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
[Stringbabies Cello Book review, in ARCO by ESTA, Sept 2013]
The new Stringbabies ‘cello pupil’s workbook and parent’s/teacher’s book are simple to follow and well laid out.
They feature an eye catching cover design which replaces the previous version. The new ‘cello pupil’s workbook also comes with a CD of piano accompaniments which features both practice and performance tracks. Each piece in the pupil’s workbook is presented in large print using the unique Stringbabies notation system.
It is clear, easy to follow and very accessible for young children. Each piece builds on skills already learned, and the book takes a child from using open strings to the beginnings of fourth position. Rhythms and bowing are also addressed, and children are encouraged to write their own pieces.
While this book is aimed at the younger child, the Stringbabies system can also be used to help those with learning challenges, dyslexia and also adults who are new to reading music and learning an instrument.
Stringbabies aims to give a simple and clear introduction to the cello and general musicianship and achieves just that. It gives an effective and secure framework within which to work, and the pieces can be supplemented with other beginner repertoire.
Having used this system with pupils for 6 years, the benefits are clear. Pupils understand what they are doing and why they are doing it which gives them confidence. They learn while having fun and in a natural way.
ARCO [ESTA- European String Teachers Association]
[Stringbabies Violin Book review, in ARCO by ESTA, Sept 2013]
Within her latest edition of Stringbabies, Kay has developed her initial work based on the expectation that reading and composition is introduced alongside the earliest experience of creating string sounds.
It is aimed initially for beginner pupils from the age of 3 years, in an updated edition to include CD. With great relevance for teaching of reading generally, or to support remedial issues, the latest edition was published in February 2013 as the result of a request from Surrey Arts.
As the National Plan for Music emerges to provide for the youngest pupils from Yr 1, Kay’s system developed through her teaching over the last 8 years seems very relevant. In fact as music services and private teachers explore the strategies available for this age group, the framework is being extended and trialled in versions for recorder and very soon the flute under the collective title of Musicbabies.
In her forward, Pat Legg describes the approach as ‘an educationally well thought out and fun way of teaching little ones which systematically gives them the skills they need to read music and become musicians.’ She also comments on the success Kay has had with teaching this method and how parents and pupils can ‘enjoy the journey of discovery and see how the reading of music opens up so many musical delights’.
Using experts for each instrument the framework for notation recognition uses a simple system of magnetic symbols to match open strings or starting sounds for each instrument by shape.
This enables pupils to identify and control the choice of sounds from the very beginning. It is expected that the pupil becomes a composer alongside being a reader and player. It is not a chore but a creative discovery. Rhythms are taught initially using Ta, Te Te, Ta- a extending to Ti-ka Ti-ka , Te—ti- ka and Ti-ri-li is introduced for compound time.
Using the original symbols the range is then extended up each string through simple progressive tunes. The notation is transferred on to 2 and then 3 line staves which are then extended to the conventional 5 lines as the understanding develops;( harder for the teacher than the pupil!) By the end of the book notated tunes on 5 lines covering 3 finger patterns on each string have been secured and a framework for G ,D and A majors covered.
There are some nicely spaced blank user friendly staves in the pupils book for original compositions and explorations with newly discovered pitches and rhythms. The memorable tunes; a mixture of original favourites such as Kippers and Custard and Hello song are introduced by singing and are reinforced by the Kodaly principles of hand signals. Jimmy Giraffe takes us effortlessly to 6/8.
ARCO [ESTA- European String Teachers Association]
[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
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
Our lives are full of music and I passionately believe that we should make music really accessible right from the very start. Stringbabies is a wonderful starting point for any young child and takes the stuffiness out of learning an instrument. Very quickly a child can start to understand musical notation and develop a good technique using the Stringbabies method whilst having lots of fun!
Hannah Carter - Cello teacher
I had been approached by a few parents of younger children and wanted a framework to help me teach under-6s effectively. As an auntie I know how clever young children are but had not anticipated just how quickly they could learn until I gave my first StringBabies lesson! StringBabies has given me that framework and I am already seeing great results.
Lucia D’Avanzo-Lewis - Viola Violin teacher
Violinbabies is a fantastic child friendly way for very young children to start learning the violin.
Heather Strachan - Violin teacher
I have only just discovered Stringbabies since moving to this area and meeting Kay and discovering that we share the same love for young children and a real passion for enriching their musical experience and skills as early as possible. Having tried many approaches to beginning to read music I think Stringbabies is ideal for young children
as well as being flexible and fun to teach.
Ann Beresford - Cello teacher
CelloBabies is fantastic; it brings to life the mysteries of how to play the Cello in a very enjoyable way and makes reading musical notation easy, which many people can find very daunting, especially young children. CelloBabies promotes young children’s creativity and is a great way to learn to play the Cello.
Orla Smith - Cello teacher
It is so exciting to discover a simple, fun and successful way of introducing reading and then helping little ones to compose so early on.
Nina Pakenham - Viola 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