In Search of Beautiful Music Scores

Some time ago I told the story of coming across a lovely edition of J.S. Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor in the back room of a little music shop during a visit to Spain. Immediately attracted by the quality and clarity of the score, I noticed that the bowing, fingering and phrasing slurs coincided pleasingly with my own ideas. It was a a work of real beauty and made reading a delight.

Casa Beethoven

In the Hand of the Composer

Some original music written by hand – known as autographs – are works of great artistic beauty. J.S. Bach’s are a great example. Others, like Beethoven’s manuscripts, are almost indecipherable, littered with numerous revisions and corrections, which nonetheless provide music scholars with fascinating insights into the mind of the composer. In either case however, you wouldn’t want to play from them any more than you’d want to read from an author’s notebook.

J.S. Bach autograph

J.S. Bach autograph

Beethoven Ode to Joy

Yes, it’s from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ode to Joy (Symphony No. 9)

Musical scores are a musician’s primary source of study materials. The language-like symbols are recognized in most parts of the world. With a bit of experience, it’s possible to read them mentally like a book, hearing the music inside your head.

Always in search of beautiful music scores during many years of playing and teaching violin, I’ve accumulated a mountain of printed music, rivaling my ex-professor’s friend’s vast book library, except – in contrast to his neatly ordered bookshelves – my scores languish largely uncategorized in boxes.

In truth I’ve collected more scores than I could ever use. They dutifully accompanied us each time we moved house, yet all of them could easily be stored on my laptop computer’s hard drive – or in the cloud. In fact a great deal of them are already there.

Digital Scores

Digital scores are very useful for teaching and travel, and my case, are somewhat easier to find. You can quickly email a piece to a student, print off a dozen or so copies for an upcoming concert and take the music you’re studying on holiday without lugging around great sheaves of paper. You can safely keep copies at home and if you dare, on a cloud server.

Admittedly, as with digital books, the screen lacks the allure of paper manuscripts and I haven’t yet had the heart to throw out any into the garden compost. They are like old friends with whom I’ve had long and deep conversations.

On the positive side, digital scores have the potential to save trees and physical storage space. (Actually, I wonder if they really do save trees, considering how easy it is to print off those extra copies.)

The fine art of music publishing still retains some of the traditional practices originating in the 16th century, when scores were engraved by hand on metal plates for printing. With the arrival of software programs such as Sibelius and Finale, the old ways began to decline and it became possible to create and print good looking scores from the computer – and hear the results without having to book an orchestra to test out your latest masterpiece.Finale

Sibelius

Understandably, a fair amount of skill is involved. Mastering these complex programs requires an experienced musician’s knowledge of notation and a relatively long lead time to acquire sufficient fluency in setting out and shaping the music into a good looking score. Thereafter it’s relatively easy to customize the music with elements such as fingerings, bowing, slurs and other directions.

I’ve enjoyed working with Finale for a couple of decades or so and the scores available on the Resources page were created with this program – which brings me to an important announcement.

Launching the Teach Suzuki Violin Store

In appreciation of the interest and support we’ve received from members and visitors to Teach Suzuki Violin, we are launching a new online store for scores and other violin study resources. Many are free and some special editions can be purchased at a low cost to download.

The Teach Suzuki Violin Store is at this link: https://teachsuzukiviolinstore.com or click on the image below.

Teach Suzuki Violin Store

Talking about Scores

While there are universally accepted standards and conventions for good musical scores, the hallmarks of beautiful scores, like those of great musical performances, are to some extent in the eyes (or ears) of discerning beholders. The quality of beauty is easier to recognize than to define or explain!

The Features of Good Scores

Clarity and Readability – good scores have clean, intelligent layouts that make reading easier, with sufficient spacing, uncrowded measures and musically logical pages.

Form and Style – the typeface and symbols (especially noteheads) are shapely, elegant and the right size.

Interpretation – the slurs and expressions clearly communicate musical (and bowing) shapes, dynamics, tone colours and dramatic elements.

