New Cello Teacher needing advice

Angela said: Jul 28, 2011
Angela Villanueva
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Viola, Violin
Naples, FL
25 posts

I just got my Cello Book 1 training this summer and am excited to get started. I am at a loss as to what to recommend for parents for brands of instruments. I am looking for good quality that is not too expensive. I know that the Nagoya Suzuki instruments are smaller but are they better? I was thinking that I would buy a few small sizes and sell or rent them to students so I can keep passing them on to new little ones. Can someone recommend a good quality instrument that is reasonable?

Also, I bought some “Foam-A-Cellos” from Young Musicians as i didn’t know how to get started on making my own but they are kind of heavy and expensive. Does anyone have advice on how to easily make them from foam yourself? I have the directions but they look complicated. Thanks.

Angie Trochessett
Naples, FL

Angie Villanueva

Barb said: Jul 28, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi Angie!

My understanding is that the Nagoya Suzuki cellos are about 1 size smaller than traditional European instruments. I bought a 1/4 size to rent to my students, and it is quite a bit smaller than a European 1/4. It has worked well for a few of my 5-6 year olds. What I like is that it has a very long end pin, so an adult can play it not too uncomfortably! I wonder if that is why it is designed that way—so the parent can start on the same instrument?

I went with another teacher’s recommendation on Gliga cellos from a known shop. According to what I read online, Gligas as they come from the factory are not well set up, but the bodies are good and they can be tweaked and the ones my students have have good tone. I don’t know exactly which “grade” of Gliga they are. I have read many good things about Eastman cellos, too, and did have one student with an excellent 3/4 Eastman.

If you can visit shops in your area and try out the student cellos you may gain some insight. One thing I found out about one shop is that they didn’t know anything about cellos! (Further confirmed when an adult student who rented a cello there arrived to his first lesson with a violin bow.)

I have not used foam cellos (yet)—the youngest student I have had was 5 and good with the Suzuki cello to start with. Someone once advertised his foam cellos and maybe even directions for making them here. If you do a search you may find his post. I don’t know if they were like the ones Shar sells or not.

I will recommend that you make sure to make foot/end pin charts for your students. I found that made a very big difference. The student will need to bring their stool or chair from home and the chart for each lesson (unless you can verify their home chair is the same as what you provide). This consistency and a marked end pin (same length each time until they grow) helps in holding the cello consistently well. I found that inexpensive rubber-backed mats work well for foot charts. We use duct tape for marking feet and end pin positions and a spot to put the bow down, and to mark where the stool legs go—the student’s idea.

Don’t make the mistake I made my first year in allowing a student to use a cello which was really too big for him. This affected his posture and hand positions and made everything more difficult than it should have been. I didn’t want to make the parents make another 12 hour drive or pay for shipping to exchange it, but if it happens again I will.

Maybe all that is covered in Suzuki training (I don’t have any yet), but if not, there you go, you can learn from my mistakes!

Best wishes in getting your studio started!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Martha said: Jul 29, 2011
Martha Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
12 posts

Hi Angie,
Congratulations on your new Suzuki cello teaching. No so easy, but very rewarding.
There seem to be no standards for the smallest size cellos, almost amounting to wondering why they call them differents “standard” sizes. I actually try to see the child and cello together before deciding, as much depends on tallness of back, length of legs and correct seating. I never had much luck with “pre” instruments for cello.
Barb’s idea of actually seeing what they sit on at home is a great idea. I have a variety of benches in my studio, and have been shocked when I see what they use at home. If you make your foot chart on the back of a piece of carpet, the other side makes a great anti-slip device.
Good for you to get some Suzuki training!
Martha Brons, Inventor of the CelloPhant® bow accessory

said: Jul 29, 2011
 7 posts

Some of my students have Cecilio instruments and I must say, they are very difficult instruments to deal with. The pegs don’t want to stick and the fine tuners are usually very hard to turn. They also seem to have a pretty mushy weak sound. They are very inexpensive though.

