Background Information

The aim of this lesson is to be able to recognise the sounds and the features of a new instrument – the Cello, and to distinguish features with that of the violin.

Index for the table:

1. Discussions

2. The String Family

3. The Cello

4. Cedric Cello

1. Discussions:

The theme of this lesson revolves around the idea of Family.
  • A discussion about families with the children gives the adult an insight into the child’s home life and who surrounds them.
  • When speaking about families also mention the notion of the extended family (i.e. cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles) as some children may not only be surrounded by immediate family.
It also helps the children understand the concept by allowing them to personalise the topic. This discussion should also include similarities and differences between our family and us (e.g. who is taller – you or your brother?).

 2. The String Family:

Instruments are grouped into ‘families’ based on their design and the way sound is created.
  • The cello and the violin are both from the same familythe String family – and in appearance the cello looks like a very big violin with a few varying features (see preparation for more information)
  • They also produce a similar sound or timbre, the main and distinctive difference lying in pitch – the cello having a low-pitch, and the violin having a high-pitch
This lesson will explore the difference between high-pitched and low-pitched sounds, which is easily done by comparing the sounds of the violin versus those of the cello.

3. The Cello:

The Cello received its name from its ancestors Italian name ‘violoncello’, which in the 17th century was the lowest pitched instrument of the string family.
The cello is the second-largest string instrument in the orchestra. Similarities can be found between the cello and other string instruments, such as the violin, in terms of its body shape (hour glass) and the way it is played (bow/plucked); however there are major differences. The cello is a large instrument and is played sitting down. It has an end-pin at the bottom of it body which helps it stand on the floor and supports its weight.
The cello is mostly used in European Classical music and its sound is very low. Most often its sound is described as the most familiar in resemblance to the human voice.
The cello was first invented in the 16th century in Bologna, Italy. It was mostly made for a solo repertoire however was also used in quartets. Its sound was thought to be too soft for church music, so it was accompanied by the organ in most cases.
Cellos were standardised and popularised in the 18th century.
The Cello is part of the orchestra, which normally has about 8-12 Cellos.
The cello section is situated on the righthand side of the stage, directly opposite the ‘first violin’ section. Cellos play a  very important role in an orchestra and are most often required to play low harmonies; as well as solos.
A musician who plays the Cello is known as a cellist. The principal cellist (main player) is the leader of this section and is sat closest to the audience.

4. Cedric Cello:

The cello is introduced to the children as Cedric Cello, and to help the children understand its’ ties to the string family we say Cedric is Violet the Violins’ older brother.
In our story, Cedric and Violet have a strong relationship – they play together and Cedric worries for Violet’s safety. Make sure you come prepared with lots of discussion points about families!
You can also use untuned instruments to show the difference between high and low (triangles/bells for high, drums/wooden blocks for low).