Cello pieces in between book 3 and 4

Abigail said: Mar 10, 2016
 2 posts


I have a 12 year old cello student who was doing quite well in book 3 last year. Towards the end of the book (2 pieces left, still polishing the 2 before that), he found out that he would get extra credit in school if he did Junior Districts. His mom really pushed it and insisted that I help him learn the Breval Sonata (which happens to be the first piece in book 4). He really wasn’t ready and his vibrato and shifting intonation especially were not developed to the point where I would have wanted him in book 4. We struggled through Breval for 5 months and the audition is finally over. Now, both the mom and the student do not want to move ‘backwards’ into book 3 again even though we had a truly terrible experience in Book 4. I’m trying to work on La Cinquantaine with him, but I think he is having a mental block about it because of all of his mother’s negative comments.

Sorry for the long intro, but my question is, what supplementary repertoire would you use for an end of book three student, who especially needs to work on his fluidity of shifting? Also, any ideas on how to deal with the mom? She does not practice with him and then gets very insulted when I mention it.

Thank you,

Linda Caraway Cannata said: Mar 13, 2016
Linda Caraway Cannata
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano
West Jefferson, NC
2 posts

I had a similar experience with a violin student. The child was an unusual student and was moving more quickly than most of my students already. But the parent was anxious to move ahead even faster because he was doing so well and was so gifted. I couldn’t convince her that he was doing well because we were taking our time and learning each piece thoroughly before moving on.

The mother was not a musician so I spent a lot of time working with her on the instrument and explaining what we were trying to accomplish and why it was important.

But she just couldn’t hear me. She made it pretty clear that she knew better than I what her child she be studying, which pieces should be added and when they were “ready”.

After teaching for 30+ years I knew that those were judgements that belonged to the teacher for very good reasons but I realized I was not going to change her mind.

The tension was beginning to effect the other students at group and recitals so I had to ask them to leave. I told them they might prefer a more traditional approach and wished them well.

I would love to hear from other teachers who have faced this situation.

Heather Reichgott said: Mar 13, 2016
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
95 posts

Luckily I haven’t had any overly pushy parents yet. When I have a student who wants to move ahead faster than s/he is ready, or just wants to play a much more advanced piece, here’s my current approach and it seems to work ok.

If it’s a piece where injury could be a concern in a student who doesn’t yet have the technical preparation (I had a student in Suzuki book 2 asking about Chopin etudes and the third movement of the Moonlight sonata) I just say no. Otherwise:

  • I keep in mind (for my own sanity) the positive things about the situation: students who do this are highly motivated and practice a lot.
  • I work with the student on the advanced piece in just as much detail as I would if it were an advanced student. Therefore, everything takes a very long time. Lessons are often just on a couple of measures. Each section is polished before we move on to the next. I don’t accept sloppy or expressionless playing just because it’s a difficult piece.
  • I don’t allow the advanced piece to take over the lesson. We work on it only as long as I’d normally work on one working piece.
  • I continue working with the student in their current Suzuki book as well. Often one current-book working piece at a time plus the advanced piece and some review.
  • I make sure the parent knows that the student is working on a piece that’s a lot more advanced than usual, that’s why it is taking a long time to master, and that I appreciate their help in making sure the other practice assignments also get completed.

Here’s what usually happens.
Either the student gets partway through the advanced piece, loses steam, and is more than happy to return to the current Suzuki book only; or the student spends many months learning the advanced piece (meanwhile completing a larger number of current-book pieces) and is delighted and super-proud when finally it is learned… and then is more than happy to return to the current Suzuki book only. ;)

Catherine said: May 5, 2016
Catherine Mikelson
Suzuki Association Member
8 posts


It has been a while since you posted. I hope things are going better. I love this book for Book Three/Four supplementation. http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Cello/w-47-Piano/Harrison-Howard—Amazing-Solos—Cello-and-Piano—Boosey-Hawkes-Edition.axd#sthash.gb6T0a1Q.dpbs

The pieces are quite interesting and cover a wide range of tempi and styles. There is a lot of shifting, especially to third position, and many opportunities to focus on relaxed vibrato. There are also some short tenor clef pieces that use fifth position. Over all, the pieces are much shorter than the ones in Book Three and Four, so you can supplement as needed with a lot of variety.

If that link does not work, just look up Amazing Solos by Howard Harrison.

Carey Cheney said: May 5, 2016
Carey CheneyTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Salt Lake City, UT
9 posts

For enjoyable and motivating repoertoire for Book 3-4 students I invite you to check out my books Solos For Young Cellists. There are many pieces of different styles that appeal to every cellist. I suggest Budapesto, Livi’s Blues, Running of the Bulls, Elfintanz, Hindemith Drei Leichte Stucke and many others. The books and corresponding CDs are published by Alfred Publishers—the same publisher as the Suzuki books. Enjoy!

Dr. Carey Cheney
SAA Registered Cello Teacher Trainer

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