Home Violinist Blog

Theresa Britt's Blog

PostHeaderIcon October 31, 2012 - The Quest for Better Trills

Armed with a violin, a bowl full of candy, Carl Flesch's The Art of Violin Playing and the Kreutzer Etude #15 edited by Shroeder, I began my journey to have more even and graceful trills on this Halloween evening. I was rehearsing some wedding music, including the Clark Trumpet Tune and the Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. I found that my trills and turns were not as clean or precise as I thought they should be.

I have found that the most problematic part of executing trills is evenly alternating between the notes. Even more problematic to execute evenly is the nachschlag, or two notes at the end of the trill (including the lower neighbor and the original note).

The same kind of finger elasticity needed in the Shraidieck exercises should be used in trills. The finger should drop from the base knuckle with  a relaxed motion. According to Carl Flesch, a cramping of the finger results in an undesirable trill. Also, according to Flesch, tension or "cramping" can be removed from a trill by:


  • Practicing without left thumb in contact with the neck to get rid of excess tension in the hand.
  • Adding a slow vibrato motion to get rid of excess tension in trills.
  • Allowing the 3rd and 4th fingers to swing along as the 2nd finger trills so there is no tension in the hand.
  • Imitating the piano trill by lifting the lower note as the higher note is trilled.
  • Trilling natural harmonics to keep the lower note loose.
  • Preventing excessive lifting of the fingers.
  • Allowing elasticity of fingers.
More importantly in my mission of creating even and beautiful trills was finding the Shroder edition of the Kreutzer etude #15 on IMSLP. The practice suggestions listed for it allowed me to practice several variations on all fingers:
  • turns beginning and end on the note visiting both upper and lower note (5 notes)
  • trill beginning with upper note and terminating with nachschlag (6 notes)
  • trill beginning on the note, moving twice to the upper note and terminating with the nachschlag (7 notes)
  • trill beginning with upper note, moving twice more to the upper note and terminating with the nachschlag (8 notes)
  • trill beginning on note, moving three times to the upper notes and terminating with the nachschlag (9 notes, 4+5)
Working through all of these variations at a slow tempo on Kreutzer #15 allowed me to revisit my repertoire at the end of my practice session with brilliantly clean trills.



PostHeaderIcon February 21, 2012 - Octave Pattern Fingering for Scales

The following is a set of scales that uses the octave pattern of the fingers. These two scales can be studied extensively with slur patterns of 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, & 24, including bowing variations. After a degree of mastery is achieved with the scale, arpeggios can be added.

G Major uses open to start, then first finger to begin each subsequent octave.

E               1 2 3 4

A        1 2 3 -1 2 3 4

D 0 1 2 -1 2 3 4

G 0 1 2 3

A Major uses 1 for the beginning of each octave.

E               1 2 3 4

A        1 2 3 -1 2 3 4

D 1 2 3 -1 2 3 4

G 1 2 3 4


After extensive study of these two scales (and arpeggios) you may introduce Flesch or the Barber Barber scale books.


PostHeaderIcon Feburary 20, 2012 - Sequence to teaching Lightly Row

In order to teach Lightly Row in Suzuki volume 1, I believe that students need a number of prerequisites:

  1. Knowledge of all fingers on A and E string.
  2. Ability to play a scale with single notes.
  3. Ability play Twinkle.
Steps to teaching:
  1. Teach the Words to Lightly Row:
    • Lightly Row, Fast and Slow, Up a river we will go
    • Mississippi, Mississippi, That's the place to go go go
    • On our violins we play, 12345 Hooray
    • Mississippi, Mississippi, That's the place to go go go
  2. Teach Tunnel Fingers
    1. Place 1 and 2 on A. (Leave the tunnel over the E string without touching the E string.)
    2. Play MSS on E string without squeaks.
  3. Teach, "Up a River we will go" A 1 2 3 E E E - These are the "Steps"
  4. Teach, "That's the place to go go go" A 2 E E 2 2 2 using Tunnel Fingers over the E. These are the skips.
  5. Switch back and forth between the two parts. I do a coin toss to pick the part. Heads for the steps. Tails for the skips.
  6. Have student play with you doing the endings only. (Teacher will play the whole song, but students will only play when you get to the steps and skips.)
  7. Next lesson, teach "Lightly Row, Fast and Slow" starting with Tunnel Fingers. E 2 2, 3 1 1
  8. Also teach "Mississippi, Mississippi" starting with the Tunnel Fingers. E 2 2 2, 3 1 1 1
  9. Show the difference in the two lines by drawing the letters on a page. Clap and count the difference.
  10. Put "Lightly Row, Fast and slow" together with "Up a river we will go"
  11. Put "Mississippi, Mississippi" together with "That's the place to go go go."
  12. Have students play each part with the teacher (with prompts in between).
  13. Next lesson, teach the third line, "On our violins we play, 12345 Hooray." 1 1 1 1 1 2 3, 2 2 2 2 2 3 E. Students should count how many 1's you play.
  14. Put the whole song together in parts. Eventually, the form will take shape because of the lyrics.

Students commonly play the wrong rhythm at the beginning of the lines. If this happens, ask them what the words are to that part. Is it Lightly Row Row, or Lightly Row?



PostHeaderIcon February 7, 2012 - Souvenir de Sarasate by Potstock

Souvenir de Sarasate is a vibrant piece for the advanced player. A firm foundation in chords in various positions is necessary in order for the student to have execute this work well. Techniques used in the piece include:

  • Double stop passages moving through first, second and third position
  • Left hand pizzicato
  • Harmonics
  • Off the string strokes
  • Fast arpeggios and triplets

The opening of the piece runs through arpeggios and neighboring triplets, this section, once mastered, will be repeated through the piece.

