Pretend PreTwinkle Instruments—Violin and Cello

Matthew David McMillan said: Jan 25, 2011
Matthew David McMillan
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Violin
Berkley, MI
2 posts

To work with my youngest students, I designed these pretend instruments for PreTwinkle games and exercises. I didn’t feel that anything currently available was sturdy or substantial enough, so I figured I’d make my own. I have a large woodworking shop which allowed me to do lots of experimenting using different materials and methods of construction. I tried to design everything so it could take use/abuse from lots of kids for many years. I also wanted them to be lightweight, but at the same time have some heft and not feel like a toy that would break. Marilyn Kesler was a big help during the tweaking of these and gave lots of ideas. I made both cellos and violins and will both describe and include pics of them below:

Yello Cello:

The endpin assembly is fit and glued inside a wooden block, so it will remain solid for the life of the instrument—the endpin itself, however, is removable and could easily be replaced if it were to break someday. The endpin is marked every 1″ with a colored lines to aid parents in setting the correct length. I also used a metal thumbscrew and threaded insert so that with normal use, it should last forever. The fingerboard is rounded for comfort and to approximate the feeling of a real cello. It includes finger placement “dimples” for all 4 fingers and one for the thumb on the back of the neck (which is also rounded). The “bridge” has a groove where the bow rides and assists in teaching a correct bow stroke. The bridge is purposefully placed high (relative to the end of the fingerboard) so that when played in the groove, it approximates the point of string contact on a real instrument. The overall dimensions of the instrument body are approximately16″ x 9-1/4″ x 3-1/2″ (total length including neck and retracted endpin 27″).


The violin is similar to the cello in many respects, though it obviously doesn’t have an endpin assembly. Because of the size of the fingerboard, I haven’t included the finger “dimples”, though they could be added if desired. The grooved bridge sits at an angle to approximate bowing on the A and E string. I purposely made the violin body thicker than it would be on a real instrument and tried it out with many different 3 and 4 year old kids. All were able to easily support the instrument with only a heavy head because of the thickness. Adding a small round sponge made it even easier, but typically it wasn’t needed. A small round sponge is included. The overall dimensions of the instrument body are approximately 8-1/2″ x 5″ x 1-1/2″ (total length including neck 11-1/2″).


The bows for both instruments are 17″ long and have a thumb “dimple” to encourage proper placement. Extra bows are available if desired and you could easily cut them to any length for different sized children.

I wasn’t planning on selling these, but many friends have asked for them and have said they would help lots of people and thus, I should offer them. If you would like one or more, please email me.

Ordering Info:

It takes about a week to make the instruments, so please keep that in mind. Each is handmade and if there is something you’d like done differently it may be a possibility, so please contact me with questions. Both a 17″ bow and Continental US shipping is included in the pricing. Orders for more than 1 like instrument at a time will receive a 15% discount.

Yello Cello—$115

I was only able to post 3 pics—if you’d like to see more, please send me an email and I can send additional photos.


Matthew McMillan
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Barb said: Feb 9, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

As a cello teacher, I like the yellow cello! I don’t have need of one at the moment, and shipping out of the US likely would be cost prohibitive, but thanks for sharing them here!

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

Matthew David McMillan said: Feb 14, 2011
Matthew David McMillan
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Violin
Berkley, MI
2 posts


If you change your mind, send me an email. I can certainly look into what the cost would be to ship it to you. Each “instrument” takes over 7 hours to make, so it’s more to help other teachers out than to make money.


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