19th century cellists and their “classical holds”

Per a conversation I found myself in the other day, I have realized that I am woefully behind in my life-long search to understand and play the cello to the best of my ability – particularly overdue in studying the history of the cello.

Sure, I’ve been to Florence and seen the old Stradivari and even been to the not-so-distant (but worthy) National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD to see the worlds oldest collection of musical instruments. But how well do I know the forefathers of this instrument and why they made the choices they did?

I think it is time to start investigating, and making it a journey that my students can ride along with me (kiddos, Breval was a real cellist – not just some composer.)Amedeo modgiliani cello

To start off I think we should just remember that this thing was invented and worked on over centuries – not just spontaneously made as it is today. For example, the end pin did not always exist. Cellist used to hold their instruments up with their calves! Imagine my daily workout that would be : )

For a bit of brief history on some 19th century French cellists from cello.org, stop by here to read about their accomplishments and old-style of bow holds!

image: Amedeo Modgiliani, Cello Player, before 1920


growing pains (and excitement)

The school year is winding down, and not only does it inspire to measure ourselves with how far we have come this year but also our bodies. 

Have you outgrown your cello?

Our bodies grow at different rates, and some of us have longer torsos than legs (stop staring at me.) To ensure students have the proper size of cello, there are four main measurements needed to properly gage what size of cello is required (see diagram):


  1. from top of the head to the bottom of the tushie on the chair
  2. from the “vp bone” (bone where your neck meets the shoulders) to the bottom of the tushie
  3. from knee to the tushie
  4. from the shoulder out to the tips of the fingers.

Once these are given to me, I can get a good idea of what size of cello we need, but they will never all agree on one size. If the measurements point towards two sizes evenly, I will always recommend the smaller size of cello for ease of learning for the student. 

“Graduating” to a larger size of cello always inspires students to recommit to their music, but once they realize they must relearn how everything feels this joy becomes frustration. The cure for this is to play all their favorite easy songs each day and slowly they will adjust and forget how different it is. Fingerboard games, ski jumps, and string crossing songs are big helpers.

Should you be in this process,I hope the process is motivation and a little challenging, otherwise how boring would life be?!