The first double stop passage that begins in m. 4 should be played with a spiccato stroke. Initially, moving pitches should be practiced without the open string drone. The last three chords use fingered notes on two strings and cross string, so they may require special attention. Spiccato stroke should be practiced in double stops without the use of the left hand to make sure timing of double stops and string crossings are in place with the proper articulation.

In m. 10, the first left hand pizzicato section is introduced. If the student has previous experience with left hand pizzicato, this one will not prove to be as difficult although it does shift. Pitches may be practiced with the bow (without use of pizzicato). If intonation is correct, the player should add the left hand pizzicato. At the end of this passage, the bow needs to move to the tip to prepare for the next entrance.

A new double section begins at m. 17. This one includes also gets more difficult as it progresses. The last two chords should be practiced and placed carefully. The first finger can be played across the two strings on the last three double stops. This passage should be practiced similarly to the other double stop passage. It ends with an arpeggio and two harmonics. The player should use a fast bow for these harmonics.

At m. 19, a new theme is introduced. It uses double stops that go between first, second, and third positions. Some will use portamento. This is possibly the hardest to tune section of the work. As the player shifts, consideration for finger spacing should be made. Proper placement of half steps will ensure correct notes and tuning.

The minor theme at m. 35 (key change) has moves between positions and has excellent opportunities to explore expressive shifting.

The most difficult left hand pizzicato section in the piece is at m. 43. This section can be performed without the left hand pizzicato if necessary, however, with some work, it should be able to be performed. The bow hand should practice the some what syncopated rhythm without the left hand. The tempo should slow in this section, also.  The dynamic contrast in this section may also pose a problem during practice.

Another spot for double stop portamento occurs in m. 50. This measure should be examined carefully to make sure the player is using the proper spacing between the fingers across the strings on each double stop. The thirds in m. 48 may also pose a challenge for players inexperienced with shifting through thirds. The finger spacing on these must also be calculated.

In m. 74, the short coda that includes some left hand pizzicato should be practiced as a preview.





PostHeaderIcon February 6, 2012 - Polish Dance by Severn

Polish Dance by Edmund Severn is an excellent show piece for an experienced player who has some experience with chords and double stops. The student needs to have a firm basis in shifting and intonation before playing a piece of this level. Techniques used in the piece include:

  • Left hand and right hand pizzicato
  • Double stops and chords
  • Harmonics
  • Passages shifting high on the G string

In the introduction, the student should spend time learning how to properly break the chord across the string. On a down bow, you should break the chords before the balance point. On up bows, you should break them after you get a firm start on the lower two strings.

In m. 9, the left hand pizzicato section should be practiced slowly by placing the finger then plucking with each finger. The bow can be practiced separately to make sure there is a proper lift to allow the pizzicato note to speak. Finally, it can be put together and timed very precisely.

In m. 19, the chord should be broken at the balance point, and in the following measure, the player will need to use a lot of bow on the up bow to get back to the lower half of the bow for the double stops that alternate strings. This section can be practiced without the left hand to ensure bow accuracy in string crossing.

In m. 22, there is a sul G section. The player can think of keeping the bow parallel to the floor with a deep tip to get a rich sound in this passage.

In m. 46, there is a shift from first to fourth position. It uses the new finger to shift up. The player does not need to hide this shift (as the passage is already espressivo).

Another spot that may require some attention is m. 59 to 64. This passage contains harmonics and trills. Timing on this seems to be difficult. Getting harmonics to speak may prove to be difficult as well as timing the trills. At the end of this passage, you will go back to the original theme.

In m. 80, there is change in key signature and an introduction of a new theme. The passage is low on the G string and does shift to third position on this string. The marking "doloroso" evokes a painful or mournful feeling for this section.

In m. 106, there is a new theme with new double stops and chords. In m. 109 of this section the player must shift from third position to a new double stop using the same fingers in first position. This allows the player to use portamento to move from one chord to the next. The finger spacing will change from a whole step in third position to a half step in first position. This must be practiced for intonation.

A difficult left hand pizzicato section occurs in m. 122. The player must move back and forth between two seemingly simple chords that will be plucked by the left hand. The pizzicato and chord changes should be played without the bow getting involved until that can be mastered. At that point, the player can add properly timed down bow double stops into the equation. Although this passage seems simple to the eye, it will take quite a bit of time to coordinate.

In m. 157 to 162, the moving line should be practiced by itself as it shifts up and down, the the D string drone can be added.

The final section of the piece includes a few new challenges with a fast arpeggio followed by moving triplets that moves through a chord progression in m. 235. Intonation may be a challenge on this sequence. The frame of the pitches should be practiced without the repeat triplets for tuning. Once the tuning through the chords and shifting is in place, the player should add the repeated notes. At the end, you find a fingered harmonic that can be tricky to find and lace the its preceding grace notes. Movement from the previous chord in third position to the fingered harmonic should be practiced to assist with this move.


PostHeaderIcon February 5, 2012 - The Boy Paganini

The Boy Paganini by Edward Mollenhauer is a great piece for a young violinist who has learned some shifting. It  gives the student an opportunity to explore music besides the baroque. Techniques necessary for the piece include:

  • Shifting to fifth position
  • Harmonics
  • Left hand pizzicato
  • Slurred and arpeggiated chords
  • Off the string strokes using "colle"
  • Intermediate bow distribution

In the opening of the tune, various bow distributions will enable the student to express the phrasing more eloquently.  Accidentals in the opening will pose a challenge for tuning. Students should know the finger patterns for each part if tuning is a problem.

