Stepping Notes Cello School

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CELLO with Maryan Balkwill

The cello has a lovely rich tone - you can play high and low notes - and you get to sit down to play!

If your children have attended the Stepping Notes classes for the under 8s, they will have learnt how to listen and to sing a bank of songs. We can work from this basis from their very first cello lesson, and play with a beautiful sound straight away.

  • They will learn how to play with left hand pizzicato - that’s plucking the strings with the left hand - this prepares the hand for a good position and shape from the very start.
  • They will learn to play with the bow, using a good supple right arm and hand shape, concentrating on a mellow cello tone from the start.
  • When coordinating the left and right hand skills they will start by playing familiar tunes using harmonics - this involves touching the string lightly, with no finger pressure and therefore free from tension. They will experience the freedom of movement using the whole length of the fingerboard.

These techniques follow the approach to teaching by the Szilvay brothers, Géza and Csaba, who first started to develop Colourstrings in Helsinki over 40 years ago.


girl playing cello


boy playing cello


For beginners I suggest three sessions per week:

  • one individual cello lesson (30 minutes, preferably on a weekday).
  • one Kodály-type musicianship class. If your child is under the age of eight, I recommend that he/she attend the Stepping Notes classes for the under 8s until completing that curriculum. For children over the age of 8, we run a musicianship class on Saturday afternoons.
  • in due course - one string ensemble class (30 minutes, on Saturday afternoons).


All lessons and classes take place at:-

Age: I am happy to teach children from the age of six upwards.

Practice: At the very beginning, I am not keen for children to practise between lessons as there's a danger of practising incorrectly. However, in due course a commitment to daily practice will be essential; I will advise you on this.

If you are interested, please do contact me me for further information.


boy and girl playing Cello



Maryan studied at the Royal College of Music and then moved to Edinburgh for further study with Joan Dickson. She worked as a freelance musician with various orchestras and ensembles as well as starting her teaching career. She has taught for several schools and music services, but when she heard the beautiful sound, accurate intonation and rhythmic vitality of the young players of the Helsinki Junior Strings, she was inspired to learn more about the wonderful child-friendly approach to string playing which is Colourstrings. She has observed the work at the East Helsinki Music Institute and has studied at the Kodály institute in Kecskemét, Hungary. She currently also teaches at the Colourstrings Music School in South London.

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