The holidays are fast approaching and I've curated the perfect (if I do say so myself) gift list for violin students of all ages. Ranging from cute musical jewelry to fun and practical violin accessories, there's something for everyone!
Practice Presents with Pizzazz (Say that 5x fast!)
Made in the USA (locally made in Connecticut, actually!) by a fantastic music teacher. These shapes are adorable and a huge hit with young students. This rosin is shaped like a dog and comes in the cutest packaging.
You'll find I refer to ThePracticeShoppe.com quite often in this list. Their site is absolutely invaluable. They have tons of digital downloads of practice charts, teaching aids, and everything under the sun to make practice fun.
Okay, maybe these socks don't help with practice, per se, but aren't they fun? What a cute stocking stuffer!
$5.00 for a pack of 3 from www.thepracticeshoppe.com
10. Music Stand
I remember when Santa brought me my first music stand. I was so little that I could barely lift it! It's a Manhassett and it's wonderful quality. I can attest to that: Mine has lasted for 25 years. While this might not seem that exciting at first glance, you can decorate this with your practice charts, stickers, awards, and have a fun place to dig into your note-reading.
$53.99 from Sharmusic.com
11. Peeking Cat
This little peeking cat hooks on to the G string (for violin) or the C string (for viola) and helps keep beginning students playing on the Kreisler highway for that beautiful, warm tone!
$1.99 at www.thepracticeshoppe.com
12. Musical Jewelry
While I can't say this one will really help with practice, I can't leave these off the list. The Practice Shoppe has the sweetest collection of musical jewelry. This is just one necklace that I think would be a lovely gift for students of all ages.
925 Sterling Silver Eighth note Beamed Necklace
13. Stretto Humidifier for Violin/Viola
This is a life-saver. Keeping tiny violins (or violins of any size, really!) in tune during our harsh New England winters is a challenge. This humidifier is the best and it lasts forever. Don't forget to buy the accompanying stretto bags.
On sale for $29.95 at JohnsonString.com
14. Music Highlighting Tape
This highlighting tape is such a useful tool. It's particularly nice because it's removable, so you can call attention to spots in your music that need help and then take it away when it's no longer needed.
$5.00 at The Practice Shoppe
15. Cube Timer
This practice timer can be used in so many fun and creative ways. I'll have to do a blog post on it. For now, it could always be used as your basic "Practice scales for 10 minutes" but for younger students, it can really help with transitions to practice. It can also be a great help for students who channel their inner Energizer Bunny and just keep going and going. Plus, you can always have a big review party: How many review pieces can you play in x amount of time? Can you beat the buzzer?
$15.99 at The Practice Shoppe
Which one is your favorite? Comment below! Also, sorry about the formatting issues. My blog is being awfully fussy today. Perhaps it is feeling left out from all the presents.
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Christmas Eve is tomorrow and I'm already receiving wonderful practice updates with students completing their Winter Break Bingo board.
Here are the notes for "Joy tot he World" and "Silent Night" (for the parents when we need a little help):
For my Twinklers through Perpetual Motion: "Joy to the World" in A Major
Note: For beginners, it's okay to learn just the beginning of the piece. The point is to have fun, so don't worry about the whole thing. :)
A G# F# E Joy to the world!
D C# B A The Lord is come. E F# F# G# G# A Let earth receive her KingA A G# F# E E D C# Let every heartA A G# F# E E D C# Prepare Him room C# C# C# C# C# D E And Saints and angels sing D C# B B B B C# D And Saints and angels sing C#B A A F# E DC# D C# B A And Saints and Saints and angels sing
*Fingerings in this piece:
A = open A string
B = 1st finger on A
C# = C-sharp (2 on the tape on the A String)
D = 3rd finger on A
E = open E string
F# = 1st finger on E
G# = 2nd finger on E (2 on the tape)
A = 3rd finger on E
For my Book 1 Students (Those working on G Major scale onward)
Rhythmically, this is tricky to notate in a blog, so I'm just going to include the lyrics of each line to keep track. Sheet music is below for reference as well.
Fingerings: Notes in black are on the D string, notes in bold black are on the A. Notes in green are on the G String.
It's Christmas Eve, 2017 is just around the corner, and I'm happily reminiscing about this year. We moved the studio to a brand new space, have had three successful studio recitals, and multiple students have presented brilliant graduation recitals. I'm looking forward to what 2017 has to bring and I'm so grateful for all my students and families. They bring so much joy to my days. Here are a few shots of my favorite moments.
