String Instruments & Accessories


February 02, 2018

Cello sizes for young players and smaller adults

Just off the phone from a mum who wants her son to begin playing Cello. Obviously the first question fired at me is, ‘what size must I get’? After a lengthy explanation and details such as age etc, I finally asked her son’s height – which turned out to substantially less than even an average child of that age. I had to start the whole process over again, learning once again that age is not a good guide to choosing a Cello size, especially with our diverse population in the UK.

What then to look for? Through the years we have put forth various theoretical approaches to this question using age, height, length of arm and hand size, which are all very pertinent. But here I intend to stick my neck out and say that the only safe and sure way, is to get the Cello into playing position with the pupil.

Get him seated so that his (I hate his/her, so will alternate!) legs are parallel to the floor and the knees bent at 90 degrees – some prefer a slight tilt so that the knee is actually lower than the hips. Get the cello with spike out so that the lower bouts are clasped between her knees with the lower curve tucked into her left knee. If the size is correct the upper rim of the body should rest easily on the breast bone, at an angle of 45 degrees.  The tuning pegs will be more or less level with the left ear, especially the lower peg.

This should suffice to get an idea of the correct size, except only for a final check, using the arm and hand size. The left hand should clasp easily around the neck and the fingers be able to reach easily to the C string. Should her hands be exceptionally small you may have to consider a smaller Cello.

It is common sense to check this with your teacher as some have very strong views on the subject. I, on the other hand sometimes, depending on age (Say 12-ish!) and when they are considering moving from ½ (which he has been on for far too long) to ¾, may advise parents to go full size – within reason.

Alternatively consider hiring the next size (3/4) to bridge the gap until you are ready for full size

Adults of smaller stature are catered for as well. Here is photo showing five sizes of Cello for adult players. They are on level stand to convey the relative sizes. The first is a rather big ‘Rogeri’ copy, the second (still full size) is standard ‘Strad copy’ labelled Johan Stohr; the third is a slim and slender ‘Guadagnini’ copy by Hidersine; the third is a 7/8 Cello by Westbury and finally a ¾ Elysia.

20180201_153131_resized (2)

January 16, 2018

The New Larsen Virtuoso for Viola – A Complementary Balance


The New Larsen Virtuoso for Viola – A Complementary Balance – Available soon

If something works then why change it? Since its original launch back in 1995, the Original Larsen Viola A string has become almost the default choice for viola players.

Offering  excellent projection  with  a  broad  spectrum  of  sound  colours  combined  with  a  long  lasting and consistent performance.

With the development of our new Virtuoso Viola strings, launched in January 2018, the focus has been upon creating a new offering for viola D, G and C, built upon the firm foundations of the tried and trusted A string.  Finding a balance of qualities to complement and mutually enhance something old with something new:

‘A golden, open and clear tone with a nice balance of warmth and brilliance.’

The  new  Virtuoso  for  Viola,  available  as  individual  strings  or  as sets  in  Medium and  Soloist  variants,  achieves  that  complementary  balance.  The Medium set delivers a rich sound texture whilst the Soloist is more focused and brings greater volume to the instrument.

Please note: The Original A string, medium is supplied as the ideal partner for both Virtuoso Medium tension and Soloist combinations packaged as sets.

String Details

The Original Viola A string is based upon a solid steel core, wound with precision rolled stainless steel flat wire. The Virtuoso Viola D, G and C strings build upon a synthetic multi-filament core and are wound with pure silver

December 14, 2017

I have Grandpa’s old violin – is it worth fixing?

I have Grandpa’s old violin – is it worth fixing?

We have written something about this earlier but here are further details and tips on how to evaluate your instrument. The above question I have heard more times than I can shake a stick at. Often, sorrowfully, it is Grandpa himself who has throughout the years treasured his ‘Stradivarius’ violin – only to be told that it is a very good German copy from the last century! Nice enough violins in their own right but not worth the untold thousands of pounds that was anticipated. So how to go about making the decision to put the old violin up for sale and, quite frankly, who can you trust anyway? In the world today, there are only a handful of real experts who are qualified to evaluate a really classic old ‘master’ violin – so in this article we are only treating of the multitudes of German and French workshop fiddles that flooded out of Europe during the 19th and early 20th century