Accuracy and authenticity – the score faithfully follows the composer’s original scores, edits and intentions. (Unless you can communicate directly with the composer, this is not always easy to determine. The musical world is rife, often hilariously so, with controversies and questions of who, what, when and most notoriously, authenticity. Did Anna Magdalena write Bach’s cello suites?)

Standards – the score uses universally recognised syntax, symbols, layout.

Consistency – the score consistently maintains symbols and conventions throughout, such as order of articulations and fingerings.

Please take a moment to visit the Teach Suzuki Violin Store. We’d love to get your first impressions and hear suggestions for improvements. Go to the Contacts page to send your message.

Cheers,

John

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Good Beginnings – Getting things right from the start

A good beginning is everything. Getting things right from the start is what good beginnings are all about.” We often hear these words, but what do they really mean in practice?

group class

If you think about it, good beginnings never really end, because each new skill we begin learning at any point in our progress needs to be correct. In other words, it needs to take us where we want to go, musically speaking.

Nonetheless, the beginning stages are particularly susceptible for creating patterns, expectations and ways of learning which develop and retain their own momentum. Ideally, they can set up a student on a permanent wave of genuine forward motion.

1. Listening

First of all, parent and student need to become familiar with the music from recordings, treating it as a type of language that needs to be internalized from daily repeated listening – before starting lessons.

Quite naturally, handling the beautiful little violin itself is an irresistible attraction in the beginning, so it should arrive not too long before lessons commence. The child has seen the other young players and heard the siren song of the violin’s alluring voice. Now, holding their heart’s desire, they want to play too, and will try to imitate them – teaching themselves.

Volume 1 Suzuki violin

2. Watching

Second, it means observing classes during the lead up to first lessons, creating healthy expectations of how to participate, contribute and work with others in the studio and the group.

From good beginnings students can get the idea of how to make quick progress, what constitutes a normal practice routine, and that performing in public is natural and enjoyable.

observing classes

3. Parents take the lead

And third, it means there’s a parent who learns, practises and establishes the basic skills ahead of their child to gain expertise for home practice. I devote the first 10 or 15 minutes of the weekly lesson to them during the early stages, and their studies continue until the Twinkles variations and theme are mastered.

parents

Getting the basic skills right from the beginning

Learning the violin playing skills correctly at the start is vital for maintaining unlimited progress and avoiding laborious remedial work, but it doesn’t mean holding things up until each skill is deemed absolutely perfect.

In addition to detailed observation, teachers determine if a beginner’s basics are right by quickly checking them in the lesson before moving on to new material. The parent must carry this on at home since practically all practice is done out of the teacher’s presence.

Correctly learned skills grow into beautiful abilities, through home practice.

We learn a lot from our mistakes, yet it would be a mistake to turn it into a learning system. Getting things right from the beginning can itself become a habit. I realised this rather surprising fact while assessing a large number of individual pre-graduation performances, where irrespective of level, some players always made similar little stumbles. Not only did they expect and anticipate them, these little mistakes had become a habit.

I also noticed that one or two students had acquired a habit of playing with no stumbles at all. Clearly, I surmised, there was reason to assume no-mistake playing could just as easily become habitual. Although the idea was initially met with skepticism, a few months of experimentation and focus proved it was true.

The Basic Skills

Despite the variety of opinions among teachers, players and violin schools about what is good technique and what is not, the fundamentals are universally recognised.

– a healthy, balanced stance (to allow free movement and relaxation while playing)
holding the violin comfortably on the shoulder, with the head turned along the violin, chin positioned correctly (to play without strain)
a bow hold with correct hand shape and placement of thumb and fingers (to enable exquisite control and flexibility)
correct movement of the bowing arm (for control, speed, relaxation, free use of whole bow)
good left hand shape, with straight wrist, correct thumb position – without tension in the space between thumb and palm (to facilitate quick accurate fingering, easy shifting, vibrato)
fingers over the fingerboard in optimum shape and position
basic bow strokes (e.g. detache, legato and staccato)
economical string crossing (for seamless melodies and phrases)

Accurate intonation

As every teacher who has ever taken on a student with intonation issues knows, learning to listen and play in tune from the beginning is crucial. Correcting ingrained poor intonation is hard work, despite being ultimately a labour of love.

