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Theresa Britt's Blog

PostHeaderIcon February 22, 2011 - Scales Sets

This  is the scale sequence I teach for beginning string players through more advanced stages:

  1. Monkey Song (also called a tetrachord). This is half of the scale. I usually teach this with a rhythm such as Mississippi Stop Stop on each note.
  2. One octave scale starting on open strings. There are three for each instrument. I start by playing it with a rhythm on each string then progress to playing it with quarter notes, half notes, then whole notes on each note.
  3. One octave scales starting with a "Ringing Tone." (This would be a third finger start for violin and viola or a fourth finger start for cello.)
  4. Two Octave Scale starting with the lowest open string.
  5. One octave scales starting with first finger. There are also three of these for each instrument. I start by playing it with a rhythm on each string then progress to playing it with quarter notes, half notes, then whole notes on each note.
  6. One octave scales beginning with Low 2 or second finger for cello.
  7. Two Octave Scales that shift third position for violins and violas.
  8. Three octave Scale for Violin and Viola Only.
  9. All Key Signatures in First position. (From Sevcik Opus 1, Book 1)
  10. One String Scales.
  11. One octave scales on two strings in all positions.
  12. Two octave scales on all four strings in all positions.

PostHeaderIcon February 21, 2011 - Clef Sign Penny Charts

The Clef Sign penny charts are very useful for teaching beginning note reading. Initially, I teach about whichever clef the student uses. Next I talk about the five lines and four spaces of the staff. We count them from bottom to top. Next we alternate climbing up and down the lines and spaces with a penny.

After all of that discussion, I talk about placement of the open strings and have students move the penny back and forth between the open D strings and A string with the penny.

Eventually we move up and down to different scales and songs on the lines and spaces with our pennies.

Penny charts for treble, alto and bass clef are available here:

Penny Charts


PostHeaderIcon February 20, 2011 - Music Thoery Help

The following are some supporting web sites that will help students with note reading and rhythm reading on their instruments.

Note Reading for Violin (Beginning)
Note Reading for Violin (G, D, A and E Strings)

Note Reading for Viola (Beginning)
Note Reading for Viola (C, G, D, and A Strings)

Note Reading for Cello (Beginning)
Note Reading for Cello (C, G, D and A Strings)

Basics of Music Theory (All of the "Basics" can be covered on this site.)

Counting Music


PostHeaderIcon February 19, 2011 - Violin Fingering Chart

To have a greater understanding of the fingerboard, students must also understand the map of the fingerboard. In addition to finger pattern exercises, they should also be using a variety of aids to help learning the theory behind the fingerboard. I have created this chart to help the be able to name and map the fingerboard.

Violin Finger Board Chart (PDF)


PostHeaderIcon February 18, 2011 - Laoureux Practice Method (Book 2)

In the second volume of the Laoureux "A Practical Method for the Violin," the first five positions on the violin are covered.

In the beginning, it has preparation for shifting to third position. I like that is quite compacted compared to that in the Whistler "Introducing the Positions." It also has several exercises and etudes all in third position reminiscent of Wohlfahrt third position studies and the Whistler. I find it more visually pleasing that the whistler book. After a few exercises in third position, it has shifting exercises similar to Yost. Following that are several etudes that shift between first and third position. I like that it doesn't cover every key signature, it just gets the basics of shifting covered.

After several shifting etudes, it covered the extended fourth finger harmonic. I have recently found a lot students who need some remediation of this extension because they are actually shifting to the position, not extending.

Second position is covered next (not fifth as in many texts). I think it is good to give students an introduction to second position early so they are not afraid of it. Exercises that shift between first, second and third positions follow.

Other techniques addressed in this volume are:

  • Octaves (double stops and arpeggios)
  • Sixths (double stops and arpeggios)
  • All other intervals (double stops and arpeggios)
  • Trills
  • Fourth Position
  • Fifth Position

PostHeaderIcon February 17, 2011 - Laoureux Practice Method (Book I)

In my study of violin method and technique books, I have found some use in an old edition of the Nicolas Laoureux "A Practical Method for Violin."

In the Book I, he begins with some exercises quite like those in the Sevcik School of Bowing Technique. These open string exercises would be great for working on reading of open strings, leveling of the arms, and bow distribution. Next he has slurs across strings.

The next section of Book I works on the left hand including intervals and scales. Next, he works on slurring of fingered notes. There are several etudes with duet parts that help develop the left hand.

Other topics approached in the Book I are syncopation, chromatic scales, martele, grand detache, hooked bowings, arpeggios of chords, difficult intonation, and the springing bow. I like some of these exercises for supplements to other study materials.

You would think students should have developed all techniques necessary for playing the violin in Book I, but Laoureux offers three more volumes. I wish this book was available for viola.


PostHeaderIcon February 16, 2011 - Etudes for Second Position

Recently I have been compiling a list of etude materials to help with second and fourth positiions.

  1. Sevcik Opus 1, Book 2 covers the second through seventh position including some shifting in between the positions.
  2. Sitt Studies for the Violin Part 2 covers second through fifth positions.
  3. Whistler's Introducing the Positions Volume 2.
  4. Shradieck School of Violin Technics.



PostHeaderIcon February 15, 2011 - Mimi Butler

Recently, at the Texas Music Educator's Association convention in San Antonio, Texas, I had the pleasure of meeting Mimi Butler. Although I can highly recommend her policies, I am not sure that this book would benefit anyone who didn't have the management skills to operate a studio in the first place. Her first book is called "The Complete Guide to Running a Private Music Stduio." In the book, Butler goes through various ideas, all of which are practically necessary for running a studio. She covers fees, communication strategies, teaching strategies, and much more. I find that many of the ideas are ones that have already been addressed in my current studio.

