Vol 5

Concerto in G Minor by Vivaldi, 3rd movement – Part 2

A music critic once said Vivaldi’s concertos all sound the same, an astounding opinion in view of the extraordinary breadth, depth and variety of this Italian Baroque composer’s music. From the same perspective you could see the French Impressionist artist Claude Monet’s paintings as all looking the same!


And just as it is easy to identify a Monet painting, Vivaldi’s music has a unique sound that we all recognise – and an unmistakable brightness, vivacity and exuberance.

Vivaldi enriched us all immeasurably, yet despite the quantity of celebrated music he wrote, the prestigious commissions and honours, he lived his final years in financial difficulty. Unfortunately this is not an unusual story for musicians, composers and teachers throughout history: Much of humanity’s great artistic achievements have been meagerly rewarded. Like many teachers today, Vivaldi was on a yearly contract, with his teacher’s position at Ospedale della Pietà depending on a vote of the Board – and yet the requirements of his job were considerable. Apart from the demands of teaching, he was required to compose an oratorio or concerto for every feast.

In this post, Part 2 of the Concerto in G Minor by Vivaldi, 3rd movement, we look at the study points for pages 2 and 3.

The Main Study Points

Intonation Quicksand!

Read More →

Read More →

Concerto in G Minor by Vivaldi, 3rd movement – Part 1

Concerto in G Minor by Vivaldi, 3rd movement in Volume 5 is an exciting point in the Suzuki violin repertoire, where for the first time students complete a whole concerto in one sitting. The three movements of Vivaldi’s A minor concerto, in contrast, are studied separately in Books 4 and 5, making them seem like separate pieces. The G minor concerto is classic violin wholefood – healthy traditional fare in three connecting courses.


Yet for some students, Volume 5 is a challenging book. Setting up our music school on return from Japan and the UK, we received a few queries from parents whose children had lost momentum and wanted to revitalise their playing. Some had stalled in Book 5 and were floundering on Vivaldi’s G Minor Concerto. “It’s too long and too hard,” they complained.

It is easy to see why some students get stuck here. The G Minor takes longer to learn, memorise and perfect than earlier pieces and has a number of passages that are more difficult to play nicely in tune. All in all, Book 5 requires a real up-step in playing, so if practice is irregular or patchy, there won’t be enough momentum to progress at the same rate as the earlier books.

The Big Picture

For many students, the key technical challenge of the 3rd movement is achieving accurate intonation, mainly on the second page from the solo, beginning at measure 79. The chief culprits are innocent looking A♭s and E♭s, which are not difficult or unusual notes in themselves, yet are harder to precisely pin down in some awkward places, as we shall see later.

The tempo is more demanding than the 1st movement of the concerto, particularly for the final solo (on the 3rd page). Make sure the piece is securely memorised before bringing it up to speed.

The Main Points

1. Positions and Shifting

Read More →

Read More →

J.S Bach’s Double Concerto in D Minor, Violin I – the Heart of Happiness

J.S. Bach’s Double Concerto in D Minor, revered and played by violinists around the world, is such an iconic piece it’s hard to do it justice in a short post. Just learning to play it is a joy and a privilege for any violinist. In this post I discuss the 1st violin part, from Suzuki Violin Volume 5.


In spite of the Bach Double’s popularity, practical advice about how to study it is relatively hard to find in written form. The truth is, it’s best to work on it with a live teacher – as with most things violin. We all need objective feedback, even the best of us.

The Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins sits at just the right place in the repertoire, well within the capability of students in Volumes 4 or 5, and since the 1st violin part contains a lot of material from the 2nd violin part, it takes less time to learn. In fact when both parts are memorised it’s easy to accidentally slip from one into the other, providing a good source of fun when teachers do it on purpose. See if your students notice!

J.S. Bach, the unsurpassed master of counterpoint and fugues wrote the opening part of first movement in a fugue-like form, using repeated melodies in other pitches and places. Like the Brandenburg Concertos, this music must have sprung from a very happy and fulfilling time in his life.

The Main Points

As with the 2nd violin part, a key point is still intonation: not just playing the right notes from the score, but making sure the right notes are in tune. First, you have to avoid hitting a wrong note in the jumble of accidentals (a common attribute of music in minor keys, for which I have added courtesy accidentals in the score), second, you must take the other violin part into consideration, tempering pitches carefully for the twin purposes of melody and harmony, and third, there are a few awkward passages to practise carefully for consistently good intonation.

