Last revision: May 3, 2013
Frequenty Asked Questions:
Learning & Techniques
- How to locate teachers and violin shops
- How to teach yourself the violin
- Am I too old to learn the violin, which has always been my dream?
- Since I am left-handed, can I learn to play and have a violin fitted for playing in the opposite way?
- Can you give me some advice about how to play the "wiggly thing," i.e., vibrato?
- What is the distinction between "weight" and "pressure" with respect to playing double (and triple) stops?
- What is best approach to producing smooth bow strokes?
- What technical routine do you use to stay in shape?
- What is the usual progression of violin études?
- What is the best way to achieve good intonation in string playing?
- At what stage in students' development do they begin vibrato and shifting?
- Should a teacher who is primarily a violinist teach viola?
- How can I get my child to practice?
- Why we play.
- I have been playing for some time but my technique is not very good. What is your recommendation?
- If there is an harmonic alteration, that alteration is good for the whole measure: is the alteration also good in all octaves, or just for the note that's altered?
- How can I produce a blues scale on the violin/viola?
- What is the best method to produce a straight bow?
RE: Private Teaching Studios
- How can I develop a private teaching studio?
- What areas might be covered in a private teacher's studio policy?
- What are some of the techniques teachers use to approach beginning students?
- I'm a music teacher with an online Studio Policy (as you recommended) but I receive a lot of odd emails that I suspect are phoney. What should I do?
- What are some of the advantages of studying music?
- How much music history and music theory do you cover, or attempt to cover, in the private lessons?
- What is the purpose of practicing scales?
- What is a cost effective and reliable way of recording students?
- What are some of the questions perspective students ask?
- What are some of the legal issues associated with a private teaching studio?
RE: Fiddle and Alternative Styles
- Teaching Fiddle
- How many different fiddle styles are there?
New FAQ Questions
- How long will it take me to get really good at the violin?
- How can I develop good sight reading skills?
- Do you use fingerboard tapes with your students, and if so, what kind of tape?
- What is the best way to develop effective practice habits?
- What is the best way to develop a reliable spiccato?
- How do I develop good sound production on the violin?
- What are "harmonics"?
- What sort of certification is required to give music lessons? New!
New ed., Introduction by Sally Thomas. Paperback. Publication Date: March 21, 2013. A celebrated instructor presents his philosophy of teaching and practice methods, including the appropriate combination of technique and interpretation. The longtime Juilliard professor incorporates aspects of both the Russian and French schools in a system both ingenious and logical. Topics include posture, vibrato, intonation, bowing, double stops, and many other subjects.
(1)How to locate teachers and violin shops:
- Check the Teacher Directory; we may have someone in your area. (This is a subscription listing for teachers; if you'd like to be listed, the contact link is at the bottom of that page.)
- Contact the music department string teachers of any local universities: they may not take beginning students, or they may charge more than you care to spend initially, but they are likely to know the good local teachers, or recommend one of their abler graduate students.
- Local Musician's union (AFM - American Federation of Musicians).
- Local string repair and music shops; they often have lists of local teachers.
- Post your request on a string-related listserv.
- Lists of teachers by states:
Personally, I would never send a child to a randomly chosen teacher, no matter how highly recommended, without attending the lessons myself in order to determine if:
the teacher treats the child with respect;
the environment is comfortable for the child; and
the teacher has an instrument and is able to adequately demonstrate on it.
How to teach yourself the violin:
FREE STRING VIDEOS
STRING PEDAGOGY TEXTBOOKS
STRING METHOD BOOKS
"Can I teach myself the violin?" is a question which comes up six or seven times a day. This may be a function of the economic times we live in, and also, frequently, there are no teachers available in the Asker's area. The answer to that is, I don't think you can, unless you are already a trained musician, and even then a good teacher is necessary. It is not out of mere self-interest that teachers insist that teaching oneself the violin is apt to be counterproductive and frustrating. It is an instrument which requires individual, hands-on guidance from an experienced teacher, and students frequently report that their initial efforts to teach themselves were not very productive.
Nevertheless, I don't mean to be dismissive about this. There are people who live in areas where there are no violin teachers locally, people who would gladly go to a teacher if one were available. To them I would recommend the following books and online services (see lists, below). Note that Ivan Galamian, an Iranian teacher who taught at Juilliard for many years, and trained a generation of eminent violinists, is the source of almost all technical issues currently in practice in modern classical violin. His assistant was Dorothy Delay, and her assistant was Simon Fischer.
FREE STRING VIDEOS:
- Arts Alive: Pinchas Zukerman Masterclass
- How to Play the Violin, ExpertVillage
- How to Play the Violin, Wikihow
- How to Start to Play the Violin eHow
- Michael Hegeman
- London Symphony Orchestra master class
- ProfessorV's Videos on YouTube
- Roy Sonne
- Todd Ehle, Video playlist
- Violin Masterclass
- The Violin Site
STRING PEDAGOGY TEXTBOOKS:
- Auer, Leopold.
Violin Playing As I Teach it
- Fischer, Simon: Basics
- Fischer, Simon: Practice
- Flesch, Carl. Art of Violin Playing, Book One
- Flesch, Carl. Art of Violin Playing, Book 2
- Flesch, Carl. Memoirs of Carl Flesch
- Galamian, Ivan.
Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching
- Gerle, Robert.
The Art of Bowing Practice
- Gerle, Robert.
Art of Practicing the Violin
- Roth, Henry. Violin Virtuosos: From Paganini to the 21st Century
- Steinhardt, Arnold. Violin Dreams
- Schwarz, Boris.
Great Masters of the Violin
Further study, see: Violinist's Library
STRING METHOD BOOKS:
Tune A Day, Vols. 1-3 (available for violin, viola and other instruments): This is an excellent set of progressively more difficult books which includes good introductory explanations (I love book 1!) and pieces based on American themes and folk music (lots of Steven Foster pieces). I started on these as a child, and I still use them to supplement the Suzuki books, in order to go sort of sideways rather than forging ahead inappropriately, or forcing the student to play the same Suzuki pieces interminably. There is also a Tune a Day Scale Book, which may be used to precede the Hrimaly.
The Doflein Method, Vols. 1-5: This is listed second under the "Violin Literature" link (see below). I am not familiar with these books, but I have seen them recommended by European teachers and my impression is that this is what is used in Europe by traditional (or eclectic?) teachers who do not primarily rely on Suzuki for their beginning students. I'm sure it's good material.
Kerstin Wartberg, Step by Step: An Introduction to Successful Practice for Violin: This is another method which I'm seeing recommended a lot, especially by Suzuki teachers who use it along with the Suzuki books. I suspect this is the most contemporary set of materials of the three mentioned thus far. Good stuff, by all reports.
