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Expected cello progress?

(34 Posts)
chauffeurmummy Sun 08-Jun-14 16:40:10

My seven year old has had 8 cello lessons now and I was wondering what sort of progress I should expect her to have made?

I know nothing about stringed instruments so any help would be gratefully received!

LadySybilLikesCake Sun 08-Jun-14 16:42:00

Ds has been playing for a year and has just managed to play without any screeching. That's progress! 8 lessons is nothing, give her some time.

chauffeurmummy Sun 08-Jun-14 17:21:14

I know it's early days!! I am just not convinced she's really in the swing of practising properly to make sure she makes a decent amount of progress. It's all a little half hearted!!

LadySybilLikesCake Sun 08-Jun-14 17:29:01

I get half hearted. Has she tried other instruments?

chauffeurmummy Sun 08-Jun-14 19:36:06

She's had about 20 piano lessons.

LadySybilLikesCake Sun 08-Jun-14 19:39:06

Did she not enjoy that? Ds had 2 years worth before he sat the very first exam (piano). I played the viola and it took years before I was ready for one, but I passed grade 2 and 3 at the same time (I think they were 2 and 3). I practiced three or four times a week. Some things just take time, but it helps if she's practicing little but often smile

Wafflenose Sun 08-Jun-14 20:15:57

My DD was 5 when she started the cello in March, and is now 6, and has had a similar amount of lessons. She has to be reminded about bow hold, how to sit, and what sort of pressure to use in every lesson. She can read the 'open string' notes, a couple of first finger notes, F# with the third finger, and one novelty high note. She can play quite a few VERY simple tunes, not in time with the CD or accompaniment, as well as a recognisable 'Hot Cross Buns'. Hopefully this helps... but I know strings are slow going at first, and there's probably quite a wide range of normal.

chauffeurmummy Sun 08-Jun-14 20:23:52

Thanks! Yes she was enjoying piano - we've just had a lot of challenges with lesson times as she was doing it outside of school. It's on hold for now but she'll be picking it up again at school from September. She nagged me for ages about cello as she wants to be in the orchestra - I actually think group playing will suit her as well.

chauffeurmummy Sun 08-Jun-14 20:33:27

Thanks Waffle! I've just looked in her practice book and she's been given "New notes - third finger, C#, F# and B. Try bowing pieces x, y and z" for this week? Despite playing the piano to a reasonable standard - it's all meaningless to me!! I can see those new notes are in those pieces mind!!

I think I'm finding it difficult to gauge as I know she can already read the music so she doesn't have that element to learn.

Wafflenose Sun 08-Jun-14 21:00:31

It sounds like she is a little ahead of my DD2, who definitely hasn't done all of those third finger notes. She has been reading music very well since she was 4, but only treble clef. Piano uses both, so is useful all round! DD2 is the most laidback, horizontal child... she has a music exam tomorrow which she's not remotely worried about, but I am. I reckon she's right on the pass line!

chauffeurmummy Sun 08-Jun-14 21:34:07

Oh good luck to your daughter for tomorrow!! I am sure as parents we worry 100 times more than they do!! Mine's rather horizontal too - hence why I want to keep an eye on her and make sure she's at least making acceptable progress!! I've seen very little actual effort going into any practice to date.

JulieMichelleRobinson Sun 08-Jun-14 23:14:29

Not a cellist but violin teacher...

After 8 lessons? I may have spent up to six of those (a whole half term) just teaching tunes using open strings. Lesson 1 is "This is how you hold the violin, this is how you hold the bow - adapted bowhold - let's try not to make a hideous sound."

OTOH, I go pretty slowly. I reckon Prep Test/Bronze medal after about a year, grade 1 is probably four or five terms, depending on what marks you expect and what else you're doing. I'd rather have students take an extra term and keep my track record of good marks, even if they don't think about it that way!

JulieMichelleRobinson Sun 08-Jun-14 23:31:13


As far as I can figure out... left hand fingers on cello are evenly spaced. Your DD's three new notes are third finger on A, D and G strings. If you're absolutely clueless, that means that she should be able to play "Do Re Mi" in tune on the three highest strings of the cello - in fact, singing that may help, especially if she doesn't have sticky tapes on her instrument (I banned them for my students after a 19yo transfer student came to me still with lines on his fiddle, which I promptly removed; it took him nearly six months to learn to play in tune without them!).

Make sure she's sat and is holding cello and bow correctly, and that the spike is at the right height etc. Practise the "Do Re Mi" on the relevant string(s) before attempting a piece of music using that note, like you'd practise scales once more notes are learnt. If necessary, also clap through the piece and/or sing it. By 'bowing pieces' I'm guessing there are some pieces that focus solely or primarily on bowing technique, maybe using open strings so she can concentrate on right hand?

For comparison, grade 1 requires all basic fingerings on cello in first position (including second finger) and the ability to bow nicely, slur and to make contrast in dynamics. Numbers 10 and 16 from Suzuki book 1 are set pieces for grade 1 (in different lists) - I don't teach cello, or Suzuki, but that may mean something to you.