I am continually fascinated by very young children’s ability to discern accurate pitch, although in view of their capacity to pick up the nuances and subtleties of spoken language, I shouldn’t be.

left hand

Lots of listening to great music, either live or recorded, does the trick. Children’s hearing sensitivity is truly awesome and not very difficult to cultivate for precise intonation. The trouble is that we can easily underestimate their capacity for playing in tune in view of their growing finger dexterity and the limitations of small violins. Fingers will soon follow their ear’s guidance if we draw attention to it right from the beginning.

Awareness of Good Tone

Along with intonation, distinguishing good tone comes with children’s natural language package. A simple question such as, “Is this a nice sound,” will usually draw forth surprisingly discerning opinions from a three year old.

And finally, it’s important to realise you can’t do everything at once and in the long run there are no short cuts. Learning and mastering skills in the right order, climbing the mountain one step at a time, enjoying the view from each level is the way.

Cheers,

John

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Violin Exercises, Etudes and Scales

Violin exercises, études and scales: are they valuable or necessary? And who are they for, after all? Considering their widespread use the answers might seem obvious, yet many student violinists feel they are just an obstacle to overcome on the way to their heart’s desire – the music.

Exercise

Photo courtesy of Dominik QN

For the Love of Scales

When the subject of scales arose in a music curriculum meeting I was attending, a university professor known for his strong views commented, “I’ve never yet seen scales played at a concert.” He was making a forceful point against the robotic playing of scales and exercises. His words contained a truth, but there’s another side to the story.

At least half of my own practice sessions as a young child at the piano consisted of scales, as indeed did my lessons. They were an inseparable element of the music examination system in which I was obliged to participate. Despite my ambivalence towards exams, I learned to appreciate the musical beauty in scales, and retained the same sense when I took up the violin.

The diatonic major scale arises from the deep natural harmonic structure of sound described by the circle of fifths. In a way, each note ‘elects’ the next in the chain of fifths, creating the 7 golden steps we know so well, and the 12 tones of the chromatic scale.

Fifths have a special resonance for string players, if you’ll pardon the pun. I remember the moment of epiphany when the architecture of the diatonic key system appeared before me in radiant visual simplicity on the violin fingerboard in the perfect fifths between the strings. The circle of fifths was under our fingers (and noses) all along!

In contrast to pianists, the first scale for Suzuki violin students is A major, which – along with D and G major – is one of the natural keys of the violin.

Unlike the white-note purity of C major on the piano, it may seem confusing to start with a scale that has three sharps. In my experience, young children take this in their stride, especially when you abandon finger names (A, A1, A2l A3 etc.) for notes on the fingerboard and use real note names instead (A, B, C#, D).

A practical knowledge of scales helps students understand basic musical elements such as sharps, flats, intervals and leading tones, and has benefits for reading and studying the music.

The Wide World of Exercises and Études

The Suzuki violinist’s introduction to the world of exercises is Shinichi Suzuki’s Étude in Volume 1. Do Étude’s medicinal virtues exceed its artistic qualities? As I’ve said elsewhere I rather like it, but I’m a teacher.

Sadly or perhaps inevitably, in many compositions designed to improve technique the musical side takes second place to the important task at hand. There are important exceptions, the most famous coming from Frederic Chopin’s treasure chest of sparkling piano jewels. His three sets of Études are musical wonders.

Just take a moment to listen to his most popular one, Op.10 No.3 in E Major.

Lang Lang

Valentina Lisitsa

Alessandro Deljavan

There are copious, abundant volumes and collections of violin studies, exercises and technique manuals available to today’s aspiring string instrumentalists. A short list includes works by Kreutzer, Ševčík, Keyser, Wohlfahrt, Dont, Doflein, Mazas, Beriot, Flesch, Singer, Dancla, Fiorillo, Rode, Galamian and Fischer, plus caprices from legendary violinists such as Wieniawski and Paganini – enough for several lifetimes of study.

Many of the best ones are suitable only for advanced students.

