Reply To: Elementary string questions???

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Thank you for offering up support for us fellow string teachers! I could definitely use some advice on the following situation. I currently manage an orchestra program that meets for one hour every weekday morning. Sarah is one of our new cello players (started in October), in first grade and full of enthusiasm for learning the cello. However, she cannot make fingered notes sound on her cello. It seems to be a physical issue – she has a hard time sitting up and supporting the instrument, and when she does sit properly, she cannot press her fingers down on the neck with enough pressure to make the string sound. It does not seem to be a matter of strength (I’ve had her press down on my hand, and she can apply enough pressure), but her fingers simply will not take shape (or stay in the right shape) as needed to press down on the strings. Sometimes she presses her finger down, and then pops it off the string as she plucks. We also cannot get her to keep her thumb in the right place, which might be affecting her hand position. Her fingers are very thin, but strong.

Sarah understands all of the musical concepts being taught in her cello class and fingers along with the songs we are learning. Her cello is an appropriate size for her body. I’ve never imagined that there are some students who are just not physically ready to learn a string instrument, and I would hate to come to that conclusion without first reaching out to others for advice. Do you think there are kids that just need to grow or develop physically before they can play the cello, or is there some method we might try to help Sarah? Are there any body exercises or learning tools we could use to get her fingers to press down firmly on the strings? We have also discussed switching her to violin, but we first want to explore options for making the cello work, since she really loves the cello.

Any words of advice or suggestions you could provide would be greatly appreciated!