In my current situation, I have to schedule 40+ students each week, teach, find locations, have necessary equipment when I travel, book recitals and group classes, and much more. It's not an easy task, but with good organization skills I am able to manage quite well. This book discloses no secrets. This is what successful studios have to do. Teaching music is a business, but it's not cutthroat. You have to be careful with your time and energy as a busy studio teacher.


PostHeaderIcon February 14, 2011 - Musician's Taxes

In doing my taxes for the past few years, I have learned a lot about being self employed.

  1. If you have a designated home "studio" or office that you don't use for any other reason, you can deduct it from you taxes. I find it hard to get anything done but teaching and practicing in my studio area, so I think it's safe to say that is an area I can write off on my taxes. You calculate the square footage of your home and then measure the room and calculate a percentage of that square footage of living area. The rent and utilities are all things that can be deducted, so save your utility receipts and rent receipts.
  2. Keep track of expenses for training workshops and conferences. Keep airline fare receipts, ground transportation receipts, and food expenses. You can also claim a per diem for out of town trips for meals and incidental expenses.
  3. Keep track of your mileage used on your own personal vehicle to travel to gigs and other events. Mileage rates change from year to year, but keeping track of this expense adds up in the long run if you make many trips out of town.
  4. You can write off the depreciated value of your musical instruments used for playing and teaching. It take seven years to depreciate an instrument. This is wise to do for teaching instruments since cheaply acquired student instruments don't go up in value through the years.
  5. Keep track of supplies purchase for the office, recitals, and other expenses related to your studio. Since music is consumable (frequently lost or written in), you do not need to depreciate it over a number of years.

PostHeaderIcon February 13, 2011 - Limiting Your Teaching Materials

I have recently discovered that there are a large number of books available to any teacher at any certain time. I believe that you must do the best job that you can at picking the books that will most significantly benefit your students without overburdening their pocket books.

Here are my thoughts on books to recommend to help for a variety of Levels.

  1. Suzuki Book 1 (for violin, viola, or cello) with CD - This is the first and most important in a student's journey to music. Even if you use a modified Suzuki method, I believe that this book has everything that the student needs for the first year of development or more. Although not initially intended for students to learn by reading, it can be used by the parent to take notes in order to best help the child. Older students should begin pre-reading as they start this book. Older students, especially, should be reading by the time they get to the Minuets.
  2. Essential Elements 2000 - This is a good book to help reading. I do not use it as prescribed. I would go a little bonkers having kids doing pizzicato on all of those exercises. Typically, I start my students from the being with the bow. It teaches common terms and symbols used in music.
  3. Christmas Kaleidescope by Frost - This book is amazingly helpful at getting students reading music.
  4. Suzuki Book 2 - Necessary as students complete Book 1. It contains wonderful repertoire.
  5. Wohlfahrt Foundation Studies - This book assists students in reading and rapidly progresses their technique.
  6. Samuel Applebaum's Beautiful Music for Two Stringed Instruments - This book addresses a wide variety of reading and counting skills.
  7. Suzuki Book 3 - As with the other Suzuki volumes, this book contains a number of great pieces strategically ordered for student progress.
  8. Wohlfahrt Foundation Studies Book 2 - This book introduces the different positions on the violin.
  9. Introducing the Position by Whistler - This book is essential to developing good shifting.
  10. Suzuki Book 4 - Has a number of concerto movements that students.
  11. Kayser 36 Studies - This will be one of the last books students should work on before entering college. Very advanced students may move past this etude book, but this may be all students will need.

There are other books that I have and supplement with, but these are the ones I feel are absolutely necessary for the student to purchase themselves.  Depending on the student, it maybe be good to move into Suzuki Books 5 and 6, but these are very advanced pieces.



PostHeaderIcon February 12, 2011 - Kreisler's Liebesleid

Liebesleid (Love's Sorrow) is a show piece that spotlights the bow. It has some playful and interesting bowings that must be well rehearsed. It is typically paired with Liebefreud.

The following technique must be addressed:

  • Retaking to an up bow - Can be practiced using a Dounis Op. 21, The Attack and Accent. Any etude can be used. Exercise 2b, in particular would be good to practice this.
  • Rapid retakes to the frog - These can also be used with Dounis Op. 21, The Attack and Accent. Exercise 7b, would be very beneficial for this.l
  • Second, Third, Fourth and Fifith Positions - The left hand frequently makes expressive changes back and forth between different stings. These shifts should be practiced with guide notes. Fortunately, some of these guide notes can be left in in the final product.
  • Double Dotted Rhythms - May be practiced with a Variation of Wohlfahart Foundation Studies Book 2, #34.
  • Bow Distribution - The bow distribution for this piece is very difficult and changes frequently. I don't know of any exercises that practice this, but being able to switch back and forth in the dounis exercise mentioned above will be a great help.

Liebeslied can be found in The Fritz Kreisler Collection published by Carl Fischer.


PostHeaderIcon February 11, 2011 - Kreisler's Liebesfreud

Liebesfreud (Love's Joy) is a very nice show piece that has some terribly tricky parts including double stops and intricate bowings. It is typically paired with Liebesleid. Both pieces are very expressive.

