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Sound Profiles
Functionality (Orchestral > Solo)
  • We asked: is the instrument better for ensemble playing or best for solo performance?
  • We took turns playing and listening to decide whether the instrument was more well-suited to blending with others, or if it is more likely to stand out.
  • Some instruments may sound sweet under your ear, but can get “lost” from an audience’s perspective.
    • These may work better for fitting into an ensemble.
    • The sound could be really attractive, but rather introverted.
    • When we play in larger groups it’s about the overall sound.
    • Individual instruments don’t need to stand out: have you ever listened to a choir where somebody’s voice cuts through and dominates unpleasantly?
  • Others might sound less pleasant under your ear, but the sound carries clearly to your listeners.
    • These can lend themselves best to solo performance or playing in a trio/quartet situation where you really need to be able to make yourself heard more distinctly.
    • We might say these are more extroverted.
General tone (Bass > Treble)
  • Bassy character or treble (ie, deeper or brighter tone)
  • Sometimes we say an instrument is “warmer” (more bass) or brighter (more treble).
  • It may be a violin that sounds almost “viola-ish” so we lean more towards “bass” on the scale.
  • A cello could be very bright and not as ‘boomy’ or big sounding on the lower strings, so we count it as more “treble” in character.
    • The standard Stradivari pattern gives the most characteristic violin/viola/cello family sound.
    • It’s quite bright and speaks out well as an instrument designed to dominate the room.
Depth of sound (Rich & Textured > Direct & Clear)
  • We asked if an instrument had more complex tones or if it was more outspoken and direct.
  • Some instruments will have a real richness in the overtones, giving a great sense of interest when we try them.
    • They probably will be slightly more introspective as well, but we can find this “depth” even in a solo instrument.
    • A good example of this is found in the Guarneri violin design, which offers a rich and intriguing character, yet we find lends itself well to solo performance.
    • The Stradivari pattern has a great blend of beautiful tone and brightness. It is brighter and clearer than the other popular designs.
Important notes regarding our sound profile
  • With every model we judged the instrument itself, not comparing it to any other instrument or price range.
  • Therefore, a $300 violin is assessed via our 3 categories based on its own voice and not compared with say, a $3000 violin.
  • It is our hope that our Sound Profile can help you find the type of voice you’re seeking, whether the instrument range is beginner, intermediate or beyond.
  • Our advice if you’re searching on our website is to filter by your preferred price range / performance level and select those instruments that suit the general character you desire.
  • This should reduce the wide number of options, helping narrow selection down to two or three instruments, making your trial process less complicated and less stressful!
String Instrument Sizing Guide
This guide is intended to give you a rough idea of the size of instrument your or your child will require. Please note that this is a rough guide only. For best results, you should consult with our string experts or your teacher before purchasing or renting.
One of the most important tasks we find ourselves undertaking at Simply for Strings is to size a student for their instrument. Whilst we always check sizing when you purchase an instrument, it is also important to talk to your teacher first about their thoughts on the appropriate size instrument. It is important to remember that we always err on the side of caution when it comes to instrument sizing. Unlike clothes, you cannot ‘grow into’ an instrument. If the instrument is too large then you will find yourself in severe pain when practising or performing. This often leads to a decrease in practice (and interest), which inevitably leads to the player choosing to forgo learning an instrument. Play pain-free and start with the right size violin, viola, cello or double bass from Simply for Strings.
Measuring Guide for Violin & Viola

Measure in centimeters from the neck to the middle of the palm.


Directions for Measuring: With the player’s arm fully extended and parallel to the floor, measure in centimetres from the neck to the middle of the palm.

1/16 35 - 38 CM 3 - 4 YRS
1/10 39 - 42 CM 4 - 5 YRS
1/8 43 - 46 CM 5 - 6 YRS
1/4 47 - 51 CM 6 -7 YRS
1/2 52 - 56 CM 7 - 8 YRS
3/4 57 - 60 CM 9 - 11 YRS
4/4 > 60 CM 11 - 13+ YRS

Directions for Measuring: With the player’s arm fully extended and parallel to the floor, measure in centimetres from the neck to the middle of the palm.

12" 53 - 55 CM
13" 55 - 59 CM
14" 59 - 63 CM
15" 63 - 65 CM
15" 1/2 65 - 67 CM
16" >67 CM

Directions for Measuring: Sizing cellos is slightly more complicated than sizing violins and violas. The student should be seated at the edge of a chair such that the knees are bent at a ninety-degree angle (feet flat on the floor). The upper edge (back of cello near where the neck joins the body) of the instrument should rest in the centre of the chest (on the sternum) and the C peg should be slightly behind the left ear. The knees should lightly grip the lower bouts ensuring that the corners do not dig into the side of legs. (Corners should be slightly above the inside of the knees). The student should be able to reach both ends of the fingerboard with ease. The chart below shows approximate sizing by age.

