Avoiding the Summer Slump

May 25, 2008 at 03:00 AM · School is out in less than a month for my 3rd grade daughter and her friends. I found out today that her viola-playing friend is keeping her viola and wants to stick with it. They've enjoyed playing together a handful of times over the school year and want to do something over the summer. A violin-playing friend is also potentially interested in coming over too.

None of these kids takes private lessons right now. My daughter and the other violinist are at about the same level, near or at the top of their school peer group, but only in the middle of Essential Elements 2000 book 1. The violist is less advanced.

I'd like to try to teach these 3 girls over the summer so that the instruments don't just sit in the cases until next September. I'm planning to review some of their EE2000 curriculum, but if I just do that they'll be bored. I'm also a bit concerned about integrating the violist with the other two, because she needs remedial work on posture and bow hold, and her music-reading ability is not great.

So, I'm thinking of having the two violinists learn some Suzuki Book I duets, and maybe the violist can play the Twinkle melody while the violinists play some variations along with her.

I was also thinking of doing some rhythm and listening exercises with all 3 of them without the instruments.

We will have a little recital in the yard to which we will invite parents and grandparents. They're already excited about that part of it . . .

Any other suggestions for possible duets, especially for violin and viola, or duets in which one part is easier than the other but still not too boring?

And what would be a good solo piece? Are there any easy arrangements of Mozart that might catch a child's fancy? When I was about that age, I heard a slightly older student perform an easy arrangement of Handel's Judas Maccabaeus as a solo, and I became a little obsessed with that song. It was the first song I wrote out by ear after hearing it. It was how I learned "low 2's" on the A string. I need to find another song like that.

Replies (13)

May 25, 2008 at 12:27 PM · I asked their teacher for advice and he, being primarily a band teacher, referred me to the string teacher that they are going to have next year. But she hasn't responded yet.

May 26, 2008 at 04:47 PM · There are some Bach Inventions transcribed for violin and viola which are not that difficult. Many of Bartok's duos for two violins might be good. Maybe you could get the next year's string teacher to do something with them privately over the summer.

May 26, 2008 at 07:25 PM · some possible repetoire:

easy rounds like "are you sleeping"

easy fiddle tunes-Old Joe Clark is a good one for introducing low 2.

Suzuki pieces up through Allegro, especially if done in D Major.

Duets (put 2 on one of the parts)

Duets for Strings, Book 1 by Applebaum

Primo Performance by Robert S. Frost

First Things First by Robert S. Frost

a couple online resources:

sibeliusmusic.com-Just for Starters by Peter Martin; you can print up violin & viola parts for free and do a good basic review.

stringstuff.com has some easy free stuff you could print.

some skills:

4th finger


hooked bows

May 27, 2008 at 12:46 PM · Imho, children are more interested if they can see themselves progressing. Getting them together to play a couple of tunes is fine, but that doesn't mean they'll practice without a curriculum to follow.

I would suggest if you want your daughter to stay interested in the violin, that you get her started with lessons. Have you asked the 4th grade string teacher if he/she is willing to give lessons over the summer? You could do two lessons a month so it's less structured for everyone over the busy summer. If your daughter and her friend are at the same level in the method book, the teacher may willing to do a 'group' lesson with them. Then they could get together to practice their lesson material.

May 27, 2008 at 04:41 PM · If you wanted to include the violist, I believe there are revised editions of Suzuki book 1 that uses different keys. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

May 27, 2008 at 11:36 PM · I heard back from the 4th grade teacher and she suggested a number of helpful things, including the possibility of private lessons, but my daughter doesn't want lessons with anyone but me. Neither does her friend. It's flattering on one hand, but also a little annoying/and or scary (which I wouldn't admit to them). I'm not a violin teacher, but then again, I have led a Brownie troop and taught Sunday school.

I told my own teacher about it and she said she thought I'd be able to do a fine job teaching them at this level. She started and taught her own daughter off and on for about 2 years, and her daughter is now in her 30's and still plays the violin. She also has colleagues who taught their own kids--one taught her daughter all the way from Twinkle to Curtis. I liked hearing stories of how it's possible.

