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Pilar Veliz

Methodology
The essential string method
Sheila M. Nelson

This method contains 4 books. I would say that this is a method for children
since you can find a lot of jokes, “home-work”, etc. So, if I had to teach to an
adult I wouldn’t give this method to him/her. Probably I would use of course
some basic exercises, but not the whole book. When I first started to learn
cello I remember I had two of these books.
These books are also composed for two voices, like S.Lee or Suzuki, so the
teacher has a paper as a player too. It makes the pupil improve a lot his
audition and the playing together, it’s very useful.

I will do a summary of every book:

1st book

Sheila M.Nelson combines cello technique and solfege knowledge. I find it


very appropriated ir order to learn the theory while learning how to play
your instrument.
Sheila M.Nelson starts teaching the name of the cello strings and, instead of
teaching the down and up bowings directly, she starts doing circles with the
right hand. This is very important in order to (as you said in the
methodology lessons) be ready before playing, to get contact with the
string, to get a good sound.
What I missed in S.Lee, M.Nelson does it here: she teaches also the pizzicato
technique in the very beginning, so we will play this exercise but with
pizzicato too.
Once this technique is ready and we are comfortable, we will play it straight
without doing circles.
To finish this book, we will learn also a bit of left hand technique. I like her
way of introducing it but I would prefer instead of starting with the 1st
finger, to start with the 4th so you build your hand position already and
going from “down in the string to up”, I mean going from the 4th finger, to
the 3rd, to the 2nd, to the 1st.
2nd book

This second book contains different techniques of bowings: flying bows,


crossing strings and legato. Here we will find also dynamics and tempo
indications.
I find it to early to teach this, but anyway it’s very well written and
progressive. You will find a lot of exercises to improve it and it’s very clear
for the child. Before this, she will teach new rhythms. How? Singing and
taping them before playing (half notes, quarter notes and eight notes). I
think this is the easier, faster and clearer way to teach something new to
children.

3rd book

Here Sheila M.Nelson introduces so many new skills: arpeggios, harmony,


new rhythm, bar number and scale. She will give us also the theory about
the direction and angle of the bow.
We will start playing a song with arpeggios so we will work on right
technique (of course also left), but mostly the arm and bow. Then, the
composer proposes a nice exercise about phrasing, so the student will “talk”
trough the music.
6/8 measure bar is introduced and with it, also new rhythms and different
speeds of tempo.
I find this book very complete and clear. I really like the way she explains
and combines with nice exercises for children in order to enjoy playing.

4th book

For me this is the most complete book. You will learn the extension position
of the left hand, because the sharps, flats and naturals come. You get to
know new rhythms, for instance the march one.
Here you will find also singing exercises and solfége ones in order to be able
to play them good on your cello.
A different between this book and the others is than in this one, you will
find a piece written for more than 2 cellos. This is very important and well
thought because normally you start playing with more people (besides with
your teacher or cello mate), later after some years. Here you learn also the
2nd, 3th and 4th position and how to shift from one to the other. I miss more
variety of exercises, but again all of them are very well written.
About right technique you will learn the portato and the staccato. Here I
also miss variety of “etudes” and probably a short explanation about it as
S.Lee does, even if it’s for children, because I think it’s important for them to
know what they are doing.

Conclusion

In general I like this method and how it’s written. It’s very fun for children
and has a lot of variety which is also important for them in order to enjoy
and not to get bored. On the other hand, as I have said before, I miss more
variety in number of exercises for each new thing she teaches for the first
time. I think it’s important to repeat the exercise many times in order the
hand/fingers… get used to the feeling. Also I would add old staff in the new
exercises in order to refresh the mind/body and don’t forget past things.

But of course I would recommend this method to teachers, to myself… I


have used it when I was a child and I have very good memories of it.