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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Martini's Rainbow

Recently one of my early book 3 students told me of her clever way to remember all the parts of Martini's Gavotte. My student Kori uses a rainbow to remember the music sections in between the main "A" theme. I wanted to share this idea with you.
  • "A" theme
  • Red: B theme
  • "A" theme
  • Orange: C theme
  • "A" theme
  • Yellow: D theme
  • "A" theme
  • Green (orange): E theme; my student has a streak of Orange running through the green swath to remind her of the similarities between the green and orange themes
  • "A" theme
  • Blue: F theme
  • "A" theme
Here is a picture of Kori's rainbow rendition. The clouds represent the "A" theme.

Kori's Martini Gavotte Rainbow
Remembering the parts of Martini's Gavotte can be tricky for many students. I hope that Kori's rainbow idea will help other students to conquer this repertoire piece.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hidden Scales

Scales are an important part of a musician's diet. We need to do them every day, and we never quite perfect them. When we are familiar with scales and their finger patterns, we read music easier, we perform musical passages more adroitly, and we can memorize structure easier.

I have long puzzled over why students struggle with certain passages in the Bach's book 1 Minuets, or even other pieces in the repertoire, such as Bach's Bourree or Martini's Gavotte in Book 3 or Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor in book 4. Then one day it hit me that students struggled with learning and memorization in these pieces because they tripped over the hidden scales.

Let me take a classic example in Bach's Bourrée from book 3, the last song in the book. In measures 5 and 6, students take a while to figure out the notes here until I dissect them. Here is the passage:

hidden scales Bach's Bourree
Bach's Bourrée (Violin Book 3)

 Here is what I teach them. First, I show them how to play these two notes:

Bourrée 2-note snippet

This is not difficult for the students at this point, because we encountered and worked over this spot in the grace notes of Gossec's Gavotte at the end of book 1. We play this little passage of two-note combinations a few times until the student is "easy" with it.

Then I ask the students to play these two notes (during the rests) while I play these other notes in between:
Bourrée's Hidden Scale
When we do the two parts together, we get the original passage. My next step is to teach the student to play the hidden scale passage that I played, and we then switch parts.

After the student is able to play this last step, then the student seems to have no problems putting both snippets together and playing the passage as written. This same hidden scale passage appears later on the A and D strings as well.

There are many instances of hidden scales throughout the Suzuki repertoire, and if the teacher and student were to spend a few moments studying it, these passages would be easier to remember and memorize. Here are a few more examples.

Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor, Movement I (Violin Book 4)

In Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor, first movement, there is a great example of a hidden scale on the second page:

Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor (Violin Book 4)

When we dissect this passage to find the hidden scale, we find this:

Vivaldi Concerto's Hidden Scale

There are many more hidden scale examples in this concerto, and finding all of them may help a student lock in the notes in the student's memory.

Martini Gavotte (Violin Book 3)

In Martini's Gavotte in the beginning of violin book 3, we find this passage right before the last recapitulation of the theme:

Martini Gavotte (Violin Book 3)

When we dissect this passage to find the hidden scales, we find all of these scales:

1st scale

2nd scale

3rd scale
4th scale
Here is the entire hidden scale passage:

Martini's Hidden Scales

There are many such scale passages throughout the repertoire, and these hidden scales make a great quest for students to find throughout the music. This assignment could also be the subject of specific review requests ("find the hidden scales in this review song").

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

Monday, September 12, 2016

G Major Twinkle Workout

Give Your Students a Pinkie, Vibrato, and 3rd Position Challenge!

Most teachers and Suzuki students are quite familiar with the theme of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Suzuki Teachers are even familiar with teaching the Twinkle theme in the key of Bb to prepare students for the Bb scale and finger pattern in violin book 2.

I also regularly use Twinkle Theme in the last third of violin book 1 during Etude and the Minuets. When I teach students how to play the theme in G major, students improve the necessary skills found in the last songs of book 1.

I teach my students the two-octave G major scale and the new close 1-2 finger pattern on the A and E strings to prepare for learning how to play Etude. As the students progress on this scale, I add the pinkie fingering on the scale's descent. 

When the student is comfortable with this new finger pattern and the long G major scale (one of my students calls this the "super duper G scale"), I introduce a new way to play Twinkle theme. Because this is "new," I find that it is easier to get students to play Twinkle again if they have slacked off on their review program.

Twinkle in G major 1st position
Twinkle Theme in G Major

The students get a little extra practice with the new G major finger pattern, and the pinkie and third finger combination gets a little extra attention as well, which helps the part of the first Minuet that has the difficult stretch from third finger to the pinkie that spans across from the D string to the A string, as shown below.

third finger to pinkie stretch across from D to A string
Minuet 1 Pinkie Stretch
In book 2, I introduce students to third position. I usually do this when students are working on their vibrato skill. As students are able to play notes with vibrato, we translate the vibrato exercises into the Suzuki repertoire. At first, the students add vibrato on longer third finger notes, such as the dotted half notes at the ends of the Minuets' phrases. Then we add vibrato to the long third finger notes in Chorus from Judas Maccabeus and at the end of Musette. Later we will be able to add vibrato to Long, Long Ago from book 2.

Somewhere during all of this, I might have introduced third position with a G major scale:

1 octave G scale in 3rd position on D and A strings
G Major Scale in 3rd Position
Now students can practice vibrato on this scale. The next step might be to introduce Twinkle Theme in third position, using the same Twinkle in G major that we had learned at the end of book 1 and now playing it in third position.

I have found that a new Twinkle helps me to stay focused as well as my students. G major adds an element of fun to our review.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Handbooks for the Studio!

Years ago, I made several wise purchasing decisions for my studio, and I am so glad that I did! I have found incredible uses for my binding machine and my laminating machine.

I finished making new student handbooks for my studio. As you can see from the photo, these are very colorful handbooks. I used my old Ibico binding machine, 1/4" plastic binding combs (black and white), and fabulous neon-colored cardstock covers that had a different color on each side. My students loved the new books, not only for the colorful pages and covers, but also because of the fabulous handbook pages contained within the practice workbooks! My students were actually happy to return to this record keeping system. One student who had never used a handbook before (I am the first private lesson teacher she has ever had), immediately understood the value of such a handbook to help her organize her practice time and to build consistency (bright young middle school student!).

color handbooks for music students
Student Handbooks
If you are interested in the handbook page template that I use, email me your request, and I'm happy to provide you with a link to it.

Here is where I got the fabulous colored covers:

And here is another one from Astrobright:

Here is a simple laminating machine. I use mine to make checklists, signs for the studio, and simple review charts or game boards. Once something is laminated, I can use a dry erase marker, which is easily wiped off later. Students enjoy using these special charts.

My favorite studio machine tool is my binding machine. I cannot find my brand anymore; guess it is old now. There are several models on the market now, and here is a less expensive model. I used 1/4 inch binding combs for the handbooks.

And for the 1/4 inch binding comb: click here.

I hope you have as much fun with these handbooks as I did. My students love them!

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

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