Fram Sun 08-Jun-14 23:40:14

JMR- would those timings (prep/G1 exams etc) be just for string instruments?

Wafflenose Mon 09-Jun-14 00:02:53

I find that my littlest recorder players go more slowly than that - 5-6 terms for Initial Grade, and 2-3 years to Grade 1, but my school pupils start at age 5 (not my choice) and are taught in groups. My older wind beginners go faster. If they can read music already, they might be playing at Grade 1 level within a few months, but many aren't. I started teaching two 8/9 year old flute children in January, who'd already done a few terms of recorder with me, and they might be ready for Grade 1 by Christmas. So it varies.

Incidentally, I think it is going to take my DD2 a lot longer than a year to get to Prep/ Initial Grade!

Wafflenose Mon 09-Jun-14 00:03:18

on the cello, that is... she is doing Initial Recorder tomorrow, after 4 terms of learning.

JulieMichelleRobinson Mon 09-Jun-14 13:31:00

Fram -

Prep test is supposedly for students who've been playing for six to nine months. In practical terms, that means one academic year. However, it totally varies from student to student anyway. I started violin in year 3 and passed grade 1 with distinction in the third term, taking grade 4 (merit) a year later. I started in a group of eight, though, and the second year was only paired, and with an older child. But I'm generally speaking musical and academic.

However, it seems that after a year, most of my violin students and my pianists who started at that age are about that level - though some are ready to start working towards grade 1 and some will need to consolidate a lot.

I've had older beginners do grade 1 piano in the second term, and the younger beginners (only on piano) will take much longer. If they start at 3yo, we'll call it three or four years to prep test. I'm guessing, there, but based on the materials I use.

JulieMichelleRobinson Mon 09-Jun-14 13:31:54

What's important is that people realise just how hard grade 1 is - sometimes I've had to play the pieces to a parent so that they can understand why DD isn't going to do it at the end of the first year.

Fram Mon 09-Jun-14 19:27:02

Thanks. My eldest is 8, and began 2 instruments this year (Y3), we had been told she is doing well, so I wanted to see how well.
I'm pleased!

JulieMichelleRobinson Mon 09-Jun-14 22:44:54

Oh, it's also worth pointing out that Initial Grade is slightly harder than the ABRSM Prep Test is, even though both are pre-grade 1. Initial Grade is a proper exam with the standard exam format, as far as I know; Prep Test is less formal and I don't think you can fail it (hope not!!!).

Wafflenose Tue 10-Jun-14 09:09:56

No you can't fail the Prep Test... you get your shiny certificate there and then.

DD2 did Initial on Recorder yesterday. It took her 4 terms, but she started when she was 4 years old.

cingolimama Fri 13-Jun-14 12:08:25

I've seen very little actual effort going into practice

OP, just wondered about your routine. Do you not sit with her for her practice? I think at this stage of a musician's development, the parents commitment is critical. It's unreasonable to expect a young child to just get on with it, and develop their own discipline. Practice must be supported (i.e. encouraged by your presence) and frankly enforced for a couple of years before kids have the skills to do it themselves. Particularly for string players.

I have to say that I almost lost the will to live in the first terms of my DD's violin (this is normal), but we stuck with it, and am glad we did.

haggisaggis Fri 13-Jun-14 14:40:15

dd has been learning cello and I always sit with her for practice. Partly because she finds reading music very difficult (dyslexic). I help with timing etc tapping rhythms and check her fingers are in the right position (and encourage her to listen to the notes). I think stringed instruments are so much harder than piano at the beginning - they have to work out which string and which finger to use with one hand then bow with the other.

chauffeurmummy Sun 22-Jun-14 21:57:31

Thanks everyone! I try and sit with her 3 times a week and she is meant to practise 6 times. She does her practice first thing when she gets up in the morning (and therefore before she gets sidetracked doing anything else). So if she gets up very early it can be a challenge.

She has finished lessons now for the summer and a friend has given me Cello Time Joggers, Runners and Sprinters for her as I was worried about keeping her interested over the summer as I can't help her progress. So a little bit of consolidation will be the order of the day!!

Still a bit confused about where she is at (think I need to do a cello crash course!!) so if anyone can let me know at which point in the 3 books is Grade 1 standard that would be really helpful!!! I am guessing probably the end of book 2 (runners) - but if anyone can help that would be great!!

Thank you !!

Wafflenose Sun 22-Jun-14 22:19:56

Open strings, first fingers and some third fingers will allow you to play some Initial grade pieces. You do need fourth fingers to do the Initial Grade scales. Much to my surprise, DD2's teacher has just started her on some of this, although I don't know if she'll do the exam. She is reading her new clef reasonably well, and has to play in 4/4, 3/4 and 6/8 time. Sight reading is on open strings, with simple rhythms.

Grade 1 is further on, and uses all four fingers on all four strings. I wouldn't know whereabouts in the books you mention though, as we don't have them. I think some of the pieces might be set for exams though - have a look at the syllabus to get an idea.

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