Articles, reviews and testimonies
On this page you will find notes from our professional colleagues about Cellobabies, Violababies & Violinbabies. You will also find the thoughts of teachers who use the methods, and you will see the reactions of parents and pupils.
In the journals
[Celebrating Sussex - String Theory, Brighton Argus. May 2013]
Children as young as three are being taught to read and play music with a technique developed by a Sussex musician. Cellist and music teacher Kay Tucker created the Stringbabies programme as a means of introducing youngsters to disciplines best learned at an early age.
With the help of Alice, Dan, George and Charlie – four teddy bears whose initials represent a musical note – she teaches children to associate the teddies with sounds made by certain strings, then with shapes and finally with notes
on a stave.
James Thomas, Head of Music Services at Hackney Learning Trust, says he was surprised by how well young children responded to Kay’s methods. “Her approach is really enlightening particularly for children with learning difficulties or those who just cannot understand music on a stave.”
“The younger you start playing music, the more natural it feels, but people often struggle to learn and are put off. I hope my methods encourage children and show them how simple and pleasurable music can be when you strip it right back to the basics.”
[Reviewer’s Choice, Music Teacher. May 2012]
How do you teach something as demanding as playing a string instrument to a young child who is perhaps not even three years old? They have only recently left babyhood and have just learned to walk and talk. Add to that the issue of teaching them to read notation when they may have little or no grasp of reading words, and all the indications suggest that you’ll be in for a bit of a struggle.
Kay Tucker, who created Stringbabies, became interested in teaching the very young about eight years ago, fi rst through her private practice and then at Arundale School in Pulborough, West Sussex. She says, ‘What I found with pupils aged six years and under was that their playing was fine but their aural and music-reading skills would hold them back. When Arundale School said they were willing to trial cello lessons for the children in the nursery class, I had to come up with ways to tackle this for small groups of children aged three or four years. My initial idea was to link each string with a shape, instead of a round note-head, so that there was no need for a stave at fi rst.’ This idea went on to become the foundation of the Stringbabies method.
schools and music services across the country as well as by private teachers, who undergo accreditation in order to be able to advertise using the registered trademark. Surrey Arts is one of its main partners, and since parents and schools have quickly seen the value of the
programme, the music service is rolling it out across the county with children aged three to seven. Laura Griffin, teaching and learning manager at Surrey Arts, lists the many skills children learn through the programme, like technical, musical and interpersonal skills.
She also refers to its relevance to the National Plan for Music Education, saying, ‘Getting the children started early in learning a musical instrument is a very important feature of the national plan, and Surrey Arts sees Stringbabies as an important part of that First Access
Given the renewed push for children to learn instruments from an early age, Stringbabies could see rapid growth. The seeds that have been planted and nurtured since 2008 certainly seem to be sending out shoots. Indeed, some of them are maturing in a very healthy way.
Click here to download a pdf [3MB] of the full article
The Music Teacher Magazine
[Reviewer’s Choice, Music Teacher. October 2010]
This is a well-devised, simple and fun introduction to the cello for three to six year olds. A useful teacher and parent book accompanies the pupil’s workbook, explaining how to approach each new step.
Through songs, shape and symbol recognition, games with bow hand position, bow movement and clapping, children gradually develop the skills needed to read, understand and enjoy music.
The first step naturally introduces the open strings, which are represented by different shapes. The pupil is introduced to the concept of notation by translating the shapes on the page into open strings on the cello. These shapes then become note heads, and simple rhythms come into play. Then, two lines of a ‘stave’ are introduced, with the higher shape on the top line. For the very little cellist, you assign differently sized toys for each string, encouraging the child to pluck the string represented by the particular toy before progressing onto the shapes. All four fingers are gradually introduced as well as simple key signatures and rhythmic patterns.
There are great ideas here for games, music-making and cello-related activities to keep any little cellist engaged and at the same time build their technique.
I will certainly be using some of these concepts with my younger students.
[review copyright © Rhinegold Publishing]
The Music Teacher magazine
I just have to write and say how much I love your Cellobabies (and the other versions, of course!). Absolutely brilliant in every way and so much sympathetic and perceptive thought has gone into every aspect of it all.
I think that anyone working with children/adults with special/complex needs will also find a huge amount of interest too. I expect you have already heard from them!
I have emailed my teacher friends to share the good news!
Thank you so much
As Director of Music in an independent prep. school I am delighted with how Cellobabies is inspiring our little cellists to take off musically.
The books are simply written so that all parents (even with little music knowledge)can help their children with their practice. My son (aged 5) has made huge progress with the cello thanks to Cellobabies and still talks knowledgeably about Alice, Charlie, George and Dan. He sings the tunes and enjoys sight-reading new pieces.
Here’s to many more Cellobabies, Violinbabies,and perhaps Pianobabies???
Director of Music King's Hall School, Taunton, Somerset
Cellobabies is an all round musical training for very young children who show an interest in the cello. There is a clearly and simply laid out ‘Pupils Workbook’, accompanied by a ‘Teachers and Parents Book’ These include, among others, sol-fa, French time names and posture and bow games. The use of two separate books means that the pupil’s page remains uncluttered and easy to read. The open strings of the cello are introduced as animal characters and each is given its own shape. The stave is then slowly introduced and each string’s shape placed on it. There are some imaginative songs and familiar pieces which encourage the child to compose rhythms and tunes right from the start.
I have used already these books with five pupils ranging from ages three to six, with productive and enthusiastic response. The older pupils find it quite easy and are always wanting to turn the page. The very young children enjoy the games and creativity, while slowly assimilating symbols and actions. For any string teacher working with young pupils, it is a highly valuable resource.