Put very simplistically the quality of workmanship will be the thing to look for which will tell you if your violin is worth taking in to the shop and getting an experienced eye to evaluate it. There are also numerous websites where you can read all about it – but have the following information to hand

  1. The Back – Take a general look and get a feel for the instrument and then turn it over and look at the back. Is it a one-piece or two piece back? Is the wood (usually maple) nicely flamed and are there signs of wear where patches of varnish have been worn through. Is the button well-made and symmetrical?
  2. Check the purfling back and front. This is the thin black line which is (usually) inlaid around the edge, following the outline of the instrument and neatly into the corners. This should be even and well worked. It is easy to see if this has been done carefully but check for ‘drawn-on’ or painted purfling which is often a giveaway
  3. The Front. Now go to the front and again examine for careful workmanship to the corners, and the F holes which should be carefully made and matching. Look at the quality of wood. The grain should be even and narrow or perhaps widening out to the edges – indicating a fine choice of wood. Look at the fingerboard – are there signs of wear indicated by a pale wood appearing through the black. This indicates that the fingerboard has been painted black and is not true ebony
  4. Look carefully at the side or ribs for evenness and good workmanship. At the button end has it been well finished off and the ribs well aligned
  5. The scroll is often an obvious sign that a violin is good and has been well made. Is it symmetrical and well executed curving cleanly towards the pegbox? Are there still chisel marks and does the fluting continue all the way round or do the grooves just disappear. The quality of the scroll carving does not affect the tonality the instrument, but is a very good marker that the violin is a good one because makers often made a point of paying attention to this detail.
  6. Lastly, with a strong light behind you peer down through the ‘f-hole’ and see if you can see a label. This may or may not be genuine but is an overall component of the evaluation process. There are literally thousands of ‘Strads.’, ‘Amatis’ and the like out there, but if, fortuitously, your violin carries the name of one of the famous German or French makers it is certainly worth seeing to.
November 29, 2017

Caswells Christmas Prize Givaway 2017

Our Christmas Prize Givaway 2017 is running from the 24 November until Christmas Eve 24 December 2017. Any orders placed on or between these two dates will be entered in a prizedraw* to win one of 20 fabulous prizes worth in excess of £1000 combined.

Every order has an equal chance of winning and the winning orders will be drawn on the 27th December 2017. Winners will be notified by email.

Caswells Christmas Prize Givaway 2017 prizes:

1 x set of Peter Infeld Violin strings (Supplied by Hidersine, Barnes and Mullins)

1 x EDM-1 plus a BAND pickup for violin (Supplied by Headway Music Audio)

1 x P&H  carbon composite violin bow (Supplied by Stentor Music)

1 x set Larsen Virtuoso violin strings (Supplied by The Sound Post Ltd)

1 x set Larsen Crown Cello strings (Supplied by The Sound Post Ltd)

1 x Bio Violin case without pocket (Supplied by Gewa Music)

1 x Too hot to handle oven gloves

3 x Snark Touch screen metronome

10 x Boxes of Chocolate violins

Judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into regarding prizes. Prizes will be dispatched 30 days from the date of the original order placed.

Carbon Composite violin bow

* The draw is open to anyone – for FREE entry please email and you will be entered in the draw

November 15, 2017

How to Restring Your Cello

How to Restring Your Cello – a very helpful video published by D’Addario Orchestral Strings:

Key points:

  • The instrument is reliant on the tension of the strings so do one at a time otherwise you risk the bridge and soundpost moving or falling over
  • Add graphite to the string contact points
  • How do I know when its time to change my strings?
  • Make sure you remove excess rosin from the strings.
  • Can I put full size strings on a smaller instrument?

November 08, 2017

How to Restring Your Violin or Viola

How to Restring Your Violin or Viola – a very helpful video published by D’Addario Orchestral Strings:

Key points covered:

  • The instrument is reliant on the tension of the strings so do one at a time otherwise you risk the bridge and soundpost moving or falling over
  • Add graphite to the string contact points
  • How do I know when its time to change my strings?
  • Make sure you remove excess rosin from the strings.
  • Can I put full size strings on a smaller instrument?

Products seen in this video: Kaplan Vivo Violin string set

October 20, 2017

Cello and Violin mutes

Everyone knows what a ‘mute’ is used for but few realise the selection of mutes available to the instrumental string player.  For images, please click here.

