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Natural Approach to Cello Teaching

Foundation of Suzuki philosophy and the Cello Method

Shu-Yi Scott, Doctor of Musical Arts, SAA registered Suzuki Cello Teacher Trainer

Dr. Shu-Yi Scott’s Zoom:


Password: Suzuki


November 2021 course recap video folder click HERE

Topics for discussion for Natural Approach course include:

  1. Set up a nurturing environment- Overview of three quintessential parts of a true Suzuki curriculum: 

  2. Suzuki Triangle/Parental Involvement

  3. Listening, Practice Routine & Review

  4. Group Lesson

  5. Finding the balance in sitting position and the posture

  6. Timeline of technical progression for pre-Twinkle steps

  7. Why teach bow strokes from the balance point?

  8. Introducing each variation of Twinkle- laying the building blocks for basic bow control and coordination

  9. Active learning v.s. passive imitating

  10. How to train a young mind for TONE production 

  11. French Folk Song- pedagogical treasure

  12. A logical instruction design from Lightly Row to Go Tell Aunt Rhody

  13.  The concept about preview and review

  14.  Group teaching tactics

  15.  Suzuki lesson model- how to transform teaching points into actions?

  16.  Video observation & discussion


What is Suzuki Philosophy: “Character First”

1. Mother Tongue- musical environment, learn from the parents, imitation -repetition, listening, making errors in a safe environment

2. Learning by Ear- meaningful repetition, daily practice

3. Suzuki Triangle- parental involvement, parent education, positive attitude, positive reinforcement

4. Group Class- share what they learn with peers, learn from others, parental support

5. Community

Through learning music with their parents, teacher, and peers, children find their confidence and formulate their living force 生(き)甲斐(がい). With this strength they continue to discover the world and develop their characters.  


Cello Syllabus issued by SAA LINK HERE


Parent Information Handout

Shu-Yi Scott Cello Studio

Parent Practice Tips 2020


 “Man is a son of his environment” --Shinichi Suzuki

 “If love is deep, much can be accomplished”--Shinichi Suzuki 


Our job as parents is to set up a nurturing environment for our child to learn music successfully. Let me share my own experience setting up a nurturing environment successfully. Back when I decided to start a family, I got my husband to agree with me to raise our children bilingually and multiculturally. Inspired by the Suzuki method, I did my best to set up my house in a Mandarin learning environment: We got Chinese speaking TV channels so I could play kids’ shows in Mandarin. I played children's songs in Chinese whenever we were awake. I invited my parents from Taiwan to come live with us in order to let Euna and Lydie be immersed in Chinese conversations from the day they were born. I organised lots of gatherings with friends from Taiwan who lived in Austin. I also chose day care where there were many other young children who were biracial or were from other foreign countries. Our house was filled with Chinese children's books, puzzles, toys, and games. We also visited my family in Taiwan as much as we could for at least a month each time. My best reward is that whenever we were there, locals were often surprised that Euna and Lydie didn’t  live there since their Mandarin sounded completely native. This experience has been the model to help children learn music the Suzuki way- the Mother Tongue Approach!! Following are some ideas for you:


  1. Be ready for a change in your family life

  2. Relationship first

  3. Why learn by ear first?

  4. Listen, listen, and listen to music more- Every family should have the OFFICIAL Suzuki soundtrack of the current book plus the next book. I. e. Youtube videos or any kids playing the song your child is learning is not legit. It might be downloaded from your smart devices such as itune or mp3 from Amazon, or just traditional CD format. Be sure the music is readily accessible at home and in the car!! It should be played as a part of the environment (during dinner, homework, in the car, at bedtime, etc.) each day. Students who listen daily to the music progress MUCH faster than those who only listen occasionally.

  5. Sing and talk about music:  Encourage your child to discuss which song is her favorite and why. Singing the melody helps your child learn the details of a song. Talk about music helps her form thoughts about music.

  6.  Be a positive force and a sensitive detective. Children do not do things just to be against us. Any power struggle or defiance is a signal they are trying to send us a message. It could be something that seems little to us but HUGE to them.  

