Is there a Method Book written by well-known performers/teachers?

May 21, 2009 at 06:42 PM ·

With all of the great etude books, scale studies, etc for solo string instruments,  I wonder why there are very few method books for orchestra that are written by the top teachers in the string world. Most of the books I've come across are written by pedagogy folks, who are usually not the greatest performers (not that that's a prerequisite to good teaching, but a great teacher must be a very good performer in my opinion), and they are not skilled in the playing of all of the string instruments.

What I'm looking for is a book that starts from the absolute beginning and goes through the advanced stages of playing. I would like to see a book that is written by 4 big-time professional teachers (violin, viola, cello, and bass), but, of course it would have to be for the heterogeneous classroom. I know that it would be difficult to write such a method book, but surely it would be a huge success. Does such a book exist?

Replies (23)

May 21, 2009 at 07:18 PM ·

Jeez, Marty, you don't ask for much.  I have no idea whether something like that exists, but since your description of it is sort of broad brush, it is hard to be sure.  The closest for violin might be Fischer or Galamian, but I do not have adequate exposure to either those or others. 
Good luck.

May 21, 2009 at 07:46 PM ·

Sam Applebaum could play the fiddle...very nicely in fact

How do you define professional?

or might it be why re-invent the wheel?

May 21, 2009 at 09:10 PM ·

The fact that any of these series is written for classroom (group) instruction differentiates it in a huge way from the private instruction that is usually given by top professional performers/teachers.

The reality is that group instruction tends to converge all of the players around a certain ability level...students that fall behind get pulled up, and those that move ahead are held back. As an enrichment activity, this works very well in the schools...for those with more significant aspirations it is not sufficient (but that is why private instruction exists).

It makes sense to use a text created by someone who has done the research in child cognitive psychology and understands how to present those concepts to say, the mind of an 8-9 year old and targets the series accordingly. I use the Essential Elements 2000 series (supplemented with a lot of my own resources of course) and it works really well for 4th and 5th grades. It conveys many of the concepts that I find important one-on-one: rhythm reading, note reading, point-of-contact, recognizing time and key singatures, daily playing of scales and recognition of tetrachord finger patterns, etc.

Ultimately, these texts are only a resource...they require someone competent to teach the subject. It makes no difference who writes the book if there isn't anyone who can communicate the ideas contained in it effectively.

May 21, 2009 at 11:25 PM ·


you might investigate adapting the idea sin Rolland`s `The Teachign of Actyion in String Playing`  to the bigger context.



May 22, 2009 at 01:25 AM ·

I would imagine that the market for the type of book you're looking for would be too diverse.  There is no such thing as a cookie cutter string class, and therefore no cookie cutter book.  Some string classes are pull out programs, some are after school programs, some are private.  Some meet once a week, some meet more often.  Some strings classes have only violins, some have mixed strings.  There are too many variables to be covered by one magical book.

Of course there is the possibility that great violinists do not have the experience necessary to write such a book.  Being a great performer and a classroom teacher at the same time is quite a feat as each one requires complete dedication.

For what it's worth I use Essential Elements too, the pacing is great but I do have to supplement with additional things as all good teachers usually do.

May 22, 2009 at 02:32 AM ·

Marina, you say there's no cookie cutter string classes, yet you use a method book that is used for that very purpose. I never suggested that there was a "magical book" that will make virtuosos out of all of my kids. What I want is a book that is written by people who actually know the techniques involved in string playing (all the instruments) and written in a progressive form from beginners through high school. I have used many books, including essential elements, and I just think there has to be a better, more efficent way to cover things. Many of these books skip over things, have many typos, or are confusing for beginners. The essential elements 2000 is the best book I've used, but I'm still not satisfied with it. 

May 22, 2009 at 03:50 AM ·

I wouldn't be surprised if no big-name string players have written a methods book because teaching classroom strings has more to do with mundane issues like basic posture, efficiently tuning 40 students in 45 seconds, and discipline/classroom control.

May 22, 2009 at 04:13 AM ·


its probably les stechnicla and more generla in the sense Scott is talking about but there is a book (not for the kids) on this topic ,  the title of which I will give you later .  For now I will tell you it is -extremely- expensive.  



May 22, 2009 at 06:40 AM ·

>The essential elements 2000 is the best book I've used, but I'm still not satisfied with it.

I'd agree...but I doubt there's going to be a book that completely satisfies every criteria that we as teachers have. At least in EE, they use illustrations instead of pictures so that kids still need to visualize how things work rather than attempting to straight-out copy.

I strongly dislike their text regarding forte/piano dynamics and emphasis on bow pressure as opposed to changing the point-of-contact. However, I feel that the harmonics and shifting exercises at the end of book 2 are very well thought out for everyone.

May 22, 2009 at 07:40 AM ·


the book I refered to earlier is called Strategies for etaching strings (Hamann and Gillespie-published by Oxford. )The blurb on the back states* ...providing reasers with all the information and skills necessary to teach string instruments in schools and develop a successful school orchestra program.

Its very expensive so if you can get a local library to buy it...

It has a lot of good ideas on beginning,  intermediate and advanced string class instruction and rehearsing technique. 



