The Secret Life of Cello Strings: A Cello Harmonics Tutorial


The Secret Life of Cello Strings: Harmonics for Cellists - Cello Life Blog - Jonathan Simmons, cello

The Secret Life of Cello Strings: Harmonics for Cellists


The Secret Life of Cello Strings – what a title!

This indispensible book by R. Caroline Bosanquet begins with a foreword by Janos Starker who calls the book “both amusing and amazing” – high praise from such a master of the instrument. The book breaks down both the notation and explanation of harmonics so that anyone from beginning cellists to seasoned professionals can benefit from it.

Why study harmonics?

Harmonics allow us to map the fingerboard. See this previous blog post that explores the use of harmonics as one of three landmarks that aid us in shifting and thoroughly mapping the fingerboard. Demystifying where the harmonics are on the cello and what notes sound when we play them aid us as we navigate everything from the neck positions to the stratosphere of the possible pitches on the instrument and everything in between.

In an effort to make the book more applicable to visual learners, I have created a video tutorial to the pieces in the book. Here is the introduction video with some more information.

What does the book contain?

The book breaks down technical and acoustical language like “nodes” and “partials” to help explain where the harmonics are on the string and why they produce those high pitches.

Lest you be daunted thinking that harmonics are beyond your ability to understand or play, the book breaks down harmonics so that even the harmonics in second and third position are covered.

Most cellists learn the octave or halfway harmonic first, but there are a host of other harmonics across the instrument. Harmonics have the unique quality of getting higher the further they are from the center string. That means that certain notes can be found in multiple places on the same string. Number 4 in the book entitled “Changing Places” demonstrates this concept nicely in the video below.

See additional demonstration videos at this link. The full first chapter is available as of this writing, and new videos will be added weekly.

If you would like to purchase your own copy of the book, you can find it here. I would love to hear your feedback, so feel free to write a comment below or through the contact page on the website.



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