Equally as important are accurate rhythms and note values – landing on the beat and experiencing, feeling the pulse of the music as you play. The music’s momentum depends on the seamless rhythmic interplay of the two violins, each playing their part with unhesitating energy.

Bow Division

Read More →

Read More →

How to Teach and Play Rameau Gavotte

In a previous post I mentioned how I’ve reassured students who are struggling to master a point by saying something like, “Real musicians are happy when they discover the hard parts in the piece of music they are learning to play.” There’s a bit of tongue in cheek when I say this because it’s not always true. I’m encouraging them to keep at the task, giving them heart to persist and improve their playing. I’ve been through it enough myself.


Musicians do love the challenge of learning to play something difficult, and the prime attraction is the music itself. I think we’d all agree that Bach’s monumental Chacconne, for example, is very difficult to play well and we are urged on by its beauty and magnificence to the challenge of mastering it.

This is such an important element of the Suzuki repertoire for young children – the allure of music they want to play and the satisfaction derived from the achievement of learning how to do it. Hearing the music performed – live or in a recording – sparks the fires of interest.

Rameau Gavotte (actually a pair of contrasting gavottes) from Volume 6 is one of these pieces: attractive in an 18th century diatonic way, with a nice balance of technical challenges to keep students moving upward in their skills. Jean-Philippe Rameau, a French composer similar in stature to Couperin and predecessor Lully, was a Suzuki type student long before Suzuki’s time: he learned music before he could read or write.

What are the main points and key skills in the Gavotte?

Upbow staccato is the primary bowing pattern Rameau uses to create the sprightly sanguine character of the music. The slower paced Gavotte No. 1 features evenly balanced upbow staccato strokes paired to longer bows of slurred quavers (8ths). Gavotte No. 2 moves into D minor and the pace quickens, with the introduction of triplets and descending runs of four upbow staccato notes. Students can prepare for the staccato by practising earlier pieces such as G major Long, Long Ago variation and Minuet in G, both in Volume 2, and there’s a PDF of upbow staccato exercises for download in Resources.

Point by Point

Read More →

Read More →

Gigue by Veracini – Part 2

Francesco Maria Veracini’s music appears twice in the Suzuki violin repertoire, the Gigue in Volume 5 and his E Minor Sonata in Volume 8, a real gem that reveals yet more evidence of his virtuosity on the violin and as a composer. Like other well known musicians of his time, Veracini travelled widely, to Venice, Dresden and even to London, often getting into trouble. In this post we look at the second part of the Gigue.

London-Óscar Montero

London Building – Photo by Óscar Montero

The Gigue by Veracini is enjoyable music to play and relatively easy to learn and memorise, yet like most pieces some parts require more study and practice, especially if they involve new or unfamiliar techniques. A couple of 3-note chords near the start of the second part fall into this category. They are not especially difficult, but unless they are completely reliable they can spoil the flow of the music.

Chord No. 1

After the piece is memorised, this delicious 7th chord in measure 22 usually stands out as the remaining skill for students to work on for another week or so. It looks simple on the page – and it is, essentially. The main challenge is getting your bearings on the fingerboard. Rather than starting this part in first position, many players prefer to lead off in second position, or at least shift up to play the preceding F♮s with 1st finger. In either case, I teach this chord in three steps.

Step 1. Practise shifting accurately from F♮ to F# with first finger. There’s no need to separate out the two notes from the melody line to work on the shift, just play from the start of the section, shift and stop after playing the F#. This step is the foundation skill. Even when the whole chord is played, focus on the accurate pitch of the F#.


Step 2. Add E♭. Play Step 1 and immediately add E♭ using 3rd finger, producing the interval of a diminished 7th. As you practise this step, incrementally reduce the time between playing F# and E♭’s arrival until you can play them simultaneously (making sure that F# is precisely in tune.)


Step 3. Add A. When Step 2 is 100% reliable, add A with 2nd finger. This is easier than it seems, since the three fingers are arranged in half steps – on adjacent strings. In my own case, 2nd finger sits rather tightly behind 2nd finger, enabling me to place these two fingers down together quickly and accurately, although players with slimmer fingers won’t have this advantage.