New students are also likely to get the Suzuki books and CD's; these are very widely used internationally and are slowly coming out (circa 2008) in revised editions which have lots of explanatory text. Suzuki books are used by many teachers who have not taken Suzuki training; this training is expensive, and requires adherence to principles with which many teachers do not agree —that is, the initial teaching of the violin to very young children, by rote. Many of the ideas in the Method (or Philosophy) are quite good, however, especially the child-centered Montessori-like notion that "Every Child Can" and respect for the student—versus the old "ruler over the knuckles" approach in traditional teaching. It is probably wise to keep an open mind. Please see: Suzuki books (texts, not method books).
Further study, see:
Violin Scale Books
If you want to tread the usual path, after you've worked through one of the sets of traditional introductory books, you can then proceed with Wohlfahrt, Kayser, Mazas, Rode, Dont Op. 37, Kreutzer, Dont Op. 35, etc. You will absolutely need a private teacher to work through this material. See: What is the usual progression of violin études?
The least expensive way to get some of this material is buy the CDSheetmusic CD, which has the etudes. Contents are listed here: Violin Methods, the Ultimate Collection. This has Hohman and Sitt (which I left out of my descriptions) but which are great, and Secvik, Dont Op. 35 and 37, Hrimaly, Kreutzer, Schradieck, Rode, Fiorillo. If you don't mind printing this stuff out yourself, it's worth getting. Bear in mind that after three downloads of the software, it locks. So you only want to download it with that in mind.
Good luck with your studies!
(3) Am I too old to learn the violin, which has always been my dream?
I would say, absolutely not. The benefits are enormous and you don't have to feel at all odd about it. There is one YahooGroups, "Beginning Adult Violin Study" (bavs) which has been online for eight years now and has over 3,000 members. This is a great place to get acquainted with other adults on the same path.
Initially, beginning students may come to realize that the violin is harder than they thought it was going to be; it takes at least five years to get into the violin. The beginning stages may be difficult for adults who are accomplished in other areas. In some sense, they have to become like children again, playing Twinkle and other simple pieces. It may also be difficult for busy adults to integrate consistent practice time into their busy schedules, but many adults manage to do this and have great success, enabling them to play in local orchestras, play gigs with friends, etc. The advantages of the mental and physical efforts needed to play an instrument far outweigh any drawbacks. If you have children, in particular, it is an advantage for them to see their parents give importance to this sort of effort.
Here's a quote from a New York Times column by Oliver Sacks:
Inspirational books for adult students:
Piano Lessons: Music, Love, and True Adventures
Playing the Piano for Pleasure
Green, Barry and W. Timothy Gallwey:
Inner Game of Music
Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story [ See: John Holt page]
Making Music for the Joy of It: Enhancing Creativity Skills and Musical Confidence
A Soprano on Her Head: Right-Side-Up Reflections on Life and Other Performances
Tone Deaf and All Thumbs?: An Invitation to Music-Making
I have had many reports from ordinary people who take up a new sport or a musical instrument in their 50s or 60s, and not only become quite proficient, but derive great joy from doing so. Eliza Bussey, a journalist in her mid-50s who now studies harp at the Peabody conservatory in Baltimore, could not read a note of music a few years ago. In a letter to me, she wrote about what it was like learning to play Handel's "Passacaille": "I have felt, for example, my brain and fingers trying to connect, to form new synapses. ... I know that my brain has dramatically changed." Ms. Bussey is no doubt right: her brain has changed.
Music is an especially powerful shaping force, for listening to and especially playing it engages many different areas of the brain, all of which must work in tandem: from reading musical notation and coordinating fine muscle movements in the hands, to evaluating and expressing rhythm and pitch, to associating music with memories and emotion.
Discussion lists for adult students:
Late Starter Musician: Magazine, Directory, Blog, Forums
bavs, Beginning Adult Violin Study: Excellent forum with over 3,000 subscribers.
Musical Fossils, Freeing the Adult Piano Student: Matthew Harre
Musical Fossils YahooGroup
Adult Music Student Forum
Since I am left-handed, can I learn to play and have a violin fitted for playing in the opposite way? (In other words, with the G string to the right, and holding the bow with the left hand?)
Much like the question about adult learners, this question is very controversial, and I would hesitate to answer positively one way or another. The literature is really not designed for this, and the problems of adjustment in reaching higher positions seem overwhelming when you consider what the configuration would have to
be. It would require a re-fitting of the G bar inside the instrument, and a reshaping of the bridge, at the very least. I think a lot depends on what sort of music you want to play; there are very many areas of music where a left handed player would be at no disadvantage. I'm thinking of popular players in rock, C&W, Jazz and other musics. I don't see it as a problem in those venues, though my knowledge in this area is limited. I do think that in so-called "art music," left-handed players are very rare, since the ensemble playing in orchestra or chamber music requires consistent bowings, and even consistency with respect to fingerings for uniformity of phrasing. I know of only one such player whom I encountered in a university orchestra, and do not know of any others.
While, oddly enough, the question of refitting the violin comes up rather often, this is, naturally, a separate issue from someone who is merely left-handed and wants to study the violin with a traditional hold. One player suggested that being left-handed is an advantage because of the requirements of the left-hand technique, and certainly there is nothing to prevent a left-handed person from taking up the instrument. My guess would be that the percentage of left-handed string players is the same as the percentage of left-handed people in the general population, though I have no hard data on this. If anyone has research on this and would like to contribute it, that would be great. See also: Playing the Violin and Fiddle Left-Handed.
(5) Can you give me some advice about how to play the "wiggly thing," i.e., vibrato?
This is a large and important subject which is best managed under the supervision of a teacher, or at least with videotapes. Having said that, it is common that students will see teacher and other players vibrato and, usually around the second, third or even forth Suzuki books, will want to acquire this technique themselves. My introductory remarks on the subject usually are something like:
There are primarily three sorts of vibrato: finger vibrato, hand vibrato, arm vibrato. Vibrato is very personal, and also dependent on the style of the work in question. Zukerman suggests a "continuous vibrato," but performance practice requires that one recognize that in early music, vibrato was considered to be an ornament and used sparingly. Students normally exhibit a desire to learn this technique, struggle for some time to acquire it, and then wake up one day with a vibrato. Vibrato should be used knowingly and deliberately, rather than continuously and nervously.
(6) What is the distinction between "weight" and "pressure" with respect to playing double (and triple) stops?