The following technique must be addressed:

  • Double dotted rhythm and bowing - To practice this, you may assign an etude such as Kayser #23 or Wohlfahrt Foundation Studies Book 2, #34 and use a doubled dotted variation to get the bow snap.
  • Up Bow Staccato - Up bow staccato may be practiced with an etude, such as Kayser #33, Kreutzer #4, or any variation of similar etudes.
  • Second Position & Fourth Positions - The student should play a few etudes or small pieces in second and fourth to review before playing this piece. There are several in the Second and Fourth Position String Builder by Applebaum. Surprisingly, this book is still in print.
  • Spiccato - Can be practiced using any etude. It should include string crossings.
  • Double Stops including sixths, fifths, fourths and thirds - Several pieces from Melodious Double Stops by Josephone Trott may be selected. Most importantly any scale with thirds should be played in a variety of ways. One of the most troubling parts about the thirds is that they move parallel to a neighbor tone a half step below and back up. They alternate between major thirds and minor thirds, also, making it even more challenging. On top of that, shifting makes finding finger spacing for these thirds even more difficult. Dounis finger exercises from the Daily Dozen may be used for this.

Liebesfrued can be found in The Fritz Kreisler Collection published by Carl Fischer.




PostHeaderIcon February 10, 2011 - Dounis Daily Dozen

Recently, I was reminded of the dreaded Dounis exercises that I was introduced to almost two years ago when I visited the Czech Republic. At the time, I just couldn't believe anyone would willingly participate in such torture.

I have come to appreciate hard rules of playing the violin. Here are the ones listed at the beginning of the Dounis Daily Dozen:

Five General Rules
To Be Strictly Adhered To

  1. Cultivate at all times a feeling of absolute comfort while practicing.
  2. In practising finger-exercises watch your bow; in practising bow exercises observe a good position of the left hand.
  3. Accent the weaker notes; make every note sound with a clear, full and round tone.
  4. Remember always that in technic evenness is that which counts most.
  5. Form the habit of listening to your playing with the utmost attention. Sharpen your hearing so as to detect the slightest disturbance  in the flow of tone.

In taking into consideration the exercises that follow, I can only see contradiction in words and action. There is something more to know about playing that I must not yet know.

Exercise 1 is a finger independence exercise that sets the hand four whole steps apart starting with low 1 on the G string and placing each finger on a different string. The player must then lift each finger, or sometimes two fingers at a time in the manner listed. The most difficult exercises in this section alternate 1 and 3 with 2 and 4. Truly, finger independence must be developed for this exercises. Fortunately, it begins with the "Easy Setting." The "Difficult setting reverses the finger pattern so that the low 1 begins on the E string.These exercises are to be practiced without the bow.

Exercise 2 uses independent fingers in a different way. There are two three fingers moving in different subdivisions of time. 3 and four move in quarter notes while the lower fingers move in eighth notes. All the while, the bow is moving in double stops.

Exercise 3 uses "Horizontal Movement" of the fingers. It should be clarified that in my class on Dounis, this meant moving the finger to a new position without shifting the hand. This exercise could also be practiced with shifting, but the author intended for it to be a stretching exercises.

Exercise 4 is an exercise in thirds. This builds upon the finger independence developed in Exercise 1. It has a variant for fingered octaves.

Exercise 5 is arpeggios used for tuning. I would imagine that playing this with a drone would be quite helpful for intonation. Shifts must be working solidly before intonation can be developed.

Exercise 6 is a shifting exercise. One note is played while finger replacement shifts are made through all of the fingers up and down a C major three three octave scale.

Exercise 7 works on different bowings and bow distributions at the nut. Exercise 8 does the same for the middle of the bow. Exercise 9 uses the tip of the bow. Exercise 10 develops the whole bow.

Exercise 11 is a tone development exercise that cycles through several accents in one bow in various rhythms. The second part of exercise 11 also develops tone while playing double stops with sustained tones on one string only.

Exercise 12 is for practicing left hand pizzicato.


PostHeaderIcon February 9, 2011 - Teaching Fifth Position

Needless to say, in order to teach fifth position, students must have a firm understanding of third position before proceeding to fifth position on the violin. A good shifting mechanism should also be developed prior to shifting to fifth position. (Unless you must remediate a student on these skills, at which time you may be working on a variety of shifting skills in addition to giving the student an understanding of fifth position.)

  1. Shortcut Shifting Exercise - My version of shortcut shifting has a part that works on descending with the first finger to practice shifting back down. (It is a version adapted from Linda Fiore's Shortcut Shifting. In doing shortcut shifting, I have the student keep the hand shape and drop 2, 3 and 4 on the string in the position. I start students going to fifth position. Usually, this exercise is done all by ear.
  2. G Major Three Octave Scale with the extra notes (Galamian) at the beginning. The fingering I use is:
    0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 -1 2 3 4 1 2 -1 2 3 4 x4 4 3 2 1 -2 1 4 3 2 1 -2 1  4 3 2 1 4 3 2 1 0
    There are some other ways to play this scale, but I find this one pleasing for the use of instruction. When extending the 4 in fifth position, I have the student keep the lower fingers down (since they will be coming back to them) in order to keep the hand shape. When shifting down to third, hand shape should also be considered.
  3. Play a piece with fifth position. There are numerous pieces with fifth position. I like the Rieding Concertino in G Major from the Barbara Barber books.
  4. Play Introducing the Positions (Whistler) exercise number 181 through 200 if necessary.
  5. Read several etudes or pieces with fifth position spots. (I find the etudes that stay in fifth position in the Whistler book are too challenging for student just starting fifth position.)



PostHeaderIcon February 8, 2011 - Music Scanning Software

Recently, I have been working in Smart Score X Professional to do some scanning of a score that I was given to play at an upcoming festival. Not only was I charged with getting musicians who could play the score, I was also charged with making parts. Although it is not painless, the process of scanning music and creating a copy of it with software has gotten easier than the days of entering a part by hand into Finale or cutting and pasting from the score. Yikes!

