudes composed by different cellists, and Duport's is the oldest of all the books that were in the survey. When combined, these books offer variety in terms of technique, style and musical era.



One of the most prominent cellists of his generation, David Popper was born on June 18, 1843 in Prague. From 1855 to 1861 he studied at the Prague Conservatory with Julius Goltermann, and graduated by playing his own concerto. In 1864, he gave the first performance of Robert Volkmann's A Minor Cello Concerto with Hans von Bülow conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. Popper was principal cellist of the Vienna Court Opera between 1868 and 1873, and also played in the Hellmesberger Quartet with Joseph Hellmesberger, Adolf Brodsky, and Sigismund Bachrich. In 1873, he gave up his posts in order to undertake concert tours to Germany, France, England, and Russia with his wife, pianist Sophie Menter. Popper was the first to perform concertos of Joseph Haydn and Robert Schumann, which are among the most popular works of the cello repertoire today.

Franz Liszt recommended Popper for the teaching position at the National Hungarian Royal Academy of Music in 1886, where many famous musicians of the future, such as Béla Bartók, Ernö Dohnányi, and Zoltán Kodály were students. Leaving an impressive output of music for cellists and students, Popper died in Baden, near Vienna, on August 7, 1913.

Popper wrote four concertos (1871, 1880, 1888, 1900) Requiem for Three Cellos and Orchestra (Hamburg, 1892), two suites (op. 16 and 50), and a string quartet, as well as a considerable number of character and salon pieces. He also composed teaching material: High School of Cello Playing, op. 73 (Leipzig, 1901-5); Ten Medium Difficult Studies, op. 76 (1907); Easy Studies for Cello, op. 76a (1908).

High School of Cello Playing, op. 73 (Leipzig 1901-5)

Most of the op. 73 studies are musically appealing, which makes practicing them enjoyable for the student. A unique feature of Popper's studies is that they are more chromatic than most of the studies that were written earlier in the nineteenth century. This makes them more challenging for accurate intonation. Many passages consist of ascending and descending sequences, which are effective for learning the relationship of one position to the next. 1 In etude number 20 the left hand moves by half step playing many notes in each position (Ex. 1).

Example 1. Popper, Etude no. 6, mm. 36-37.

Although the op. 73 studies cover many aspects of cello playing, they do not really explore a wide range of bowing techniques. Also the difficulty of the studies does not progress gradually.

Some etudes have very specific technical goals: 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 12, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 28, 29 and 33 require the ability to play many notes in one bow. These studies address a variety of left-hand problems with a well-sustained bow (Ex. 2).

Example 2. Popper, Etude no. 23, mm. 1-4.

Number 6 is designed to improve agility and synchronization between the two hands. Numbers 9, 13 and 17 are double stop studies in thumb positions. Numbers 8 and 12 emphasize the grouping of the left hand in thumb positions. Numbers 14 and 32 are staccato studies and, number 27 is clearly for spiccato. Number 37 is a study on mordents and number 40 is on harmonics.

There are also those etudes that are more musical and include a combination of techniques, such as numbers 15, 20, 22, 31 and 36.

Table 1 -- Etudes that Involve Specific Techniques *
Technical Challenges Addressed Etudes
Left Hand Agility 6, 27, 37, 28, 7, 12, 18, 24, 26, 33
Thumb Positions 14, 28, 32, 8, 31, 4, 23, 22, 21, 7, 12, 15, 18, 30, 26, 24, 35, 29, 33, 39, 38
Position Establishment 1, 2, 3, 6, 28, 11, 8, 33
Trills, grace notes 37
Double Trills 13
Double Stops 34, 17, 20, 29, 9, 13, 38
Octaves 23, 20, 13, 39, 38
Bowing Techniques 1, 2, 5, 11, 15, 19, 27, 25, 35, 38
Slurred Staccato 14, 32

* Etudes were put in order in terms of their difficulty


German-American cellist and pedagogue Alwin Schroeder was born in Neuhaldensleben, Saxony, on June 15, 1855. His older brother Karl Schroeder was also a distinguished cellist who taught at the Leipzig Conservatory. Alwin first studied the viola in Berlin at the Hochschule für Musik and was engaged by several orchestras as a violist. In 1875, he started to play the cello in Karl Liebig's orchestra in Berlin. A year later he went to Hamburg to be a cellist in Laube Kappelle. Moving to Leipzig in 1880, Schröder was appointed to share the position of principal cello with Julius Klengel in the Gewandhaus orchestra, and began teaching at the conservatory after his brother left. He toured with great success as a soloist in Germany and Russia. Around 1891, he accepted an appointment as solo cellist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He also played in several quartets such as the Kneisel and Hess Quartets. Schroeder died in Boston, October 17, 1928. He published some study material and made transcriptions for cello.

170 Foundation Studies for Violoncello

Alwin Schroeder's 170 studies are in three volumes. Featuring works of cellists from several different countries, most apparent benefit of this compilation is of its diversity. The etudes are selected and progressively arranged from the works of Buchler, Cossmann, Dotzauer, Duport, Franchomme, Grützmacher, Kummer, Lee, Merk, Piatti, Schroeder, and Servais. In general the studies are arranged in terms of their difficulty very well. All of the first and most of the second volumes rather belong to the pre-college level student. Due to the large quantity and the diversity of the etudes in the third volume of the etude book, information related to specific etudes will be limited to Table 2.

