Cello: The Beginning

About two years ago, we, rather randomly spotted the Bristol Violins shop on one of our weekend jaunts and decided to drop in to see if they had any baby cellos (1/4 and 1/8). She was about 3 at the time.

From my own experience, I was fairly certain that Georgia would benefit most from starting out on a String instrument before moving on to any other instrument she wanted. I also desperately wanted her to start before age 6. Yes I am a pushy parent but I’ll also explain why.

Starting a musical instrument before age 6, has roots in the concept that babies and children all have perfect pitch. They are born with a sense of natural rhythm and if there are no hearing deficiencies, they can hear and reproduce sounds almost perfectly pitch-wise.

As they grow, this skill, unless nurtured and practised, apparently seems to start becoming lost. And it does actually make sense, in the haze of everyday life, little children’s brains pick up and learn so much, so even if they had pitch perfect hearing, if it was a skill that was not important and did not contribute to daily life, it is natural that it would gradually diminish both in importance and in ability.

Being a pianist and picking up the cello and the flute at Uni, I came to the realisation that of all the instruments to learn, strings are quite possibly by far the hardest, mainly because it relies wholly on the ear to create the pitch perfect note.

You see, unlike a piano, where a fixed sound is made when a key is depressed, or guitars where there are frets to guide your fingering. The accuracy of a note, to be played on a string instrument relies entirely on the positioning of the finger on the finger board. If it is tilted, even by the tiniest angle, it would affect the sound, changing it either sharper (higher) or flatter (lower)

So anyway, we were really lucky then as we did find an 1/8 size cello which we managed to borrow on loan (for free!) for two weeks.

The amazing thing was Georgia turned out to be a complete natural. Not once did she make that squeaky sound, common with all first time string players. She played the open strings (when you don’t press any notes) really confidently.

So we went away and eventually came back, £80 poorer, 4 months later, to return the baby cello, having spoken to numerous cello teachers. None of whom would even consider taking her on at her age then, 4 – simply because they had no experience. Oh Shame!

© 2011, Li-ling. All rights reserved.


  • Reading this I got deja vu! My daughter started the cello (a 1/4 size) when she was in reception (age 4/5) and she took to it so easily I was amazed. Her first exam she received a distinction. I was so proud! She continued with it for several years, and enjoyed it most of the time, but by the time she was about 11 she was really not enjoying it as much as before. She has since moved to piano and again plays very well, but I believe her piano playing owes a lot to her early cello. I love listening to her play piano, but I am sad that we no longer hear the cello in our house!

    • Thanks Michelloui for sharing your experiences with your very talented girl. Funnily, I started out the opposite way, with piano then going on to the cello at Uni. I suppose at the end of the day, and this was what I realised at Uni, she has the ability and capability if she so desires to eventually go back to the cello, but the appreciation and ability to play a musical instrument (or more) is a gift you have given her for life. She may come back to the cello yet 😉 I certainly thought it was more transportable than the piano…only just!

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