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HI everyone,

I began cello lessons about 2 years ago (as an older beginner). I doubt if there was another person on the planet as passionate as I. I play other instruments and was fairly fluent with the treble clef, and began "relearning" the bass clef for cello play. Using the Suzuki method went well (makes me feel as if I'm playing "real" music fairly early on) but I no doubt was relying too much on the "numbers" vs. the notes.

Now, about halfway thru book 3, I'm just burnt out. I'm finding I don't really know the notes on the fingerboard in anything out of first position (unless, or course, I have the "number" of the finger to look at in the music). (Side note: I do not have tape or dots on my fingerboard.) And, well, the Suzuki music is just getting a bit dull. I am completely frustrated as I try to begin playing pieces a bit more difficult. (A side note here - my mother, who lives with us, is very ill, and trying to concentrate on learning new keys, notes, and positions is very difficult with my cluttered mind.)

I put my beautiful little Jay Haide 7/8 cello in the case and haven't played since December. (Yes, it DOES have a gorgeous tone!)

So, I miss the cello. But I am so VERY frustrated. Not to say that I wasn't frustrated before and persevered - but I don't feel as if I've really learned anything much. My teacher is a dear, but after spending months and months on the same 2 Suzuki exercises I thought I'd lose my mind.

What would some of you recommend? Start again with a different method? (Clean slate.) Which one? I have other books that I purchased such as Strictly Strings and Mueller Rusch (sp.). They aren't as much "fun" initially but you learn notes and not numbers.

My teacher is a dear, but I'm wondering if finding a different teacher with a fresh approach might help? Not to mention it is a 50 mile drive, which means leaving my mom home alone for several hours, which is distracting, etc. etc.)

My ultimate goal for cello playing is either in ensemble work or as rhythm and/or duets with my Scottish band. (So, you can see why enough Suzuki was enough!) I think I need to learn something fun, which helps my technique, and also provides some sense of accomplishment as well.

Thanks in advance. I'm thinking about pulling the cello out of the case soon for old-times' sake.


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Hey Jill..

I am an adult beginner Suzuki student (started with my son) and I have had several starts to the 'program"...all in all, I truely believe in the Suzuki method, although I have come to realize that there is only so much at one time an adult beginner can absorb. I have been in your shoes, and have always come back to Suzuki.

Ask your teacher if there are some things that you can do differently. Tell your teacher how you are feeling. Communicate with him (her). If the teacher is truly interested in your moving ahead and is an imaginative and inspiring role, then he will find some alternatives for you. I have done this with my teacher, to great rewards and satisfaction...I think for the both of us. I think that my teacher really likes teaching me, because she knows that it is my (adult) passion that is driving me to want to tackle the 4 string-no fret monster. Therefore she is very compliant in trying to give me what I want and at the same time feed me what I need.

ALso, check out the Abby Newton cd and book that accompanies it...wonderful Scottish cello...and if you've not heard the Alistair fraser/ Natalie Haas cd's, you're in for a treat.

best wishes....

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"Enough of Suzuki? " It all depends. I began to learn violin at 27 in a traditional method.

My teacher used Suzuki material ( not Suzuki method). If you were real young (3 or 4 yr o)

Suzuki method is wonderful. Suzuki believes to learn violin (or string) like a child to learn a language.

toddlers learn sound first before they can read (music). So toddles are ahead of the game.

Most important of all, todllers leran it "naturally" (as a mother tongue) not as a second language.

As an adult, I do a lot of practice to improve my playing. Nevertheless, it is always a "second"

language (violin) to me . Your son is more lucky. I have seen many world class players who are

Suzuki graduates. Believe me, they are diffrent (from me or late comers). Do not start late. It shows.

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Can you remember why you started the 'cello?

You mention that your 'cello is beautiful and with a gorgeous tone and it seems that the problem that you are experiencing is a block with the Suzuki method. Can I suggest getting some simple bass clef tune books with material that you like to hear and then play and enjoy it. Perhaps some ceilidh pieces or some scottish waltzes, there are plenty to choose from. You could also pick on a favourite Treble clef tune and transcribe and transpose it to a comfortable position in the Bass.

If you are playing for pleasure as an adult, it should be a pleasurable experience. As a violinist I "play" with borrowed orchestra 'cellos and basses, this results are an understanding of where the notes and positions lie to be able to grunt out "The Elephant" or gliss. through "The Swan" (fit for my ears only).

Try to refind the fun and treat it as some well-earned distraction from your other worries.

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I see that all the other answers support staying with Suzuki.

I started taking cello lessons years before Suzuki made it to this country, but it was not long before I was playing the very same pieces that are in the Suzuki books. The main difference was that there were some repetitious etudes ("Exercises" I called them that occupied about half my practice time. The one aspect of the Suzuki course that I consider a disadvantge is the gradual progression through the "positions" from 1st, through 2nd and 3rd, to 4th. In "my day" you learned 1st position and then 4th (at least that's how I recall it), and this gave you the range of one octave on each string. So you had an alternate way to play all the notes that you have been getting bored studying. The 4th position is such a natural place to be on the cello that the notes almost find themselves.

What I have found is helpful is to try to learn a new note every day. When my students hit a "stop" i set them that task, "learn a new note every day and you will have a whole octave at our next lesson."

Learn how the note is written, its name, where it is on the cello (don't worry about finding it on more than one string yet, even if that is appropriate) and what it feels like with different fingers. This really works. Actually this does not take much effort at all - it is more the mental attitude of isolating that note and focussing on it.

As you are now in Suzuki book 3, it will (hopefully) not be long before you have to learn to read some of the medium-high notes in another clef (tenor) (and eventually in treble clef too), so knowing the names of the notes is a helpful (although not essential) part of it.