  7. Build practice habits. Start Small and Positive. Observe when in a day is the most awake for your child to focus. Make it a bonding time and not a chore time.

  8. Design a special time and place for practice- Make practice time a family quiet time a daily routine. No one wants to do something alone while the rest of the family is watching TV or playing games. Make a “Cello Corner” a designated space safe just for cello, bow, music stand, and practice achievement display.

  9. Repetition-repetition-repetition Meaningful repetition is the foundation of building talent.

  10. Start and end practice with good energy- Parents, be marveled by the good part of playing first, acknowledge effort, then find the spots to refine. Students should know after a song is learned entirely, it’s the starting point to refine and get better towards mastery. 

  11. Love and respect your teacher. She is very special and needs your support all of the time. Your child will respond to positive feelings you have toward your teacher. The parent who nurtures the teacher will get more nurturing for their child.......teachers are human too. 

  12. Be clear about how to prepare your child for a lesson: Be PROMPT! Be sure you understand the focus of the lesson and take clear and concise notes. Any questions should be raised during your own lesson time. Be mindful about taking up the next student’s time.

  13. Attend all group lessons, recitals and special activities to build a more successful nurturing environment. The more you put into an endeavor, the more you get out of it. 

  14. If you ever have concerns about your child’s progress/education in cello please call me or email me. 

  15. Tuition and make-up policies are clear. Please respect them. 

  16.  Suzuki kids and parents are exceptional. Enjoy these special years and your marvelous child.


Shopping List and Expectation for New Parents: Click HERE


Before diving into the Natural Approach to Cello Teaching:

  1. How to find the right style of teaching for you?

  2. Recall the people who made the deepest impact on your life. How and why?

  3. You might have the ability to change someone’s life. 

  4. You might have the ability to help a parent see her child’s higher potential.

  5. Is the job of teaching considered a service? A noble job?

  6. Why do we need to understand the value of the Suzuki Triangle and how do we incorporate it in our lessons?


Good questions to ask yourself as a teacher:

  1. What do you want your students to look like when they are done book 1?

  2. How do you know if a student is ready to move on to the next song or ready for a new technical challenge? How do you know the mastery of the current task is presented?

  3. How do you ensure the parents and the student understand their assignment and can practice accordingly at home?

  4. Why did Dr. Suzuki advise us to include Tonalization in each lesson?

  5. Why teach one point at a time?

  6. What’s the best flow or procedure of a lesson? Like Sonata form? Review-Current-Review? How do you want them to practice at home?


General Guidelines for Lessons and Daily Practice:


  1. We are on the same team: There are good days and bad days with weather. It is the same with lessons and home practice. On bad days, be flexible and encouraging. Not everyday’s practice will be the same.

  2. Focus: Count to 10 or 20 or 30. Using a sand timer or a winding toy to decide the timing.

  3. Smart Planning: Make sure everyone is well fed and calm during lessons and practice time.

  4. Love What you are doing: If teachers and parents get excited to practice cello, kids get it as well. Osmosis.

  5. Slow and Steady helps me Ready: Calm down, everyone in the Suzuki triangle. No one ever said that teaching cello, or playing cello, or helping a child practice cello  is easy.

  6. Small Steps: Break Down Task into digestible chunks. Every student is different. Iterate, iterate. Like how a parent helps a child walk.

  7. One Thing at a Time: Keep calm and carry on one thing at a time.

  8. Only Good Repeat counts:Make sure each repetition is Mindful and Accurate: The 10,000-hour theory only works when each repeat is done mindfully.

  9. Celebrate every little completed step!

  10. Make a Goal: 100-day practithan. 

  11. Keep a Record of Achievement: Keep practice records as accurate as possible, help parents and students on track and keep them motivated.

Pre-Twinkle Teaching Points


  1. Perspective students and parents observe 3 private lessons and 3 group classes and 1 interview before starting lessons.

  2. How to determine the location for the footprints without the cello:

  3. Step #1- Stand up-sit down quickly with feet placed well in the cello footprints.

  4. Step #2- Sit at the front part of the chair. Move the torso back and forth, then left to right, to find the center of balance in the upper body.

