Playing the Cello in Different Genres

Cello is typically associated with classical music, but not in today’s generation, where versatility is necessary. Today, the cello has become famous and in demand in other genres like jazz, folk, and rock. This is due to the cello’s rich, warm sound and expressive range, which makes it an excellent choice for musicians who want to add depth and emotion to their music. 

However, playing the cello in different genres requires expertise and mastery of both classical and non-classical techniques. Stick with us as we share different techniques by genre that will help you play the cello in a wide range of styles.

Techniques by Genre

Classical techniques: bowing, vibrato, expression, etc.

When it comes to classical cello music, the bow is the most important thing. Bowing techniques like staccato, spiccato, and legato can produce different textures and articulations in the piece.

Meanwhile, if you want a warm, rich, and expressive tone for your cello, then vibrato is ideal. Lastly, expressions and interpretation techniques are perfect for telling a story with a particular emotion. But on top of these techniques, remember that classical cello playing should revolve around phrasing, dynamics, and nuance.

  • Jazz techniques: improvisation, pizzicato, etc.

Jazz cello music revolves around plucking techniques, which include pizzicato. This genre also focuses on creativity and improvisation, where percussive and rhythmic sounds are highlighted. But to play jazz on the cello, you need to have a solid foundation of modes, scales, and chord progressions together with swing and syncopation. 

  • Rock techniques: distortion, driving rhythms, etc.

Rock music highlights an edgy and gritty sound, and the cello can produce it through techniques like distortion. Aside from that, you can also use slapping, plucking, and tapping techniques to drive the rhythm and aggressive sounds which rock music needs. If you’re up for another level of a rock sound, you can use the bow to create a screeching sound or use electronic effects like reverb and delay for a more modern sound.

  • Folk and world techniques: drones, non-Western scales, etc.

Folk and world music opens you to a more culture-centered style you can try on the cello. The first technique to achieve this genre is using drones, which is about sustaining a chord or note while other melodic lines are in the background. 

Aside from drones, non-Western scales can add an exotic and unique sound to the cello. For instance, you can tune your instrument to various scales like Arabic maqamat, Indian raga, or pentatonic one if you want a Japanese and Chinese music style. Other techniques include glissando and percussive tactics.

  • Pop techniques: loops, effects, accompanying singers, etc.

Pop highlights a catchy and modern sound that the cello instrument can be a part of. But how can a cello produce such strong rhythms and contemporary melodies? One way is through looping, which is about recording and layering various parts of the cello to produce a fuller sound. There are also effects such as delay, distortion, and reverb that can bring a more modern sound. Pop cello players may accompany singers to support the vocal melody or create harmony. 


If you plan to explore cello in different genres, note that you need a diverse set of techniques and approaches we mentioned above. By exploring different genres and techniques, you can expand your repertoire and create new and unique sounds on this versatile instrument. Whether playing in a classical orchestra, a jazz trio, a rock band, or as a solo performer, the cello offers endless possibilities for musical expression and creativity.

Rachel Bartee

Rachel Bartee is a blogger and freelance writer dreaming of a tour round the world to write a story of her greatest life adventure. For the time being, she feels inspired by her daily yoga sessions and studies Interpersonal Relationships.