Of course once you have "learned the note" you have to be able to play it in various contexts as well.

I know no substitute for time spent focusing on practicing and playing. The rate of improvement seems directly proportional to time spent in productive practice. When I compare the rate at which I progressed as a student with that of most of my students it seems attributable to the simple fact that I practiced at least 5 times more than they do; I could not conceive of attending a lesson without being able to play the music at the performance level I thought it should be.

Good luck.


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I have heard of your predicament with more than one adult using the Suzuki method--in fact, the majority that I've been in contact with.

A "method" helps to provide a "frame work" from which the student and teacher arrive at a common ground. However, a method is just that, "a method." They can be switched-out for anything else that works. One should never be wed to one method or another.

You should bring your concerns up with your teacher.

As an adult, you should be learning note reading along with the physical aspects of playing, as well as improvisation and ear training--simultaneously and progressively.

A child has the luxury of time to learn (rather, be taught) in many different ways, especially in a linear/rote fashion, whereas we adults tend to have time against us--and for good reason---we have the ability to compress learning by using past experience in "active learning," so we tend to monitor and expect faster results in our endeavors.

There are many exercise books that can be used to simply teach note recognition and basic sight reading and position reference--which would not "interfere" with any method, be it traditional or not.

Rather than a "linear" method approach, adult learners benefit from a more circular approach--actually, children do too, but that is another battle with the status quo altogether and would really require that a vast majority of books on the subject be re-written.



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Hi all,

Another thought. Yes, I did talk with my teacher. But we kept droning on with the same 2 pieces, week after week after month after month. I actually went out and purchased easy bass clef rhythm books and etude books and asked her if she minded if we work from them, too.

Andrew, I know of others who mentioned they went from first to fourth position as well. I think that would have helped me tremendously.

Sometimes I just look at the fingerboard and wonder if I know where any of the notes are at all. All in all a very frustrating experience.

I practiced some yesterday after several weeks off. (I think taking several weeks off is usually very harmful, by the way!) It went pretty well, but my heart just wasn't in it. I played the "easy" stuff so I could get my confidence back.


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I'm sorry if this is a stupid question, but is there something weird about the Suzuki method that makes a student spend so long on the same excercises? Is this just the nature of it? Most of the books I had when I was learning had duet and sonata books that added some variety to whatever level you were at.... Don't these exist in Suzuki?

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Yes they do exist, solveg; not only are there many such materials developed especially for Suzuki students and prominently on sale anywhere the Suzuki books are sold, but there's also nothing stopping the teacher from supplementing the curriculum with other stuff that has nothing to do with Suzuki. A situation like the one under discussion sounds like a teacher doing it "by the numbers" and not making suffficient effort to supplement the Suzuki books. A good Suszuki teacher ought not to be making such a fundamental mistake IMHO.

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You've alluded to the following twice, now: "Sometimes I just look at the fingerboard and wonder if I know where any of the notes are at all. All in all a very frustrating experience."

Of course you are right, the notes "are on the fingerboard" in a manner of speaking, but that's not how I look at it when I play.

I really think of the notes as being at my fingers - and by fingers formong the "frets" that will create the in-tune notes. Of course, as one moves up the fingerboard the frets get closer together, but that seems to be no problem, because the spacing of my fingers seems to relats to the angle of my arm, so as I move up the fingerboard, by fingers gert closer and closer together to touch the strings.

So - if my hand is in the right place, then the notes will be "under" the proper fingers.

I know one professional violinist (long-retired SFSO and also retired concertmaster of a regional professional orchestra) who taught long leaps on the violin by recommending that if the player had trouble hitting the note, that they go for the related position of the 1st finger. This also works for cellists.

It is not that one keeps all the fingers pressed on the fingerboard/strings or necessarily even touching, but you do (over time) form a brain-body link that effectively has the fingers operating as prepositioned "frets" for the notes in all (many) positions, even if it's only in your mind. So when I pick up a cello or violin to make music, I really think of the instrument as the vehicle I am able to use a lot more easily than I could sing the notes from my own throat.

It does take lots of practice to create this "transcendent" mind/body attitude. Just running up and down one octave scales on each string can go a long way toward helping. The hardest time I sometiimes have in teaching is with experienced piano players who have lost the need to listen to the notes they make - you must listen all the time and intently when playing these bowed-string instruments. You can't hire a tuner for your cello.


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Hi Andrew,

I always appreciate your comments! Over the years you have sent information along to me that I still use.

I've always been very good with muscle memory. (In music, sports, etc.) So that is a blessing. I actually was coming along pretty well at first with the cello. But I think the jumping around from 2nd, 3rd, and 4th positions all in my first year with the cello is where some of the problems began. (All in the way Suzuki is laid out.) I never quite understood what I was doing and I was going on to the next position and "numbers to play" to create the particular tune.

My teacher is a nice person and we had a great rapport, but there is a difference I think between teaching and being a teacher.

Not sure where all this will lead. I'm in the "slump" period right now and would love to have a teacher or coach nearby who could inspire me to push beyond!

Thanks for all the great comments and suggestions.


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Sometimes you just have to experiment. I have a student who is finally making really great (big) sound with his bowing, and still having some finger position troubles. I recommend trying one finger scales. Just start on the open string the play the rest of the scale an octave up the string wwith the first finger. Next do 0, 1 ,2 - and the rest of the one octave scale up the string then do the same thing with the 4th finger (and then the 2nd finger). This exercise might help you get a mental sense of the musical intervals in terms of how far you have to shift your hand- and which are the whole steps and which the half steps.


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