Eventually you’ll place all three fingers down at the same time, but make sure 1st finger stays in contact with the D string, sliding (very) lightly to F#. Then play the chord in two quick chunks: F#+E♭ → E♭+A.


Chord No. 2

Read More →

Read More →

Gigue by Veracini – Dancing in Threes and Fours, Part 1

With such a predominance of duple rhythms in popular music, it is a welcome relief to sometimes hear and play music in other metres. Great music written in triple metrical rhythms exhibits inherently different qualities of balance, energy and elegance in contrast to music set in the evenness and equilibrium of twos and fours. Suzuki Violin Volume 5’s Gigue by Veracini (1690 – 1768), written in 12/8, has four beats of three quavers (8th notes) in each measure, so we get a bit of both: skipping skittering triplets and foot-tapping even beats to steady the phrases.

Veracini’s music is violin friendly, attractive for both players and audience, so it comes as no surprise to hear that he was the preeminent violin virtuoso of his time. It is more curious, however, to discover that despite his significance and prowess as a performer and composer, he was considered an eccentric and capricious braggart by his musician contemporaries!


In the opening phrase Veracini prescribes the lively character of the piece and the style of bowing, featuring quick upbows that lift off the string to land on the same note, creating the energetic pulse and impetus of the melody line. Similarly, off the string upbow staccato occurs throughout the entire piece.

This is the key bowing point for practice.


Semiquaver Runs

Read More →

Read More →

Violin Sonata in F Major, Allegro, by Handel

What three famous composers were born in the same year, 1685?  When my three violinist friends and I heard this question at a quiz night, our hands shot up simultaneously, sparking the laughter of the other (non-musician) contestants. The answer of course, is Johann Sebastian Bach, Domenico Scarlatti and George Frideric Handel, the composer of the Violin Sonata in F Major HWV 370 in Suzuki’s Volume 6. As I say in the post about Handel’s Chorus, it was a particularly good year. I can’t imagine how music on earth would be without any one of them.


Handel is well known for his oratorios and operas and the abundance of his works for voice is hard to comprehend; 42 operas; 29 oratorios; over 120 cantatas, trios and duets: and then there’s hymns, arias, songs, anthems and much more! His instrumental music is also very extensive – a wealth of concertos, concerti grossi, orchestral works, solo and trio sonatas, and compositions for keyboard. Phew! How did he do it?

What I love about Handel’s music is its soaring tonal naturalness. The journeys his melodies take, the harmonic landscapes they travel through and the ultimate destinations they arrive at, all sound reassuringly complete. I suppose it is the peak of baroque common practice, the pinnacle of diatonic symmetry. Even the surprises in his music resonate with a kind of persuasive inevitability.

The F Major violin sonata is good example: a sweet-sounding piece that carries the audience smoothly along to pleasant places. It is morning music of the best kind.

The second movement, Allegro, is a very good solo concert showpiece for students: excitingly quick and not too long – yet complete enough to stand alone without the other movements of the sonata.

Violin Sonata in F Major, Allegro, by Handel: The Main Points

Technically speaking, there’s not much here that hasn’t been studied in the earlier repertoire pieces. The quick tempo makes it a good precursor to the Allegro by Fiocco, in line with one of Volume 6’s general themes – a step up in velocity. Other than this, there’s just two instances of playing in other positions and a brief jaunt into F minor. It also features rapid string crossings between adjacent strings, the main device that Handel uses to highlight this bright and cheerful melody.

Intonation in Measure 17

One spot where intonation may waver is in measure 17, especially if the intervals and relative finger spaces between the notes G#, F♮, E and D are uncertain. From G# (2nd finger) to F♮ (4th finger) is just one whole tone. E, a semitone lower, can be checked against the open E string.


Rapid String Crossings

The rapid string crossings are practised for clarity and economy, keeping the bow in contact with the string and listening for the melody line. There’s an additional practice resource that members can download called Exercises with Perpetual Motion in Members’ Resources.

Musical Expression – Handel’s Main Lesson

Read More →

Read More →

Concerto in G Minor – Vivaldi, 2nd movement

Venice and indeed most of the world, still resounds with the sounds of Vivaldi’s music, even though three centuries have passed since he wrote it. Several years ago Allie and I visited Venice and falling under its charm, saw  why it has earned names like City of Canals, Queen of the Adriatic and Serenissima. It was rather busy even in the heart of winter. Walking the narrow winding streets of this lovely city and entering the Vivaldi Museum, it wasn’t too hard to imagine how it was in Vivaldi’s time. Alluringly beautiful.