Mark said: Aug 5, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
20 posts

I have designed my own foam cello. See attached pictures.

At the start of the year I gather all my beginning parents and we have a foam cello making party. Itg’s a great time for beginning parents to meet and bond each other and an opportunity for me to get to know them in a more informal setting. I enlist the help of a Dad or Mom from my class who is good at making things to help with the whole process.

Barb said: Aug 5, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Mark,

Great idea to have a foam cello making party!

I can barely see your picture. Is it possible to attach it in a larger size so that we can see some details? Or could you describe how you make it?

Thank you!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Angela said: Aug 5, 2011
Angela Villanueva
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Viola, Violin
Naples, FL
25 posts

Ditto on getting bigger pictures. I would also be interested in seeing
bigger pictures and also directions. :)

Angie Trochessett
[javascript protected email address]

Sent via DROID on Verizon Wireless

Angie Villanueva

Mark said: Aug 8, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
20 posts

I had trouble postiing the pictures. Figured that out. Made them bigger also for everyone to be able to see them better. Pictures make it much easier to see how its done rather than trying to explain with words in detail. I attach here a list of materials. Everything is available at the Home Depot. Product numbers are Canadian SKUs. American ones may be different.

Foam Cello Materials

Angela said: Aug 8, 2011
Angela Villanueva
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Viola, Violin
Naples, FL
25 posts

Thank you so much! I had already bought a foam-a-cello from Young Musicians in the Suzuki 1/8 and 1/10 sizes. I’ll use that to make the pattern for the top and back of the body. I am so thankful to have help from veterans like all of you. The whole thing is a little overwhelming but here we go!

Angie Trochessett
Naples, FL

Angie Villanueva

Martha said: Aug 16, 2011
Martha Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
12 posts
Here is a photo of two-year-old Cora with “Huggable.” I have used Huggable as a pre-cello for many years. We still need to work on Cora’s sitting skills. This idea came from the wonderful Margaret Rowell many years ago. Since others in Cora’s family play the cello, nothing satisfies her but, like Mozart, the real thing.
I have a tiny little cello all set up with her own pink CelloPhant® bow accessory which I keep in my studio for her when she comes each week to her brothers lessons.

Angela said: Aug 16, 2011
Angela Villanueva
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Viola, Violin
Naples, FL
25 posts

Thanks. I am a little confused. What does she do with Huggable? Does she just practice sitting skills?

Angie Trochessett

Sent via DROID on Verizon Wireless

Angie Villanueva

Martha said: Aug 16, 2011
Martha Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
12 posts

What do you do with a foam cello? I’ve never used one.
The idea with my Huggable is to have the young child hug something soft before hugging a cello, which has places that might seem sharp to a young child.
Building time might be better spent making an adjustable bench.

Angela said: Aug 16, 2011
Angela Villanueva
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Viola, Violin
Naples, FL
25 posts

The way it was explained to me in an article from David Evenchick, there are a number of reasons to use foam cellos: It helps in “learning how to handle the cello and being aware of the space it occupies,… fitting and balance with the cello, sometimes preliminary work on bow patterns and left hand activities.”
Generally,
1. It helps to separate the motor control issues from the auditory input
2. gives time for more ear training (singing)
3. allows for freedom of movement
4. creates good first impressions (don’t have to sqeeze, etc. because it is soft and light)
5. retracing steps
6. no endpin needed so child learns to hold it in the legs and keeps feet on the floor
7. more possibilities for participation in group
I am sure there are other reasons too but the real genious in pretend cellos is that you can avoid learning bad habits that will then be transferred to the real cello. We want them to be successful with each step so learning is fun and not frustrating.
I guess I was just wondering if you used a dowel bow on the Huggable or how similar to a foam cello it would be. It is adorable. Thanks for sharing.

