Elementary string questions???
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January 4, 2013 at 11:49 am #17445
Hi everyone, as January’s orchestra mentor, I would love to offer support/advise to anyone who might be struggling with the typical (or even the not so typical) elementary string issues—-scheduling, support, class size, suzuki instruction, transition to note reading, diversity, before school vs during school, how to teach multi level students within one class, beginning string instruction, left/right hand position work, or anything other questions you might have! With 32 years of experience, I have seen just about everything! Happy teaching, Jan Davis, NAfME mentor.January 11, 2013 at 8:44 am #18464
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!January 17, 2013 at 11:55 pm #18798
Is this an issue of being double jointed or having knuckles that collapes? If so, I would physically set up her left hand position and let her know you are going to try to collasp her knuckle (gently of course!) Often when kids concentrate on one knuckle at a time, without other distractions (notes, bowing etc.) they will start to understand the concept of strong fingers. You can even bow the note for her while she works on the left hand. Tapping the string with a firm finger (try to make a sound) will also help build the strength needed to keep the fingers square. Another possiblity is to show her the grove in your fingertip after you play a note or two. Ask her if she too has such a grove. It is hard for some of us to remember the pain we experienced in our fingertips when we first started playing! As for the thumb….I have used a piece of velcro under the neck (sticky back) and then wrapped a loop of velcro around the thumb. When you consider that a typicall musician reading a piece of music make approximately 5,000 decisions per minute, find a way to minimize the multitude of things beginners have to deal with! Out of curiosity, I would be tempted to give her a brief lesson on the violin just to find out if these issue are present in a smaller instrument. Hope this helps! Jan Davis NAfME mentor.
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