A mute then is a small accessory that attaches to the bridge of an instrument and works by dampening the sound. There two classes of mute, a ‘practice’ mute which makes the sound very quiet so as to not upset the neighbours, and a ‘orchestral’ mute for situations where this is demanded by the score of many classical pieces.  Some commonly used mute which are designated (P) for very quiet practice mutes, and (O) for orchestral mutes:

Tourte (O)  This mute comes as a shaped or round pattern and is very popular, easily to fit and inexpensive. They are made out of rubber, and simply slipped over the bridge.  When not in use, the mute is stored back near the tailpiece, hooked on to the D and A. Glaesel is a similar mute and the Moustro is a novel variation of the Tourte.

Bech magnetic (O)  Popular tourte- shaped mute which has a magnetic backing. When not in use it is slipped back to the tailpiece where a metallic clip keeps it firmly in place

Trident mute (O) Shaped like trident and made of ebony, the trident slips over the centre of bridge very easily and quickly. Problem is it can get lost easily too!

Professional Practice mute (P)  This is a great mute to use when you want to play quietly without disturbing the neighbours. It is made of nickel-plated brass and quite heavy, so produces a very muted sound, but still clear and crisp. The Artino is very similar but with a rubber coating.

Ultra practice mute (P)   Another good practice mute, made of solid rubber to thoroughly dampen the sound, so that you do not disturb your neighbours.

Tonwolf mute (P) an old design which is still popular. Made of nickel and shaped trident-like it is a very effective practice mute which does not affect the instruments intonation. It apparently also suppresses ‘wolf’ notes!

Alpine mute for Violin (O) now available once more. Menuhin style mute with and insert which effectively mutes without altering intonation

Roth Sihon (O/P) damping. The Roth Sihon is a wire mute with rubber coating -it stays on the instrument and slides up to the bridge when needed or down to the tailpiece when not required.

October 13, 2017

My peg needs replacement – what do I do?

My peg needs replacement – what do I do?

This comment was occasioned when this week I received two rather tart complaints that the pegs we supplied ‘didn’t fit’ the violin! This is despite the fact that we publicise that replacement pegs come as blanks and have to be properly fitted to the violin. Every violin peg hole, often due to wear, is different and there cannot be an off-the-peg solution (forgive the pun!). This comment also applies to the fine tune pegs by Wittner even though these come in different sizes – some fitting is always needed.

Your peg for some reason has snapped and a replacement is obviously needed. If the instrument is of any value the most sensible option is to get your luthier or your nearest good music shop to match and replace it – it is a craftsman’s job. This is simply down to the fact that not only are there many different designs of pegs, but also the exact fitting to your instrument is beyond the average skill of a do-it-yourselfer. The Luthier has professional tools, such as peg reamers to exactly match up the taper of the peg to the taper of the peg hole. This is the critical part because ill-fitting pegs either slip badly or simply refuse to turn smoothly, which leads once again to a broken peg.

Of equal importance is the hole drilled through the peg which takes the inserted winding end of the string. If the peg is inserted too far into the peghole, the drilled hole will be too close to the pegbox cheek, or even disappear entirely. This renders the correct winding of the string impossible and does also lead to strings snapping.

Still want to try, or perhaps, as I often hear ‘Grandpa knows about woodwork’?  Here are some tips on drilling the hole:

  1. Once the taper is correct, insert the peg in as far as it would nromally go and mark the exact spot you wish to drill
  2. Using a clamp, (not your hand) stabilize the peg and drill the new hole through, using a 1/16” wood bit. Go slowly or you may crack the peg.
  3. Reinsert and check for fit
  4. Some cheaper G strings are quite fat so that the hole may need to be a bit bigger!
  5. Replace the string winding it on correctly in parallel loops without overlapping
October 06, 2017

Cello floor stops or floor anchors?

Cello floor stops or floor anchors. What’s your preference?

Cello floor stops are an ongoing a problem for many Cellists.

You can, of course, simply insist on the sharp endpin directly onto the carpet or floor – but many venues take a dim view of that and then you also have hard tile or marble floors. Cello ferrules are a handy alternative and Wolf have a superior rubber ball, the Super endpin, that fits over the endpin, but generally something more is needed. So, what is your next best option?

