Thumb position is usually considered a more advanced technique, but I suggest starting thumb position exercises as part of a cello technique exercises regimen sooner rather than later, so that the cellist/student gets used to using the thumb as soon as possible. Octave scales in thumb position are one octave scales played with the thumb on the root (thumb 1-2-3 fingers – thumb 1-2-3 finger patterns) on the A and D strings. Another benefit to playing octave scales in thumb position is clearly seeing a scalar interval pattern within a single hand shape (this can’t be easily seen in multiple octave scale exercises).
Before talking about how to practice, it’s important to outline what essential cello technique exercises should be practiced. After studying music most of my life, talking and studying with professional musicians from various backgrounds – classical and jazz, and having used many technical books on music instruction, I recommend and use what I call the Triangle Practice Routine (think of the three points of a triangle) which consists of three parts:
Cello technical exercises are the second part of the Triangle and involve etude books, methods, and exercises. Etude in French means “study.” Etudes usually focus on note and bowing challenges and patterns. There are countless technical etude books available for cellists of every level. Your teacher will guide you and suggest methods he or she feels are appropriate based on individual teaching philosophy. There are three main reasons musicians use and study etudes and technical studies:
The increasing difficulty inherent in most etude method books also serves as a constant challenge which helps the musician attain a higher level of playing and technique. Technical exercises are of the utmost importance for making you a better cellist and musician. All serious trained musicians do them and have spent countless hours of practice time playing and studying cello technique exercises. It is fair to say that technical exercises and etudes are a universally accepted aspect of good musicianship.