Angie

Angie Villanueva

Martha said: Sep 7, 2011
Martha Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
12 posts

In a further note about two-year old Cora and “Huggable”: This week during her two brothers’ lessons, Cora showed me that she could practice sitting and holding Huggable on her own. She is in my fairly large studio an hour each week. During this time she plays with the several toys which I keep for siblings in the room. She did not come to me and ask for a few minutes of teaching time, however. The only time I showed her the toy was when I took her photo for you!

Robin Lohse said: Sep 7, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello, Viola
Souderton, PA
29 posts

Hi, I do not know if its too late in responding to your questions I have discovered or I should say they discovered me West Coast Strings. This company offer a good beginner model that I use with my cello students. Its the Peccard and also the Jocelyn Model. You could check out their website at http://www.westcoaststring.com/products.cfm?catid=1&prod=3
I star them out with a rent to Own plan and my students rent until they own and get a 50% TRADE-Up towards their next size. I can give you recommendations if you wish from parents.
Hope this helps. you coudl also have a look at my web site at http://www.lohsestudiomusic.com/InstruPkg.aspx

Robin Lohse

Angela said: Sep 7, 2011
Angela Villanueva
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Viola, Violin
Naples, FL
25 posts

Thank you Martha and Robin for your comments and suggestions. It looks like there is a multitude of good advice coming from lots of experience. I did end up buying a tenth size eastman cello. The really little sizes are what I was looking for. The local violin shop has 1/8 size and up. Thanks again for the advice. Hope I get some students soon. It seems that cello is a little harder to “sell” to people. Violin is so much more familiar.

Angie Villanueva

Robin Lohse said: Sep 8, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello, Viola
Souderton, PA
29 posts

Is money is an issue as it is with many of my first time students? I find this to be the case with my studio. Parents are reluctant to pay up front the cost of a cello. That is why I have a rent to own plan and most families will then be open to trying the cello…Violins are so much less in price than cellos. . I do have a 1/8 Peccard cello that is simply adorable and I have three year olds hugging this one…I have never found a need to use foam even with my son who plays cello
Maybe your students money is not an issue so they can afford the Eastman models…

Robin Lohse

Barb said: Sep 9, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi Angie,

You might offer some free introductory no-obligation lessons with the cellos you have so that parents don’t need to commit to renting or buying right away. The cellos don’t have to go home with the students—practice assignments can be listening, singing, introductory bow things with a wand or fat marker. Once the parents see the children’s interest, they may be more willing to invest in the more expensive instrument. (Most stores seem to offer rent-to-own or easy inexpensive trade-ups in size, but it’s still more than a violin.)

I have a couple openings this year, so I am setting up a mall display next week (one of our malls allows this a few times a year for free), and will take my little cello in and give on the spot introductory lessons. Even if it doesn’t lead to more students this year, people will at least be aware that there are cellos and cello lessons for children available.

The violin does seem like a more natural match for children in many people’s eyes since it is smaller, and is a more well-known instrument. What can you do to educate people in your area?

This is what I did my first year:
Invitation for no-obligation, free trial lessons…
On the local home school email group
Posters in malls, music stores, community center, etc.
Press release
Display table in mall with flyers
Advertising details on my website (listed on all posters and flyers, which I keep clean and uncluttered)
Emailed other music teachers I knew and let all my friends know what I was doing.

Once we got going I also listed our year-end recital in the free events column in the paper—even if they don’t come, it keeps up the awareness that there is a cello teacher here!

I have also invited home schoolers over for free “Strings field trips” (small groups or a family at a time)—I demo violin, viola, cello, talk about instrument history and construction, let them try the instruments (or pull the bow if they are small since I don’t have any little violins or violas), send home info/coloring sheets. I try to do this around the time of an educational concert usually done by the string orchestra each year.

Another idea I haven’t done yet is to visit preschools, play for them, and let them try a little cello.

All of that and the only cost to you is for paper/ink and your time (I know you have already investing in the instruments!).