There are a great many designs and models on the market and each has a following. Here are the options:

Free-standing Rock Stop types: These floor stops are small rubber or plastic objects which fit easily into a case or music bag – unfortunately they are also easy to mislay or lose. Most famous and most popular is the Dychem Black hole, a little rubber doughnut shaped stop. These can in time lose their traction or stickiness. An alternative is the very similar ‘Rock stop. More modern designs such as the three-footed spaceship shaped Viva is made from polycarbonate with a metal cup for the endpin, replaceable feet, and a variety of colours, and the ‘Stoppin’. The thing to watch here to prevent your Cello flying off at a tangent is to avoid dirty floors, or at least give the floor stop a good wipe before each performance

Cello anchors that connect to a chair: These anchors have the advantage of not slipping too far away while you are playing. The single-strapped Xeros is popular and consists of a two-inch-wide adjustable strap with a ‘D’ring for the chair leg and a metal cup non-skid base for your endpin. This anchor may not fit all types of chairs, or all heights of players, as it only extends to 32 inches. Variations of this type is the Stentor anchor with two string loops for both chair legs which gives better control, the old fashioned, but still popular wooden ‘T’ ’bar stop. An innovative gadget called ‘Fursland’ has two wire chair leg holders which slide back into a cylindrical aluminium body which makes for easy storage in a Cello case. Another choice is the Muco Cello  Anchor, which has a small cello-shaped endpin rest, and adjustable nylon strap.

Sound-Enhancing Endpin Holders: Artino have brought out an end pin anchor with a resonator box and nylon strap to attach it to a chair-leg, There is also a metal option with a resonance hole but without the adjustable nylon strap. The latest model has a chair strap and a larger resonating box, which is fantastic for pupils using basic student Cellos giving an enhanced sound.

Best in class? The Celloboots cello anchor – the most expensive and versatile of them all! It has a removable belt which is optional to use and if the floor is very slippery or dusty it can be anchored around a chair leg – otherwise it can be used without the strap. Made of high quality tough odourless, industrial elastomer and complete with a cotton carry bag.

Celloboots Endpin Anchor

September 15, 2017

The Pernambuco debate!

Pernambuco wood, from the Caesalpinia echinate tree indigenous to Brasil, has been the wood of choice for fine bows since the 18th century. No other wood or wood-substitute offers the same quality of strength, springiness and workability, although many experiments have been conducted using bamboo, the closely related brazilwood, snakewood, and many others. Many thousands of bows have been made using this beautiful wood – but of recent times the supply of good Pernambuco is rapidly diminishing, and the tree has become endangered.

To ensure a continuous supply of this unique wood several initiatives have been started to educate, research and set on conservation and re-planting initiatives. A few of our foremost bowmakers have actually moved to Brazil and have a programme of renewal whereby as a tree is felled, three saplings are then planted at the site. These are subsequently thinned to select the strongest.

Carbon Fibre as an alternative? This is a synthetic material which is both lightweight, springy and almost unbreakable. Various cores are used but essentially it is made of ultra-thin graphite fibers, which are molded into a permanent shape. Bows made of carbon fibre don’t warp, and don’t react very much to changes in temperature or humidity. This obviously makes it a good choice for players in a humid climate or for outdoor players, for example Morris dancers. Some or the more modern manufacturers actually have a carbon fibre core with a wooded veneer on the outside which does make them appear more traditional.

So which material is best for you? If you are looking for a new bow, the most important thing to do is to try out several bows on your own instrument. The preference between Pernambuco and carbon fiber is ultimately up to you! As a general rule and from feedback we receive from many players both amateur and professional, the following pattern is emerging;

  • For lively bows under £200 the preference is generally Carbon fibre! Cheap wooden bows are always a wood substitute and often weak.
  • From £200 to £800 the choice is yours. Many top players swear by their Carbon fibre bows, but equally the wood sticks are generally Pernambuco and thus very acceptable. The only route is to try a range of bows.
  • Moving up to professional bows, from £1000 and above, the proper Pernambuco sticks are considered still the best for expression, nuance and dynamics. That said some of the most recent Carbon Fibre are superb and used by top musicians. The only answer is to test and try

Some superb makes are Arcus, Codabow and Col legno. We list a fraction of the bows we have on our website as they are constantly changing but do have a browse or better still, give us a call to disucss you needs:

Violin Bows

Viola Bows

Cello Bows