Galamian students (Davidovici, Luby, Bedelian—the three I studied with) relay to their students the notion, taken from Galamian (and from his teachers, one supposes, though I have not followed this through), the distinction between "weight" and "pressure" in bowing. In Galamian's
Principles of Violin Playing and Teaching , (Prentice-Hall, 1962), I located the exact passage (page 57):
What counts in tone production is not the amount of pressure used but, if one may so term it, the quality of the pressure. This is determined by the manner in which the pressure is transmitted. The main point is that it must not, under any circumstances, take effect as a dead weight, inelastic and inarticulate, that would crush the vibrations of the string or, at best, produce a tone of inferior quality. Instead the weight of the arm and hand and the pressure from the muscles should be transmitted through the flexible and well-coordinated system of springs, natural and artificial, which was outlined...
Thus students are warned to use "weight, not pressure," as I heard from my teachers over and over. A deeper examination of the whole chapter is recommended to clarify all the issues involved.
What is best approach to producing smooth bow strokes?
Bring bow stroke up from the bottom wrist slightly bent up. Make sure the hair has a constant firm contact on the string. As you approach the upper part of the stroke and are turning around, kind of throw your fingers up to make the turn, lowering your wrist at the same time. At the top of the turn, squeeze the bow as you lower the top of your hand. Bring your hand down squeezing and gradually release as you reach the bottom. Then lead with the top of your wrist. Leaving the fingers behind, gradually bringing your fingers through the stroke to end up top again to make the next turn. It's like driving your car around a corner, you don't stop, but bring it around smoothly. Watch the hand and wrist of good players.
What technical routine do you use to stay in shape?
Violin and viola: scales, etudes, pieces. Piano in the morning, early. If you have a lot of performance responsibilities, "routine" is not quite the right word. Professionals practice all the time, and the more you practice (with supervision if you're new to this), the better you'll get—assuming you're practicing correctly and not practicing mistakes. This is what a good coach or teacher is for. Practice should be "mindful"—in other words, it should be pleasurable and interesting, not dull or "routine." That's why no one who plays really well can answer this question, because it's so personal. You play what you're interested in, or required to play, and you LISTEN to yourself. Awareness is everything. Otherwise, you're wasting your time.
What is the usual progression of violin études?
I use an eclectic combination of materials; at the Minuets in the first Suzuki book, I add A Tune a Day Book 1 (for the younger students) and the
Tune A Day Scale Book (an excellent book!) for the older ones. I find the Tune A Day Book 1 and Book 2 helpful for ensemble practice and to review topics in musicianship. I introduce Wohlfahrt Book 1 at the beginning of Suzuki Book 4 (Seitz concerti - see Suzuki Repertoire List), and the progression after that is Wohlfahrt Book 2-Kayser-Dont Op. 37-Mazas-Kreutzer, followed by Rode, Gavinies and Dont Op. 35.
Along with the first Wohlfahrt, I add
Trott Melodious Doublstops
Bk. 1 and then
Bk. 2, and the Whistler, Introducing the Positions,
Bk. 1 and then
Bk. 2. At Book 2 in those series, we can begin to add Schradieck
Along with the Schradieck, I introduce Carl Flesch Scale Studies. [See Indiana University String Academy
Sequence of Études, which coordinates the études with the Suzuki books.]
It should be noted that there are violin teachers (Dr. Schmeider at Rice and later, at USC, is I believe an example) who don't use any études at all, in their teaching, and they have great results with students. On the other end of the spectrum are teachers who load you up with Ševcík, endless hours of purely mechanical study, and some people swear by this method.
After the Tune a Day Scale book, I use Hrimaly.
Between the Hrimaly and the Carl Flesh, I've started using the Barbara Barber Scales for Advanced Violinists or Scales for Advanced Violists. I use the first two pages, with all the different bowings, applied to all keys in three octaves. I have a small box with small cards with all the major and minor keys written on them, and the student picks a card, which is their scale for the week. In order to develop a consistency in the fingering, I have the students shift up into third position on the A (or D on viola) string, and then shift down on the top string. Every three octave scale starting with a 2nd finger has the same fingering. Thus the students are easily able to memorize all the scales in every key. See:
The use of Ševcík exercises is somewhat controversial, I think. I recently purchased a complete set of violin and viola works, and in examining these, I think they are incredibly useful. See:
Ševcík for Violin: [Complete set $79.14 + Shipping]
Op.1, Bk. 1,
Op.1, Bk. 2,
Op.1, Bk. 3,
Op.1, Bk. 4
Ševcík for Violin (Scales and Arpeggios)
School of Bowing Technics:
Preparatory Trill Studies, Op. 7:
Shifting the Position and Preparatory Scale Studies, Op. 8
Preparatory Exercises in Double-Stopping, Op. 9
Ševcík for Viola: [Complete set $113.55 + Shipping]
Selected Studies in First Position
School of Bowing Technics:
School of Technique:
Parts 3 & 4.
Preparatory Trill Studies, Op. 7 - Part 1
Changes Of Position And Preparatory Scale Studies
Preparatory Exercises in Double-Stopping, Op. 9
John Krakenberger: Violin-Viola Pedagogy: Ševcík yes or Ševcík no
One way of acquiring many of these materials inexpensively is to purchase the CD Sheetmusic CD which has the etudes. Contents are listed here: Violin Methods, the Ultimate Collection. This has Hohman and Sitt, which are great, and Secvik, Dont Op. 35 and 37, Hrimaly, Kreutzer, Schradieck, Rode, Fiorillo. If you don't mind printing this stuff out yourself, it's worth getting. Bear in mind that after three downloads of the software, it locks. So you only want to download it with that in mind.
Étude List from Leopold Auer
In the last chapter of Leopold Auer's
Violin Playing as I Teach It he lists the following works in the following order:
PRACTICAL REPERTORY HINTS
What I Give My Pupils to Play
Kreutzer 40 Études
Rode 24 Caprices
A minor, E minor
Rode Concertos A minor, E minor
D minor, D major
Spohr Second Concerto
Morceau de Salon in D minor,
Ballade et Polonaise,
Tarantelle in A minor,
Dont 24 Caprices
Spohr Concertos Nos.
11, Vocal Scene
Légend, some of the mazurkas,
Polonaises in A
Sarasate Spanish Dances
Vol. 4, Nocturnes
After mastering the Rode 24 Caprices:
Concertos of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky
Movements from Bach's six sonatas for violin solo [See footnote regarding the Bach violin concerti.]
Beethoven, two Romances
Kreisler transcriptions of "older masters" (he does not indicate which)
Auer's own transcriptions of pieces by Beethoven, Schumann, Tchaikovsky
Ries Troisième Suite
Elman transcriptions of pieces by Grieg, Rubinstein, Fauré "and others"
Zimbalist Danses Orientales, Suite dans le style ancien
Achron Hebrew Melody and Hebrew Lullaby
Tartini Sonata in G Major Op. 11 No. 12, The Devil's Trill Sonata G Minor
Various "other sonatas by the older Italian masters"
Vieuxtemps Concertos Nos.