The process is pretty streamlined:

  1. Scan using Smart Score X Pro. It allows you to place your score on the scanner bed. It lets you know when it is ready for each new page. I suggest starting with a small number of pages of your score to make sure that it will recognize what you have scanned. I found it easiest to scan a few pages at a time.
  2. Edit the score for basic aspects that were not scanned such as key signature and time signature. (Make sure your palettes are out, or you won't be able to do this.)
  3. Edit parts in Smart Score that appear highlighted. Usually, it tells you when it had trouble recognizing something. I found this to be a bit time consuming, but worth it once I imported into finale.
  4. Save as Music XML.
  5. Import your Music XML file into Finale. (Combine multiple scan sessions in Finale, if necessary.)
  6. Edit in Finale. The bowings, dynamics, and articulations required some finessing.
  7. Extract Parts. (Then edit them as necessary.)

Now, after all of that, hopefully, you will have parts to use whenever you need them. Now good luck  getting the first violins to play that entire page that's in fifth position.

I have to say through this whole process, I have learned a lot about using Finale and Smart Score X Pro.


PostHeaderIcon February 7, 2011 - Students Who "Can't"

One of the most distressing things for a teacher to find in their music lesson is a student who says they "can't" do something. In keeping an open mind, the first thing that I do when I hear a student tell me they "can't" is warn them if they say that three time, I will do something they will not like. On the third time, I end the lesson.  I continue to try to help and encourage the student to do the right thing. If over and over again, they tell me they can't there is nothing more that can be done at that lesson.

"Can't" is a terminology that means they will not participate. If it is a reasonable request, it should be done. Some things are not up for negotiation. Students do not get to decide what is the right way of playing the instrument on the basic technical aspects. It is the teacher's job to prepare them for this.

The teacher and student can accomplish many things if a student will just "try." When trying to help students to not make excuses, I encourage them to focus even if they are facing a difficulty, then we can celebrate when they have accomplished something in the face of great obstacles.


PostHeaderIcon February 6, 2011 - Fear of Dropping the Violin

I have read a short section of the Kato Havas Book titled "Stage Fright." In the first chapter, she address the fear of dropping the violin as the root of tension from many players. Upon first reading this, I thought it was a bit extreme. Surely nobody thinks they will drop the violin, but then I have thought back to tension issues we have all worked through on the violin.

  • Beginning students (many times) fear that if they don't hold the violin with the left hand that they will drop it. Although we work on posture at the beginning, once we put the fingers on the fingerboard, we begin to feel afraid we will drop the violin. This causes a tremendous number of other problems in violin playing.
  • As students begin shifting, this fear of dropping the violin becomes more obvious, as the student will have a very tight hold on the neck of the violin. I have witnessed students who are unable to shift up because their thumb is grabbing so hard, it will not get gradually more open as the neck gets slightly larger.
  • When shifting backwards, you will notice the left hand goes under the violin as they tense the first finger to grab.
  • Many students and a number of professionals, clamp down with the head and clench the jaw in order to keep the violin from falling. Every violin must fight the tension in the neck and jaw to keep playing relaxed.

Havas has exercises she suggests for allowing students to keep arms and shoulders feeling weightless, including a number of exercises she suggests you practice over a couch or bed. They involve balaning the head in order to hold the violin.

Having student instruments that are too large may cause the fear of dropping the violin to be even greater. With a heavy or clunky student instrument, they may find themselves grabbing (out of necessity) with the left hand.


PostHeaderIcon February 5, 2011 - Bow Grip Flexibility

The left hand of the violin is a lot like a car. When we start, we are always in the "Park" position. However, as the bow begins to move, the bow grip, arms and hands have to be in constant motion. The goal is to keep the bow moving with flat hair and parallel to the bridge, just as our goal with the car is to move it in the proper lane on the highway.

With that in mind, once a student has a solid foundation of bow hand shape, flexibility should be built in slowly.

Linda Fiore says there are four different kinds of hinges to work the bow. They should probably be taught in this order:

  1. Elbow (opening and closing)
  2. Wrist (bending up as you go to the tip)
  3. Ball joint of the shoulder floating in lower half of bow. (This should not be confused with a shrugging motion of the shoulders that must be avoided.)
  4. Finger joint motion.

I like to begin to develop bow hand flexibility early so students have the ability to keep the hand loose.

A few exercises I use:

  • Ski Jump - Have students hold their bow arm with fingers to elbow flat on a table and palm down. Then have student bend the wrist so the hand comes up off of the table. This motion is used at the tip of the bow. Some students will have trouble drawing a straight bow if this joint does not bend naturally.
  • Open and Close the Gate - Open and close the elbow joint (without the bow in hand) to get used to the motion of opening and closing the elbow.
  • Pour Salt on the Ground - Get a salt shaker (that closes or is already empty) and pretend to pour salt on the ground in a straight line. The elbow and wrist have to move in a similar motion to that used on the violin. If you do it in rhythms it makes a nice shaker sound. (Make sure to have students hold the shaker like the bow.)
  • Water Pump - Have student drop bow arm at their side with elbow bent (no bow in hand). The teacher can then lift the forearm (that should be heavy if the weight is released) in a pumping motion no more than shoulder height. If a shrug is not avoided, the teacher should place the other hand lightly on the shoulder to help the student feel the release of the muscle.
  • Teeter Totter - Have student land with a good bow grip close to the frog on the G string. The pinky should be very bent, as should the bow thumb. Without moving the bow on the strings, the student will push across to the E with the pinky, and the thumb should slightly extend. The extended hand shape is for use at the tip. The bent thumb and pinky are for playing at the frog.
  • Jellyfish Hand - Have students uses jellyfish fingers to plays small slow bows in the lower half.
  • Open, Close, Float, Sink - Students will start on the A string with the bow in the middle. They will open and close the elbow which will put them at the tip. When they close the elbow, they will begin to move up bow. In the middle, the ball joint of the shoulder will float up slightly. It will sink as the bow changes to down bow.




