Approaches to String Teaching – Colourstrings

Approaches to String Teaching - Colourstrings

In autumn 2011, the ESTA UK magazine ‘arco’ started a series of articles exploring the various teaching methods that were then in vogue in the UK. Many of these methods and approaches are highly successful and form the backbone of teacher training and practice in this country, and indeed across the globe. Given how important these systems of string education are, it seems pertinent to outline the main ones in order to enthuse new teachers to explore what each has to offer. The second of the series (Spring 2012 edition of ‘arco’ volume 37 number 2 pages 22-23), was an article on the Colourstrings approach ‘Colourstrings’ by Jan Anderson, then a teacher of Colourstrings cello at the East Renfrewshire Saturday Music Centre. What follows is not a complete rewrite of the article, but a summary of the essential points made by Jan.


Colourstrings is not a method of string teaching, but rather an approach. Jan, at that time, held the opinion that the word ‘method’ does a disservice to teachers, as it implies success regardless.

It was Jan’s opinion that

‘training and sculpting a young player relies hugely on our intuitive recognition of the individual’s needs at any given time and the way we use our skills to meet those unique needs’ – Jan Anderson.

Kodaly Principles

Colourstrings uses the principles of Kodaly to train children to learn their chosen instrument as a ‘musician’. This involves them reading, using inner hearing and singing as well as playing. In fact, at the very heart of the Colourstrings approach lies the development of inner hearing skills through singing, using sol-fa as an aid to this.

The Creators

Colourstings was created by Geza Silvay, and his work has been an inspiration to many. His system of learning and publications lead a child’s musical development from the pre-instrumental Kindergarten stage, through his own violin tutor books, up to chamber music and instrumental playing of a technically high standard. Geza’s brother, Czaba Silvay took this work and developed a cello version. Initially, this was in a more demanding format than the violin approach, but the two instruments were then brought into line with new and revised publications in 2007.

The role of the parent

As part of the Colourstrings journey, a parent or ‘constant other’ is expected to commit unconditionally to aiding the child’s learning. This means that the routine of daily practising, reinforcement of key points, and developing the discipline of singing and signing in sol-fa before anything is played can quietly be reinforced.  

Sol-fa training

Sol-fa is invaluable throughout the learning process. It provides a point of reference, directing and aiding all aspects of learning a string instrument. It is definitely core to the entire approach.

Key relationships

The teacher-child-parent relationship is another aspect of the Colourstrings system that is key to its success. Parents attend the lessons along with the child, and lessons often take place in small groups.

The most successful pupils always reflect a grounded and wholly supportive parent who has a good relationship with their child’ – Jan Anderson


Further information

For more detailed information about the Colourstrings approach, visit

There are many approaches used in the teaching of stringed instruments, and ESTA has a membership that encompasses each of these without bias. For more information about string teaching in general and ideas of your own career development, why not see what the European String Teachers Association can offer you by visiting our websites and