Where to put it: Middle of Book 2, Gavotte from Mignon-ish: after Low 1 has been introduced, and after some pizzicato prep has been done.
Tiptoe Dance is a great piece for putting a lot of skills together, but not necessarily for teaching them. Students should be comfortable with high 2/low 2 patterns as well as low 1’s and the C Major Scale before learning this piece. It has some fun fast scales, as well as one little lick that’s reminiscent of Gossec Gavotte. The theme can be done either on the string at the balance point, or brush stroke, depending on the student. It also ends with a fast transition to a pizzicato chord that needs some isolation practice and some pizzicato prep (see: Green Tomatoes).
- Isolate the 16th note runs and teach them separate bows, then hooked martele, then slurred.
- Isolate m. 9 and make sure the student lifts the high 2 while playing the last 3rd finger to reach back for the low 2.
- Use the 8th rests to make sure the bow hand is released and flexible in the air (you can have them shake the bow during the rest to check this).
Dance of the Gnomes, by Charlotte Louise Woodbridge
Where to put it: Middle of Book 2 – pairs nicely with Two Grenadiers
Dance of the Gnomes uses many of the same skills as Two Grenadiers, from the ability to switch between d minor and D Major to the many finger patterns used. Both the bowings and rhythms are simpler than in Two Grenadiers, so depending on the student, this piece can either be preparation for Two Grenadiers or reinforcement afterwards. There are double-stops, but they’re mostly open strings and add a great element of fun. The slurs in the D Major section also help to strengthen the bow skills needed in Suzuki Book 2. Several well-placed ritards also help students develop musical pacing and sophistication.
- Work a lot on arm levels – slurs can be done as martele to help feel the arm drop to the new string during the stop.
- Teach the D Major section with slurs as martele to help both with level crossings and bow distribution.
- Isolate M. 28 to work on the tritone across the strings from 3 to low 4.
- For the student already doing some 3rd position work, the very last note of the piece (m. 20) can be done in 3rd on the G string.
‘Lil Blue, by Hannah Bartel
Where to put it: Middle – end of Book 2
‘Lil Blue is a beautiful piece that features a lyricism not found in many of the pieces in Suzuki Book 2. Students should be able to play a 2 octave A Major scale before they tackle this piece. This is a much friendlier introduction to A Major than Boccherini Minuet. It’s in ¾, and as every phrase starts on an upbeat, provides ample opportunity to discuss strong and weak beats and bow speed. Lots of good 4th finger practice as well.
- Do work on breathing on an upbeat so the student learns to cue it well.
- Having the student sing this first helps them learn where to breathe naturally.
- Depending on where the student is, teaching the slurs as hooked martele can always be usefule, but if the student’s bow arm is already well developed, you can skip this step and go straight to the slurs.
The Marionettes, by Eve Hungerford
Where to put it: Late Book 2
The Marionettes is another great piece in A Major that’s friendlier than Boccherini Minuet. Its cheerful and upbeat character make it a favorite of my students. There are some fun repeated downbows on the G string which give us a chance to work on landing at the frog and pulling the arm weight in the bow. Students will become very comfortable with alternating high 3 and ringing 3. Dotted rhythms in the middle section will help reinforce the rhythmic concepts introduced in Two Grenadiers and Witches’ Dance. There is also opportunity to work on the left hand frame with plenty of 1 – 4 octave passages.
- The middle section is a great place to talk about subdivision. The tendency is for a student to turn the dotted rhythm into a triplet rhythm. I have them play the 16th note subdivisions, then I play the subdivision while they play normally, then transition them to thinking the subdivision while they play.
- Isolate the 1 -4 octave sections and talk about hand balance, keeping the left thumb soft, and ringing intonation.
- Isolate the repeated downbows. Have the students land right at the frog, do a pinky pushup or some exercise to feel that their thumb is flexible and that their weight is in the back half of their bow arm.
- For students shifting to 3rd position, the last note of this piece can be done in 3rd position on the D string.
Aria, by Ethel Barns
Where to put it: After Gavotte from Mignon in Book 2
Aria is a beautiful piece in g minor that helps develop a lyrical tone and more sophisticated phrasing. Particularly after the faster pieces in the middle of Book 2 (Two Grenadiers, Witches’ Dance, and Gavotte from Mignon), this makes for a dramatic change in character and allows the student to work on their low 1’s and 4’s in a slower paced piece. There are lots of opportunities to talk about breathing (like a singer, since an aria is a song!), phrasing, and pacing. Two simple doublestops at the end allow for a little technical push as well.
- I almost always have students sing and write words to this piece before learning it.
- Have the students play the quintuplets separate bows, then hooked martele before the slurs. A little rhythmic work may be needed to help them make the 5 notes even within the beat.
- The last line needs some isolation to work on changing from 8ths to triplets.
- The doublestops at the end are worth isolating to talk about string levels and left hand frame.
Many, many thanks to Claire Allen for her thoughtful analysis and helpful hints on using these pieces! Check out all the wonderful activities at the Potomac Arts Academy, where Claire teaches (in addition to her own studio, Allen Violin Studio) and is co-ordinator of chamber music. Fairfax, Virginia is lucky to have her!