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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Quick Practice Tip: Mind Your T's and P's!

Here is a quick practice tip to strengthen your ability to articulate the beginnings of notes and to increase your palette of articulation choices at the same time.

Take a simple song with a series of continuing eighth notes. An example would be "Perpetual Motion" from Suzuki violin book 1 (song #9). Practice the song and strive to perform different sounding articulations.

I liken articulation to pronouncing consonants in speech. The English language has 21 various consonant sounds. There are several rather unique sounds: T, C or K (as in "kah"), P, or M, etc. I practice Perpetual Motion and work to get my bow to articulate and imitate one of the consonants.

The "T" sound is the usual sound we equate with the basic staccato stroke: all attack up front and nothing else. I think of the "C" or "K" sound as the sound of the martelé or hammered stroke: a hard attack sound with a whoosh of air that follows. The "P" ("puh") sound is a softer beginning to the note with some whispering air afterwards. I think of the "M" sound as a gentle détaché stroke.

I entice students to imitate various consonant sounds on Perpetual Motion and then to find places in the repertoire to use these various sounds. For example, the first movement of the Vivaldi A Minor Concerto in Suzuki violin book 4 provides opportunities for many different "consonant" bow strokes. In the opening passage the student could use the advanced "P" bow stroke, which sounds like a gentler martelé without the strong hammered attack. Later the student might employ staccato notes or the "T" sound.

Figuring out how to execute a bow stroke that imitates various consonant sounds helps to build up focus and concentration. It is not an easy task, but it is an engaging one.

Give it a try this week.

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