Various approaches are seen to harmonics throughout the pieces. In m. 11, an extension from 3rd position will allow them to reach the first partial on the E string. Good bow speed and use is required for any harmonic. In m. 32 and to end end of the first movement, there are harmonics of various partials on the G string. The student will need to work on making each of these harmonics speak clearly. Although they are marked at the point of certain notes, they may be slightly below or above where they marked. This would be an excellent opportunity to talk about the divisions of the strings that make harmonics.

In the second movement's theme, the colle stroke make be used on the repeated up bow strokes. Another opportunity to use the colle stroke is in m. 56 as the student plays grace notes and brings the bow slightly off the string with the fingers.

The variation in the second movement will require practice because its use of bowed notes and left hand pizzicato. Some exercises may be done to prepare for this. If the student has played The Puppet Show by Josephine Trott, they should have a firm grasp on left hand pizzicato. Rhythmically, I found the entrance in the variation to be a challenge.

The variation also has some chords that are slurred as arpeggios. The student will need to be able to place fingers correctly in tune without the bow. If a passage of this type is new, you may also preview rolling the bow across the strings for the arpeggio. I found using the wrist motion made this work more smoothly for this passage. I do not think that this is the bowing used in the Mendelssohn Concerto.

I found spiccato section marked in m. 112 is more likely to be sautielle if the piece is moving fast enough. A challenge through this section would be to have the student put the stroke back on the string (through the crescendo) and then move it off again (through the decrescendo).




PostHeaderIcon January 24, 2012 - de Beriot Concerto No. 9 1st Movement

The first movement of the Charles de Beriot's Concerto No. 9 in A minor  in an excellent showy piece for the developing violinist. The work moves up to 8th position on the fingerboard and uses extensive passage of double stops on multiple strings including thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths and octaves. Students will read passages an octave above. Those passages can be practiced lower on the fingerboard before taking into higher positions. Students should be very comfortable with shifting to all positions while keeping the left hand shape intact. The bow should be able to work efficiently in string crossings, slurred runs, long strokes, and double stops with string crossings.

It is available in the Barbara Barber "Solos for Young Violinists" Volume 4. It also comes independently as a concerto with all movements in an edition by Schirmer, edited by Henry Schradieck.  In the Schirmer edition, there is a note error in m. 38. The F# should be F double sharp.

To prepare for this piece, I would recommend students play a three octave a minor scale in all forms (natural, harmonic, and melodic), and the Flesch arpeggios, with appropriate accelerations. Students should also play an a minor scale in octaves, making sure that the second and third finger of the left hand float along on top of the string without tension.

Teachers may also want to prepare students with an etude that uses sixths, fourths, fifths thirds, and octaves in this key signature. I would recommend Etudes No. 12, 13, and 17 from the Josephine Trott Melodious double stops. Or even No. 18 from de Beriot's own "Thirty Concert Studies."

Ornamentation used in the pieces includes trills, grace notes, and ornamental runs. All runs will need to be timed appropriately. Grace should also be practiced at slow tempi for precision. Trills should be removed to help with rhythm and added as soon as notes and rhythms are clear.

Chromatic passages should be worked to make sure half steps and whole steps are accurately paces. Examples include m. 38, 48, 49 and 50.

There is an interesting trick in m. 55. It is introduced in 1st position and can be practiced several times there without shifting. As the piece continues in m. 57, the figure moves up and down the fingerboard. The teacher can help student master this and move it up and down the fingerboard as a preparation to playing the passage as written.

Extensive octave work is used in m. 62 to m. 73. Scales and other melodies in octaves would be helpful for this section.

There is a sul D passages in m. 90 that is repeated in m. 98. This is great practice for a later section that is sul D with a double stop drone of open G. This passage can be practiced without the G drone until shifts are comfortable. The G will assist in tuning of the passage.

In m. 110, another trick is used. There is a 6 note bariolage pattern repeated up and down the fingerboard. It can be practiced low on the fingerboard and moved up and down the fingerboard chromatically (away from the music) to assist with practicing this passage.

There is a high double stop passage in m. 116 that can be practices in third position without and with double stops. The difficulty will be the angle of the first finger in position to enable the student to keep the first finger across two strings in sixth position. The strings become further apart at this high position, so placing the finger on both strings becomes difficult.

The Barber edition has a change in position in m. 18. I prefer the Schradieck fingering that remains in the higher position. This is great practice for when students will see this type of work in more difficult concertos.

Broken chords in m. 124 can be practiced by moving the left hand from chord to chord (without use of the bow), then adding the bow. This passage can also be practiced with just the bow hand alone to get proper string crossing and sforzando articulation.

The final difficult passages will be the chordal section in m. 130. The notes on the A and E string can be isolated and worked to incorporate the double stops with extensions. Pinky may need to flatten and elbow come around the body of the violin to reach the octave between 2nd and 4th finger. Once the upper notes can be placed and played in tune, student can add first finger on the D string. Finally, this passage can be played completely. If string crossings with double stops, open strings can be isolated to practice this type of bow work.

Other things that may need to be practiced in order to perfect this piece may include shifting between some of the larger leaps in the piece, especially in the introduction.



PostHeaderIcon October 31, 2011 - Long Long Ago Lyrics

These are the words to Long Long Ago, by T.H. Bayly. I change them slightly for teaching. You will see my change below.

Tell me the tales that to me were so dear,
Long, long ago; long, long ago.
Sing me the songs I delighted to hear
Long, long ago; long ago.
Now you are come, all my grief is removed.
Let me forget that so long you have roved.
Let me believe that you love as you loved,
Long, long ago; long ago.

2. Do you remember the path where we met?
Long, long ago; long, long ago.
Ah yes, you told me you ne'er would forget.
Long, long ago; long go.
Then to all others, my smile you preferred.
Still my heart treasures the praises I heard.
Still my heart treasures the praises I heard.
Long, long ago; long ago.

