Vol 1

Minuet No. 2 by J.S. Bach

Minuet No. 2 is from J.S. Bach’s Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, BWV Anh.116 – for keyboard. This piece is a real step up in musical and technical progress at this stage of a student’s playing. The three Bach minuets in Volume 1 are the beginning of the (mostly) G major journey that leads through Volume 2.

Beginning-the-Journey

Minuet No. 2 has a repeating motif with a G major arpeggio. The original version, written for clavier, has a simple fugue-like melody in the bass, which Suzuki arranged for the violin duet.

Bowing and study points

Read More →

Read More →

Andantino – Walking in the Park

Andantino is an undemanding and amicable piece, a gift from Suzuki to young violinists who’ve worked hard to learn and play the more challenging Allegretto. Walk-in-the-ParkThe title is particularly apt: whereas andante indicates a walking pace, Suzuki’s Andantino is a little walk in the park. It’s a pleasant stroll with a breezy third phrase for some exuberant singing among the flowers.

Why did Suzuki deliberately place Andantino after Allegretto in the repertoire? If each new piece was predictably more difficult, progress would be less interesting. I suspect Suzuki arranged the order of pieces with this in mind. He knew that a greater sense of achievement and growth would result from occasionally putting an easier piece after a challenging one. Insightful observations of children gave him an uncanny understanding of the child mind. Leaps are inspiring. “Teacher, I learned two songs this week!”

This idea reminds me of the time friends and I helped put up a building for our little local school. We all chipped in to buy an old wooden hall, which we were to transport, erect and refurbish on the school grounds. The large hall had to be mounted on stumps in the ground, so our first job was to dig 50 or so holes. Being summer, the earth was particularly hard, so we were forced to use long heavy crowbars to break up the dry clay soil. It was tough going, despite our digging workforce of half a dozen men. We hoped to get the holes dug in the morning before the afternoon heat made heavy labour unbearable… Read More →

Read More →

Happy Farmer, Frölicher Landmann

Happy Farmer (called Merry Peasant when I played it on the piano as a child) comes from The Album for the Young, composed by Robert Schumann for his children – he and Clara had three girls and four boys. Frölicher Landmann was part of a birthday present for 7 year old Marie, their eldest daughter. I love the original German name. It looks like Frolicking Landman – a more colourful translation than Happy Farmer and the rest! Spring-flowersIt is a popular piece with Suzuki violinists. featuring an important new bowing pattern with a dotted rhythm , referred to as the “hook stroke” in some violin technique books. The “crook stroke” perhaps?

The Bowing

Happy Farmer begins – kicks off, you might say – with the new bowing pattern, which occurs six times in all, defining its energetic character. Some students find it easier to learn it first on the open D string, but I usually teach the notes right from the start. Read More →

Read More →

How To Teach O Come Little Children

O Come Little Children has origins as a Christmas hymn. The main study points to teach are the upbows at the start of phrases and the smooth and shapely legato bowing of the melody itself. Isabel

Bowing

Even very young students will learn the bowing of O Come Little Children just bowing along on open E string with the others at group class. They can also practise the bowing on open strings at home before learning the notes. They may want to start the first upbow from the upper half of the bow, but teach them how to begin in the middle. Then they can play the quavers/eighth notes at both ends of the bow.

Because the phrases begin and end with an upbow, students must obviously play two upbows consecutively. Finishing one phrase to begin another, the bow should just quietly stop the bow in the middle, pausing for the quaver rest before starting the new phrase with another upbow. The last note of the phrase must be nicely shaped – not too short, loud or abrupt. To end the phrase giving full value to the crotchet/quarter note, ask students to play this last note with a slower bow.

If a student really has trouble remembering the upbows, (especially for the final phrase – on F#) – take turns playing, i.e. teacher plays phrase No. 1, student plays phrase No. 2, teacher phrase No. 3, student phrase No. 4. Do this a few times, then swap over – student plays phrase No. 1 etc. All the upbow beginnings should then be correct when they play the whole piece themselves.

O Come Little Children

Left Hand

This song is in the easy part of Book 1, where melodies can be learned and memorized quickly – up to one or two a week. Keep the focus for left hand on reinforcing the basics – straight thumb, straight wrist, accurate finger positions, 4th finger hovering nicely over the fingerboard etc. Things can easily change from week to week – not always for the best! Read More →

Read More →

How To Teach Aunt Rhody

This simple folk song is the perfect piece for working on longer bows with smooth legato connections and for learning about musical phrases.Violin Player

Bowing

As a general principle of teaching and learning, isolating and working with a single skill brings about the best results. This works especially well if a section or technique appears difficult to play, or if one particular aspect of playing needs improvement. If a part within in a piece is hard to play, first identify the actual skill. Is it a string crossing? An unusual stretch? A tricky shift? Which notes does it occur on?