Do you already have violin students? I was a violin student who attended a school summer-strings program where we got to try all the instruments as preparation for the 6th grade orchestra—I was hooked on cello!

I hope this has twigged a few ideas for you and you’ll have some little cellists soon!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Paula Bird said: Sep 9, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Barb,

Terrific ideas! Bravo to you. I’ve used many but haven’t considered the mall idea. I like that one!

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Mark said: Sep 13, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
20 posts

Picking up the thread about what do you do with a foam cello.

There are two major reasons that have become abundantly clear to me after using the foam cello for pre-twinkle-aged children. I have taught many years successfully without this step but I will never go back to starting children without the foam cello. It makes the process easier and more successful for the parent, the teacher, and most importantly the child. In Volume 1 we wouldn’t expect a child, when learning a new piece, to go right to playing with both the bow and the left hand. Rather it’s an easier step to first work it out pizzicato and when the ear has done its magic with the left hand and then we proceed to the bow. The concept is the same when using a foam cello. All skills learned are transferred immediately to the real cello.

  1. Musical Reason

It makes sure that the transfer is made from the ear to the voice to the instrument. You can do everything on a foam cello that you can do on a real cello EXCEPT make a sound. So when you “play” with the foam cello you must use your singing voice. This consequence alone has made a huge difference in the ease and success of my teaching.

  1. Technical Reason

Children tend to be distracted from the sound of the string vibrating and makes it harder for them to focus on learning to sit properly on their chair, hold the bow or work on their cello hand. With no strings to press down, ease and form of technique precedes function.

Barb said: Sep 20, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Mark, I was looking more carefully at your materials list and the photos. I couldn’t quite put it all together (in my head). What material are the fingerboard, neck and the 1×4 type looking pieces? Where are the eaves trough strap, velcro and coat hanger used?

Thanks for any further instructions! :-)

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Martha said: Sep 21, 2011
Martha Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
12 posts

I was was relating this discussion to my daughter, an excellent Suzuki violin teacher. She does not use any pre-instruments in her teaching. She was wondering if time couldn’t be better spent building adjustable benches, which actually grow with students, rather than trying to engineer pre-cellos.

Robin Lohse said: Sep 21, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello, Viola
Souderton, PA
29 posts

I just had this thought that young cellists could use piano foot stools which are adjustable. I could request for a carpenter to make a larger one if it works. I have had students using wooden chairs with the legs cut off and they put a firm cushion on the seat when they need to. In a school situation I tried using two foot stools (as in guitar foot stools) to give the right height. It worked in a pinch… as for pre instruments i have not used them in recent years It seemed extraneous..I often have starter models that I use and then I move them to their selection after they have been playing…
Robin

Robin Lohse

Paula Bird said: Sep 21, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

The kids don’t really spend that long on the box instruments. It’s a good way to introduce them to how to take care of things, and it can be a motivator for the real thing. The longest I’ve had someone on the box was about 6 weeks, and that was a 2 year old. Usually it’s just a few weeks or lessons.

Here’s the blog post I wrote about why I prefer starting beginners (young ones) on box instruments:

link

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Barb said: Sep 22, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

In addition to the reasons already given here for using a foam or box instrument, I was thinking about offering an introductory pre-cello small group day-camp.

I would provide the instruments—and rather than buy enough small cellos for all, I thought it might work to have just a couple of the real thing (small studio—I only have one small cello so far) and a few more foam cellos. The students could take turns with the real cellos (for instance, singing/playing the ants song), but could all have something to use for many of the activities.

I love Mark’s foam cello, and others I have seen in the shape of a cello, but has anyone tried a box cello? Would it work very well in a rectangular shape? http://www.ehow.com/how_5743660_make-suzuki-box-cello.html

Just thinking it might be nice to have something simple and inexpensive we could actually make (lots of parent help) at the camp for the kids to keep.

