Pictures and Videos on Cellobasics

said: Apr 12, 2011
 17 posts

my 4 year old son has just had his first month of cello lessons. I myself am not very confident when helping him practice, so I would appreciate tips from teachers and parents. I do get a lot of input from our teacher, but I do find it difficult at home to implement what has been taught.
Does anyone know a good webpage with pictures or film clips which teach how the cello/bow is to be held, etc.? It would be great if it were something which also a kid can relate to. I’d like to add a bit of fun to our home sessions.
He does try hard to get the bow hold right, but it does seem to be “too” heavy and the bow starts to slant downwards. He gets very frustrated about it. I know its difficult and I know the struggles I am having with my daughter since two years to get her violin bow hand in shape. That seems to coming along—and it took ages. But the two have different characters. My daughter would more or less accept her terrible bow hand and continue on trying to place it on the strings. My son will keep trying to get his bow hand right and will not put the bow on the strings until he is happy (which does not happen too often). By the time he has looked for the place to put down the bow his hand has slipped. So he gets even more frustrated. The cello bow appears to be much stronger than his little hands. So does anyone have some tips on how to strengthen his little hands.
Another issue we are trying to tackle is landing the bow on the strings. Our teacher marked the D-string with a little red tape where the bow should actually land. Placing down the bow 8 of 10 times it lands perfectly on the G-string. After alot of explaining from my side my son said he can’t see the “flag”. So I tried extending it—not much of a help. I asked the teacher to change the colour to shining blue yesterday. I hope that helps. Anyother tips or explanations why he can’t “see” the marking?
I know we have just started, but I do want to make it fun and have him feel a little progress. I am quite happy that the Easter break is here to give us a little more breathing space—maybe thats all it needs (time and patience).
Looking forward to read your tips and opinions.
Regards Rippe

Deanna said: Apr 15, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

I’m a violin teacher not a cello teacher but I think you could probably do a bunch of hand strengthening activities and bow activities away from the cello.
Hand strengthening things: put a single piece of newspaper on the floor and then crumple it into a ball using only 1 hand.
Tap the twinkle rhythms with each finger and thumb -index finger and thumb tap, middle finger and thumb tap, etc.
Pick up game—scatter any small objects on the floor—buttons, pennies, paperclips, etc and then pick them up using only 1 finger and the thumb. Put the objects in a dish or container. (I use this more for the left hand but it could probably help with the bow hand too.)

Bowing activities in the air: basically anything that gets him moving his bow around in space and learning to control it.
Up like a rocket
Twinkle rhythms bowing in the air
bowhold races—the two of you see who can get their best bowhold on the fastest.
Candle (Jenny Burton’s idea)—hold the bow out in front of you very still as though there is flame at the tip. Count down from 10 and blow out the candle!
Bow in a tolietpaper roll tube.

I’m guessing that with cello the pinkie has to work extra hard to balance out the rest of the bow. If that’s the part that’s slipping off for him you do pinkie taps to strengthen it and make sure it’s curved. Holding the bow still on the string (try D string) lift the pinkie off the bow and tap it repeatedly on the stick as though it’s bouncing on its head.

Good luck! I don’t teach or even play cello so if any of these don’t apply—just ignore.

Barb said: Apr 21, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

There are a lot of bow hold videos on YouTube, some of which are off base! Ask your teacher if he/she likes this one or another. I would suggest you learn to hold the bow from this yourself (check with your teacher), not try to have a four year old follow the steps from the video directly.

Some teachers start using the bow hold at the balance point rather than at the frog. This makes the bow feel lighter for young hands. Ask your teacher about this. That could be done following the steps on the video above, except skip the sliding toward the frog part. One of the problems I’ve found, though, with using the balance point, is that there is a tendency to put the thumb flat on the stick rather than touching with the corner of the thumb.

The activities suggested by dbmus are mostly good for cello. The pinky operates very differently on a cello bow than a violin or viola bow, though. It does not sit on top, so tapping on it’s “head” would not really be appropriate. The tendency is for cello bows to slip into the palm, and the hand to face in rather than away from the cello, making a “steak knife hold”.

My young students like Up Like a Rocket, I use the words “curvy fingers and thumb” at the end, but otherwise here is a cute video demonstrating if you don’t already know it.

Some other bow activities in the air I use are: The spider crawl, where I have the student start with a good bow hold at the frog, leaning forward while seated with the arm on the leg (to keep the bow near the carpeted floor in case of dropping). The bow is held pointing up. They then crawl the fingers and thumb up the stick. The arm actually stays on the leg, but the bow moves through the hand. Then when they are able to do that, the more difficult part is crawling back to the frog. This can be difficult, so make sure to keep it fun and easy. Maybe make goals to reach a certain spot on the stick, or start in the middle and go to the tip. Its takes some coordination to do this, so if it results in frustration save it for later.

Windshield wiper. With a good bow hold, rotate the arm/wrist back and forth the the car’s windshield wiper. They have to watch and be aware of the space around them so they don’t hit anything!

When your son begins to play pizzicato I’m a Little Monkey or Twinkle, there are good Suzuki instructor videos for helping at home by Abigail McHugh

Hope some of that is helpful! Make sure to work closely with your teacher so you are not confusing your child by teaching differently at home.

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

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