The Suzuki Method is famous for teaching children to play by ear, but what happens when it's time to read music? In my studio, I begin teaching proper note names from almost the very beginning. I start by teaching finger numbers (a.k.a. by rote), then swap over to the musical alphabet at the A Major Scale. After the student has their fingers around the musical alphabet (usually by the Minuets in Book 1 or in Book 2, depending on the student's age and lesson duration), I introduce note-reading.
Note-reading is a tricky skill that needs to be practiced every day. So, it's important to keep it fresh and fun. Here are some of my favorite note-reading games and exercises:
There are countless options of flashcards online, but these ones from The Practice Shoppe save time and look great. If you want to print your own, these flash cards were custom-made by John Silzel, a violinist in California, who includes some fun ideas of how to use them in your practice. Printing or making your own cards is a great way to get your child involved and more interested in learning to read.
Fun flashcard games include:
Memory - You'll need duplicate cards for this game. Set up pairs of cards from one group of notes (Say, all the notes on the A string or all notes on lines) and set them face down. Then, attempt to match them using the classic rules from the game "Memory"
Olympics/Note-Reading Race - Line up all of your notes in chromatic order (B C C# D, etc.) Try to beat your best time every day and keep track of your record. Bonus: Try to beat your teacher's record. (Mine is about 90 seconds!)
War! - A twist on the classic card game for two. Quick version: Play with 1 deck / Full version: Play with 2 decks. Shuffle the deck(s) and divide in two, giving each player their own set of cards. Turn over your top cards at the same time. Whoever has the higher note gets both cards and puts them at the bottom of their deck. Whoever has all the cards at the end wins. As students get more advanced, have them call out the note name as they see it.
2. Online interactive games
There are so many interactive games online that are just perfect for note-reading. Check out some of my favorites:
The EEK! Shark! Game My personal favorite, because it's adorable, they play great classical music in the background, and you can select which clef and the note range you'd like to work on that day. Perfect if you're adding single notes like in Johanne Martin's "I Can Read Music!" workbooks.
3. Classic note-reading books. These are my personal favorites, as they can be utilized in so many different ways and suit all levels. These are available via Amazon.com, Sharmusic.com, and JohnsonString.com.
Johanne Martin's "I Can Read Music!" Volumes 1 & 2
The Doflein Method Volume 1
As I find more note-reading activities, I'll post them on my studio Pinterest page. Comment below with your favorites and share your ideas!
When my Suzuki families arrive for their lesson, there's plenty of hustle and bustle and amusing life updates. My 7-year old student proudly exclaims, "Guess what! I watched 'The Walking Dead' and I wasn't scared at all!" Mom quickly chimes in with an explanation, "She saw it at the neighbor's house when she knew she wasn't allowed to..." The spirited back-and-forth goes on for minute or so, until I redirect them to the task at hand. We take a moment of silence right before our bow, after which, I ask the same question that I ask at the start of every lesson: "How was practice this week?"
Most of the time, this is where the student proudly announce that they practiced every day or Mom pulls out the practice chart filled with stickers. Every once in a while, the student turns slowly and purposefully toward their parent. They eyeball each other, silently trying to pass off the responsibility of answering the question. Finally, Mom caves and a whirlwind explanation filled with frustration and exasperation comes pouring out. "She wants to practice everything too fast and I keep telling her to slow down, but when we listen to the CD, it's so fast! How can they expect us to play that fast?"
The great debate of practicing fast vs. slow. The great violinist, Itzhak Perlman, says,
"If you practice something slowly, you forget it slowly.
If you practice something fast, you forget it fast."
I couldn't agree more! (Note to self: Print this and put it on the studio wall)
But how do you get your child to want to practice slowly? When I was a kid, speeding along with the CD was my favorite part of playing. Frankly, I hated practicing slowly. So, I propose a compromise. Play with the CD slowed down. I present to you my new favorite app: Tempo SlowMo - the app that slows down (and speeds up) music.
It's really easy to use and makes practicing slowly (and review!) way more fun! Just grab your iPhone and a bluetooth speaker to blast your tunes. Think of it as channeling your inner rock star. :)
This app can be a little difficult to explain, so check out the screen shots below for reference.
Step 1: Click the music note in the upper right hand corner
Step 2: Select where you're getting your music from. If it's iTunes, click the top button that looks like an old school iPod.