[Teacher of Cello at Junior Guildhall, Center Leader for London ESTA] writing in ESTA 'News & Views'
I have found that this very comprehensive method works for all abilities, including pupils with special needs. It makes learning notation and rhythm crystal clear and takes away all the expected complications of teaching. ‘Cellobabies’ makes teaching beginners an easier path. My pupils feel they achieve something every week and they are raring to go. The ‘Cellobabies’ method promotes the children’s work and makes them more creative. It is a refreshing new method which I think is fantastic
Strings Co-ordinator for South-East Music centre, Surrey Arts
What our teachers say
Since meeting Kay early in the year I have been trialling the Stringbabies methods with students from age 3 to 18 and have been amazed by the results. Students I didn’t think would ever learn to read music are now reading fluently and confidently. I have had many comments from parents who are not musicians themselves that are reading and understanding with their children for the first time and have found the experience to be like a breath of fresh air.
My first ventures into teaching three-year-olds using violinbabies has surpassed all my expectations in terms of the rate of progress (in the first lesson a three year-old could distinguish 2 strings and sing a couple of songs). I do not believe that any other method would work anywhere near as well. But the thing that has surprised and pleased me most about the method is how well it can be used across the entire age range to help musicianship and notereading.
Stringbabies materials are fun to work with and get students creating their own pieces of music from the very beginning whatever their age or experience.
Karen Hubbard - Viola Violin teacher
A fantastic way of teaching musicianship/note reading at a very young age. It is the missing link that The Suzuki Method needs.
Monica Das - Viola Violin teacher
I am finding Cellobabies truly refreshing and that the approach is useful in many ways, (and for many age groups), in my teaching. At this stage in my career I find myself teaching younger children and appreciate that this inspiring system includes technique, musicianship and notation from the very start.
Anita Felton - Cello teacher
Some people know they love the cello right away. It’s the sound, it’s the shape, it’s the size, it’s the feelings and meanings it can express…That’s what they want to play. With CelloBabies they can have fun from lesson one, not only playing a real instrument but learning the skills that will lay the foundations for lifelong music making. It is an engaging, straightforward approach that is easily adapted and “grown up” for older beginners.
Judith Rae - Cello teacher
Violinbabies has proved very useful with my youngest violin pupils. This is a fun approach to learning the violin which leads naturally to traditional notation and composition.
Sheena Ferguson - Violin teacher
Violinbabies quickly engages young children by putting them in the drivers seat- they are involved, making decisions, and composing from the very start!
Christel Stevens - Violin teacher
You know I feel that I can’t speak too highly of Cellobabies, it has given Thalia not just a good understanding of the basic principles but also a real enjoyment of music which spills over into her play all the time. She writes songs and trys to teach her baby brother and sister about George, Charlie, Dan and Alice and picks out notes when she is listening to music! Having learnt music in a very different environment myself, I really notice the difference in terms of her confidence and enthusiam for music. I would whole heartedly recommend this to anyone with small children.
I’m so grateful to you for the lovely introduction you have given Thalia to cello and Music in general and we will try very hard to keep up the good work.
‘Lucy has been playing the cello for 2 years. She started when she was only 4 years old. She quickly learnt to identify the 4 strings using Kay’s cello babies method and later progressed to read 1st,2nd,3rd and 4th finger notes as well as the different ryhthms and music symbols.’
‘Lucy sat her first ever music exam [Trinity Guildhall Initial Exam] in June. She is only 6 years old and managed to receive a high distinction.’
‘She is progressing at a remarkable rate and enjoys to play in front of others.’
‘Her successs is largely due to Kay’s patience and excellent teaching. I am sure that her bow grip and general position have been helped by learning at such a young age.’
‘We have been delighted with the progress Lucy has made under Kay’s professional, cheerful and dynamic tutorship and are convinced that starting at such a young age will enable Lucy to develop into a proficient cellist sooner than if we had delayed her start to a later age.’
My youngest daughter Lily has been attending cello lessons with Kay since just before her 3rd birthday, where she has been taught to read music using the ‘cello babies’ method.’
‘After only 9 short lessons we bought our first book of music [Stepping Stones] which Lily is now working through.’
‘As a mother of three other children who all learnt music in the more conventional ways, I have to say that I have been amazed at the effectiveness of ‘cello babies’ - it is so simple.’
‘I think that cello babies is a wonderful way to introduce small children to music.’
‘I highly recommend it
‘I think that it is amazing that my 3 year old can’t read words but she can read music.
Olivia has always wanted to play the cello, to be like her big sister, Cellobabies enabled her to start at the age of two. The lessons are great fun and she really enjoys them.
My son, aged 4, thoroughly enjoys his cello lesson each week. He started a ‘Cellobabies’ class a year ago with 2 other boys and they have all made remarkable progress. The boys can now play some simple tunes following a line of music and have wonderful bowing skills. They have developed a real love of music, thoroughly enjoying their weekly sessions.’
‘The highlights of my son’s career to date have been performing in his first concert at Christmas and realising that he can read notes from a ‘proper’ music book!
Lisa started her cellobaby lessons 6 month ago when she was four and half years old. I didn’t expect that she would have carried on for so long. We are not a musical family and Lisa isn’t particularly interested in music. Its all thanks to Kay who has always been so gentle and encouraging. Lisa is progressing gradually in her own pace. She likes Kay and enjoys playing fun musical games in the cellobaby lessons.
Lisa, at 6, took her Trinity Guildhall Initial Exam and achieved a Merit