3. Though by your kindness my fond hopes were raised,
Long, long ago; long, long ago.
You, by more eloquent lips have been praised,
Long, long ago; long ago.
But by long absence your truth has been tried.
Still to your accent I listen with pride.
Blest as I was when I sat by your side,
Long, long ago; long ago.


My version for teaching.

Tell me the tales that to me were so dear,
Long, long ago; long, long ago.
Tell me the tales I delighted to hear,
Long, long ago; far away.
Long Long Ago, Ribbit, Far Far away.
Long Long Ago, Ribbit, Far Far away.
Tell me the tales that to me were so dear,
Long, long ago; far away.


PostHeaderIcon October 21, 2011 - Song of the Fox?

These are alternate lyrics to Song of the Wind. It is actually a German folk song. The literal translation is below.

German text:

Fuchs, du hast die Gans gestohlen,
Gib sie wieder her!
Gib sie wieder her!
Sonst wird dich der Jäger holen
Mit dem Schießgewehr,
Sonst wird dich der Jäger holen
Mit dem Schießgewehr.

Seine große, lange Flinte,
Schießt auf dich den Schrot,
Daß dich färbt die rote Tinte,
Und dann bist du tot.

Liebes Füchslein, laß dir raten:
Sei doch nur kein Dieb,
Nimm, du brauchst nicht Gänsebraten,
Mit der Maus vorlieb.


English translation:

Fox, you've stolen the goose
Give it back!
Give it back!
Or the hunter will fetch you
With his gun,
Or the hunter will fetch you
With his gun.

His big, long gun,
Shoots a small shot at you,
So, you're tinged with red
And then you're dead.

Dear little fox, let yourself be advised:
Don't be a thief,
You need no roast goose,
Rather take a mouse.


PostHeaderIcon October 17, 2011 - Words for O Come Little Children

German setting:

Ihr Kinderlein, kommet, O kommet doch all!
Zur Krippe her kommet In Bethlehems Stall.
Und seht was in dieser Hochheiligen Nacht
Der Vater im Himmel Für Freude uns macht.

O seht in der Krippe Im nächtlichen Stall,
Seht hier bei des Lichtes Hellglänzendem Strahl,
In reinliche Windeln Das himmlische Kind,
Viel schöner und holder, Als Engelein sind.

Da liegt es, ihr Kinder, Auf Heu und auf Stroh,
Maria und Josef Betrachten es froh;
Die redlichen Hirten Knien betend davor,
Hoch oben schwebt jubelnd Der Engelein Chor.

English setting.

Oh, come, little children, oh, come, one and all,
To Bethlehem’s stable, in Bethlehem’s stall.
And see with rejoicing this glorious sight,
Our Father in heaven has sent us this night.

Oh, see in the manger, in hallowèd light
A star throws its beam on this holiest sight.
In clean swaddling clothes lies the heavenly Child,
More lovely than angels, this Baby so mild.

Oh, there lies the Christ Child, on hay and on straw;
The shepherds are kneeling before Him with awe.
And Mary and Joseph smile on Him with love,
While angels are singing sweet songs from above.


PostHeaderIcon October 10, 2011 - Chorus from Judas Maccabeus Words

I discovered there is an Easter hymn to the music of Chorus from Judas Maccabeus. Thanks to Nancy for sharing with me:

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.
Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict'ry, thou o'er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting. Refrain

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love:
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above. Refrain


Words: Edmond Budry (1854-1932), 1884;
trans. Richard Hoyle (1875-1939), 1923;


PostHeaderIcon October 3, 2011 - 15 Steps to More Productive Practice

These are fifteen steps to more productive practice shared in my pedagogy course. When this was shared with me, it was attributed to Sally O'Reilly.

  1. Examine the score away from the violin.
  2. Form a musical and imaginative interpretative concept of the goal toward which you will work.
  3. In order to save time, instead of reading through, take the first eight or twelve measures. Examine carefully for phrasing, type of bow stroke(s) to be used, accents, fingering, and individual problems of the left and right hands.
  4. Repeat this section slowly at least twenty-five times, with all these things included, plus mental concentration. Practice fast passages slowly with vibrato to preserve vitality of sound. Practice melodic passages non-vibrato for accuracy, then with vibrato on every note.
  5. Practice the entire piece in small sections in this manner. Every time you stumble, examine whether the mistake was caused by a special technical difficulty or whether you slipped a cog in cognition.
  6. If you find a special difficulty within a passage, determine whether the problem is in the left hand or right are, or both! Isolate it for even more intense work. Master the special difficulty before going back to practice the section as a whole.
  8. Every time you begin practicing any section, go over it for accuracy at a slow speed.
  9. Work with the metronome to increase speed gradually, never leaving a speed until it is perfect. Be willing to practice difficult right arm passages on open strings. Practice slurred passages in separate bows and fast detache passages slurred.
  10. Remember that the object and inevitable result of practice is the establishment of a habit of playing a certain thing in a certain way.
  11. Do not establish a wrong habit.
  12. Even when working slowly and carefully, keep in mind the elements of mood and feeling.
  13. The playing of music on the violin is a very complex function, including as it does the spiritual, the intellectual, the emotional, the imaginative, and the physical powers of the player. This complexity must be practiced.
  14. Budget time, and work on schedule.
  15. NEVER practice more than two hours at a time. Galamian insisted on 50 minutes of practice followed by a 10 minute break.