PostHeaderIcon February 4, 2011 - Left Hand Tension

Recently, I have found myself unable to execute left hand techniques I once could with fluidity. I kept trying to release the tension and practice more fluid shifting, to no avail.

The source was tension in the base knuckle of the first finger, especially when using low first finger. Upon releasing tension in the base knuckle of the first finger, I gained a greater awareness of my elbow in shifts. I suggest you try this short exercises to see for yourself:

  1. Hold your left arm out like you are playing (with no violin in hand).
  2. Square and tense the knuckles of the first finger.
  3. Pantomime the shifting motion.

Feel how the elbow loses not only the ability to move with a linear motion, but also the sensation of opening and closing upon shifting.

Try this exercises to feel the difference:

  1. Hold your left arm out like you are playing (with no violin in hand).
  2. Curl the left hand fingers with a loose first finger and soften the space between first and second finger.
  3. Move the elbow in a shifting motion.

I find that I am able to feel the sensation of shifting in the elbow especially well when the first finger has release the tension found in the base knuckle of the first finger.

For a final exercise:

  1. Hold your left hand out like you are playing (with no violin in hand).
  2. Tense the first finger.

You should be able to feel the tension build up and down the arm.


PostHeaderIcon February 3, 2011 - Preparing for Kreutzer Vol. II

Volume II of Preparing for Kreutzer by Harvey Whistler takes student through a great number of techniques needed to move on to Kreutzer.

Like Volume I, Volume II begins with a Developing Bowing variation page for a first position etude. Many of the bowings are the same as ones in the Volume I. Next is a Developing Trilling page. This is also intended for daily practice. These exercises are particularly nasty when you get to the fourth finger tirllls. Particularly appalling is the suggesting to practice the trill for sixteen beats. There is no suggestion for measuring them as sixteenth or thirty-second notes. There is another daily practice page called Developing Fingerboard Facility that cycles through several key signatures. Several etudes follow to support these techniques.

Eventually, Whistler includes "Artistry" studies including the Kayser Etude number 10 for arpeggio artistry. Following that, a few etudes that have string crossings that skip strings are included.

Position playing is reviewed to prepare for runs in cadenzas. Triplets, quadruplets in scalar and other patterns are covered. Whistler creates some mock cadenzas from a Dancla etude. I consider this very creative, if not useful.

Next, "cross-fingereing" is covered. I can only assume this means playing a note with a different fingering than it would normally be played. For instance, instead of playing a D# on the A string as a third finger, you can play it with fourth finger. Many finger substitutions can be made without shifting positions.

Up bow staccato is also covered using several etudes. I think the Kayser staccato etude is enough to prepare students for the Kreutzer Number 4. Whistler includes a preparation etude that goes up the C major scale (by De Beriot) and includes two other up bow staccato etudes. More than one should not be necessary if the first is done correctly. Slurring arpeggiated passages is covered in two etudes, including one of the hardest Kayser (in my opinion). As he continues, there are more and more Kayser etudes to practice shifting and perpetual motion of the fingers of the left hand.

Following that, more material is included for "Daily Practice" including scales and exercises in thirds, sixths and octaves. Some of the Dont Opus 37 exercises are included for practice on these. Double stop exercises are what is missing from the Kayser etude book.

Chromatic fingerings are covered. I feel that the fingering for an ascending chromatic scale of 0-1-1-2-2-3-4 is too clunky. I think the same is true for 4-3-2-2-1-1-0 for descending chromatic scales. This is only good for developing basic understanding of the chromatic scale. By this point in playing, a different pattern should be used in my opinion.

Comical is the "Four Minute" Sostenuto etude by Casatori. Upon setting your metronome to 30 beats per minute, you should be able to play 32 counts in one bow. I have not yet tried it, but I imagine I would have great difficulty in producing quality tone at such slow speeds.

The dynamic playing exercises seem useful. They are reminiscent of the Sevcik School of Bowing exercies for variation in weight, speed and contact point to create the desired tone.

Finally, several "Concert Caprices" are included. These are all sufficiently challenging and review many of the concepts introduced in the two volumes.

Although I don't agree with everything in these two volumes, I can agree that the Kayser etudes do neglect some of the trill and double stopping necessary for the Kreutzer Etudes. A plan to move into a few Dont Opus 37 etudes would be good before moving on to Kreutzer.




PostHeaderIcon February 2, 2011 - Dvorak Sonatina Op. 100

The Dvorak Sonatina Op. 100 1st Movement can be found in the Barbara Barber collection of Solos for Young Violinists Volume 2. The complete work has four movements and can be purchased as a complete work. The Sonatina can also be found on the Petrucci Music Library.

Here, I will examine the first movement for specific teachable elements. The first thing I discovered when studying this piece is that it has a variety of bow techniques  in a very compact amount of time.

Students must be able to accomplish the following with the bow hand:

  • Accents
  • Staccato
  • Legato
  • Off the String
  • Uneven bow distributions
  • Crescendos and decrescendos
  • Variety of tone colors
  • Variety of dynamics

In order to gain all of the bow control necessary, students will need to start with a well set up bow hand that has flexibility in all parts. I would suggest either using some tone building exercises that help student have smooth bow changes. I think an etude like Wohlfahrt Foundation Study Book 1, number two or Kayser number two would be excellent choices for doing this. I might also recommend Kayser Number 1 with the bowing exercises in the Whistler Preparing for Kreutzer book.

Rhythmically the piece is challenging for the following reasons:

  • Sixteenth note pick up notes
  • Transitions between duple and triple

The attack on these sixteenth notes can be practiced using a variation of Kayser Etude Number 1. The transitions between triple and duple can also be done using a variation. The first six eighth notes in the measure can be played as triplets and the last two as duple. You can even add the bowing of m. 51 to really drive the point home.