One evening we went to a concert of Italian baroque music by Interpreti Veneziani in the Chiesa San Vidal church. In this exquisite setting the performance quite naturally included Le Quattro Stagioni, the Four Seasons concertos, in which four violinists from the ensemble played the solo violin parts of the concertos, each with charisma and virtuosic artistry.

Cellist Davide Amadio lithely sprang from the floor directly up onto the stage with his priceless instrument held aloft, in a flamboyant gesture that characterised the vitality of Interpreti Veneziani’s music making. (See the YouTube video at the end of this post.)

Vivaldi’s G minor violin concerto, Op. 12, No. 1, RV 317, 2nd movement

In the second movement of the G minor violin concerto,the soloist has rather a long wait. Ensembles have 18 unhurried measures of music to create the right atmosphere for the solo violin to come floating in with its dreamlike melody.

Main Study Points

There’s really only one place students get a little tangled up in this movement, with rhythm and counting. Before we take a look at this place, here’s the Key Tip:

  • Count the quavers (1/8th notes) during the learning and memorising stage.

In other words, give crotchets (1/4 notes) 2 beats, quavers a single beat and so on. For simplicity’s sake, it is easier to count 1 to 6. Even when the whole piece is memorised, students find that this beat is still ticking along in their minds as they play. It can eventually be pared back to  3/4.

The descending lines in measures 31 and 33 are the place to apply careful counting. It’s temping  to begin playing the second one like the first, and quickly solved by counting the quavers. In measure 33, tell them to wait until the 4th quaver beat to play A.


Read More →

Read More →

Concerto in G Minor by Vivaldi, 1st mvt, Part 2

The inclusion of the Concerto in G Minor by Vivaldi in the violin repertoire was an interesting choice on Suzuki’s part. It’s somewhat of a hidden gem, not a piece you often hear in concerts despite its many charms. I don’t mean this in a pejorative way at all, but there’s not much in this concerto that stands out as really memorable. It is like a walk though a lovely forest, where the natural scenery leaves you feeling serene and filled with optimism, even though you can’t recall particular trees or flowers you saw during the walk.


The Main Study Points

In  Part 1 we looked at the first part of the movement up to the end of the first solo.In this post we’ll deal with the major technical issue in this piece, accurate intonation – especially in the next solo part, where there is an excursion into the neighbouring key of C minor.

Intonation, Intonation.

The main cause of intonation problems in the second solo is uncertainty of position when playing A♭ as the melody moves into C minor at measure 63. The left hand should remain in 3rd position while 1st finger reaches back to play A♭, otherwise the following notes (G and F) will be at risk of landing out of tune – too flat. 3rd finger is now the reference point. Check the pitches of G and D (with the open D) before playing the trill. It’s helpful to play the run in reverse, keeping fingers down.


The same principle applies in measures 68 and 73, where D may be played too flat. Read More →

Read More →

Concerto in G Minor by Vivaldi, 1st mvt, Part 1

Two violin concertos by Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi feature in the Suzuki violin repertoire. After the excitement of playing the A Minor concerto and the challenge of learning the peerless Bach Double, we are presented – rewarded – in Volume 5 with the Concerto in G Minor by Vivaldi Op. 12, No. 1, RV 317, a complete concerto in three consecutive movements.

Ospedale della Pietà

Ospedale della Pietà, painting by Gabriele Bella

Violin concertos – concerti in Italian – are a mainstay of the classical violin repertoire, featuring a solo violinist (sometimes more) with orchestra. A common structure, especially for baroque concertos, is two quick movements separated by a slow one.

Many listeners identify Vivaldi’s music with the exuberance and colour of his Four Seasons concertos, and the concerto in A Minor is certainly written in this energetic style. The G Minor is by contrast a graceful and sonorous concerto with few virtuosic fireworks, indicating it was probably composed for the young violinists in the orchestras Vivaldi taught at the Ospedale della Pietà orphanage.

The Main Points

If I had to choose just one technical challenge to focus on when learning this concerto, it would be accurate intonation. Frequent shifting, playing in higher positions and more specifically the excursions into neighbouring C minor make playing in tune the key issue. Think B♭E♭A♭! Actually, intonation is not really much of a problem until measure 63. Read More →

Read More →


Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software