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  • Valerie Fischer

Warm-ups for Popper #23

Updated: Jul 20

Daily Warm Ups to Ensure Your Mind and Fingers are Ready for Popper #23

from Valerie Fischer’s Cello Studio


For Texas high school orchestra students, Region, Area, and All-State auditions don't take place until October, but most cellists have already started working on the etudes this summer. If that is you then I hope you are off to a great start. Are you confident with the note reading and where the notes are on the cello? Or do G-double sharps and finding seemingly random high notes still make your brain hurt and make you want to skip right past those measures? Maybe you're comfortable finding the notes on the fingerboard but are just having trouble making sense of the pitches in your ear. Whether these exercises are completely new or a review of technique you've conquered, they will get you in the right keys and right frame of mind to tackle Popper #23 each time you practice.


These exercises are just one part of thorough practice that will turn Popper #23 from a puzzle into a piece of cake. The assumption is that you've worked through books like Rick Mooney's Position Pieces books 1 and 2 and his Thumb Position Books or similar and you are comfortable with three-octave scales.


With each warm-up:

  • Say the note names

  • Identify the positions and hand-shapes you need to map it out on the fingerboard. Know where you are going!

  • Sing the notes out loud and in your head so you know what it will sound like before you play it.

  • Lock into ring-tones as often as possible.

  • Use drones to play along with where it works to do so.

In addition, your practice should include stretching, listening to professional recordings, listening to recordings of your own practice, and so much more. Strategize with your teacher on how to make your practice most effective for you. Most importantly, work slowly and carefully in small sections, building on what you can do well.


A Note on the Notation: Exercises were created using the music writing app Notion. For ease of use, the letter T is used instead of the traditional thumb symbol ⚲. All Roman numerals below the staff refer to the string numbers.


1. Chromatic Scale on the A string

Do the same on all strings 2. Single String Arpeggio

Do the same on all strings

3. Scales: Play slowly and carefully with long tones, paying attention to your left hand shape.


a) Three Octave Scale and Arpeggio in B major (skill used in m53 – 65)



b) Three Octave Scale and Arpeggio in B minor (skill used in m 1 – 52, 66 – end)

c) Lower Thumb Position Scale - Start on the G string (skill used in m53, beat 1-3)


d) Two Octave Thumb Position Scale - Start on the C string (skill used in m54 – 57)


e) Thumb Position Scale in Thirds: B major (skill used in m54 and 56)

  • Say the note names while you play

  • Black out the fingerings and continue to say the note names while you play


4. Chromatic Shifting in Thirds: Exercises to aid measure 11-13

  1. Tune the half steps


b. Tune the whole step from 3 to 2 across the strings.


5. Building Blocks to Mapping Out m17-18

notice that in the first measure, the 2nd fingers are on the same “fret”

in the second measure the 3rd and 2nd fingers are a whole step apart (Thumb Pattern II)

in the third measure the 2nd and 1st fingers are a half step apart (Thumb Pattern II)


6. Building Blocks to Mapping Out m19 – 20

7. Chromatic Scale: One Finger (skill used in m60 – 64)

to prepare for Double Stop Octaves



8. Double Stop Octaves (skill used in m60 – 64)

a) Bottom - Top - Together


b) Slur to the neighboring note and back. Allow the fingers to slide and make small adjustments in the hand shape.


c) Shift quickly during the stopped bow.


d) Shift quickly while the bow slurs smoothly. Gradually put more notes in a bow group until you are slurring as written.



Recommended Book for more great exercises: Dr. Benjamin Whitcomb’s A Guide to Practicing David Popper’s ‘Hohe Schule’ Etudes (Available on his website or from Amazon for the Kindle app) Dr. Whitcomb is a Professor of Cello and Music Theory at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. As a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin he is also a former cellist in Central Texas.



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