Concerto No. 1, F sharp minor,
Concerto No. 2, D Minor
Ernst Fantasie brillante on themes from "Otello", Aires hongrois
Ernst F sharp minor Concerto
Paganini Concerto in D major
Last group of compositions which represent the maximum of technical difficulty:
Bach-Wilhelmj Air on the G String
Handle Sonatas E, A, D
Saint-Saëns Concerto (No. 3, B Minor?)
Lalo Symphony Espagnole
Paganini 24th Caprice in A minor, Perpetual motion
FOOTNOTE (Dover ed., p. 97): "With respect to J.S. Bach's two Concertos for violin, I have never given them to my pupils to study because, from my point of view, only the two slow movements in them are musically valuable and really worthy of their composer; while the first and last movements of each Concerto are not very interesting, either musically or technically. This, of course, is my own humble opinion."
What is the best way to achieve good intonation in string playing?
As an intellectual concept, this is a difficult area, particularly if you're primarily right-brained and not given to mathematical and scientific thinking, though this sort of thinking can in some degree be learned, with effort. There is an excellent discussion of these issues in Dr. Michael Kimber's "Scales, Arpeggios, and Double Stops for the Violist." This book, available online on Dr. Kimber's page, has several pages of really interesting text at the beginning, referring to methods of practicing the material and intonation issues in string pedagogy. Extremely valuable resource. See his diagram explaining intonation differences.
As a practical matter, there are a few concepts that teachers use, including the "ringing tones" in Suzuki. These are the fourth finger/lower open string and third finger/upper open string pitches which should match, and also the notion of "frame" formed, initially, by the first and third fingers (with a "high" or a "low" 2), and somewhat later, the frame formed by the octave reach of first and fourth finger. If you have a really beautiful instrument and you play really in tune, then any pitch you play will very likely cause sympathetic vibrations in the other strings.
The initial Suzuki way of conceiving of this starts with the matched pitches of:
1. Open string, G, D or A, and the next string's third finger, which forms an octave. An octave is one letter name to the next, so for example:
open G string matches third finger on the D string
2. Alternatively, the 4th finger, as I'm sure everyone knows, is, if played in tune, the exact same pitch as the next open string, so for example:
open D string matches third finger on the A string
open A string matches third finger on the E string
4th finger on the G string is the same pitch as open D
One can actually see the next string over vibrating in sympathy, especially in the first pair, the 4th finger G and the open D string; you can see the D string vibrate if the G4 is just right.
4th finger on the D string is the same pitch as open A
4th finger on the A string is the same pitch as open E
John Krackenberger talks about how endorphins are released when this phenomenon occurs; this is an addiction musicians have, but in a good way. Please see: John Krakenberger's article on "Laterality," published in the April 2007 ed. of Strad magazine:
An additional concept may also be introduced, having to do with the roles that pitch steps (of the scale) play within the context of any given key, [See Wikipedia: tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, leading tone]. Stringed instruments are not equally tempered the way the piano is, and thus, key context is everything when it comes to intonation on a stringed instrument. The leading tone, for example, is higher, and half-steps can be smaller, within the context of the key (than they are on piano). Playing with piano, one may attempt to adjust to the equally tempered notes, but this is not accurate for the violinist.
What has left-wrist suppleness to do with good intonation? Firstly, I make a distinction between correct intonation and sensitive intonation. The former hits the note accurately but may just miss the place on the string that produces vibrations in sympathy with the instrument itself or with surrounding sounds. If you can tune in to these, the sound improves, becoming richer and rounder: this is what I call sensitive intonation. To produce this requires the left hand to be supple enough that the fingertips are extremely sensitive subliminally to the vibrations coming back from the string. Incidentally, this feedback also produces endorphins in the player, and once you get a student to feel this you are on the right track. The human has an insatiable appetite for endorphins and will look for more sensations of the kind; thus, gradually, sensitive intonation becomes automatic. [pdf of Article]
Scale Steps and their Corresponding Triads
submediant or superdominant
Regarding naming scale steps in minor:|
"The names of the scale degrees are the same in major and minor, with
one exception: when the seventh degree isn't raised with an accidental to
make a half-step with the tonic, it's better to call it "subtonic" instead
of "leading tone". ("Flat seventh" or "lowered seventh degree" will also
do in a pinch!)."
Other perspectives include:
Within the key context: 3 and 7 are high, the perfect 5th is wide
Tendency tones: 2 goes to 1, 4 goes to 3, and 6 goes to 5. The exception is that 7 goes up to 8, whereas the others tend to fall down to the tonic triad tones
Four different kinds of intonation: illustrated at
Violin Masterclass (Click on "Definition") These include:
(1) Pythagorean Intonation;
(2) Just Intonation;
(3) Equal Temperament; and
(4) Expressive Intonation.
Apparently, the best book to read on this subject is Ross Duffin's
How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care)
Tuning and Temperament: A Historical Survey, J. Murray Barbour.
Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization, Stuart Isacoff.
This discussion takes an entirely different turn if we were to address baroque performance practice:
The Development of Musical Tuning Systems, Peter A. Frazer
Pythagorean Tuning and Medieval Polyphony, Margo Schulter
The Just Intonation System of Nicola Vicentino. This article originally appeared in 1/1: Journal of the Just Intonation Network, 5, No. 2 (Spring 1989), 8-13.
Understanding Temperaments, [Included in: WannaLearn / OpenHere / music-instruments-list and many others]
At what stage in students' development do they begin vibrato and shifting?
Interesting to pair shifting and vibrato, since they really are in so many ways, related concepts. I have some ancient Paul Rolland tapes (I haven't seen the new ones—assuming there are any, which I imagine there are), where *beginning* students are doing tapping and other exercises to develop the flexibility necessary for both of these practices.
By the time the student gets to Suzuki Bk. 4, shifting is necessary for Seitz concerti, and vibrato should be online by then, also. (See: Suzuki Repertoire list). Towards the end of Bk. 3 I introduce the
Wohlfahrt studies and numerous exercises for developing a freer left hand, even in the
Hrimaly. [I don't think it's wise to get into the habit of practicing scales with vibrato, all the time, but according to Dr. Michael Kimber you can practice scales with or without vibrato, but it should be either with or without, but not both, and deliberately, not habitually. If you're not careful, vibrato can be a hindrance to developing pure intonation, "frame," and "ringing tones."]
Depending on the age of the student—with adults there is *much* more verbalization—ideas about both vibrato and shifting are mentioned early on, but not addressed directly until maybe mid- Bk. 3. But indirectly addressed by seeing that the left hand is flexible, free, and able to operate independently of holding the instrument, which should be more a function of the collarbone and shoulder.
Should a teacher who is primarily a violinist teach viola?