For the left hand it presents the following challenges:

  • A low third position spot in m. 84
  • Shifting to third position throughout
  • 4th finger harmonics (extended from third position)
  • Tricky flat section in m. 106
  • Second position in m. 142

For the flat section in m. 106, I would do finger pattern number 1 in starting with a low first finger. Another tricky spot is m. 84's shift to third position with a D-flat on the A string.



PostHeaderIcon February 1, 2011 - Preparing for Kreutzer Vol. 1

Harvey Whistler has published two edition of "Preparing for Kreutzer" books. I think that they have many materials that will prepare students for the bowing and left hand techniques found in Kreutzer, some interesting and some useful.

The first exercise in Volume I is a "Developing Bowing" guide. It covers detache, legato, ondule, portato, marcato, accents, martele, staccato, sautille, spicatto, parlando, ricochet and jete. It uses Kayser Op. 20 Number 1 to develop these bowing strokes. This would be a great "supplement" to any student wanting to learn terminology for different bowing strokes.

In addition to bowing exercises, it has a few very detailed left hand exercises by Eichberg and Schradieck. These exercises will take time to develop properly. The Eichberg has the student hold one finger down that is not active in producing a tone while the other fingers move around it. These are reminiscent of Dounis or Flesch finger exercises. The Schradieck works on intonation and proper use of the half step.

Next, Whistler has first position etudes in major key signatures with up to four sharps or four flats. Following that, a preparation page for position playing and several etudes in second through fifth positions.

After several pieces in position, he adds a finger velocity exercise by Dancla. These exercises are taken from the "School of Velocity." If you acquire that book, it has specific instructions for how to carry out these exercises that are neglected in the Whistler text.

Included in the Volume I, Whistler also includes preparation for the trill etudes you find in Kreutzer. (Playing two or three of those Kreuzter trill etudes will make anyone want to quit the violin if they are not properly prepared for them.) The first book ends with double stop and octave preparation.

These etudes are by several composers including Kayser, Mazas, Dont, De Beriot, Dancla, Wohlfahrt, Blumenstengel, and a few other lesser known violin pedagogues.

I find it intriguing that the "Daily Exercises" are outlined in black. I don't suggest violating copyright, but they would make nice supplement pages for students working on other technique books.


PostHeaderIcon January 31, 2011 - Kayser 36 Studies

In studying various technique books for the violin, I have found a great number of texts to be very interesting and thought provoking on the matter of preparing students for the dreaded Kreutzer. Most interesting to me are the forewords to these etude books. In a copy of the Kayser etude book edited by Svecenski, the foreword expresses everything I feel about the Kayser etudes as a manual of preparation to Kreutzer. I find that so many students are given Kreutzer (including myself in my first college years) before they grasp the basic concepts necessary to use the material correctly.

Svecenski states:

"In using Hans Wessely's edition of the Kreuzter Etudes, and the special exercises by Franz Kniesel ("Advanced Exercises for the Violin"), I have found a great many students experience difficulty in carrying out the excellent instructions therein given for acquiring a correct position of the left hand (retaining the fingers in their places), owing to insufficient attention to correct placing of the fingers during the years of elementary and preparatory study. Students who follow faithfully the instructions given in this edition of Kayser's Studies will find themselves repaid - when ready to take up the Kreutzer Etudes - by having acquired the correct position of the left hand, without which a reliable technic cannot be attained."

The Schirmer edition by Svecenski is very specific about which fingers should be left down in the etudes (much more so than the International Edition). He frequently places the first finger across two strings while moving the other fingers. He requires specific fingers to stay down for extended periods to keep the hand still. I find this a technique many students have difficulty with because they have never been taught to temporarily "anchor" fingers or to use "in-between" fingers to assist in proper finger placement and spacing.

I have found that the Kayser etudes served me well to prepare many left hand techniques, and I plan to remedy the burden of Kreutzer that some teachers place on students too soon with the use of this book.

The Schirmer edition by Svecenski is available on the IMSLP Petrucci Music Library.



PostHeaderIcon January 30, 2011 - Josephine Trott Melodious Double-Stops

Melodious Double Stops by Josephine Trott is an etude book of 30 relatively short double stop etudes.

  • They begin with very simple exercises that use open strings and one fingered note. Exercises numbers 1 through 8 use can be categorized in this group.
  • Beginning with exercises number 9, the player will use two fingered notes with the higher finger number on a higher string.
  • After exercise 10, most etudes are a full page long.
  • Exercise 11 begins to include thirds fingered with 1 and 3.
  • Exercise 13 includes a held note on one string and moving notes on another.
  • Exercise 14 begins to include fourths fingered with 2 and 1 and fifths with first finger.
  • Exercise 15 slurs two double stops that cross strings.
  • Exercise 16 crosses strings between high and low single notes and double stops. This is very good practice for transferring weight.
  • Exercise 17 is very similar to 13 with more complex notes requiring more finger independence when one note is held and the other moves.
  • As the exercises progress, they become more complex and in a greater variety of key signatures.

I have found all of these etudes I have played to be quite pleasing to the ear. It should not be underestimated how much bow control is necessary for students to achieve proper tone in double stops. These exercises are a great supplement to a double stop passage such as those in the Seitz, Accolay, and DeBeriot concertos.

Josephine Trott also composed a piece called The Puppet Show found in the Barbara Barber Solos for Young Violinists Volume 1. Despite extensive research I was only able to find one biographical note about Josephine Trott. She was apparently a violin teacher in the early twentieth century. I could not find much else about her.  Another publication entitled "Easy and Progressive Duets" by Trott is available by Prairie Dawg Press in an edition by Cora Cooper of Kansas Statue University.