BTW, here a photo of David Evenchick with a foam cello. Wish I could see all of the neck and scroll. https://suzukiassociation.org/media/868/

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Monica Lacombe said: Aug 3, 2012
 5 posts

I already sell foam violins and would like to know if there is a market for foam cellos. If so, I am happy to add them to my inventory if I can get assistance with getting the word out.
These would be basic foam cellos, not the overly sturdy foam-a-cello the Young Musicians carries for $145. I was thinking in the $25-30 range.

Please feel free to email me with your comments and suggestions and I will get to work. Monica.
[javascript protected email address]
www.twinklemat.com

Angela said: Aug 3, 2012
Angela Villanueva
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Viola, Violin
Naples, FL
25 posts

I have been out of the loop for quite awhile and wow have I missed a lot of discussion. I had a number of things happen this year (including my impending divorce) so cello studio had to take a little back seat while I sorted things out. I have been teaching my son though and that is starting to go very well. I got my Book 1 training in violin this summer so I am hoping to try to teach some of both cello and violin this year. I would be interested in the inexpensive foam cellos that Monica is talking about. I don’t think they need to be fancy though. Short tissue boxes work fine for box violins and maybe I could figure out how to make some of the box cellos. I think that what is nice about the ones from Young Musicians is that they have a “bridge” to play on that helps to teach straight bowing.

Angie Villanueva

Barb said: Aug 3, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Monica,

We ended up making box cellos from family-sized cereal boxes and wrapping paper rolls and dowel end-pins this summer.

I like the look of your Foam-a-lin because it seems more fun than a box, but I found that a somewhat flattened cardboard tube covered in electrician’s tape makes a fairly realistically rounded neck/fingerboard which could be put on at an angle like a real cello. Great for ski-jumps. We also put little raised bow-guide “bridges” on (so the “bows” don’t hit the knee, and as a guide for going straight). I’m guessing your model would be flat like your Foam-a-lin? I guess a violin’s neck angle is flatter than a cello’s. And some people do make flat-necked foam or box cellos. Still, I might be interested in a $25 pre-made foam 1/10 cello, but for me, shipping to Canada would probably put it out of my range.

I noticed that Young Musicians now sells a different pre-cello. They look great, but they are $146.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Cherie said: May 7, 2013
Cherie Larson
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
6 posts

There is absolutely nothing “new” about using a pre-instrument…when we went to Japan and watched Dr. Suzuki work with the young children—the ‘box violins’ were everywhere. Most people have heard of the violins and violas using cardboard or foam instruments—in order to learn how to hold, position, take care of, get into play-position before using their wooden instruments…in an attempt to teach the proper posture skills while not sacrificing the expensive investment. It only takes one “Oops or drop” on the floor to have disastrous (and costly) effects/results. When the beginning student is secure (but flexible) in his/her hold, they then confidently and skillfully transfer those skills to the wooden instrument. In the meantime, one can separate the physical complexities of holding the instrument from the aural (singing and internalizing and hearing models/examples of beautiful sound).

In our programme, we have 6 out of 7 teachers and all of their new beginners and we introduce the same pre-instrument-concept with the cellos and bass—and we have the extra “fun and friendship creating” event of making their own child’s foam bass +/or cello!

Laura said: May 11, 2013
Laura Mozena
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Palm City, FL
105 posts

I don’t use pre instruments but definitely understand the benefits. I want to go back to the instrument discussion and buying vs. renting. Renting seems to be a favorite with my parents since kids grow so fast, but here are the instrument brands that I recommend. (cellos because that was the question) I teach violin but have found through running my store that if the violin is of good quality that the cello is as well. Our rental program does include cellos (even though it says “violin rentals” Just call our new 800 number and ask about cello rentals. They ship for free to anywhere in the US.

http://yourmusicsupply.com/Luger-Cello-gat-cc100.htm
http://yourmusicsupply.com/Stentor-Cello-kmc-1100.htm
http://yourmusicsupply.com/Romanian-Cello-Plain-hcc-kr10c.htm

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