I've played the violin for many decades, teaching and performing, and
then started studying viola seriously several years ago. I am enamoured
of the sound and what the study of this instrument does for my overall
The question is, should a violinist, however familiar with the violin etude and chamber music repertoire, be teaching viola? Even beginning viola? (I mean privately, private
studio). I wonder about the ethics of doing this, particularly if there are
good viola teachers available. Same with cello. In a rural area, with
no other options, perhaps it's excusable. But in a larger city, with
numerous other teachers, I wonder.
While many of the standard studies for violin are available for viola (Mazas, Rode, Dont, Kreutzer, etc.), one ought not to neglect the original etudes for viola: Hoffmeister, Campagnoli, Fuchs, and others. Violin etudes of course have to be selected and/or edited judiciously for study on viola: ones that feature useless extreme-high positions (that are VERY stressful on the left hand on viola) and nearly or literally impossible reaches (tenths—ouch!) are not going to do an advancing viola player much good, and indeed can easily lead to counterproductive frustration. Even such a thing as over-use of the fourth-finger extension in first position is going to be an issue for most players on a adult-sized viola.
I think Fuchs has a note in the introduction to one of her collections
mentioning that a lot of violin etudes fairly well neglect the middle range of the instrumentand —she's right. You could play violin etudes all week without learning that the instrument has a third string (slight exaggeration only!), thus without playing much in the register that is the bread-and-butter, most highly characteristic part of the viola's range.
In general, the responses on the newsgroups support the idea that a teacher in this situation would need to be aware of the needs of advanced students, or students with exceptional potential, whereas teaching beginning students would probably be okay, at least initially or until the student was ready for more advanced studies. Care should be taken, however, that the teacher who is primarily a violinist continues to study the viola and continues to understand the pedagogical aspects of viola playing. These differences include but are not limited to: broader vibrato, differences of tone production with the bow, more use of second position, and different fingerings.
- Barrett, Henry: The Viola: Complete Guide for Teachers & Students
- Dalton, David: Playing the Viola
- Giorgetti, Ferdinando, Franco Sciannameo An Historical Introduction
- Hoffheimer, Michael: Fiddling for Viola
- Madden, Maxine: Sounds on Strings: Getting to Know Your Viola
- Maurice, Donald: Bartók's Viola Concerto: The Remarkable Story of His Swansong
- Menuhin, Yehudi and William Primrose: Violin & Viola
- Stowell, Robin: The Early Violin and Viola : A Practical Guide
- Tertis, Lionel: My viola and I: A complete autobiography
- Williams, Amedee Daryl: Lillian Fuchs: First Lady of the Viola
- Zeyringer, Franz: Literatur Für Viola
(13) How can I get my child to practice?
This is often, for parents, a very serious and sometimes troubling issue in music study. They should be told that it is normal for students to not want to practice, and home practice should be supervised by the parents until the child is older and has developed more independence. There is an excellent book about this: How to get your child to practice without resorting to violence. In general, the recommendations in the book include:
Raising Musical Kids: A Guide for Parents
A Parent's guide to String Instrument Study
Suzuki Parent's Diary: Or How I Survived My First 10,000 Twinkles
Starr, William, Constance Star:
To Learn With Love: A Companion for Suzuki Parents
Young Musician's Survival Guide (for older children, middle school and up)
- Remain calm but firm; don't nag, threaten, get angry, or give up. Brushing teeth is not optional, and neither is practicing. 10 minutes a day is fine at the beginning.
- Create a musical environment: this will include listening to the Suzuki CD's, other CD's of classical music or other musics, going to concerts, and listening to NPR (National Public Radio) programs with classical music. Have music on all the time, or at least during meals and before bedtime.
- Make it fun and enjoyable. Let the child be happy and loved at all times. Never make being loved contingent on whether they practice, or whether they do well.
- Use lots of praise, even for the smallest thing, and even if it sounds awful. There is always something positive to say: "You really worked hard" "That sounded pretty good" "That was much better than last time." No negative or derogatory remarks!!
More Suzuki materials:
Books by and about Dr. Suzuki
Suzuki Lesson Materials (Method Books, CD's, Accompaniment Books, MIDI's, Chamber Music Books)
(14) Why we play.
...I'm sure there are other reasons.
- The feeling of being a part of an ancient tradition
- Sharing, if only briefly, with the greatest minds of the past
- The sense that you are pursuing the thing which you are most suited to do
- The pleasure of accomplishing something difficult and highly competitive
- The pleasure of the audience
- The sensual pleasure of the music, particularly when it goes well
- The pleasure of working with your colleagues
- The identification of the self with the profession
- The joy of forgetting the Self
- Dressing up, making money, the pleasure of having good equipment
- The sense that you are contributing in some small way to the peace and intelligence of the world
- The sense that you may be inspiring people with hope and beauty --and perhaps inspiring some children to have a better life
(15) I have been playing for some time but my technique is not very good. What is your recommendation?
If you will look at Question 9 in this FAQ, there is a section listing études. What I do with my students and myself is to divide the time spent with the instrument into three sections: Scales/arpeggios, études, and pieces. To develop a firm foundation, I would start with Wohlfahrt and Hrimaly, and then progress forward in the order mentioned above. [Wohlfahrt-Kayser-Dont Op. 37-Mazas-Kreutzer, followed by Rode, Gavinies and Dont Op. 35. Scale books: Hrimaly-Schradieck-Flesch-Galamian (in that order).] You could also add the Whistler, Introducing the Positions and the Trott Melodious Doublestops. It goes without saying that you will need a teacher to guide you; someone who is closely acquainted with this literature and has a history of developing students to a high level of proficiency.
Good luck with your work!
If there is an harmonic alteration, that alteration is good for the whole measure: is the alteration also good in all octaves, or just for the note that's altered?
Rule of Accidentals
Depends on the composer, country, and century. At least! In music before the late 18th century (maybe the early 19th), all bets are off on what's going to come up. There was no international convention that all composers had to agree with, in any of their notation, as to the normal duration of accidentals.
There are also some spots, for example in CPE Bach, where the sharp or flat is supposed to be carried forward *across the barline*, if we happen to be within a port-de-voix, and preparing a note that becomes an appoggiatura. That is, for example: last note in bar 1 is an F#, and the first note in bar 2 is that same F# (but the # is missing), as an ornament to a G or whatever...the F in bar 2 needs to get a sharp anyway. BROADER PRINCIPLE ON THIS: No chromatic slithering within a
complex ornament: if a note is being sharpened or flattened, it stays sharpened or flattened all the way through that same ornament, even if it extends across a barline that would normally cancel it.