PostHeaderIcon January 29, 2011 - Playing Appropriate Music

When selecting music for yourself or your students, you should always take the utmost care to select pieces that are appropriately leveled. By doing this, you will progress more quickly through the music and be able to focus your time and attention on making music, not squawking out the notes at the proper time.

I have encountered many people, recently, who are just interested in playing the proper notes of the pieces at close to the right time. Their interpretations of pitch are not always the same as mine. I would prefer the proper note also be an in tune note. I would prefer that proper timing mean that each person is internalizing the beat in the same way.

I consider playing the proper pitch (with no consideration for tuning) at close to the right time to be the "horn" method of playing strings. Honking out notes with no regard for tuning, tone, or exceptional rhythm is a crime against the instrument itself. There is no need for this kind of playing. If you are doing it right, the music should flow easily from your instrument, allowing you to achieve a higher sense of musicality in every performance.

As for adequate rehearsal of pieces, there is no better goal for a piece than to have it polished to a performance quality. Practicing parts outside of rehearsal is necessary. When playing with an ensemble, you should always take great care to pay attention to details that will make the performance more exciting.

Well rehearsed, appropriately leveled music will lead to success by you and your students and ensembles in the long run. Use caution. Anyone can play the violin, but it takes great care to do it well.


PostHeaderIcon January 28, 2011 - Introducing the Position for Violin

Introducing the Positions for Violin is written by Harvey S. Whister. The book covers third and fifth positions on the violin. In the foreword by the author, he intends for this book to serve as an introduction to shifting, but not a comprehensive training guide. He suggests that students of the violin should also explore second, third and sixth positions, but only after a thorough development of playing in first, third and fifth positions.

The book begins with some very simple exercises where you prepare, and then begin in the third position. It begins with C Major and has several exercises in that key. The preparation work allows students to begin in tune. It even includes scales and tone exercises. I think these are both very important to position study and development. In each key signature, there are also etudes in various time signatures. If worked through sequentially, these studies should develop not only good position playing, but also good reading skills in those positions.

The shifting exercises cover moving from all fingers. They are quite like Yost exercies. I prefer to lift higher finger numbers and shift with 1 as the guide finger and later dropping the finger needed after the shift. In the shifting exercises by Whistler, a student will slide the 2 or 3 up then drop a 4. I think making 1 the guide finger is more effective in allowing students to keep their hand frame.

The last part of the book has advanced melodic etudes that use the techniques learned in the book.

These exercises should be progressed through very quickly. If they are taken too slowly, it could take years to get through this book. The exercises are somewhat tedious in that respect.

The half step marking in this book is actually the whole step mark that I commonly use. I use a carat to mark a half step instead of a bracket.

The viola edition covers third and half positions. However, the viola book neglects to cover reading in treble clef for the violas. The text is also available for cello.



PostHeaderIcon January 27, 2011 - Wohlfahrt Foundation Studies

The Wohlfahrt Foundation Studies for violin is published by Carl Fischer and is found in two volumes. Unlike the 60 Studies of Opus 45, these are arranged more progressively so they may be worked through sequentially.

Book 1 contains 60 Studies in first position from Opus 45, 52, and 74. The editor, K.H. Aiqouni, gives a foreword to the text stating that he intended to select the most "serviceable" first position studies and sequence them more logically in relation to tonality than previous editions.The editor has left out some studies he found to be less important in technical development. Aiqouni also added fingerings and bowings to allow the student to have greater understanding of what they are being asked to play in each piece. This book does not contain any studies with more than three flats or sharps.

Some teachers use this book as a supplement to Suzuki repertoire to assist in helping students read more efficiently.

Book 2 is also edited by K. H. Aiqouni. This volume is strategically divided into four sections. Section I has exercises only in third position. (This is quite challenging as it moves back and forth between open strings and third position.) Many studies will try to shift back down to first position any time they see the open strings. Section II has exercises in first and third positions where the shifting is on open strings. These are very fun to play and give good practice shifting. Section III shifts between first and third positions without using open strings for shifts. These are, of course, more difficult and involve a variety of bowings and key signatures. Section IV has three studies in first, second and third positions.

Book 2 is missing shifting to fifth position. You may need to introduce "Introducing the Positions" or similar texts to get the student moving up the fifth position.



PostHeaderIcon January 26, 2011 - Rieding Concerto Op. 24

The Rieding concerto for violin can be found in Barbara Barber's Solos for Young Violinists Volume 2.The piece is virtuosic and melodic

In the piece, the following techniques can be found:

  • First, third and fifith positions - Throughout the piece, there are shifts between first, third and fifth positions including fifth position on the A string.
  • Harmonics - There are extended 4th fingers on the A and E strings and even shifts up to that harmonic. In measure 130 and 131, there are fingered harmonics in the first position. This may be the first time the student has encountered harmonics notated in this style.
  • Repeated down bow stroke - In measures 70-72, there are repeated down bow strokes that have to be executed correctly and in the proper part of the bow in order for the notes to have the dramatic effect intended.
  • Bariolage - in m. 35, there is scalar movement up on the E string alternating with open a string. This portion should be taken apart and played with just the ascending scalar motion. The motion of the fingers of the right hand should also be practiced. Once both of these have been addressed, they can be put together.
  • Slurred string crossings - From the very beginning, this piece has slurs across string in quarter, eighth, sixteenth notes and various other rhythms.
  • Octave leaps - In measures 55 through 59, the composer introduces a melodic element that requires the player to use the octave hand frame. This can be difficult for young players to master, especially in third position. Later in the piece, this octave leap is also found in fifth positino.
  • Arpeggiated chords - In measure 132, there is a difficult progression of arpeggiated chords. The bow motion should be played with open strings to get a pump motion in the elbow and a flexible wrist with the bow hand.
  • Slurs across the down beat - At the beginning, there are several places where the bow is slurred across the bar line. This can be difficult for inexperienced players and may take some work to perfect. Changing an etude to have this may be beneficial.

