Cello Time – the essential series for beginner cellists

The Cello Time series by Kathy and David Blackwell is widely used among cello students today. This is a brief review/summary of the different books in the series – which will hopefully give you an idea of what to expect from each book.


Cello Time Starters

This book is aimed at the youngest learners. As well as the tunes, there are also quizzes, listening exercises and games. It also comes with a CD that students can play along with.

There is a separate Teacher’s Handbook, which includes piano and string accompaniments, and photocopiable pages.


Cello Time Joggers, Runners and Sprinters

This is a set of 3 books with increasing difficulty. Each book comes with a CD, which includes a performance of the piece with backing tracks a) with the cello melody (for the student to listen to or play along with) and b) without the cello melody. There are also separate piano accompaniment books available.

They can all be used in conjunction with the books available for other string instruments (Fiddle Time, Viola Time), which makes them ideal for either individual or group lessons.

There are scales and other technical exercises at the back of each book – and also Music Fact-Finder Page, which includes a summary of all the terms and signs learnt within the book.

Pieces from the books also appear on the syllabus for both ABRSM and Trinity exams up to grade 4 – so they’re definitely essential books to have in your collection! The tunes are fun and catchy, and my students have lots of fun with them.



Cello Time Joggers

This is the first book in the series. It starts with open strings and builds up to using fingers 1, 3 and 4 in 1st position. Rhythms included are quavers, crotchets, minims, dotted minims and semibreves. It also introduces slurs on a very simple level.

The following pieces are including in exam lists:

ABRSM 2020-2023

  • Grade 1 – Patrick’s Reel (List A), Rocking Horse (List B)

Trinity 2020-2023

  • Initial – Listen to the Rhythm, Summer Sun (Group A); City Lights (Group B)
  • Grade 1 – The Old Castle (Group A); Patrick’s Reel, Cello Time (Group B)



Cello Time Runners

The second book introduces 2nd fingers on all strings, and forward and backwards extensions in first position. New rhythms introduced include semiquavers, dotted crotchets and 6/8 time.

The following pieces are including in exam lists:

ABRSM 2020-2023

  • Grade 1 – Pick a Bale of Cotton (list C)
  • Grade 2 – Mexican Fiesta (list C)

Trinity 2020-2023

  • Grade 2 – Starry Night (Group A); Caribbean Sunshine, Prelude from Te Deum (Group B)



Cello Time Sprinters

The third book uses both 1st and 4th positions, and builds on the new concepts learnt in Runners. As with all the books in the series, the pieces are interesting and fun to play – Some Day is a firm favourite for my intermediate students!

The following pieces are including in exam lists:

ABRSM 2020-2023

  • Grade 4 – Some Day (List B), Russian Wedding (List C)

Trinity 2020-2023

  • Grade 3 – Falling Leaves, Andante (Group A); Overture (Group B)
  • Grade 4 – Some Day (Group A); Latin Nights, Wild West (Group B);



Cello Time Scales

This book covers the scales and finger patterns used in ABRSM grades 1 and 2. There are rhythm games and fun pieces for each key, and a range of puzzles and compositional games.



Cello Time Christmas

As with the books from the main Cello Time series, this book comes with a CD and also a separate piano accompaniment. There are 32 well-known Christmas songs, all of which use the 1-2-4 and 1-3-4 patterns in first position.




In conclusion, this is a great series for the modern cello student – and a must-have on any cello teacher’s bookshelf! The pieces are interesting and varied, and the CDs provide an extra level of fun for students.

If you have anything to add to this, or would like any more information, you are more than welcome to leave a comment below.

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