The Sassmannshaus method gets results!
Written by janet griffiths
Published: June 24, 2014 at 7:59 PM [UTC]
The video above is an example of my junior ensemble. The reason I have uploaded this is to extoll the virtues of the Sassamannshaus books, which hardly anyone talks about on this site. I have used the Sassmannshaus method for years with great results, due to the logical progression of the material. Because of this, the children really understand what they are doing. Also, the choice of the material leads to a good understanding of style and interpretation. This is a method based on intellectual development, requiring input from the student in terms of assessment of quality of sound and interpretation. The group on the video are aged between eight and nine years old.
This older group also was mostly developed under the Sassmannshaus books, which finish with the fourth volume, at which point it's possible to delve staight into Mazas. The fourth volume introduces positions with many baroque and classical duets which are a pleasure to learn. I suggest everyone look closely at the entire method, and if you are put off by the rapid accelaration at the beginning as I certainly was, go slowly. In fact I have written a preparatory volume which works very well for my students
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Posted on June 25, 2014 at 5:57 PM
interesting. Could you give us a little more detail on how you pace the material and your modifications to it? I always found it a little odd, paced almost like the reverse of a Waltz slo slo quick quick slow...
If I have a very young student I actually give them another book first which I have produced myself , very colourful and with a story about four friends , a giant, a dog, an ape and an eagle who set off to find the most beautuful sound in the world. Here the notes are printed even larger and note reading is much slower , I'm talking about 4-6 year olds. At the same time there are tunes on one string which they learn with a colour dot code which is on their violin and develops the left hand, together with the three major scales. A very young child might stay on this for a year but a sprightly six year old will pass through quickly. Older beginners from 7 years on go directly to the first volume. By the time the younger ones pass th the first volume they already read the notes well so I miss the open string section and they start the book in two places, the open string /second finger chapter and the open string /first finger chapter and are given work to study from each one every week. Once they have finished the open string /second finger chapter they repeat this alternating with fourth fingers whilst moving on ahead with the rest of the book. I couple the first book with repetoire such as Stepping Stones/Waggon Wheels ,K & H Colledge . The second book starts work on the low second finger and at this point I explain about sharps, this coupled with repetoire from Fast Forward K & H Colledge and the first concerto Kuchler op11.Often pupils will take their first abrsm exam (associated board of the royal colleges of music). This usually takes about one and a half to two years from first lesson depending on the pupil. After this things start to move much quicker as the intellectual growth of the child develops. The beauty of the system is it explains the semitones and the geography of the violin in a logical manner so the pupil understands completely where to put a finger when they see a sharp or a flat.I ofeten start the section with the high third finger before finishing the chapter with the low second etc so that we are constantly working with two different finger patterns. I implement the page of finger patterns once they have learned the high third finger so everyweek they will do these on every string with different bowings By the time they have arrived at the end of the chaper with the extended hand they will have finshed Fast Forward and have played Rieding op 35 and the Vivaldi Concerto op7 n2. They will have also sarted Wohlfahrt op 45.Some students might wish to do the second abrsm exam but I don't usually inist on doing them all.Then I move staight to book 4 as book 3 is consolidation which we have been doing continually.Before starting this volume our finger patterns will already have been practiced inthird position so the third position is not scarey and I work at the pace of the student as some have problems reading in third position and others don't.But I guarentee with this book by the third page they start sailing through because of the logic of the material.Really enjoyable duets introduce style, bowing and interpretation at the same time.From here all the repetoire now include the obvious choices and students take the third abrsm exam.Our Finger patterns take to the air and we do 5th/3rd and 1st positios in that order repeating each system four times. They always play in the first and then repeat in the fifth so can check on intonation.Then we combine 6th/4th/2nd. The book actually moves from first upwards but that is just an indication.By the end of the book they will have started Mazas, have played the scales in 2 octaves non stop up to 5th position and have done three scales in three octaves and have taken the 5th abrsm exam. From here on its all standard studies Kreuzer etc and repetoire.
Thank you - that's interesting. I've used Suzuki a lot, and have only tried using Sassmannshaus once - haven't heard much about it, although the first book seems well-planned.
I love teaching with Sassmanshaus. The notes are large and clear to read for young children. I love it that they start with the second finger. My students think it’s fun to play from and I think that it is a curriculum that it logically built up and progresses in the pace of the average student.
Dear Janet, I was interested in your ideas about the Sassmannshaus method. I don't regularly start beginners but I am about to start a young student on viola and thought I might give it a go. One problem that I immediately encountered was that there is no piano accompaniment book to any of the volumes as far as I can tell. I notice that you also use the Katherine & Hugh Colledge books ("Stepping Stones" etc) alongside this method. In the past I have been very happy with "Waggon Wheels" - they are delightful tunes to learn. I get a beginner student to always start from the beginning and play through to the latest learnt piece until it becomes impracticable to do in the time allotted.
One other detail about the Sassmannshaus volume 1 that slightly concerns me is that I would normally ask the student to place the first finger in the correct position when learning the second finger. Likewise for the fourth finger. But I will try and see how this works out! Do you have any other tips for using volume 1? Kind regards, Martin.
Martin,I think what puts a lot of people off the method is the introduction of the second finger before the first, also when introducing note reading this can produce confusion because the notes on the stave go down whilst the number of fingers on the finger board goes up ,even if you are crossing over strings it can be a difficult concept for a young child.Also the first finger should go down or all four if the fourth finger is being used as the idea is to set up the finger pattern. I sometimes skip the second chapter if they are learning to read the notes with the book and come back to it once they have got the idea that the sound rises when you add fingers.I introduce the idea of three distinct areas for lessons and practice, scales,studies and repetoire.The Sassmanshaus books for me are technical development so I don't worry too much about a lack of piano parts. There are so many possibilies available that can be used. Infact if you go to Sassmanshaus masterclass site you will see that he himself uses the Suzuki books as repetoire. I do not as I like my students to be competant at reading their repetoire pieces at first play through so go much more slowly.As one progresses through the finger patterns the same melodies are used so its possible to return to the first book and revisit old material and put each finger pattern into context. This idea continues right through to the fourth volume making it easier for the pupil to understand exactly what they are doing and if they understand they are more likely to practice bearing in mind very few of my students have an ever present parent who is also willing to help at home.
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