Helpful etudes for this piece may be:

  • Introducing the Positions (Whistler) #172 and #173 for practice shifting between these positions.
  • Kayser #10 for the arpeggiated chords.
  • If students are familiar with Suzuki repertoire, you may also have them do a bariolage Perpetual Motion.
  • The repeated down bow string can be done with various pieces or even on scales to get the proper motion of the bow and to get the student using the proper part of the bow for this lift.

PostHeaderIcon January 25, 2011 - Wedding Music for Quartets and Duos

I have several wedding gigs booked over the next few months. Being that I live in a town where people go to have destination weddings, I had better get my wedding music chops in order. My favorite collections are listed here:

  • Weddings for Two - arranged by Lynne Latham This collection has a large number of pieces and can be played with two instruments of any kind (such as two cellos, two violins, two violas, or any combination thereof.) I have purchased the Violin I book as well as second part for violin, viola, and cello so I can play with any instrumentalist I can find for a particular date. I do not like the Pachelbel's Canon in these editions. It is quite comical for a cellist to look at the Pachelbel part written in these books. The Shubert Ave Maria part is in tenor clef (unnecessarily) for cello. Both the Bach-Gounod and Schubert Ave Maria settings have the melody in the second part, so make sure you have a strong player on these. If your violist can read treble clef, there is no need to get the viola book; they can just play off of the violin II part. It stays on the G, D, and A strings. You should get some bowings and fingerings in these parts before playing them.

  • Wedding Music for String Quartet - arranged by Cleo Aufderhaar - Southern Music Company This collection of quartet music is very nicely arranged. I have played them at gigs before and they always seem to run smoothly even with few rehearsals. The parts are not like the wedding duet book. All four parts should be present. There is no mix-and-match, however, the melody stays primarily in the first violin. Cello and viola parts seem to be quite accessible. Second violin parts generally have the undulating parts that are present in the Ave Maria settings by Bach-Gounod and Schubert, so make sure that player is a strong one. These pieces are generally longer than other arrangements I have seen.

  • More Wedding Music for String Quartet - arranged by Cleo Aufderhaar - Southern Music Company This contains even more classic wedding tunes for quartets. I recommend putting both of these in your quartet album and running them a bit before just to check for roadmap and tricky key signature issues. Beware of Mediation from Thais if your first violinist isn't a good solo player. This piece is not sight readable.
  • Wedding Collection for String Quartet from Virtual Sheet Music This collection has many great pieces, however, the parts are much more difficult than other albums I have seen. They would need to be rehearsed, but would be much less boring for an advanced quartet. The drawback is that you have to print the music out. There is an option of having third violin or viola, so that might be of benefit to some who have difficulty finding violists.
  • Pachelbel Canon from Virtual Sheet Music This is a great arrangement. I think the viola part is a bit too challenging for most intermediate players. It has treble clef and some shifting. It would take somebody who knew what they were doing to pull this one off, but the parts don't have notes that go below the instruments range some free version I have seen of this piece.

PostHeaderIcon January 24, 2011 - Kayser Etude #34

In studying Kayser Etude Number 30 (International Music Company No. 3078) the left hand moves in octaves and the right hand does repeated string crossings with slurs.

Initially, the upper octave can be left out and the etude played in first position to isolate the melody in the players' ear. Next, small sections should be tackled. I like to do one measure at a time, working through a variety of techniques. I practiced shifting with the first finger and keeping the hand frame on the upper string with 2, 3, and 4 sliding smoothly up and down (while only bowing the lower string). The left elbow has to come around the violin to allow the higher positions on the G string to be reached efficiently. Once this can be done, do the same while only bowing the upper note. Finally, play double stops. Octaves should be played first as double stops, but they can also be played with separate bowing if desired to double check tuning.

Slurs should only be added after the hand can move up and down in octaves on the finger board. Bowing should be isolated by itself on open strings to create smoothly crossed strings. the right hand must use finger motion to allow for all sides of the string to be crossed.

You can look to the Internet Music Library Project to find a Schirmer edition of the 36 Studies by Kayser. This etude is number 36 in the Schirmer Edition.


PostHeaderIcon January 23, 2011 - Kayser Etude #30

In studying Kayser Etude Number 30 (International Music Company No. 3078) the bow hand and the left hand must work together to create a "spun" effect. Slurs of 18 notes are difficult in the beginning, so you may practice with slurring only three notes, then six, then nine, etc. There are two different kinds of left hand patterns. The first is trips with upper neighbors that return to the original note. The second is the arpeggiation that moves up and down on different chords.

The triplets with upper neighbor tones should be practiced only playing the first of each of the three to isolate the melodic pattern. Then each triplet group can be played with "grace notes" using the upper neighbor and returning to the original note. Finally, even triplets the place an emphasis on the first note of the three will allow the passage to flow, revealing the melodic line.

The arpeggio section requires a more analysis to isolate the melodic structure. The middle note of each group of three can be left out to find the notes that trace the melodic line. It becomes a sort "jig" feel if you play it in the fashion. Eventually, the middle notes should be added back in and practiced with floating fermatas to solidify notes. Adding three note slurs should then be done, eventually to six note slurs, etc. I find this section to be very tricky both for the left and right hands.

You can look to the Internet Music Library Project to find a Schirmer edition of the 36 Studies by Kayser.


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