violin technique

Technique and Musique – Teaching Violin Technique within the Suzuki Repertoire

If I asked students and parents to vote for the least interesting piece in Suzuki Volume 1, I’m fairly confident that Etude would win – or should that be lose? When first I began teaching, I was surprised to see it occasionally omitted from teaching programmes. Personally I rather like Etude, but I’m sure teacher votes wouldn’t count in this poll. The name gives it away – at least to French students. Etude ⇒ study ⇒ monotony ⇒ boring.

Itzhak Perlman - Photo by Edyta Blaszczyk

Itzhak Perlman – Photo by Edyta Blaszczyk

To quote the Wikipedia oracle:

étude – (a French word meaning study) an instrumental musical composition, usually short, of considerable difficulty, and designed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular musical skill.

Etudes have an illustrious musical history. Where would we be without Chopin’s empyrean Op.10 and Op.25 Etudes and the Transcendental Études by Liszt, for example?

Is Suzuki’s Etude just an exercise masquerading as a piece? It certainly serves as an ideal agent for teaching students to play in the key of G major, preparing the way for the Bach Minuets and beyond.

In the best études, musical and technical considerations are inseparable, which, if we apply this idea to pieces themselves, brings me to my point. Almost every piece in the Suzuki violin repertoire takes on a dual role as a vehicle for both technique and musique. As it pertains to teaching young children, this is one of Suzuki’s master strokes.

It is clearly wiser and easier to teach violin technique for students in the early years with ‘real’ music that is attractive and singable, leaving the great books of studies such as Kreutzer and Sevcik for later.

The good thing is you don’t need years of teaching experience to understand what each piece is good for. We all know, for example, how perfect the Twinkle variations are for teaching basic rhythms and other fundamentals. Below are some of the pieces I’ve found suited to teaching particular techniques. Although the lists aren’t comprehensive, I hope they are a useful guide. I have included links to some of the posts.

Bowing Techniques

Right Arm Focus

Left Hand Focus



Most pieces above Volume 4 use higher positions, therefore ongoing practice of shifting exercises is (unavoidably) essential. Individual pieces may be used to help solve particular problems.


I should add an important disclaimer for parents and students: the music will inspire and enthuse, but of itself won’t instruct you in violin technique. Please ask your teacher to show you the techniques and study points associated with the pieces. (And of course, studying technique via the pieces isn’t intended to preclude the use of exercises.)

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