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Music & Words

Claire Allen

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Published: October 13, 2015 at 1:59 PM [UTC]

I have a rule in my studio: You must sing your new piece before I will teach it to you on the violin. With words you wrote (one syllable per note). From memory.

It's no wonder my students think I'm a little nuts.

kids singing

This is a learning strategy I acquired from my teacher, Burton Kaplan. Writing words to your piece opens up a new way to engage with it. Having to write words and SING them forces students to listen to the song differently - and probably to listen to it more times than they would. You listen to the inflections of the notes, and engage with the rhythm in a different way.

The beginning stages of learning the violin can be very challenging. There are a lot of details to remember, and I insist on a very high level of technique from my students at every level. The violin must be held right, the left hand framed beautifully, the fingers landing just so on the strings. The bow hold must have every finger in the right place, yet the arm and hand must be relaxed. The direction of the bows and the amount of bow used must follow precise directions.

All of this, while incredibly important, can get dry and mechanical. Having my students write their own creative words and sing them ensures that before we dive into the technical details of the piece, they have internalized their own musical image of what the piece is. And, should we get too lost in the bowings and fingerings, I can always have them sing a phrase and then try to imitate their voices.

I'm sharing some of my students' original words and the Suzuki songs they go to. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

May Song

In a little hive there's a bee, make sure you don't sting me.
If you do you'll be very sad, if you do you'll be very sad.
In a little hive there's a bee, make sure you don't sting me.

-Bailey, age 7

Minuet 1 - The Hermione Song

Hermione and her friends, Harry Potter and
Ron Weasley, Neville and Luna Lovegood all go to Hogwarts.

Hermione and her friends, Harry Potter and
Ron Weasley, Neville and Luna Lovegood all go to Hogwarts.

They ride Hogwarts Express all the way up to the castle.
Laughing with friends and chocolate frogs will make time go fast.

McGonagall and Dumbledore teach them their spells.
Snape does the potions. We don't quite trust him. He's kind of creepy.

Quidditch is their big sport. Harry plays Seeker, yes he does.
Griffindor will win. Draco is angry. He lost the snitch.

He who shall not be named is there, lurking around.
Hermione and her friends won't let him get Harry Potter!

Minuet 3- My Busted Arm

I do not like my busted arm. It's very hard to do some stuff.
Like eating with a fork, playing violin and holding a pencil.

I fell off of the zip line and landed on my right arm. Boo hoo!
We went to the doctor, then to the x-ray, then to the ER.

The ER was so fun. They gave me an ipad when I first got to my bed.
I played Hair Salon the whole time and loved it so much.

Then Cinderella came to visit and to take some pictures, too.
Then the nurse gave me a splint and we went back home at 9.

- Lindsey, age 7

Minuet 2 - MOWnuet

Tulips come up in the spring (in spring)
They’re a gardener’s favorite thing (in spring)
Poppies and petunias, don’t forget tiny crocuses,
Parsley, rosemary and thyme (and thyme)
Roses bloom and start to climb (and climb)
Shovels or maybe trowels or maybe
Flowerpots for your plants.

Flower gardens get the glory, and
Vegetables are always useful, so
Why is it that so much space goes to
Raising up boring grass? Don’t you think
Digging around with shovels and trowels
Might be more fun than mowing the lawn?
Raking the leaves is another nice weekend gone.

Plant some fruit trees in a row (a row)
Plant them deep and watch them grow (and grow)
Make me a flower border with cosmos,
Daisies and Queen Anne’s Lace.

-Grace, age 9

Originally posted on my website.

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From Kate Little
Posted on October 13, 2015 at 7:21 PM
Fabulous idea!

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