PostHeaderIcon September 26, 2011 - Baroque Works for Solo Violin (besides Bach)

The Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin by J.S. Bach are probably the most widely known works for solo violin in the repertoire, however, other composers also wrote solo works for violin. Among the baroque composers contributing to this repertoire were:

  • Heinrich Ignatz Franz von Biber - Passacaglia at end of Rosary Sonatas (Performance on Youtube by Hirschfeld)
  • Georg Phillipp Telemann - 12 Fantasies
  • George Frederic Handel - Allegro in G Major HWV 407

The performance practices for Rosary sonatas by Biber are not known because no information about this has survived. We know Biber wrote these sontatas to represent the life of Jesus Christ. It is a collection of 15 sonatas for violin and basso continuo. We do not know if all of these sonatas were intended to be performed at one recital or if they would be performed in a series of concerts. They were written in approximately 1670. It should also be mentioned that this is the largest collection of scordatura for the violin. (Scordatura is alternate tuning of the instrument.) Biber used this technique to create different sonorities of the violin to represent the joyous, sorrowful and glorious parts of the life of Jesus Christ. The Passacaglia, for violin alone, is the last movement of Sonata No. 15.

The Twelve Fantasies for violin by Telemann are very approachable for students not yet ready for the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. Their movements are based upon the structure of the Sonata de Chiesa like the Sonatas of Bach, but they are shorter in length. Each work begins with a slow movement, has a second movement which is fast, a third movement which is slow, and a final movement that is fast. Ornamentation is similar to that of the Bach works, as well. Telemann was aware of the Bach works so it is possible he wrote these in this style.

The Allegro in G Major by Handel is one of several single movement works by Handel. This is the only one that is unaccompanied. This can be considered more of a novelty than a work included in the standard repertoire for violin.



PostHeaderIcon September 19, 2011 - Sequence to teaching Long Long Ago

In order to teach Long Long Ago in Suzuki volume 1, I believe that students need a number of prerequisites:

  1. Knowledge of all fingers on A and E string. Should have experimented with playing known songs on lower strings.
  2. Ability to learn songs by rote.
  3. Ability to use good tone with longer and smoother bow strokes
  4. Ability to hear "up", "down" and "same" when playing pitches and scales.

Steps to teaching:

  1. Start by teaching the "RIBBET" (first finger E on the D string). Teacher will play the third section of the song and student will play "RIBBET" parts.
  2. Teach the "E Down the scale" RIBBET "D Down the scale" section.
  3. Show the student this section will repeat. The first is a big frog, the second a small frog.
  4. Show the C# B A ending on the second and fourth lines. Have student play that ending. That is the "Far A Way" ending.
  5. Teach the A part. A AB C CD E the add F# E C.
  6. Show the "E Down the scale, D Down the scale" ending without the frog for the first part.
  7. Show the "E Down the scale Far A Way" ending.
  8. Put the sections together:
    1. A section - No Frog
    2. A section - Far A Way
    3. Big Frog - Little Frog
    4. A section - Far Away

PostHeaderIcon September 12, 2011 - Advanced Violin Fingering Chart

As students begin to learn positions above first position on the violin, viola, and cello, they need to be able to name the notes across the strings in these positions.

I have created a worksheet to help students work on their note naming into the positions. Students should have a basis in the chromatic notes of the fingerboard. I suggest that more advanced student name both enharmonic spellings for common notes.

Violin Fingering Chart (to 4th position)

Teachers may feel free to reuse this.


PostHeaderIcon September 5, 2011 - Parallel Positions

Recently, I have been working on playing better in higher positions across the strings, only to come to the realization that to play better in the higher positions, you must have an understanding of the fingerboard geography in the parallel lower position.

For instance, when in sixth positions on the A string, you are playing the same notes with the same fingers as in second position on the E string. Seventh position and third position are also parallel in this manner. When playing pieces in the lower register of the instrument but in these high positions, you should check to see how much of it can be practiced in the corresponding lower parallel position. The parallel for fifth position is first position, but you must play with 4th fingers.

When doing extensive position work, even numbered positions are particularly tricky for violinists and violists. The way we learn to read music may be the reason for this difficulty. Second, fourth, and sixth positions require that the notes on spaces in the staff are on fingers 1 and 3 and notes on lines of the staff are on fingers 2 and 4. In first position, the opposite is true. Third position and fifth position are easier positions to read because they follow the first position rule.

Practicing the lower positions allows the hand to be more comfortably. Once the fingerings are learned, it will be easier to apply this to the higher position with the somewhat more compact finger spacing and arm placement for high positions. Changing to a higher position and moving down a string is not a problem if the fingering has been put into muscle memory by the hand in the lower position.

In the Fiorillo Caprice No. 22, there are large sections that can be practiced in the lower positions in order to check for understanding. Once the written fingerings have been mastered in third and second positions, they may be taken up to seventh and sixth position.

Go to IMSLP for the Fiorillo Caprices for Violin.



PostHeaderIcon August 29, 2011 - Box Violins & Bows

Box ViolinsMany Suzuki violin teachers use box violins to help students learn how to hold the in instrument before they get the real thing. It's very nice to be able to learn to hold an instrument on your shoulder without being worried about dropping it. There are some box violins that you can buy from music stores, but I prefer to make my own. Some teachers like to have the students make them, but I prefer to just get it done so the family doesn't have to round up the supplies.

Items you will need:

  • 1 small box (I use fruit snacks from the Dollar Tree)
  • 1 paint stick
  • wrapping paper
  • 1 file rubber band
  • scotch tape
  • packing tape
  • sponge (synthetic ones from the dollar store won't get hard)


  1. Wrap the box of goodies with wrappong paper. Put the seam in the middle of the box. It will be covered with a paint stick.
  2. tape the end with packing tape so they are not easily torn.
  3. Place the paint stick over the seam in the wrapping paper.
  4. Tape the paint stick to the box with packing tape.
  5. Attach the rubber band on the box violin and put the sponge on the bottom.

I also choose to make bows for my students. To make the bow, I get an 18 inch piece of dowel rod and tape a clothespin to it with masking tape. These are a very nice way to teach students how to hold bows without having a real bow.




