One Best Way?
I know that I'm the Odd-Man in the world of violin teaching because I'm not a violin professional and I use Doflein (the method that I both learned and like) as opposed to the ubiquitous Suzuki method.
I have a different approach to music in what I tell my students and their parents: "There is only one reason in the universe for playing the violin (or any instrument) and that is because YOU want to."
My students have enjoyed success in learning how to play and participate in a youth orchestra program that I am also connected to. Yet, my students and I run into the universal question: "What book are you in and what piece are you playing?"
With my students we can say book one, two or three but the pieces they are playing aren't in the Suzuki Canon often my students are working on popular songs that they like but present the same skill requirements. Then the eyes roll, the heads shake, the shoulders droop,...
Yet, recently at an audition for the next level orchestra one of my students was asked to play an F-Maj scale and she slid up fourth position and played from F on the G to fourth position F on the E-string. I got a call from the conductor about her "showing off." I know that none of the other young musicians in her orchestra could do that but my student enjoys the challenge.
Do you think that there is "One Best Way" to bring somebody along in learning the violin?
The F-major three-octave scale normally starts from the fifth position on the G string, if you're following standard Flesch fingering. What's weird about what your student did was going into fourth position rather than fifth. I don't know why you'd start an F-major scale that way unless you were specifically learning fingering variants.
It sounds like a compliment. Congratulations for annoying the local conductor with your hot-shot student!
Yeah, F major in fourth position is weird and I too would raise an eyebrow if a kid did that. I agree with Lydia's other points as well.
I would have done the same thing. Both my Simon Fischer and my Elizabeth Gilels scale books have this scale and other scales higher than C starting with the second finger on G string.
None of the methods we normally encounter teach something that Bach would have routinely, which is how to create new music. Perhaps that's responsible for some of the apparent lack of vitality we see in classical music, and the distance from composers and compositions to players and audiences, in contrast to supposed lesser genres.
Christian, starting F major with the 2nd finger puts you in 5th position, not 4th position. The standard common scale fingerings (Flesch and otherwise) start on the 2 for a 3-octave scale, so that every scale is fingered identically.
Yeah, I guess my math skills need a brush up. Still, if it sounded good, who cares? If it didn't, then the conversation can start. Arrogant attempt to show off is assuming something about the child.
I'm trying to think of what the possible reasons might be for a student to play an F major scale in 4th position:
A two-octave scale in fourth position with fourth-finger extension on the e-string is perfectly reasonable, even if it is not "from the book"? If it is moreover played with good sound and tempo, and well in tune, but the conductor only expected a one-octave scale in first position (this is at least how I understand the situation described, since George adds that "no other young musician in the orchestra could do that") then the conductor should be delighted to see something nice and fresh rather than be irritated, no? Probably she had other worries or just a bad day.
If the conductor is a string player, the correct comic-panel for the audition shows him with a little thought bubble over his head with "???" in it.
I do need to clarify the whole fourth position F-Maj scale issue. For starters I did not teach her to do that.
Who gives a flying fart about the fingering? Sheesh, leave it to classical violinists to get up in arms about playing a scale correctly "incorrectly". If anything, she's only expanding her understanding of the fingerboard.
Well, someone judging a kid in a youth orchestra audition will pay attention to fingering because most kids won't work on their orchestra music with their teachers, and so whatever fingerings the kid chooses will be the ones that they actually use.
The original post says:
There is no best way to do a scale passage in real music, because the optimum fingering depends on the musical context, the rhythm, and the bowing. To demonstrate that just try to do any three octave scale in dotted and reverse dotted rhythm with the same fingering.
All fingering is judged in context, of course. There was a specific context given here.
I think the important question is not what you teach, but much rather how you teach it. If the student is enjoying learning, and they are progressing then it doesn't matter what anybody else may think IMO
I like Doflein. For students age 8 and up, I think it's a good comprehensive curriculum and I can see why you'd want to add some pop tunes to make learning more interesting.
Am I showing my age if I say I was taught from the Eta Cohen books?
This is why ALL orchestra auditions should be blind auditions -- to single out an unexpected fingering as not good or "showing off" even if the violinist played it in tune and with good tone is horrible, in my opinion. The auditioner should not have known what fingering was used, but should only have listened for accuracy of pitch and rhythm and quality of tone.
Like David apparently, I also still feel quite badly about this story with the girl and the conductor, all well-intentioned but rather unhappy insistence on "standard is good, do what is expected, and so on" notwithstanding. George you are doing great work with these kids and I'm confident the girl was strong enough to ignore the sorry remark and was proud she pulled off a good-sounding two-octave scale!
This discussion about kids only doing things the way adults/society expects them to be done is nicely summed up in the Harry Chapin song titled “Flowers are Red”. It’s on YouTube. A good life lesson for the power adult teachers have over kids.
Your student can play a spontaneous in-tune two-octave F-major scale starting in 4th position (which would require either shifting or or an extension to reach the top F of the second octave), but is theoretically just getting started in 3rd position?
Hey James thanks for the reference to Harry Chapin.
As predicted, the conductor is a goober. All is well with the cosmos.
Blind auditions are a terrible idea for youth orchestras for many of the same reasons that make them a good idea for professional orchestras.
If the F Major scale was in tune, who cares? People getting stuck on arbitrary values is a sign that they don't know what they're doing but want to pretend that they do.
Erik, there are two issues with the F scale fingering:
I agree with both of Mary Ellen's last two posts. I would add that "standard" does have a range of possibilities; for instance, my current teacher teaches an alternative fingering to Flesch that he thinks will be more commonly used for runs in repertoire, but any competent violinist would see it as a perfectly logical one.
Of course, I agree that a "standard" fingering is a better idea (simply because it's more efficient and easier). Either start on the G in 6th position so no shifts are necessary, or start 1st position on the D, shift once on the A to 3rd, and once more on the E to 5th.
No "one best way" in general but "best ways" for individual teachers (to teach/implement). I'm most comfortable using Suzuki pieces to represent beginner to early intermediate skill sequence and shorthand for: if my student "plays a certain piece", we have worked on XYZ skills, learning/thought process, certain degree of exposure to non-Suzuki repertoire which may still include exposure to skills ahead of the sequence. To the last transfer student who came in at the end of book 2, I said, we will need to spend at least 6 months going through *skills* before continuing with book 3 (it has been almost 10 and we're not there yet).
Erik, both Lydia and I were trying to explain to George why the conductor’s alarm bells would be going off with a student playing F major in fourth position. That’s all.
On the subject of working on school or youth orchestra material, what I have learned is that I need to set tighter boundaries. Spending all your lesson time, for weeks and months on end, is not okay, probably signifies that the material is too difficult, and expectations should be reduced for how much or what level or standard of orchestra to do.