Example: To the right is a short example from one of CPE Bach's sonata movements. In the first note in the right hand, bars 3 and 5, the C-flat has to be carried across from the anticipation in the previous bar, even though it doesn't say so.
(Anticipation + appoggiatura + resolution = port de voix.) This happens similarly in other pieces of his, as well: a bunch of notes together comprising an ornamental unit, and a sharp/flat needing to be carried all the way through...even if it crosses a barline.
You're getting this from a college music professor who taught theory for many years (now retired). I am writing this out off the top of my head without footnotes and references. You can look up these things yourselves later, if you wish; but I think you'll get the general drift from this narrative of what went on.
Historical background: Back in the days of "musica ficta," (later Medieval, Renaissance, and earliest Baroque), rules governing proper intervals meant that certain notes above the bass (or, in the earliest days the tenor, which used to be the lowest voice before the advent of the contratenor bassus or "bass") had to be altered to avoid the tritone (the augmented 4th or diminished 5th, the "so-called "devil's interval," which was considered so unstable as to be avoided at all costs) EVEN IF THOSE NOTES WERE NOT SO NOTATED. EVERY "good" musician knew these rules, so there was no need to notate them in the music. Also, in general, until Petrucci in 1501 and his first PUBLISHED music book for polyphonic music printed from moveable type, there wasn't much argument about what the notes were. The composer himself generally passed out the manuscript parts, rehearsed the musicians, and he would be the arbiter of correctness. After music began to be published, the music could be purchased by someone hundreds or thousands of miles from the composer. The composer was no longer there to "put things right." It became the responsibility of the publisher to make things clear to the performer (many times an amateur performer who didn't always know "the rules"). Each publisher set up his own essential "house rules" for where to include accidentals. There was no common agreement. Remember that in the days of Bach, key signatures would often be one accidental off from our current system. A piece in D major might have only one sharp (F#) with the C# (the "leading tone," most often the most prominent old musica ficta note in the old days) getting a written accidental. Key signatures, as we know them, weren't standardized until starting about 1750.
Now to today's point of discussion: The idea of whether to put an accidental in ALL octaves of a chord, or just in one (and assume that the others were also thus affected), again, comes from INDIVIDUAL publishers. One will find some 18th century and even 19th century publications that include only one accidental. HOWEVER, as we get to the late 19th c. and into the 20th c., the Garner Reed quote (given in earlier posts) becomes the generally accepted norm for the music publishing industry. The accidental must appear in any (all) octave(s) in which the note must be altered. Once written, an accidental remains in effect (but only for the single line or space upon which it is written) for the rest of the measure until cancelled by the bar line. If such an altered note (whether it has an accidental attached to a note, or whether it is a later note in the measure on the same line or space as an altered note) is TIED across the bar line, then the accidental is ALSO tied across. In that case, the accidental will continue until the tie (or continuous UNBROKEN series of ties) ends, even if that is many measures later. And in such a case, no accidental is needed on any of those later continuously-tied notes.
The above rules generally cover TONAL music.
With the advent of ATONAL (particularly dodecaphonic [12-tone, serial]) music, SOME (but not all) composers look at things a little differently. For SOME 20th c. composers, an accidental covers only the note to which it is attached. If it is followed by another note on the same line or space, then it, too, needs an accidental, IF it is to be altered. Otherwise, without the accidental, an unmodified note (even if it follows a modified note on the same line or space within the same measure) reverts back to its plain, white-note state. In the case of atonal music, it seems to make sense to notate each individual note requiring an accidental with an accidental even if it is in the same measure as a previous accidental on the same line or space. It does make the music easier to read for the performer. Again, not all 20th c. composers do this, only some. Many still follow the standard rules (i.e., Gardner Reed). [From Viola List]
Theory and Ear Training texts
Score Reading/Conducting texts
How can I produce a blues scale on the violin/viola?
the root (first note of the scale)
lowered (minor) 3rd (no 2nd scale step)
lowered 7th (no 6th step)
root (octave higher)
Doesn't matter what instrument you use, or what key you're in, a blues scale consists of:
So, for example, a blues scale in C would be:
C - E flat - F - G flat - G natural - B flat - C
A blues scale has seven notes and includes a flatted 3rd, 5th and 7th. These three flatted notes are often referred to as "blue notes." See:
Essentials of Music Theory: Complete Self-Study Course, p. 111.
What is the best method to produce a straight bow?
Getting students to play on the so-called "Kreisler Highway"** is a difficult task for the teacher. Some of the ideas that I use to get a straight bow include:
We discuss the math notion of "parallel." The bow needs to be parallel between the bridge and the fingerboard;
We discuss the terms (and sounds of) "Ponticello" and "Sul tasto." [See: Violin Terms] Ponticello is the sound, used primarily in contemporary music, produced by playing on or very near the bridge; alternatively, sul tasto is the sound
produced by playing on the fingerboard, a softer sound requested in the score by some composers, for affect. Neither are appropriate for most playing;
We discuss how the arms of humans beings, specifically the right arm, naturally move in a circular motion. So in order to maintain the parallel placement of the bow, it is necessary to push outwards, toward the front of the player (sorry -- difficult to express verbally);
We discuss the notion of "cutting the string." Not a nice image, I realize, but useful in sound production on the violin: the bow "cuts" the string at the "sounding point" (Galamian's "point of contact"); sound is produced by the "spinning out" of the vibrations, created by a perfectly parallel "cutting" of the string, controlled by the second joint of the index finger of the bow hand.
Simon Fischer's Basics: Simon Fisher was a protégé of Dorothy DeLay, who was of course, Galamian's assistant. His articles regularly appear in Strad. The book has some wonderful exercises, and is the best book for self-teaching on the violin that I know of. The book has very explicit, detailed directions and explanatory photographs. I use these exercises in my teaching. The first chapter of the book is about the bow hand, and well worth examining.
One of my favorite exercises is #36, page 20 (Peters ed., 2004):
I would encourage anyone to get this book; I think used copies are available on Amazon, on occasion...
Fig. 23 Moving the hand along the bow Position the violin so that the end of the down-bow, which remains...etc..
In this exercise the hand moves along the bow while it rests on the string without moving. Because the bow is parallel with the bridge the arm has no choice but to make exactly the correct movement. This is one of the best exercises because it gives you the feeling of drawing a straight bow.
The exercise requires an assistant  who rests the bow on the string at the point holding it exactly parallel to the bridge (Fig. 23). Use only the screw of the bow to hold it, to leave as much room as possible for the player's hand.
Chapter Outline (with numerous subheadings, not listed here):
A. Right Arm and Hand
B. Tone Production
C. Key Strokes
D. Left Hand
** Occasionally a reader will use the search engine on my page, looking for
this phrase, but spells it "Chrysler," which of course, yields no results.
