The cello is largely considered one of the most challenging of all instruments to learn. With perseverance and dedication, you can accomplish just about anything. But it’s important to have fun on that journey too.
That’s why I recommend learning easy cello songs. Sure, your left- and right-hand techniques will still be challenged, but you can also have a lot of fun while you’re developing your skill on the instrument.
So, here are multiple easy cello songs for beginners.
“Dream On” by Aerosmith
Song year: 1973
Aerosmith’s debut album finds the band in a very different form than we would eventually come to know them for. Songwriter and vocalist Steven Tyler’s voice sounds younger and clearer than it ever would in the years that follow (some people don’t even recognize the voice on the recording as Tyler!).
Further, “Dream On” sounds like a remnant of the 60s, and it’s a far cry from the blues rock of “Sweet Emotion,” for instance.
It is, however, a great song, and a great one to practice wider intervals, which aren’t too hard given that you can cover the range with multiple strings. The version found in the video, though, also covers some of the faster guitar licks in the song, which aren’t easy. Just so you know.
“Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities
Song year: 2011
Written and produced by the members of Capital Cities, “Safe and Sound” offers up “us against the world” vibes that resonated with an early 10s audience. It could be because it’s easy to dance to.
The song paints colorful pictures of tribulation (sky falling, a hurricane of frowns, six feet underground, etc.) but affirms repeatedly that the narrator and his significant other will be “safe and sound.” There aren’t any other twists in the lyrical content, so I think you can take it at face value.
“Safe and Sound” has a relatively simple melody you can play on your cello, though I would recommend starting slow before building up your speed. That goes for almost everything mind you.
“Beat It” by Michael Jackson
Song year: 1983
Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” became famous for something that was supposed to be kept rather hush-hush – Eddie Van Halen’s epic guitar solo. Legendary session player Steve Lukather’s contribution as a guitar player only ended up adding mystique to the song, in retrospect.
“Beat It” shows what a great rock riff is – simple, catchy, and just a little rude. The minor key riff is just as much a hook to the song as the melody is. No wonder producers Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson went with it (reportedly, they were tossing around dozens if not hundreds of ideas for Thriller).
I’m not sure if anyone ever bought Jackson’s new “bad boy” image at the time, but if they did, it was short-lived, and it was likely because of this song.
“Material Girl” by Madonna
Song year: 1985
Madonna is one of the biggest touring acts of all time, and “Material Girl” is one of the biggest songs in her entire catalog. It may even be one of a handful of songs responsible for establishing her as a pop icon.
Typical of the mid-80s, “Material Girl” features synthesizers heavily. Its message of self-important consumerism seems just as relevant today as ever, though, and the song has not only become a recent hit on TikTok but has also been covered by the likes of Britney Spears.
The melody to “Material Girl” isn’t too challenging, especially if you take it at a slower tempo.
“You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift
Song year: 2009
“You Belong With Me,” as with several other Taylor Swift songs, ended up playing to a country market and a pop market. That period is mostly in the rear-view mirror for one of the biggest pop stars of our time. The not-so-innocent Swift, of course, will swear that the song is autobiographical though.
I still think it’s one of Swift’s better songs, and “You Belong With Me” features a distinctive melody that plays very nicely on string instruments. It may not be for everyone, and that’s okay. But if you like it, it’s worth a go on your cello.
“These Eyes” by The Guess Who
Song year: 1968
Canadian rock band The Guess Who’s “These Eyes” nails that late 60s vibe to a tee. If anything, the band may have been a couple of years ahead of their time with this tune. Especially for a band that had primarily become known for hard rock.
But the song is brilliant, and it would have been a shame to have archived and never released it. The Guess Who did hesitate knowing it was a departure from their typical style.
“These Eyes” is a ballad, which is one of the things that makes it easier to play on the cello. But there are some tricky sections, and several modulations too. Best focus on the verse.
“Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel
Song year: 1983
Billy Joel’s upbeat doo-wop of “Uptown Girl” tells the story of a working-class man looking to woo a wealthier “Uptown Girl.” It’s unlikely you haven’t heard of it, but if you’ve never come across it on your life journey, you’re in for a nice surprise.