PostHeaderIcon August 8, 2011 - Planning Recitals

When you plan a recital, you need to do a lot of work before the recital has begun for it to be successful.

  1. Select a time and date that will work for you. Hopefully, you will have a calendar far enough in advance that your students will be able to make it, too!
  2. Find a location. Churches are usually glad to rent space. If you find this is problematic, raise money by charging a recital fee or partnering with other organizations.
  3. Select music. whether this is for 40 students playing solos or for a group recital, selecting proper pieces is very important. It takes time to make sure pieces are leveled appropriately and put in an order that will make sense at the recital.
  4. Create a written program. Having a written program helps the program go smoothly and allows your audience a chance to know what is going on with the recital. Keep the program handy and give one to accompanists and other helpers so they know the order. These are also good keepsakes for your students.
  5. Plan a staging area. Make sure students know where to uncase and be before the show.
  6. Have a rehearsal. For individual recitals, this can be done throughout the week or before the show so students have a few run-throughs with the accompanist. For group recitals, even a short rehearsal before the program can be helpful in getting students oriented. I schedule what time each student should arrive, tune them and put them on stage for Suzuki group recitals. If they know their pieces, not much rehearsal is necessary.
  7. Plan for food. What better way to reward students than having a few goodies after a recital. I like bottled water and non-messy cookies! (Things you can take away with a napkin are best!)
  8. Make a getaway plan. I always give myself time to clean up and break down after an event. It's very important to leave the facility neat and not lose anything.

PostHeaderIcon August 15, 2011 - Scheduling for the private music teacher

At the beginning of the school year, the private music teacher has a lot of work to do. Not only do we have to coordinate calendars with orchestras and other groups we play with, but we also have to create events for our own studio and groups.

This year, I had to coordinate schedules for all of the following:

  • 40+ private students to take lessons each week
  • group classes
  • individual and group recitals
  • use of space at two private schools and one church
  • rehearsals and performances for my new community orchestra
  • rehearsals and performances for the civic orchestra I play with

All of these responsibilities add up to a lot! It's an amazing journey to get all of the kinks worked out of a schedule like this. I find it very helpful to have a Google calendar to share with ensemble members. I also like having it all on one planner. I find it helps keep me organized when I can look at an actual calendar. Filling in all the dates takes a lot of time, but is well worth it.


PostHeaderIcon March 7, 2011 - The importance of recitals

Recitals are an important part of development on the violin. Not only do they allow a musician to prepare a piece to a high level, but they also allow the student to perform for others. I do not believe that we should study the violin if we never perform for others.

Recitals should be character building, however, it should should not be a time where a student falls on their face. If there is any chance of that, a difference piece should be selected. One bad experience on stage can lead to years of agony when preparing for recitals. I try to make sure all students are successful in their endeavors of playing solos in front of others.

With older students, you should be especially cautious. I try to pick pieces that will build tone or technique, but not overextend a student. Older students may work for up to a year on a solo piece. These are pieces that increase their understanding of the instrument. Smaller pieces should be kept while playing large ones in order to allow backups for recital time.

An expectation of having to play in a recital is one of the most motivating things for young instrumentalist. If your students don't perform in front of each other each semester, I urge you to make it a tradition. It is worth the time and energy it takes to prepare for such events.


PostHeaderIcon March 6, 2011 - Preparing Students for Recitals

When preparing students for individual recitals, I think it is important to pick a piece they are familiar with at least one month before the recital. They should have plenty of opportunities to polish the piece before performing it in front of others. Some of the ways I like to prepare are letting the student perform it independently in lessons as many times as they can before the recital. I also like to play harmony parts on my violin. I have found playing with the students too often does not allow them to learn to play independently enough for recitals.

Some teacher suggest 100 polished performances of a piece before the recital. I do not completely agree with this, but I think stressing several polished performances over a number of weeks is best. I think extracting the preview spots is also a good idea.

Another idea is to have a coloring page with several small spaces for them to color each time they have a polished performance of the piece. Maybe they could perform it for 30 people before the recital. (Neighbors, pastors, friends, relatives, teachers, principals, or whoever.)


PostHeaderIcon March 5, 2011 - Sequence for teaching May Song

In order to teach May Song in Suzuki volume 1, I believe that students need a number of prerequisites:

  1. Knowledge of all fingers on A and E string.
  2. Ability to learn songs by rote.
  3. Ability to use good tone.
  4. Ability to use steps and skips.
  5. Ability to play an arpeggio.

Steps to teaching:

  1. Teach Scale and Arpeggio.
    1. Play Scale.
    2. Play A, C#, E and High A in ascending order. (First with MSS rhythm, then without)
    3. Play High A, E, C# and A in descending order. (First with MSS rhythm, then without)
    4. Play Scale and Arpeggio together. Name the Arpeggio so a sudent knows what it is.
  2. Play a twinkle with the May Song rhythm (dotted quarter, eight, quarter, quarter)
  3. Play the Arpeggio with the rhythm.
  4. Play skips on E string. F#, High A, F#, E or 1, 3, 1, E
  5. Set a tunnel on the A string with 1, 2 and 3. Play D, E, C# A
  6. Make a C# tunnel over the E string. Play C#, E, C#
  7. Put First part together. Arpeggio, E String Skips, D, E, C#, A, then B, A
  8. Play Middle part of Twinkle. Play Middle part of May Song and have students compare.
  9. Play EE, DD, C# E C#, B.
  10. Play first part again.



PostHeaderIcon March 3, 2011 - Sequence to teaching Song of the Wind

In order to teach Song of the Wind in Suzuki volume 1, I believe that students need a number of prerequisites:

  1. Knowledge of all fingers on A and E string.
  2. Ability to learn songs by rote.
  3. Ability to use good tone.
  4. Ability to use steps and skips.