Note: 7/8 size cellos are available as well. This can be a useful transitional size or a more comfortable option for those players who prefer a slightly smaller instrument.

1/10 4 - 5 YRS
1/8 5 - 6 YRS
1/4 6 - 8 YRS
1/2 8 - 10 YRS
3/4 10 - 12 YRS
4/4 12 - 13+ YRS

Directions for Measuring: The 3/4 size double bass is the standard size for adults. 7/8 size basses and 4/4 sizes basses are made but they are less commonly used. As a rough guideline, when both the bass and the player are standing upright, the bridge should be approximately at the same height as the large knuckles of the student's right hand. The most important issue is that the instrument is comfortable and that the student can reach the higher registers of the fingerboard without difficulty.
The chart below shows approximate sizing by age.

1/16 3 - 4 YRS
1/10 4 - 5 YRS
1/8 5 - 7 YRS
1/4 7 - 9 YRS
1/2 9 - 13 YRS
3/4 13+ YRS

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Main Ethos and Philosophy

  • To make the short term and long term lesson experience as musically satisfying for the student as possible.  My experience is that once students are inspired to play they will be often more open to developing their technique just so the music can sound more beautiful.
  • The teacher is seen more as a partner and facilitator.  Both the string and piano accompaniments allow for this to happen in an ongoing meaningful way.
  • Advanced students can also play along – the buddy system works so well!
  • The actual pieces are drawn from well-known works and a number of works especially written for a particular need.
  • The accompaniments themselves, whilst packed with plenty of musical ideas and styles, have been devised to support the student and certainly not overwhelm them.  The three part texture, melody, counter-melody & bass line is consistent through the entire book.  Cellists can choose to play their part or the bass part.
  • A wide range of keys and modalities are aurally introduced to the student. For instance, when they learn C#, the accompaniment is in C# minor or after playing the G major scale, a piece in A dorian mode (no 62. Galloping across the Plains is played).  This gives the student a wider aural experience than they would normally experience as a beginning player.


Some Features of the Books

  • Spiral binding for ease of opening.
  • Images of the instrument and posture are in colour – easier and more attractive to the eye.
  • Glossary at the back to check on terms used throughout the books.
  • Table of contents for easy navigation.
  • The student’s books page numbers are indicated throughout the Teacher’s and Accompanist’s books.
  • Uncluttered – much better for learning.
  • Students are encouraged to draw their own pictures.  There is alsoplenty of room for stickers!

Pedagogy and Sequencing

  • There is no specific method put forward – most of what is presented is in line with current pedagogical practice.
  • Technical tips and images regarding posture, bow-hold etc. are only there as an aid for students and are not in any way meant to be definitive.  I personally do not advocate a solid shoulder rest and prefer a Huber pad but I would never put that on other colleagues!
  • I have tried both ways of starting ie: with the bow or with pizzicato.  I now favour the right hand pizzicato as little arms really get tired with both at first.  The bow-hold is introduced using a pencil after a week or two of learning.  Students are always encouraged to follow the set –up rule for the left hand.
  • Bowing is introduced at piece no. 24.
  • A wide range of techniques are covered but with no one area overdone.
  • Musical terms and concepts are introduced one or two at a time.
  • Many of the bowings in the teacher’s parts are matched with the student’s bowings.
  • Students are encouraged to compose – a compositional task is at the end of the book for easy reference.  It can be started at any appropriate time.
  • The sequencing is logical and fairly straightforward:




1. All the open strings – note that the bassists learn their open strings in reverse order to the other string players.  I believe it is less confusing for them when they know their sounds are in reverse.

2. The D major scale notes with a range of keys/modalities.

3. The G major scale notes with a range of keys/modalities.

4. The C major scale notes with a range of keys/modalities.

5. The E String Notes (violin/bass – viola/cello review)

6. The C string notes (viola/cello – violin/bass review)





Crotchets, minims, semibreve, dotted minims, and their rests.  Quavers – in 2’s then 4’s, dotted crotchet followed by a quaver.  Time signatures used are: 4/4 à 3/4 à 2/4





Right hand pizzicato à detache à staccato à hook stroke à slurs & legato à portato.




Retakes; bowing divisions; harmonics; left-hand pizzicato.

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