    

So which ones should you study? It’s a great question. Every teacher has an indispensable favourite or two or three, and you’ll likely delve into several at different times depending on the music you’re working on. Here’s Kurt Sassmannshaus’s list from violinmasterclass.com. Among my favourites is Simon Fischer’s Basics.

Free digital copies of some of these volumes are generously made available by violinsheetmusic.org and the Petrucci Music Library.

Kids’ Stuff

What about violin exercises for beginners and less advanced students? Much written for the early stages suffers from being too general, rudimentary or let’s face it, boring.

The pieces Suzuki wrote for Volume 1 – Allegro, Perpetual Motion, Andantino, Allegretto (and let’s allow Etude to slip in) – artfully combine technical and musical elements and demonstrate his masterful understanding of how violin skills should be sequentially built up and practised.

This is one of the great strengths of Suzuki’s work.

The repertoire he assembled is attractive and engaging for very young children and his compositions are an inspiring example for music teachers, to create interesting, imaginative and tuneful music that seamlessly combines technical and artistic qualities.

I don’t believe it’s necessary to labour through uninteresting violin calisthenics. In the same way young children learn to read easily from engaging stories, they’ll learn to play from well crafted music.

Suzuki showed us how to let great music become our exercise and make the study of the technique an inseparable part of our music making.

Sound advice.

Cheers,

John

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Violin Concerto in D Major, Mozart, 1st Movement (continued)

When he wrote the Violin Concerto in D Major, Mozart had been composing music for a decade and a half, already a mature, highly skilled composer-musician at 19 years old. At this point in his career he ls able to create strikingly original melodies and themes with fluent ease, simultaneously orchestrating the music imaginatively in his own inimitable style.

Joseph Joachim

Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim

Tragically, he died at 35, leaving more than 600 works, including many immortal treasures. Imagine if he’d lived to 75, like Joseph Joachim, who composed the best known cadenza for this concerto.

Here’s a few tips to help you study and memorise the 1st movement.

Make use of repeated melodies

Like most composers, Mozart uses repetition to establish and reinforce his melodies in the minds of the audience, and create a sense of the whole after only one performance.

Popular and folk music rely on exact repetitions of tunes, especially in verses and choruses, to establish musical identity, and although repetition is an important feature of classical music, musical ideas are also developed in variations and transformations of melodies and themes, often deliberately deviating from expected paths into interesting new territories.

This feature is helpful for musicians during the initial stages of learning to play the music. The repeating melodies in this movement of the concerto make it quicker to master and memorise – as long as we don’t mix them up.

Bars 57-65 and bars 145-153 are a good case in point. The repetition is identical except for the last two bars.

Here’s the first instance, beginning in measure 57:

Bars 57-65

And the second, from measure 145 showing the difference:

Bars 145-153

Mozart returns on several occasions to the same melodic idea from a different starting point, for example as in bars 86 to 97 and bars 180 t0 191, shown below.

Bars 86 to 97

Bars 180 t0 191

Although not exact repetitions, the similarity of these two segments makes memorising much easier.

Make use of significant notes

In two other sections, similarity make memorising more difficult! In these cases, it is better to remember key notes so that the others can flow on more spontaneously.

The first example begins in bar 126, where it helps to focus on the starting notes (circled in red). The second section follows on immediately from the first.

Bars 126 to 142

The Cadenza

At first reading the Joachim cadenza appears very difficult to play, but you’ll soon become aware of it’s profoundly violinistic qualities. Joachim’s imaginative creation reveals his mastery of the instrument and how well he knew this concerto. His virtuosity and familiarity with the music enabled him to weave Mozart’s melodies and themes together in a brilliant improvisational finale to the movement.

It hardly needs to be said that it’s best to memorise the cadenza in small segments, building it up phrase by phrase, rather than reading through over and over, hoping it will stick. Due to the fingering requirements of the double stops, most students find measures 225 to 230 more challenging. Similarly the double stops in measures 234, 235 and the following arpeggios in 236 to 238 take more time to master.

Here’s some great performances on Youtube with different cadenzas. Ji Young Lim plays the Joachim cadenza.

Ji Young Lim

Stephen Waarts

Ray Chen


Thanks for visiting Teach Suzuki Violin. We’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences with the Mozart D Major Violin Concerto!