Design a short circular exercise to practise the bare essential skill, e.g. playing on an open string if a rhythm needs correcting (Witches Dance), or playing an awkward slurred run with separate bows (Gossec Gavotte last section).

Aunt Rhody is a great piece for working on tone production, so with this principle in mind, ask students to play the rhythm of the piece on open A string with the recording – before learning the notes. Focus on a pure resonant sound, with relaxed straight bows in the good tone zone near the bridge. Teach students to start from the lower bow marker, using longer bows – almost to the tip – on the longer notes (crotchets/quarter notes).

In this piece, shorter notes (quavers/eighth notes) are played in the upper quarter of the bow, but don’t get too pedantic about exact bow divisions. Keep the student’s focus on good tone and shape.

Bow strokes for Aunt Rhody

Bow strokes for Aunt Rhody

Left Handleft-hand

The fingering is relatively easy, using the same range of notes as Twinkle and Lightly Row. Check that 1st finger is kept down on B in bar 2 whilst playing C# and 2nd is kept down in bars 5 and 7 whilst playing D.

The easy fingering makes it possible to listen carefully to each note. Are they exactly in tune? Even very young players can learn to place fingers accurately without requiring adjustment. Laugh in a friendly way when they play a note slightly out of tune and they will enjoy the joke – and play it accurately next time.  Read More →

Read More →

How to Teach Perpetual Motion

Suzuki’s Perpetual Motion in Volume 1 is a play on a genre of compositions written for virtuosic performance – the Moto Perpetuo (in Italian), music that has a long flow of rapid notes, for example Rimsky-Kosakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee and Paganini’s Moto Perpetuo for violin. My favourite recording of Moto Perpetuo is by Gil Shaham, but you should watch Yehudi Menuhin play it 0n Youtube. It is the essence of old world restraint and violin mastery.

Suzuki’s PM is popular with young players – it’s a lot of fun to play, especially the ‘doubles’ section. Playing it together in a larger group, I love watching the faces of the younger players light up as we hit the semiquavers (sixteenth notes). Once again, Dr Suzuki has come up with music that teaches technique in an enjoyable way.

What are the key points of this piece? Let’s look at two main areas: bowing and left hand.

Bowing

Perpetual Motion requires shorter detached bows, similar to Song of the Wind. In the lesson or studying it at home it is a good idea to play earlier pieces that have similar bow strokes. It will be easier to achieve if students have learned the stopped bows in Song of the Wind and the first two Twinkle variations correctly from the start.

The tempo is quicker in this piece, so it is best to practise the strokes on open A string at a slower tempo, gradually increasing the tempo until it can be played with the recording. This may take more than one session, especially with younger students, Give each stroke a crisp beginning and taking care not to press the bow at the end of the stroke. Aim to create a short resonant tone, leaving the bow on the string after each stroke.

Because this type of bow stroke is so important, it is well worth patiently persisting with. Even very young players can achieve a nice stopped bow without sounding too squeaky. Is this your experience? I’d be interested to hear how you are going with it.

Left Hand

As a rule of thumb, we leave fingers down in the ascending passages, but in bar 2, when placing 4th on E, lift 3rd finger to prepare for the C#.

Perpetual Motion excerpt

 

Read More →

Read More →

Allegretto, Elvis and G major

Did Elvis Presley learn from Suzuki? I really don’t think so, but Allegretto is strangely reminiscent of  Elvis’s Wooden Heart.Elvis PresleyDr Suzuki Elvis didn’t play the violin (and he didn’t actually write Wooden Heart), but apparently he could sing a bit. Suzuki, on the other hand, wrote Allegretto as a fun piece to teach children how to play on D string. And there’s even a couple of notes on the G string. It’s a bouncy, friendly piece that’s enjoyable to play – it’s got rhythm. The thing is, after the rush of learning a song or two a week in early Book 1 – Lightly Row to Perpetual Motion – here’s a piece that takes a little more work to master.

The first thing to do is to play Twinkle on D and A strings (also G and D), to get the feel of D string level and to make it speak clearly. Also, in the weeks before starting Allegretto, play the rhythm of the piece along with the recording on open D string. Memorize it in short segments – as little as three notes at a time.

Study Point 1 – Bowing

Stop the bow on the accented crotchets (quarter notes), listening for the underlying beat of two minims (half notes) in the bar. The first beat is on the accented F#. The three-note rhythm defines the bowing style of the piece. You can think of it as Twinkle Rhythm Three in reverse. Sound out the accents with a quick longer bow.

1. Time signature – 2 minims, sometimes known as ‘cut common’.

2. Accented notes on the beat.

Allegretto excerpt

Study Point 2 – Left hand

Read More →

Read More →

Song of the Wind

John helps Ellie set up good violin posture before her solo.