RE: Private Teaching Studios
How can I develop a private teaching studio?
Important question, especially for those of us whose income is primarily from teaching and performing. [Also see: Teachers Resources]
Ideally, you want to have such a good reputation as a private instructor, that all your referrals come in by word of mouth. But you may, initially, need to hang flyers in the local shops. I like designing a flyer with my phone number listed numerous times at the bottom, so that prospective students can take a strip of paper with the phone number.
Some of the places where you could place ads (bring your own box of pins) might include:
- grocery stores (United allows it; Walmart does not)
- any school (higher education; often need to get permission)
- some coffee houses
- some libraries
- churches (get permission)
- some copy places have bulletin boards
- all the local music stores (I mail two flyers and a small stack of business cards every six months or so)
- Montessori schools, religious schools (sometimes they have newsletters, also)
- some privately owned, "hippy" type restaurants will let you tape a flyer to their door glass
- some other private businesses will sometimes allow you to tape a flyer to their glass door
- some bookstores may allow you to post your flyer (ask first)
- some teachers who teach instruments other than the one you teach will not mind having a few of your business cards; I send these periodically in a nice card
Violin, Viola and Piano Lessons
For Studio Policy & fees, please see:
My recommendations also include:
- Develop a contract (set boundaries); see mine at
- Design a webpage:
- Advertise regularly in a local paper.
- Get business cards and include email address, URL, and phone.
- Play as much locally as you can.
- Contact music schools, music stores, luthier shops, any and
everyone associated with string music in your area
- Develop a quartet for weddings and social functions
- Contact the newspapers to see if they will do an article on you
- Announce your studio in university publications
- Design a flyer and post at schools, and any public bulletin
boards. Montessori Schools are good.
- Contact local public music teachers and see if you can give
demonstrations, guest conduct, and get referrals
- Join the local Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) and the local; musicians' union (AFM); American String Teachers Association (ASTA); and the Suzuki Association if you're a Suzuki teacher. Attend all functions. Follow up all calls.
See: Informal Surveys
What areas might be covered in a private teacher's studio policy?
Click on Studio Policies to review Policies in my Studio, which include:
§1. Cancellations: Request 24 hour notice.
§2. Dismissals: The student's feelings are key.
§3. Illness: Children who are ill should stay home.
§4. Instruments: 100% trade in policy for student instruments.
§5. Fees: About middle ground for this area.
§6. Lesson Time: Not early, not late.
§7. Makeups: Only with two week advance notice.
§8. Parents: Observations.
§9. Parking: On the street but not in anyone's driveway.
§10. Recitals: Two per year, adult students not required.
§11. Retainers: Monthly fee remains stable.
§12. Time-out: Vacation policy.
(21) What are some of the techniques teachers use to approach beginning students?
Students are required to have a three-ring, loose-leaf notebook with filler paper, in order to keep track of their assignments and handouts. I take a blank sheet of paper and put it in *front* of the student's notebook, to write out the current assignment each week. Sometimes I can get two or three weeks on one page, but more frequently I cannot because I write on the page, reminders of note values, articulations, etc. I also put those little post-it bookmark strips on the pages in their books they're working on, I date every assignment (and of course date the notebook entries), and I use lots of stickers. I find that even my adult students want stickers "if that's part of the experience," they say. A lot of them are taking lessons which they had wanted to take, as children, but couldn't. I buy stickers specifically for boys, girls, men and women. (I use stickers for decoration, not rewards for practicing, so they can "have something nice to look at" while they're practicing.)
If the student is playing something in the notebook, then the notebook is on the stand. Otherwise, it is open, next to me, so I can refer and notate. It is important to put the assignment in the front of the notebook, so student doesn't have to shuffle through paper to locate current assignment.
Don't let students try to let you use a spiral notebook (you can't put handouts in it - I have a three-hole punch nearby), a notebook which is too small, or one which is more like a folder and won't sit on the stand. They try all of that. Also, don't let them put anything else in the notebook: only music lesson stuff.
I email the student a one page document of large type manuscript paper. And I ask that they make 10 copies for their notebook. That way, I can use it to demonstrate where the notes are located, scale patterns, chord structure, etc. I also start scales very early on, one and even two octave:
Specifically, here's the large print manuscript paper I use, which is good for children, and easy on the eyes. If the staff is too small, it makes it hard to see:
I also use the scale printouts here:
Initial notebook entries/techniques:
- I draw the violin and bow and we study parts of instrument and bow
- finger numbers; if student is also studying piano with me, the distinction is made between piano finger numbers and violin finger numbers
- ask parents and student permission to place tapes on violin and bow: three finger tapes (for "frame") on fingerboard, and two tapes in centre of bow, to begin "Pepperoni Pizza"
- "left hand technique" (violin hand) and "right hand technique" (bow hand)
- how to hold violin (1-2-3): (1) violin is held at arm's length, scroll up, parallel to student's body; (2) position of violin is reversed, with scroll down; (3) violin is placed in correct position to left, on collorbone, with violin parallel or above to floor, and elbow under violin. Next step is to practice holding violin without hands, and then shaking hands under violin
- how to hold the bow (1-2-3): (1) thumb is placed, under frog for little ones, crooked near grip for adults and older children (thumb and 2nd finger make "doggie" circle); (2) first three fingers are dropped across stick, tilted slightly toward the tip, with space between 1st and 2nd finger (importance of 2nd joint of 1st finger for the purposes of controlling articulations is later examinedoften); (3) pinky finger is curved on inside of bow (add Pinky Pad)
- "rocket ships": bow is held in correct position, and "launched" (with rocket noise) from floor towards ceiling
- "tick-tock": bow is held in correct position, slowly making windshield washer movement
- "the spider": bow is held from the back, careful not to touch the hair, and hand crawls up bowup is easy, going down is much harder
- "the stretch": (for adult or older students), bow is held in correct position, then fingers are extended flat, and then bow is drawn into the palm
- "squeelies": start with bow at tip and draw slowly to frog, while running finger up and down strings (great for Halloween)is preparation for shifting and vibrato exercises
- "ticks": hold bow in correct position, and make tiny notes at frog and at tipthis is to develop strength in hands and focus on straight bow
- son filé: start at one end of bow and slowly draw bow to opposite end, counting, with bow parallel to the bridge
- "choo-choo train": very small bows in the middle, spaced notes, getting faster and fasteris prelude to "Wish I Had a Watermelon" variation, i.e., two sets of 16th notes, each starting down bow
- "hovering" fingers: develop notion of hovering, e.g. the bow is hovering over the pencil
- "Moon Man Silent Landing": bow is brought down, between the two centre tapes on the bow, on sounding point ("point of contact"); "Pepperoni Pizza" is developed from there, starting on the E string.
