needed advice regarding cello size


Stephen Poirier said: May 3, 2009
Stephen PoirierViolin
6 posts

Hi Folks,

Attached is a picture of one of my cello students. Being primarily a violinist, I am not sure whether or not this cello is the right size for her. The cello is a 1/2 size. Notice she has rather long arms, and it looks like she might be sloughing just a bit…Any suggestions? Thanks!


Karra said: May 4, 2009
51 posts

Hi Stephen,

My first suggestion is to change chairs. That one is too low. Chairs with seats like those don’t usually help with posture; you’d be better off working with something that has a flat seat. Now about the instrument size… I’m going to be very frankly honest, but you did ask for suggestions, so please forgive me if I am too blunt. I’m seeing more issues with the position of the instrument than I am with the size. I’m mentally cutting and pasting that image, but I can see that if the cello were placed a few inches lower on her chest, she would have a much easier time reaching 1st position. As you said, your student has long arms and legs, have you considered having the cello a little less vertical? For what it’s worth, I’ve got long arms and legs too, and I use a fairly tall chair, at least a good 4-6 inches taller than most chairs. About 4 years ago I started using a bent endpin, and I’ve found that the angle of the cello with it allows a little more space for my bow arm (I no longer have to ‘fold up’ nearly as much as I did before- much more comfortable). I’m not suggesting that you fit a half size cello with a bent endpin, of course, but a similar result can be achieved simply by lengthening the pin and placing the tip a little further out (perhaps a little more to the right might help too; I can’t tell from the angle of your picture).
My guess is that 3/4 size is not necessary for her just yet.

Hope this helps!

“It may very well be music that will one day save the world”— Pablo Casals

Barb said: May 5, 2009
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Hi Stephen,

I think this student can use this size cello, but the way she is holding it is not going to work well.

I’m not sure if the chair is too low, but it definitely is not ideal for cello playing. You want one with a flat surface. It will improve posture as well as help the student to not slip back into the chair or cause back strain. When the knees are at a 45 degree angle the hips should be slightly higher than the knees (feet flat on the floor).

Then your student needs to “grow an inch” (sit up—it might actually add more than an inch). She could lean slightly towards the cello but not slouch.

The cello should be lower on the chest and the C peg at about the height of her ear. I agree with CaraMia—a little more angle of the cello would help that as well as having her sit taller. The right knee should be against the lower bout, the left knee might be against the lower corner or the lower bout. Some even put it inside the middle bout—though I was actually taught that way to begin I’m not fond of it.

And yes, it is hard to tell from the picture, but the endpin should be slightly to the student’s right of centerline—the bridge directly beneath the nose.

If that doesn’t work with this cello you could try one a litte smaller. It’s hard to tell from a picture, but it looks as though her fingers are long enough that she doesn’t need a smaller one for that reason.

Here is a good website with pictures of cello posture. Probably worth more than all my words!


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said: Jun 2, 2009
 26 posts

In my opinion, she needs a smaller cello. It is better to learn on an instrument that is too small than one that is too large. The cello’s right shoulder and neck should form a box around her heart, and the C-peg (as was mentioned) should fit behind her ear when the cello is slanted gently. The bottom portion of the cello (in the picture) is about where it should be in relation to her knees, though it could be turned to the right a little. I agree that the chair is about the right height, but should be flat-bottomed or have a slight downward slant. I find that such a set up makes it very easy for young ones, even with long arms, to play with ease.

Connie Sunday said: Jul 22, 2009
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

Yes; that cello is clearly way too big for her. The peg box needs to be next to her head, not way above it like that. Regarding slouching: her back needs to be straight, her feet need to be flat, and yes, she needs a higher chair. Breathing and proper posture is very important for cellists; hemorrhoids are a problem. (sorry..)

What I do—and I have been criticized for doing this—is provide student instruments for my students (the SAGA student instruments), and let them trade up in size, as appropriate, without charging them anything more, aside from any minor repairs or bow rehair. [Regardless of the criticism, one of my students—his grandparents were migrant farm workers—just got into the first violin section of the top tier youth orchestra, and started studying with a violin teacher at the university. I’m sure he’ll get a full scholarship; he did audition for the Perlman camp, but didn’t get in. But I don’t believe he would be where he is, without my efforts. Teachers do affect the happiness and future of children (and adults, for that matter), and I make no apologies for getting a business license and providing these instruments!]

This is a huge advantage to my students; we live in a small town and the alternative, locally, consists of only very expensive instruments. I think the cheapest one in the local music shop is $500. If many of my students (some of whom are hispanic nationals) had to pay that much, they would not be able to study. The SAGA violin outfit (though SAGA raised the price significantly recently), is $180.

I apologize; I didn’t mean to hijack the thread. And I’m not selling instruments, here. I was just reminded of my years in an even smaller town (Portales, NM), where there was no cello teacher, and I was teaching cello, as well as violin, viola and piano.

Matching size with prospective cello students is no easy matter; the instruments are so much bigger and more expensive. I think when I left there, I had a couple cellos which took me several years to sell.

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