Cheers,

John

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Peta’s piano accompaniment recording revolution

A few months ago I received an email about an exciting recording project from Peta van Drempt, a professional piano accompanist in Sydney, Interested to hear more about her plans, I caught up with her on Skype. She offered to send me some of her recordings to listen to, and I chose a few pieces at random from the Suzuki violin repertoire. They were excellent. Knowing that good accompaniment recordings are a real boon for students at any level, I’m pleased to support her work.

Peta van Drempt

Peta

Peta is working to create the world’s first comprehensive streamable catalogue of piano accompaniment recordings for violin – Peta’s Piano for Violin. She has been making high-quality recordings for hundreds of individual soloists and teachers since 2011 and has seen many performers experience greater joy and satisfaction in their music after using the recordings to prepare their pieces. Her dream is to create a resource that any teacher or performer can turn to to find the accompaniment recordings they need to help them prepare themselves or their students for that first rehearsal with a live accompanist, freeing them up to spend those precious sessions on honing the higher-level ensemble skills that are so crucial to giving a great performance.

There’s an opportunity for teachers and others to support this project by joining the Kickstarter campaign and pre-book a subscription to the service at a substantial discount.

(Disclosure: I have no financial interest in Peta’s project and will receive no payments of any kind.)

The recordings will be of outstanding quality, performed by some of Australia’s best concert pianists and accompanists in a state-of-the-art studio in the Blue Mountains. The tracks will be available at different tempos for rehearsal purposes and can be streamed 24/7 straight into the studio, home or concert hall. Teachers will be able to easily share the recordings via an app with their students so they can access them at home without having to purchase the tracks themselves, making it much more likely they’ll actually use the recordings to practice (no more needing to email mp3s, burn and send out CDs that get lost in backpacks, etc.).

Peta is offering Early Bird Lifetime packages for teachers exclusively during the Kickstarter campaign. These will give teachers and their whole studio of students access to the full catalogue of recordings FOREVER, as it grows from the beginner level through to the intermediate and advanced levels over time. These are only available during the campaign as a way of thanking the early supporters who help the project get off the ground.

Here’s the links:

http://kck.st/2oCcove (The Kickstarter Campaign)

http://www.petaspianoforviolin.com/ (Peta’s Piano website)

Cheers,

John

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We’re back!

Welcome back to Teach Suzuki Violin and thank you for your patience. The two days offline seemed like an eternity. The technical issue has been fixed. Thanks, Aaron, you’re a genius! (Even if you are my son…)

Cheers,

John

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Violin Concerto in D Major by Mozart, 1st Movement

During a lesson on the Mozart D Major concerto a senior student asked, “What stage of the Suzuki violin program does this concerto represent?” Perhaps because it’s the 10th and last of the regular Suzuki volumes, she was surprised at the reply. “Äbout half way.”

Young Wolfgang

The intention of the little joke was to try to gently undo her concepts of musical stages and destinations. A great delight of music and indeed of all of the arts, is its limitless quality. There’s always more musical wonders to discover and create. No final destination – and in truth, no half way point.

Beyond questions of stages and levels with this concerto, students experience the revelation of conversing with Mozart through playing his music. Learning the two Mozart concertos in Volumes 9 and 10 transforms everything you know and feel about violin music and it makes you want to listen to and play his creations for the rest of your life.

In his autobiographical book, Nurtured by Love, Suzuki describes losing feeling in his arms during a performance of  Mozart’s music. I can understand why. On several occasions I’ve experienced electric waves of astonishment at the creative imagination of Mozart’s melodies. Why does his music sound so unpredictable, right and lovely?

Violin Concerto in D Major by Mozart, 1st Movement

Mozart wrote the D major concerto K.218 when he was 19 years old, already a mature composer (and beyond half way!). Amazingly, he composed K. 211, 216, 218 and 219 within a few months, between June and December 1775, revising them a few years later for his friend, violinist Antonio Brunetti.

A Few General Study Points

Before learning the concerto it’s valuable to listen to a variety of performances to help form your own ideas about the music. Unlike the other 8 Suzuki books, there’s no set recordings for the two Mozart concertos, but there are lots to choose from.