“Uptown Girl” features a melody that’s well worth learning, and its doo-wop stylings give you a bit of an education in a genre that thrived in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
“Creep” by Radiohead
Song year: 1992
Well, there’s nothing creepy about Radiohead’s “Creep.” Oh, wait, yes there is!
Now here’s a band that took after other influential avant-garde artists like David Bowie. This song’s melody is very pop-friendly, but some touches make it a little unusual too, such as the heavy guitar part that “kick starts” before the chorus.
The melody to this prototypical Radiohead hit is instantly recognizable, and a good one to learn for anyone interested in picking up more 90s music.
“Highway to Hell” by AC/DC
Song year: 1979
AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” barely needs any introduction. Now here’s a band that proved that if you record songs following the same formula repeatedly, you will eventually have a hit. I’m being half-serious here, but only half.
“Highway to Hell” was the title track off the album of the same name and it seems to have influenced Van Halen too (think of “Summer Nights”).
If you’re interested in learning a bit of blues-infused hard rock, this is a great place to turn.
“Sacrifice” by Elton John
Song year: 1989
Elton John’s “Sacrifice” was released as the second single from Sleeping with the Past. While it did make it to the top of the UK charts, I admit that it may not be the most recognizable of his. Of course, John would become known for his ballads as much as his raucous glam rock (think “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”).
“Sacrifice” still features a superb vocal performance and a great melody. Would you expect any less? This one is certainly worth a go.
“Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton
Song year: 1996
Heartbreak has never sounded so smooth. Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart” was a mid-90s R&B ballad that would go on to win her a Grammy just a year later in 1997. The song exploded in popularity across the world.
“Un-Break My Heart” has also been covered by many artists, but perhaps most interesting of all is Weezer’s alt-rock rendition.
This melancholy melody is well worth adding to your repertoire.
“All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey
Song year: 1994
Unofficial “Queen of Christmas” Mariah Carey didn’t get to where she is by one day deciding to sing a few Christmas songs. No, this movement has its beginnings in the mid-90s, when “All I Want For Christmas Is You” blew up like few other modern Christmas songs ever do.
“All I Want For Christmas Is You” features plenty of faster melodies, so I wouldn’t suggest making this your top priority, but maybe you can master it in time for Christmas?
“24K Magic” by Bruno Mars
Song year: 2016
There isn’t enough funk in modern music, and I’m glad that someone has been bringing it back, even if it is with flavors of hip-hop and EDM. Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic” features a synth riff and backbeat that has been compared to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message,” and I can hear it.
Then again, it’s hard not to be derivative at a time when most things have already been done.
“24K Magic” probably isn’t a good song to start your journey off with because there are plenty of fast flourishes. But some sections of it are easier than others.
“Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson
Song year: 1988
As with many Michael Jackson songs of the time, “Smooth Criminal” features a cool, minor key single note riff. Many hold “Smooth Criminal” as one of Jackson’s best riffs, and bands like Alien Ant Farm couldn’t leave it alone either.
This is one of those riffs that sounds great regardless of whether you play it in a lower register or higher register, and if you don’t mind the extra practice, it’s worth learning in multiple positions.
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel
Song year: 1989
Billy Joel’s catchy and driving “We Didn’t Start the Fire” covers major events in the 40 years between 1949 and 1989. One of the reasons Joel conceived of the song is because he was talking with a 20-year-old who didn’t know anything about what happened during the 50s.
The lyrics read like a list, something that would become more common in country music down the line. If anything, the song is like a rant.
Joel would come to criticize the song later in his career. But listening to it, even today, there’s no mistaking it for anything other than a radio hit. And it has a fun melody you can play on the cello.
Easy Cello Songs For Beginners, Final Thoughts
Your cello journey may not always be an easy one, but here’s an important reminder to have fun. Learn the songs mentioned above. Find some others you can work on. It will make the process more enjoyable.