May 22, 2009 at 12:26 PM ·

Please don't misquote me:  I said I use EE because the pacing is great but that I also supplement as all good teachers do.  I don't disagree that it would be nice to have better books available to teachers, but each teacher is looking for different things, not all will be pleased.  Maybe write your own?  All of us do it in some form or another with our lesson plans anyway.

"What I want is a book that is written by people who actually know the techniques involved in string playing (all the instruments) " - Guess what, that person is the teacher.  

"and written in a progressive form from beginners through high school."  I can't think of a single performer who would dedicate their entire lifetime to writing such an extensive book and still have a performance career - great performers are not necessarily the best equipped to teach anyway.

"I have used many books, including essential elements, and I just think there has to be a better, more efficent way to cover things. " - there is a better way as long as you don't depend on these books for everything.  Remember that the books are not there for your convenience, they're there as a supplement to YOUR teaching.

"Many of these books skip over things, have many typos, or are confusing for beginners." - Of course they do, because the people who wrote them can't read your mind about what you want to teach.  When I see definitions of words that I don't agree with I skip over them and give my own definition... when the book seems confusing I explain it to my students in a way that is not confusing to them.

On second thought maybe PdK should write this elusive book haha!

May 22, 2009 at 02:00 PM ·

I used the Leopold Auer Graded Book of Violin for some of my students.  Leopold Auer was no slouch.  Heck, he taught Heifetz!

May 22, 2009 at 02:18 PM ·

Marina, I'm only their teacher for 30 minutes. They need a book that will help them when they're in class and out of class. I have not found that book yet.

May 22, 2009 at 03:32 PM ·

You can help them with that too.  Students should leave class with a plan on what to do until next time they see you.  How to practice, what to practice, how NOT to practice, and holding them accountable for it in class.  It's important for students to know how to tackle a problem when you're not around, that's the whole point of learning.

May 22, 2009 at 03:48 PM ·

Strategies for Teaching Strings (2nd edition) is $55 new.  Amazon lists it  new discounted to $48.  The first edition is available used - on abebooks and amazon I see copies for ~$20.

That may or may not be a price you feel like shelling out, but when I saw Buri announcing it was from Oxford and expensive, I imagined it was over $100.


May 22, 2009 at 04:09 PM ·

Drew Lecher, who hangs out here, has written something like the book you want, I think. He's not a world famous soloist, but I know he can play, and I've seen him show some amazing insights dealing with students. The book isn't expensive, and may be what you're looking for, and I think he wrote it to fill the gap you're experiencing. It's worth checking out, at least.

There's info about it on his own site, and in his bio:

May 22, 2009 at 04:11 PM ·

I'm sure I've posted this at some point, but I refuse to use EE. The authors made the notes Xtra-biggie (are the kids blind or something?) so that you get through it faster and have to buy more of them. Seems rather blatant to me.

I think All for Strings is much better. But as I said, it's MUCH more about getting and keeping attention (and keeping them from their infernal plucking/scraping while you're demonstrating).

May 22, 2009 at 10:00 PM ·

My five cents. I´d definetly reccomend the Samuel Applebaum books. They gave me great grund technique and had some wonderful tunes to play and presented everything in a clear forward manner.

May 22, 2009 at 10:27 PM ·

How about Albert Markov's System of Violin Playing? After all, he is a great performer - and a very systematic teacher. (there was, in fact, a brief discussion here


May 22, 2009 at 11:36 PM ·

I used the Applebaum books myself when I first started playing. They were great. I'll have to take another look at them. I'll also look at the Markov as well. Thanks for the listings.

May 25, 2009 at 03:56 AM ·

I haven't seen them, and I don't know if they are actually out yet; but Mark O'Conner announced some months ago that he had a set of teaching books coming out late spring -- so, they should be out.  They are supposed to teach fiddle and violin combined.  Like I said, I haven't seen them, just read the release announcement.


May 26, 2009 at 08:27 PM ·

> The authors made the notes Xtra-biggie so that you get through
> it faster and have to buy more of them. Seems rather blatant to me.

Since replacing All For Strings with EE three years ago we've not had to purchase any more books than normal...there is Book 1 for the first year (4th grade for us) and Book 2 for the second year (5th grade for us), supplemented with other pieces and exercises. My Middle School (grades 6 throuugh 8) uses Book 3 which is broken up into units on shifting/positions, scales, and bowings/rhythms that can be used in any sequence. It's significant pedagogical strength comes from its illustrations of tetrachords in the left hand, which are critical in helping string students build complete scale patterns.

I fail to see how printing notes larger at the beginning to aid visual interpretation of the spaces and lines somehow correlates with having to "buy more of them." The notes start larger with the names written in them to help first-time readers, then shrink down once the aids aren't necessary. This is the same kind of technique used in children's books as they transition from shorter stories into full-length novels. Ever wonder why Harry Potter isn't printed in the same size font as See Spot Run?

May 27, 2009 at 04:19 PM ·

In my case the larger print was a bonus when I switched to EE after using All for Strings.  Because All For Strings pacing was all wrong for beginners I had 4th graders reading teeny tiny little notes and they couldn't focus on which line or space they were in.  The EE books transition really well from beginnerish type notation to regular spacing as you go along in the book.  I don't consider it a scam but rather thoughtful and strategic of them - the proof is in the pudding actually.


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