  5. Step #3- Check for the heavy feet. (Ask the student and the parent for permission to) Lift each of the student’s feet from behind the knee and drop it to help the student feel the weight of each leg.

  6. Repeat the steps with a cello.


  8. “Three Axises” approach to set up the cello: 

  9. Axis #1- decide from the front view of the student in the sitting position. Check if the plate of the strap is placed in the middle line at the front in between the foot prints“Cello neck near your neck.”

  10. Axis #2- Side view that is decided by the length of the strap. Check if the C-peg is right behind the student’s left ear in the middle. 

  11. Axus #3- The cello is slanted towards the right side. Check “happy cello”. If the cello is turning to the left too much, I call that a “sad cello” that the cello is turning its back to the student.

  12. Cello rug- stool/chair- strap- locate & mark the cello footprint, Strap footprint, location of the chair front legs

  13. “Cellist statue” counting to 10 without moving for focus and getting accustomed to sitting up straight.


  15. Chopstick wall on the stool

  16. 3 steps to take a bow/3 steps to sit down in rest position

  17. How to take a bow? (Hello, toes! Put your forehead in my hand.)

  18. Distinguish left to right

  19. Number the fingers

  20. Locate the “magic circle” on both hands.

  21. Songs to learn before Twinkle


Teaching Steps from Flower Song to Go Tell Aunt Rhody


Videos for observation reports

Topics to cover in the observation report:

  1. List the activities occurred in a lesson

  2. The pedagogical purpose of each activity

  3. Your takeaway & reflection about teaching which includes: 

  • classroom management

  • Pacing

  • Communication with the parents and students

  • How the lesson is different from what you are used to

Video #1- A Pre-Twinkle lesson with a strong willed 3-year-old who is just starting: Click HERE

Video #2- A lesson focusing on bow hold and string crossing with a 5-year-old: Click HERE

Video #3- Group lesson on Song of the Wind & Go Tell Aunt Rhody: Click HERE

Video #4- Review Bow Hold with Go Tell Aunt Rhody/Focus on Rigadoon: Click HERE

Video #5- Performance during Covid lockdown of a book 6 student(the same student in video #4): Click HERE

Recourse for Reading, Pedagogy, and Parents:

Crucial Reading Steps:

1. Relative & absolute visual identification and discrimination. 

2. Timing with counting and eye-tracing. 

3. Pitch and Rhythmic pattern identification.

4. Bowing, fingering, expressions.


  1. Music Theory: Just the Fact Primer LINK HERE

  2. Theory Time by Heather Rathnau, NCTM

  3. Sight Reading is Easy by Tanya Carey, Carey Works LLC 

  4. A well-thought curriculum helps students count, ID notes, ID patterns. Great for beginners and remedial students.


  6. I Can Read Music by Joanne Martin, Summy-Birchard

  7. Position Pieces Book 1 by Rick Mooney, Alfred

  8. Example pages: LINK HERE

  9. Lollip Pop Man by Anita Hewit-Jones, Musicland

  10. Microjazz for cello    LINK HERE

  11. First Repertoire for Cello by Pat Legg 


  13. Waggon Wheels for Cello College by Katherine and Hugh, ABRSM

  14. Bags of Folk for Cello by Mary COhen, Faber 

  15. Right from the Start by Sheila Nelson, Boosey & Hawkes


Resources for Pedagogy: 

1. Teaching from the Balance Point by Edward Kreitman 

2. Intelligent Music Teaching by Dr. Robert A. Duke 

3. Helping Parents Practice-Ideas for Making it Easier by Edmund Sprunger 

4. Building Violin SKills by Edmund Sprunger

5. Teaching Suzuki Cello (out of print) by Charlene Wilson

Resources for Parents:

1. To Learn with Love by William Starr Link HERE

2. Helping Parents Practice-Ideas for Making it Easier by Edmund Sprunger 

3. Merlin Thompsons’ podcasts

4. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber

5. Teaching from the Balance Point by Edward Kreitman 

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