Setting up good violin posture

Song of the Wind is a happy folk song that teaches quick stopped bows, retakes and a basic fingering principle – all important techniques for students at this stage of their violin journey. The bow strokes are short and detached – all clearly separate, creating a cheerful bouncy effect.

It’s not easy for young beginners at this stage to make each stroke separate at the CD tempo, so bring it up to speed whilst working on later pieces.

Go Tell Aunt Rhody and O Come Little Children are easier to play at the right tempo, partly because they have smoother bow changes.

Practise the detached bow strokes on open A string. Release the pressure on the bow after each stroke for a resonant tone.

The Key Study Points

  • Bowing – short stopped bows, separated to make each note distinct.
  • Fingering in bar 1 – keep 1st and 2nd fingers down as you ascend B, C#, D. Lift fingers off to play E in bar 2.
  • Fingering in bar 3 – keep 1st finger down on E string (F#); lift up 3rd finger to hop over from D to A, don’t roll or slide – hop quickly and cleanly.
  • Circle retakes – in bar 4 – play E, stop, lift the arm and bow in a circular retake to carefully place the bow at the lower marker. The next note (F#) is a downbow. Bar 10 – make another quick retake after E. This time there’s no rest. The first note, E, in bar 11 is a downbow. At the end of the song, make another retake for the repeat.

4 Tips for good retake technique Read More →

Read More →

Lightly Row

Lightly rowing down the river

Congratulations!! If completing the Twinkle variations feels like a monumental achievement for beginners, then moving on to Lightly Row produces the excitement of progress. The purpose of this piece is to extend the bowing and fingering skills with new note steps and combinations.

Bowing

Every day beginners will have already practised the rhythm and bowing without fingers on open A or E string in their morning playthrough with the recording. Focus on producing a clean resonant tone, using the same amount of bow as in the Twinkle theme. At first these can be smoothly connected bows, then separate them a little – to give each note its own voice.

Bows and fingers together

Lightly Row begins with a downbow on E, then two bows on C# on A string. This means a quick and careful crossing to A string in the upper part of the bow. Keep the right elbow low and relaxed.

Before playing, get into basic posture with 2nd finger ready above C#. Now play the first E and stop. Quickly place C#. Then silently cross to A string. Play the two C#s.

Leaving your 2nd finger down on C#, place 3rd on D and play. Now place 1st on B, lift other fingers together and play the two Bs.

Keep fingers down when ascending A, B, C# and D. Lift them off to play E, E, E. Make a habit of leaving down lower fingers when placing higher ones. This helps fingers become consistently accurate and secure.

Bars 7 and 8 need careful repetition with clean string changes. A C# E E C# C# C# – this small section requires more repetitions, mainly because of the string crossings. Practise slowly, starting with an upbow or downbow.

Lightly Row bars 7 and 8

Lightly Row bars 7 and 8

Musical expression

Lightly Row has four phrases – each four bars long. The best way to teach how to play them musically is to sing the melody, taking a breath at the beginning of each phrase. Play the phrases in the same way, keeping the melody flowing without breaks to the end of the phrase. When playing, take real breaths as if singing.

The 3rd phrase is a good opportunity to introduce a crescendo, as the melody rises from the repeated Bs to D.

Video

There’s a video of this piece, played slowly – on the video page.

Thanks for your interest in Teach Suzuki Violin! Please make a comment or send me a question, or if you want advice about any piece in the Suzuki repertoire, I’ll be only too happy to help.

Cheers, John

Read More →

How does Twinkle Twinkle make little stars?

Suzuki violinists at the Budokan in Tokyo

Suzuki violinists at the Budokan in Tokyo

I first heard a recording of Suzuki’s Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star variations about 37 years ago – on cassette tape, performed by Dr Suzuki. Now there are at least six recordings of Suzuki’s violin repertoire by well-known violinists of later generations.

What makes this iconic melody so valuable for violin beginners?

It’s a great starting point, enabling beginners to master five basic rhythms and the essentials of finger-bow coordination in one simple piece. Its mass appeal as an easy way in to playing violin is well founded. Over 33 or so years of teaching, I’ve played and taught the Twinkle variations and theme to enthusiastic young children and their parents on thousands of occasions. During our years in Japan, we heard it played in unison by several thousand young violinists at the beginning of the annual Suzuki graduation concerts in Tokyo. The melody and rhythms of the Twinkle variations are a kind of elemental choreography for violin beginners.

What we all know as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is actually the English adaption of a French children’s song, “Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman”  (“Shall I tell you, Mother?”) from the 1760s. Mozart wrote a dazzling set of piano variations based on the melody. Suzuki’s use of it as the first piece in his method – to teach the basics of fingering and bowing – reflected his profound understanding of how very young children learn.

How to learn Twinkle

Read More →

Read More →

Top

Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software