Table 2 -- Etudes that Involve Specific Techniques *
Technical Challenges Addressed Etudes
Left Hand Agility 138, 142, 146, 15-153, 161, 165
Thumb Position 156, 158, 162, 164, 165, 169
Position Establishment 81, 107, 113, 119, 135, 142, 157, 160
Multiple Stops 140, 143, 145, 154, 150, 147, 166-168
Octaves 168, 156, 167
Bowing Techniques 138, 139, 141, 143, 144, 148, 149, 150, 151, 154, 158, 159, 162, 163, 166, 169, 170
Left and Right Hand Coordination 92, 94, 100, 101, 139, 143, 146, 149, 150, 151, 165, 170

* Etudes were put in order in terms of their difficulty


Jean-Louis Duport was born in Paris on October 4, 1749, and began studying the cello at an early age with his older brother Jean-Pierre Duport. At the age of eighteen he made his debut in the Concert Spirituel, accompanied by his brother. Subsequently he performed in Paris under the patronage of Prince of Guéménée and later Baron de Bagge. Jean-Louis became good friends with Giovanni Battista Viotti and around 1782 joined his orchestra for Concert de la Loge Olympique. The French revolution disturbed his life and musical activities in Paris and, in 1790; he joined his brother in Berlin. Jean-Louis taught privately, gave chamber music concerts, composed and joined the opera orchestra where Bernard Romberg was his stand partner. Duport returned to Paris and in 1812 shared the principal position with Charles Nicolas Baudiot at the imperial chapel. Jean-Louis was the professor of cello at the Paris Conservatoire in 1814, and died in Paris on September 7, 1819.

Duport wrote six cello concertos, three duets, eight air variés for two cellos, three duos for harp and cello, and several sonatas in addition to numerous other works. His best-known work, Essai sur le doigté du violoncelle et sur la conduite de l'archet (Essay on the Art of Fingering the Violoncello and of Bowing, Paris, c1806), was later supplemented with 21 etudes (c1813). Duport established a well-founded system of fingering and also invented the popular 1-2-3-1-2-3 fingering for the chromatic scale (Ex. 3). He held the bow above the frog, as was customary at the time.

Example 3. Duport, Etude no. 3, mm. 1-4.

21 etudes (c1813)

Most of the etudes are works by Jean-Louis Duport himself. There are three exceptions: numbers 6, 8 and 10. Martin Berteau, Jean-Pierre's teacher, composed the first one. It is a very musical study and also a good introduction to thumb position. Number 8 and 10 are compositions by Jean-Pierre. The first of these, number 8, is especially challenging for the coordination of the hands. Double stops combined with highly challenging bowing techniques make the etude an excellent study for left and right hand coordination (Ex. 4).

Example 4. Duport, Etude no. 8, mm. 1-3.

Number 10 makes use of thumb positions and virtuoso bow techniques such as saltando, (Ex. 5). 2

Example 5. Duport, Etude no. 10, mm. 1-3.

The studies are not placed in order of difficulty and some are very lengthy. Numbers 2, 12, 17, 18 and 21 are five pages each, and number 9 is six pages. The first study, for example, is composed entirely of double stops and is much more difficult than some of the later ones (Ex. 6).

Example 6. Duport, Etude no. 1, mm. 1-6.

The majority of studies includes both thumb and neck positions. Another characteristic of Duport's etudes is that almost all of them have detailed dynamic markings similar to regular performance repertoire. While the etudes are musically appealing, most of them make use of various techniques. There are also studies concentrating on a specific problem: numbers 1, 8, 14 and 16 are for double stops; numbers 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 are for bowing techniques.

Table 3 -- Etudes that Involve Specific Techniques *
Technical Challenges Addressed Etudes
Scales (regular and chromatic)3, 18, 21
Thumb Positions 11, 9, 13, 10, 6, 12, 14, 18, 17, 21
Position Establishment 19, 2, 13, 9, 17, 21
Multiple Stops 9, 1, 8, 15, 12, 14, 16
Bowing Techniques 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 10, 20
String Crossings 4, 5, 7, 20
Left and Right Hand Coordination 4, 5, 8

* Etudes were put in order in terms of their difficulty


The participants numbered the etude books according to the frequency of use. On a scale of eleven, the number one indicated the most frequently used etude book. In the "others" column, some participants suggested Janos Starker's An Organized Method of String Playing, Kreutzer-Silva 42 Etudes, and Francis Grant's several books of etudes.

Table 4 -- The Most Commonly Used Cello Etude Books
Etude Book Mean of the Usage Frequency
Popper 1.97
Schroeder 2.97
Duport 4.12
Piatti 6.67
Dotzauer 7.12
Franchomme Etudes 8.85
Franchomme Caprices 8.85
Grützmacher 8.61
Servais 9.48
Merk 9.79
Others 10.33


1. Marc D. Moskovitz, "David Popper: An Anniversary Retrospective Part II: His Legacy as Performer and Pedagogue," American String Teacher 44: 4 (Fall 1994): 36.

2. Number 10 is from Jean-Pierre Duportís Cello Sonata no. 5, op. 4, third movement.


Dr. Ozan Tunca is currently teaching at Anadolu University State Conservatory in Turkey Tunca, native of Turkey, received degrees from Hacettepe University Ankara State Conservatory, Louisiana State University and Florida State University. He won the Hacettepe University Concerto Competition at the age of eighteen performing Dvorak Cello Concerto. Tunca is the cellist of the Grand Prize winner string quartet "alla Turca" in the NUMUS 2002 Chamber Music Competition in Canada.

Direct correspondence to the appropriate ICS Staff
Webmaster: Eric Hoffman
Director: John Michel
Copyright © 1995- Internet Cello Society