May 28, 2008 at 01:28 AM · Good luck!

May 28, 2008 at 04:31 AM · I think it's a very useful, at times during a student's progress, to simply play a bunch of fun stuff that's at the same level! :) It's kind of a sneaky way around "review."

Mel Bay has an Easiest Fiddle Tunes book (it's green with a little cartoon guy on the front) that would be appropriate for the level you describe. The kids love the tunes and it's got a great cheater's code at the bottom, so they are reading music but not really. For summer fun and for supplemental stuff, I think this is just fine. Good, even. They are at least figuring out some code, even if all the fingers are written in!

Also, maybe try Doflein Book 1, though that might be a bit difficult. But it's a great method, with tons of duets, including the likes of Bartok and Hindemith, even at the beginning level. The first few lessons ought to be very do-able, and if you go beyond that, progress may even happen. ;) I give this example because it's one book that I don't mind if my students work ahead of what they are assigned. It's just very well-designed for incremental progress.

May 28, 2008 at 01:31 PM · The 4th grade teacher gave us permission to work ahead in the EE2000 book, which, surprisingly, I think is important to my daughter. She wanted to do the slurs and ties, which are two pages ahead of where they are in class, but then was nervous when she actually tried it. "I don't know if I'm allowed to. We didn't do this!"

Thanks Laurie and Patricia for the specific suggestions. Patricia is right on for the skills they need to work on. The two violinists have pretty strong 4th fingers, for them it's mostly a matter of being confident in using them rather than just taking the easy way out and playing the open string. The violist still needs to work on placing hers in the right place. She only has a first finger and third finger tape on the fingerboard, I think she'd appreciate a 4th finger one as well.

I have Suzuki book 1 and its second violin part. I can transpose it to viola if I have to. And I'm definitely going to check out this fiddle book Laurie recommended! Thanks!

June 5, 2008 at 10:29 AM · Okay, I know this may seem a little MATERIAL, but I suggest letting them charge a small ticket price for their concert. When I was a kid, my girlfriend and I would put on shows/dances/concerts and charge a quarter per seat. Our family and friends would pay it (probably both to humor us and giggle at our silliness) and that was tremendously motivating. You could use that as a reason for them to really work hard: "You know, it's important to give people their money's worth, so let's get down to practice and make sure this performance really makes them glad they decided to fork over their hard-earned cash..." etc.

Of course, we weren't playing violins, we were doing hula dances and strumming tennis racket "guitars", but still, it was fun to make money. :o)

June 5, 2008 at 11:03 AM · They would love earning money for their concert--that's an interesting idea. I think it would appeal especially to the violist who needs the most work . . .

As far as the violist goes, she's a tiny little girl with a small hand, and I think some of her problems, especially in LH position, might come from struggling to handle a viola.

My daughter is the opposite, she's a tall girl with long fingers, but she plays the violin. I once floated the idea that they should switch instruments and they were horrified: NO!

But now the violist is kind of intrigued by the possibility of switching to violin. I think I'll email the school teacher and see what she thinks . . .

June 10, 2008 at 07:34 PM · If you feel the petite girl is mismatched to the viola, by all means speak up before she hurts herself. I wanted to play the viola at first, but the folks at the shop wouldn't let me, and now I'm grateful.

June 11, 2008 at 03:21 AM · Another good, fun book for beginners is The Mel Bay American Fiddle Method by Brian Wicklund (http://www.amazon.com/American-Fiddle-Method-Vol-Book/dp/0786652519/ref=rsl_mainw_dpl?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER ). The CD that comes with it is a lot of fun and motivating. At the beginning, there a couple of song endings (shave and a haircut, two bits) which delight kids and adults alike. If they progress, they can learn to play the songs with double stops and slides. They love that (I do too.) Every couple of pages the author slips in a new technique to learn, such as dotted slurs and low 2, with very clear instructions and a few measures of exercises for the student to play. The students like these because they are so helpful. It's all fun, and my adult beginners like it just as much as the kids do. For additional motivation, the students can look forward to Book 2.

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