Steps to teaching:

  1. Teach Kangaroo Hops.
    1. Leave 1 on E but hop 2 and 3 back and forth between A and E.
    2. Play Mississippi Stop Stop (MSS) on 1 on E, Hop to 3 on A, Hop to 3 on E, Back to 1, Open E
    3. Play "Ice Cream" (not Ice Cream Cone) on all notes: 1 on E, Hop to 3 on A, Hop to 3 on E, Back to 1, Open E
    4. Play "Pie: on all notes: 1 on E, Hop to 3 on A, Hop to 3 on E, Back to 1, Open E.
  2. Play some open E with lift sets. (I would have already previewed this with "Motorcycle Mom, lift, set" Twinkle.)
  3. Add a lift set after 1, 3, 3, 1, E, Lift, Set. (Repeat several times.)
  4. Play "Up a river we will go AND." (Has one more E than the Lightly Row version.)
  5. Teach two endings
    1. A, 2, E, lift, set.
    2. E, lift, set.
  6. Teacher plays downward sequence and students play A, 2, E, lift, set and E lift set.
  7. "Bounce the Ball Down" section. E 333, 3 222, 2 111.
  8. "Back again." A, 2, E, lift, set.
  9. "Bounce the Ball Down" section. E 333, 3 222, 2 111.
  10. "E, lift, set at end and repeat. E without lift set last time.

The Kangaroo Hops are the most difficult part. I like to ask my students if they have ever seen a kangaroo fall over. (Usually they say no.) I tell them their fingers should hop, and not fall over.


PostHeaderIcon March 2, 2011 - Sequence to teaching Go Tell Aunt Rhody

In order to teach Go Tell Aunt Rhody in Suzuki volume 1, I believe that students need a number of prerequisites:

  1. Knowledge of the songs that precede it.
  2. Ability to quickly move to third finger on the A string from open E.
  3. Ability to use good tone.
  4. Ability to move fingers with ease to different letters or finger numbers on the finger board.
  5. Students should start using letters more at this point.

Steps to teaching:

  1. Teach the words to the song:
    Go tell Aunt Rhody, John is very sick. Go tell Aunt Rhody, he threw up on me.
    He ate some pop corn and some jelly beans. He ate some pop corn and some pop
    Go tell Aunt Rhody, John is very sick. Go tell Aunt Rhody, he threw up on me.

    Words help teach the form of the song and organize it in the students' head. These are silly words that teach a fun message to kids not to eat junk food.

  2. Clap, sing, or tap the rhythm of first two measures (one measure at a time)
    1. Long Short Short Long Long
    2. Long Long Short Short Long
  3. Play "Jelly Beans." E, D, C# several times to get that quick starting up bow.
  4. Play E E D C# C# several times.
  5. Play "He threw up on me." B A B C# A several times.
  6. Teach one measure at a time or one small part at a time of the A section.
  7. Have students sing the middle section and play only the A parts for one week. Teach the middle section completely. Going from C# to D will be challenging at first.

If students have facility, this song should not be difficult. Moving from E to third finger D should be the biggest challenge along with the other finger twister.


PostHeaderIcon March 1, 2011 - Sequence to teaching O Come Little Chilldren

In order to teach O Come Little Children in Suzuki volume 1, I believe that students need a number of prerequisites:

  1. Knowledge of the songs that precede it.
  2. Ability to make a tunnel with fingers over the E string.
  3. Ability to use two most of the bow with good tone. If students are unable to use the lower half of the bow, double up bows become more difficult.
  4. Ability to do some "Open, Close, Float, Sink" Exercises. (Wrist, elbow, and shoulder float to use lower half of bow)
  5. Ability to start in the middle of the bow to do an up bow.

Steps to teaching:

  1. Teach the words to the song:
    O come, little children, O come one and all,
    To Bethlehem haste, to the manger so small,
    God's son for a gift has been sent you this night
    To be your redeemer, your joy and delight.
  2. Sing and motion: Up down up down up down up down up down up, up down up down up down up down up down up, etc.
  3. Start in the middle of the bow and float up bow.
  4. Play the rhythm of the song on open E while singing the words of the first line. (Make sure to start up bow in the middle of the bow.) Help the student stop the bow in the middle so they have room to go up. Do this several times in a row.
  5. Play the rhythm of the first seven notes on open strings: E E A E E A E (Make sure to start up bow in the middle of the bow.)
  6. Make a C# tunnel over the E string. Then do play: E E C# E E C# E (Make sure to start up bow in the middle of the bow.)
  7. Play D B B A starting down bow.
  8. Put the previous two steps together.
  9. In the next lesson, teach the next two sections of the song by rote. They may need help with the large skip to High A on the last line.

I believe the hard part of the song is the double up bow. Some students may start adding double up bow to other parts of the song or other songs. Take care of this quickly before it becomes a bad habit for them.


PostHeaderIcon February 28, 2011 - Ševčík's Mendelssohn Exercises

Ševčík’s works for the violin include several volumes of bowing and violin technique. Opus 1 is in two parts, the first of which is in first position. Opus 2 deals with bowing technique. Opus 8 had shifting exercises.

His most interesting works are probably the study guides he created for concerti and other violin repertoire.

Recently, I have been studying the volume about the Mendelssohn violin concerto. It should be mentioned that you may need to revise some of the material to fit your own fingerings and bowings. Practicing the work as written will not help unless that is exactly how you play or intend to play the piece.

Sevcik completely breaks apart practically every part of the concerto. The section numbers do not correspond with measure numbers, but as you work sequentially through, you see many permutation of the material as you move through the concerto.