So many fine performances are available that it’s hard to find ones to recommend over the others. You may find it beneficial to work with several different recordings, choosing particular qualities in each one that attract you. Just remember that at this stage we are using the cadenzas written by Joseph Joachim.

There are some epic performances on Youtube, if you can ignore the pesky ads! I’ve included a few at the end of this post – the performances, that is.

The first movement of the concerto revels in exuberant agility, springing with optimistic enthusiasm into a melodic line of energetic runs and leaps, flying above the support and balance of the orchestra. It all sounds so effortlessly spontaneous, unburdened by doubt or indecision, a wonder of creativity.

As with many concertos, the opening phrase is crucial in setting the tone, character and personality of the movement, establishing the key of D simply by repeating the key note and the triad.

This is technically uncomplicated, but make sure the upper A is nicely in tune – 4th finger, leaving 1st down on D.

As you go on to memorise the music, take time with this phrase to consider each note, slowly at first – the shape, weight, on or off the string, how it connects to the next note, what part of the bow to play it. This will give you valuable clues to the whole movement.

The fine details within phrases are as important as the whole. Like French and Japanese cooking (I’m a fan of both) where the ingredients’ freshness, maturity, size, taste, colour and even origin are all vital considerations to the meal experience. They come together in correct combinations, with perfect timing, the right temperatures, enticing aromas, attractive presentation, in an elegant setting and in good company.

The analogy is an apt one in so many ways. Each note in a phrase has its own shape, tone, colour, flavour and volume, combining in musically attractive ways. Sample the following video performances to see which suits your taste, contrasting styles and interpretations. Notice the bow divisions, for example. All of the violinists play the staccato quavers in measure 44 at the heel.

Trills

Because the trills arrive at places determined by musical considerations alone, Mozart of course gives no regard to whether they are technically easy to play or not.

There’s time enough to prepare the trill in bar 46, and where they arrive at the ends of phrases. The trills in measures 99 and 193, and in particular bar 142, are more challenging as they require faster preparation and shifting.

Practise at a slow tempo, but with quick movements. Place fingers into position quickly, ahead of time, starting each bow stroke with extra attack and bite.

Pitch

As we saw in Volume 9’s A Major Concerto K. 219, the melody ranges freely into the upper register more than most of the preceding pieces in the Suzuki repertoire. It takes time to become familiar and comfortable with the higher notes – and to hear and play them accurately and clearly.

 

 

To be continued…

Thanks for visiting!

Cheers,

John

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Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki

What kind of person was Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998), the famous Japanese violin teacher whose work revolutionized music education and lowered the age children begin learning music all over the world?

The attraction of a charismatic leader or teacher can trigger responses from followers, students and supporters that may, in reflection, seem embarrassingly naive, overly hopeful and blindly emotional. Adulation delivers influence, power and permission, and putting too much faith in leaders creates risks – and as history shows, the dangers of the pedestal can disastrously overbalance the benefits.

By contrast, truly great teachers empower and inspire their students by sharing their mastery, knowledge and vision freely, and serve without succumbing to the temptations and perks that follow their success and popularity. Expertise and integrity are inseparable qualities of their leadership.

What do we know about Shinichi Suzuki ?

Suzuki – the Teacher-Philosopher

In public, Suzuki was an outlier even in his own country, yet eventually recognised as a national treasure, a pedagogical phenomenon, and a philosopher of the stature of a Tolstoy or Thoreau. But what sort of person was he in everyday life?

Suzuki – Up close and personal

Personal accounts and anecdotes of westerners who studied with him are often mixed with the cultural exoticism of student life in rural Japan. Friends used to ask me, “Why did you go to study classical violin teaching in Japan of all places?” The stories I told of life at the Suzuki Institute were as much about the quirks and quaints of Japanese culture as about my studies with Suzuki.

Violin teacher and author Lois Shepheard brings us closer to both the man and the teacher in her memoir-biography, Memories of Dr Shinichi Suzuki.

