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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Suzuki Violin Book 2 Musings

Recently a teacher friend of mine mentioned that she was venturing farther into book 2 with her students than she had previously gone, and she asked me for teaching advice. This conversation sparked me to think about the gifts we discover in book 2.

In general book 2 is designed to “unfurl” the student’s left hand. Whereas book 1 remained within the confines of the perfect fourth interval and ventured to widen the reach between the fingers within that perfect fourth interval, book two challenges the student to stretch the reach between all of the fingers and widen the overall interval to an augmented fourth (or diminished fifth) and a perfect fifth. The book introduces four or five new finger pattern combinations and some stretches between the fingers that span across the strings rather than on the same string (e.g., Chorus and Minuet in G). The last third of the book introduces the trill (preparation in Gavotte from Mignon), and the student learns to widen the space between the trill (half step trill in Lully’s Gavotte and whole step trill in Boccherini’s Minuet).

The right hand skills include longer bows and whole bow distribution concepts in legato (Long, Long Ago) and staccato (Hunter’s Chorus). The up-up hooked staccato bowing from the book 1 “Happy Farmer” is quickened in the Long, Long Ago book 2 variation and then lengthened to four up bow staccato notes in the trio to Minuet in G. There is increased complexity of bowing and rhythm combinations: hooked and dotted rhythms (Witches Dance), slurred dotted rhythms (Minuet in G), bow speed variances, louré or portato bowing (Handel Bourreé and Minuet in G), and the beginnings of the “circle back” collé bowing (The Two Grenadiers).

I separate book 2 into two separate books in my head, because the first and second halves seem to belong to different skill perspectives. The first half of book 2 casts an eye back at book 1 in terms of finger patterns and bowing skill sets. The latter half of book 2 looks ahead to the skills needed to advance into books three and four.

Perhaps the trickiest part about teaching book 2 is to figure out how to introduce a new book 2 skill or teaching point. To prepare for early book 2, what I call book 2A, I focus on cementing the skills that book 1 introduced. I find this easy because simultaneously we are going over what we have learned in book 1 in great detail as we polish the book 1 repertoire to prepare a book 1 graduation recital.

To prepare to teach book 2B, the last half of book 2, I introduce new concepts and skill exercises. The first really new skill will be the wider stretch required between the index and second or third fingers in The Two Grenadiers and in Lully Gavotte. Most teachers introduce this stretch by altering Go Tell Aunt Rhody to resemble a more Middle Eastern sound. We play Bb instead of B natural and F natural rather than F# throughout the song:

Aunt Rhody Goes to Saudi Arabia
The parents are usually interested to hear how this change in fingering alters the sound of the song so completely, and the students want to learn this skill because their parents are so interested. This is also a great group class activity, as Aunt Rhody makes a stop in Saudi Arabia when she takes a trip around the world. See my previous post about this: Around the World with Aunt Rhody.

Another new skill in book 2 is the Bb finger pattern, so I introduce the one-octave Bb scale on the A and E strings. We often work with a tuner.

Bb scale, one octave

I find that the best teacher of the Bb finger pattern shows up when the student learns to play the Bb scale in broken thirds:

Bb scale, broken thirds

We definitely use a tuner for the broken thirds exercise to make sure that the third fingers are in tune. This exercise also affords me the opportunity to talk about ringing third fingers in octaves with a lower string:

tuning the 3rd finger

One other useful tool to prepare for the second half of book two is to teach the student how to play Perpetual Motion from book 1 in the key of Bb. Twinkle Theme in Bb is also useful. Once the student has mastered the Bb fingering for Perpetual Motion in Bb, the student will be able to later use this fingering to learn how it feels in various positions:
Each song in book 2 requires a different set of previews of skills for both the left and right hands. My purpose here was to give a brief summary overview of some of the major skills that book 2 will introduce and to lay out a few of the basic preparation tools I use to pave the way for teaching the last half of Suzuki violin book two.

1 comment:

  1. What's the 1st half of suzuki book 2a? Until what piece?