PostHeaderIcon February 27, 2011 - Bow mechanism

In working with the bow, there should be four sets of joints that have flexibility. They are developed in a particular order and the movement is refined over time.

  • Opening and closing of the elbow joint. This is developed first in Suzuki method of teaching. Students play at the square of the bow so they may open the elbow (and go down bow) and close the elbow and go upbow.
  • Wrist movement should come naturally with the elbow motion. If it does not, you may need to help students develop the wrist motion that goes allows the bow hand to stay in the same position while the elbow opens and closes.
  • Floating of the shoulder ball joint. This is not to be confused with a shrugging motion. The floating allows you to fluidly move the forearm up and down. Shrugging should be avoided.
  • Finger movement. I use the teeter totter exercises to teach students about finger movement. The student places the bow on the low string at the frog and pushes across with the pinky and thumb. When extended, the frog and the pinky are in "tip" position. When bent, they are at the frog position.

All of these movement work together to create good tone and strokes of the bow that move parallel to the bridge with great facility.


PostHeaderIcon February 26, 2011 - Lucien Capet

In the 1990s, an edition of Lucien Capet's La Technique Superieure de l'Archet was translated by Margaret Schmidt and published. It covers every aspect of the art of bowing from the very basics of the bow hold to more advanced techniques. Capet was admired by Gingold and Galamian, both of whom studied with Capet in the 1920s in Paris.

The volume discusses:

  1. Preliminary Explanations
  2. Quality of Sound
  3. The Slur
  4. The Detache Inflections and Accents
  5. The Martele
  6. The Staccato
  7. The Light Bow Strokes

Capet had great discussions about the origin of different strokes including ones that are considered to be off the string strokes. Many of these strokes are thought (by Capet) to originate from strokes on the string. For instance, sautille begins as an on the string stroke. When it is executed in the proper part of the bow and higher speeds it becomes an off the string stroke.


PostHeaderIcon February 25, 2011 - Sevcik School of Bowing Technic

The Sevcik School of Bowing Technic Opus 2 Book 1 is probably the most systematic thought out plan for control of the bow that anyone has ever developed. On the cover page it states that it contains "systematically and progressively graded bowing exercises for the violin."

The book is divided into the following sections:

  • How to hold the bow - the colle stroke at the tip, frog and middle of the bow (works on hand shaping)
  • How to Guide the bow - use of whole bow, half of bow, and the middle of the bow (changing hand shaping for each part of the bow)
  • Study in Whole Notes with 57 variants - works on bow weight, speed, and contact point in various strokes
  • Study in Half Notes with 75 variants - works on bow weight, speed, and contact point in various strokes
  • Study in Quarter Notes with 260 variants - works on bow weight, speed, and contact point in various strokes
  • Study in Eighth Notes with 214  variants - works on bow weight, speed, and contact point in various strokes
  • Study in Eighth Notes in Six Eight time with 91 variants - works on bow weight, speed, and contact point in various strokes
  • Studies using the bow in higher positions
  • Studies using the bow for string crossings in arpeggios



PostHeaderIcon February 24, 2011 - Air Varie No. 5 Dancla

The edition I am analyzing of this piece is from the Barbara Barber Solos for Young Violinist.

This piece contains many challenges for players of very high skill level.

  • Use of the whole bow and uneven bow distributions in the Theme - This should be planned out if the student has trouble using the whole bow and different parts of the bow for the theme at the beginning.
  • Challenging tuning in beginning of Theme - Tuning should be paid attention to in this theme as it is difficult because of intervals that leap.
  • Shifts to fourth position for harmonics in Variation 1 - Instead of an extension, students should shift to the fourth position for the harmonic.
  • Spiccato Bowing in Variation 2 - Any etude that uses spiccato on singled and doubled notes can be used. Kayser #19 is a favorite of mine for spiccato on doubled notes.
  • Ricochet Bowing in Variation 2 - There is a Wohlfahrt Op. 45, No. 40 can be practiced with ricochet. (It is not notated with ricochet in the Foundation Studies Book 2 No. 8, but it can be played that way as a variation.)
  • Down bow chords in Variation 2 - The challenging part of this section is tuning while moving 2 and 3 back and forth and then dropping 3 and 4.
  • Chords with slurred string crossings in Variation 2 - These chords are simple, but execution should be practiced so the bow moves evenly across the strings.
  • Chords with left hand pizzicato in Variation 3 - Smooth dotted half notes should be played while chords are played underneath.
  • Challenging shifting and tuning in Variation 3
  • Harmonics in Variation 3 - A scale in harmonics (like from the Flesch book) can be used to get proper tone on this passage.



PostHeaderIcon February 23, 2011 - Salut D'Amour by Elgar

The Salut D'Amour by Edward Elgar, from his opus 12, is a piece written for violin. It has virtuosic lines and very delicate articulations that make it a good piece for student working on more advanced shifting and bow distribution to play. The key signature of the edition I am analyzing is E major.  Tuning for this can be very tricky. The piece is a great recital piece and is quick to learn.

The piece contains a difficult bow distribution at the beginning that is repeated several times. Other challenges with the bow include crescendos, decrescendos, fermatas and other expressive changing of the tempo. These require a confident use of the bow weight, speed, and contact point.

Shifting and harmonics are the other challenge of this piece. Although the first theme could be played in first and third positions, expressive shifts, finger replacements, and shifts can be used to create a more artistic effect. The second theme and the transition after it go higher into position. The highest position used in the piece is seventh.

There are some melodic intervals that are challenging, so these parts should be figured out using guide notes for shifting and by listening to a performance of the piece. I found Sarah Chang's performance (from her youth) to be absolutely charming.

More Articles...
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 Next > End >>

Page 1 of 3