A pioneering violinist-teacher in the Australian Suzuki scene, Lois uncovers some little known facts about the early years of Suzuki’s teaching as she recounts her time in Matsumoto. And foreigners who have lived in this fascinating and enigmatic country will recognise the curious and humorous experiences of being an alien in Japan.

Her account includes the difficulties his German-born wife, Waltraud, experienced living as a westerner in the complex cultural traditions of Japan. During the couple’s stay in a Tokyo hotel, the staff once refused to give her the key to their room because they couldn’t conceive of a foreigner being married to Suzuki, a Japanese.

Suzuki emerges as the kindly professor, unselfconsciously generous, unfailingly cheerful and funny, jocular, almost naively unworldly, an addicted smoker consumed in his work around the clock. There appears to have been little difference between his public and private persona, although Waltraud would surely have added ‘exasperating‘ to the list.

The recollections of Lois’s time at the Suzuki Institute and beyond provide readers with an authentic first hand account of the man behind the legend, with all the colour of her daily interactions with the Suzukis.

Lois Shepheard

Lois Shepheard

Unquestionably, knowing more about Suzuki helps us understand how to teach and learn better. His philosophy is delightfully contagious. As Lois and others explain, Suzuki built much more than a mere method.

Please follow this link if you wish to purchase the book: https://ipoz.biz/Titles/Suzuki.htm

(Disclosure: I have no financial interest in the sale or otherwise of this book.)

From the BBC: The musician who taught three-year-olds to master the violin

Thanks for visiting Teach Suzuki Violin!

Cheers,

John

Coming up next: Violin Concerto in D Major, K218 by WA Mozart – 1st Movement

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Fun and Games

Learning to play the violin well takes lots of hard work, but there are certain compensations. Due to the violin’s remarkable power to penetrate doors and walls of any material and thickness with its acoustic emanations, you can torment your family and neighbours with your practice for a few years, until the music starts to sound halfway acceptable – to yourself.

Zak having fun

Jokes aside, whether you are a player or a parent, surviving those early years requires a healthy mix of stamina, optimism and love. To keep at it, you need to experience progress and more crucially, maintain a resilient sense of humour about it all.

We all love a good laugh, even at our own expense. It’s a welcome antidote to the problems of the world and our struggles with musical perfectionism. We especially like humour that appears spontaneous, but as every comedian knows, the best wisecracks, well timed remarks and ad-lib jokes take lots of conscious practice to sound unrehearsed. For them, being funny is serious business.

For musicians, it is a necessary condition of our profession.

Fun and Games in the Classroom

Fun has an especially important place in teaching. In the most memorably enjoyable music lessons I’ve been privileged to watch, the teachers used humour to ingeniously transform work into play – literally.

What if you’re not the joker in the class? Is it possible to grow a good sense of humour, or is it one of those abilities some lucky people are just born with? Nature or nurture, gifted or learned? As a teacher who studied with Suzuki, you can probably guess my opinion.

Personally, I don’t consider myself naturally funny, (ridiculous, perhaps) and had to learn how to get a laugh. The best teachers are often children themselves, who are quick to catch a joke and eager to join in the fun and games.

Teaching with Games

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Two Teaching Tips from Twinklers

Music schools and studios owe much of their success to the expertise, work and vision of the teachers, but there is another source of creativity and growth that sometimes goes unrecognised. It comes from the students and parents themselves. The two teaching tips from twinklers I describe in this post originated from among the very youngest students in our violin school.

1. A new graduation level

This is how the first one happened.

At one of our violin school’s annual graduation concerts we noticed the longing gaze of a three year old student as the graduates came forward one by one to receive their certificates to the exuberant applause of the large audience.

Dressed beautifully like her fellow students, she had just played her piece, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, together with the group in the concert’s finale. She naturally expected to be called up to stage like the others. But it was not to be.

At each concert practically every student graduated from one or more levels, except those who hadn’t yet reached the first level – Gavotte by Gossec. It’s the final piece in Volume 1, which the youngest beginners often took the best part of a year or more to reach. Although Gavotte is a great goal to work for, it’s too distant to have much meaning for three year old players.

The benefits of celebrating achievements

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