- "pump handle": the seven levels of the right arm, four string levels and three combination levels
Galamian and his students refer to the "pump handle," consisting of the seven levels of the right arm. Each of the four strings has a level and there are three combination levels, double stops with G/D, D/A and A/E.
If the configuration of the right hand remains consistent (the shape and the notion of the bow hanging from the hand like fruit), then it is the whole arm that moves up and down to remain in the plane of the string(s).
Developing the shape of the right hand is so important! Isaac Stern referred to it as a "series of springs." It has to be rounded and sensitive. It's very elegant and very difficult to develop at first.
Most students—whether they're three years old or adults with doctorates—make the exact same errors I have found: pancake hand in the left hand (wrist flat and touching the body of the violin), elbow not directly under the violin, and right hand fingers too far apart with a stiff pinky. All of the right hand needs to be rounded, with
- the second joint of the index finger the focus for controlling articulations,
- a finger's space between left index and middle fingers,
- middle finger across from thumb,
- thumb bent against the stick NOT between hair and stick (rounded),
- 4th finger on or above the eye of the frog
- pinky curved with the tip on the top or slightly inside the stick
(22) I'm a music teacher with an online Studio Policy (as you recommended) but I receive a lot of odd emails that I suspect are phoney. What should I do?
This is, indeed, a very serious issue and I have designed a separate page to archive these types of emails. I have a Teachers Directory and an online Studio Policy and I daily receive one or two of these attempts to defraud. I am archiving these messages, with their IP addresses at: Fraud against Music Teachers. If you want to, send me any such messages, with the IP addresses, and I will post them. Instructions for getting the sender's IP address are on that page. The IP address tells the whole story, because usually the IP address is completely different than the stated or implied information in the email. Music Teachers need to stick together and fight these people.
(23) What are some of the advantages of studying music?
I believe that music study is productive for anyone, at any age. The benefits may be said to include
(a) Sense of accomplishment, self-esteem;
(b) informs one's knowledge of human history and aesthetics;
(c) teaches self-discipline and awareness;
(d) is enjoyable and pleasurable;
(e) gives meaning and purpose to life;
(f) inspires self-knowledge and psychological insight;
(g) teaches patience and persistence;
(h) promotes physical coordination;
(i) develops attention to fine detail;
(j) teaches humility;
(k) provides a release of emotions;
(l) allows one to share concepts with some of the best minds in human history; and in chamber music performance
(m) teaches one to work with and respect others.
For children, in particular, it is thought that music study supports high academic performance and positive socialization. Individuals responsible for decision making on college entrance applications look at private music study and orchestral experience, as very positive factors. For adults, it is an aide to memory and physiological coordination and wellbeing. [See also: Why We Play.]
It has been amusingly pointed out by a denizen of the Early Music forum (rec.music.early) that the same advantages may be had by baking bread. I think that is accurate; anything done well will produce similar results.
How much music history and music theory do you cover, or attempt to cover, in the private lessons?
I have found that I follow pretty much the "Unit Objectives" from the Lesson Plans in my Math/Music Curriculum unit:
[See orig.: UNIT OBJECTIVES.]
- Drawings of how a piece of music makes the student feel.
- Drawings of staves, notes & rests, dynamic markings, clefs; creating a collage of music symbols.
- Numbers as they relate to music (pitch, rhythm, conducting).
- Acoustic properties of sound. Meaning and importance of A=440.
- Use of electronic instruments (metronome, pitch devices).
- Simple 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4 conducting patterns (down-beat & up-beat).
- Recognition of instruments, sight and sound.
- Recognition of major and minor chords.
- Recognition of major and minor scales.
- Recognition of V-I and IV-I cadences.
- Recognition of steps and half-steps.
- Vocabulary of dynamics: Italian, French, German, English (say aloud in class).
- Vocabulary of keys, scales and intervals.
- Vocabulary: pitch, timbre, dynamics, duration, rhythm.
- Learning of parts of the scale via solfeggio, numbers and letters.
- Improvisation using all black keys (pentatonic scale) and percussive instruments.
- Passing around of musical artifacts: things from the violin case.
- Introduction of personalities: Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Cage.
- Student conducting.
- Student repetition of rhythmic patterns.
- Student repetition of pitches.
- Student singing of one-measure pitch-rhythm patterns.
- Concert decorum; coaching of how students should behave during demonstration
visits by guest musicians.
A timeline for determining when these subjects are understood, depends upon whether the student has begun lessons:
(a) early, as in the Suzuki method, or;
(b) more traditionally, at seven, eight or even nine years of age, or;
(c) begins as an adult, which is also very common nowadays.
As a general rule, it takes several years to integrate all of these concepts within the framework of learning an instrument. I would expect students who have had three or four years of private and group lessons to have grasped this material.
With a new student with prior training—either in public or private school, and with or without private lessons from a prior teacher—evaluations have to be made in order to determine where the student's training needs to begin. One way is a brief written or oral test. See: Music Pre/Post Test. It should be stressed that this is not a test anyone can "fail" but merely evaluative. If given orally, which is probably best during a private lesson venue, it will quickly become apparent if the student knows or does not know this material. Thus running through the entire test is not always necessary. Most students are not going to know this information initially.
What is the purpose of practicing scales? I found this interesting observation on the rec.music.makers.piano. It was written by a jazz pianist/teacher, but I think it's very worthwhile and applies to strings:
Handout: Violin/Viola, Piano - 3 octave scale fingerings
• Makeup of Major and Minor Scales
• Identifying Key Signatures
• Method for Memorizing Fingerings -
Handout: Analysis of Carl Flesch Scale System
John Krakenberger: Galamian Scale System - Methodology
Two Octave Major and Minor scales for violin, viola, cello and bass
Free one- to three-octave Printable Violin and Viola Scales
Violin Scale Books
Viola Scale Books
Piano Scale Books
Why Practice Scales:
There are many possible answers, depending on your background and your
goals. For a complete beginner, they help build finger dexterity by
giving you something to play that you can work on without being slowed
down by reading. They also teach you what notes are found in each key,
which makes reading music go more smoothly as you'll cease having to
read each note one at a time and start to see patterns within the key.
If you're planning on playing jazz or any other style with
improvisation, it teaches you what notes are available for use in
improvisation, and teaches your hand good fingering habits that will
hopefully come into play while improvising.
Galamian has a scale study method covering much the same material, but includes more contemporary harmonies, more diverse choice of fingerings, and a separate book with bowing options. Notes are only note heads, which is different than the Carl Flesch.
An even more contemporary scale and arpeggio study book with a jazz/rock influence is Mark Wood's Electrify Your Strings. This may be studied with an acoustic instrument and is well worth examining.
For fiddlers, I recommend the Mel Bay Fiddling Chord Book.