Step 3: Select the song from your iTunes library
Step 4: Place your finger on the bright light on the circle and spin it around to reach your desired tempo. Going counterclockwise makes the tempo slower, and going clockwise makes it faster.
Step 5: Hit play (the triangle in the middle of the circle)
Other features: If you swipe from left to right, you'll be able to skip to different points in the track.
So next time your child is speeding through their review pieces, have them put on a concert where you choose the tempo. Record the concert and send it to your teacher (As a teacher, I assure you, it makes my day!) Of course, don't forget to keep them on their toes and alternate between sensible tempos and absolutely ridiculous ones. If you're trying to speed up to a goal tempo for a recital, you can keep track of your progress by logging your "speed". Keep it light and have fun.
The Straznicky Violin Studio Presents: A Crash Course to Violin Tuning and Maintenance
Like many of us are feeling after yet another New England snowstorm, violins aren't big fans of winter. Once the weather changes, violins tend to be pretty obstinate. Here are a few tips to help keep your violin happy and in-tune this winter.
First, make sure your violin is kept in a stable environment. When you're not playing your violin, put it in its case and leave it in the same room of your home. Keep it away from drafty areas like windows and doors. Also, make sure it won't be exposed to direct sunlight. Lastly, keep it away from heaters and heating vents.
Violins are out of their element in wintertime because of the low humidity in the air. They are prone to cracking and getting open seams, which is simply a nightmare. To avoid this, add a humidifier to your case. My favorites are:
1. The Damp-It ($14.95 on www.dampits.com) is a simple tube with a sponge inside. All you have to do is soak it in water, dry off the excess, and feed it in to the F-hole of the violin. Make sure to order the correct size for your violin or it won't fit. Also, check it every day as they do dry out quickly.
2. The Stretto ($30 on www.johnsonstring.com or www.sharmusic.com) is an easy-to-use bag filled with special gel-like beads that slowly release moisture safely into your violin case. Just soak the bag for approximately 2 minutes and then place it in its holder inside your case. Plan on checking it once a week in winter time.
3. The "Life Hack"is cheap, easy, and effective. All you need are a few household items: A Ziploc and either a kitchen sponge, paper towel, or washcloth. If you use a sponge or a washcloth, cut it so it fits inside the violin case easily. Soak it in water, wring it out so it isn't dripping wet, and pop it in your Ziploc bag. Place it inside the case (preferably in a compartment or up by the scroll). Take care to make sure it doesn't leak onto your violin.
The violin strings are named after the notes they sound: G, D, A, and E. On most student instruments, there are one pegs and one fine tuners per string. Check out the chart for location.
We typically use fine tuners for student violins because they’re much easier to control on smaller violins. Watch out for tightening the screw of the fine tuner too much as you can accidentally push the screw into the body of the instrument. As you turn the fine tuners, periodically check by looking underneath the tail piece.
In general, use the pegs:
When the string is very looseWhen the pitch needs to go much higher or much lowerWhen the fine tuners are screwed down as far as they’ll go. In this case, unscrew the fine tuner and tighten the string using the peg. Then, tune as usual.
To make the pitch higher, tighten a string by turning the peg or fine tuner clockwise.
To make the pitch lower, loosen the string by turning the peg or fine tuner counterclockwise.
Question: How do I know what the right pitch is? There are many tools to help you!
If you’re at home and near a computer, you can use these great sound clips from ViolinOnline.com.
The holiday season is officially here and it's time to supplement our Suzuki repertoire with some of our favorite holiday songs. After all, tis the season to be jolly!
For my Twinklers: "Jingle Bells" in A Major
CC C CC C CE A BC
DD D DD C C CC B B C B E
CC C CC C CE A BC
DD D DDC C CC E E D B A
*Rhythm note: Note names that are close together are shorts, all others are longs. It's a little tricky to write down in this short hand, but I'm sure that once you start playing it, it'll make total sense.
*Fingerings in this piece:
A = open A string
B = 1st finger on A
C = C-sharp (2 on the tape on the A String)
D = 3rd finger on A
E = open E string
For my Book 1 Students (Those working on G Major scale, the Minuets, and more)
You're getting "Jingle Bells" in G Major with the opening. If you're working on note-reading as well, you get the added bonus assignment of writing out the piece :)
Rhythmically, this is tricky to notate in a blog, so I'm just going to include the lyrics of each line to keep track.
Fingerings: Notes in black are on the D string, notes in red are on the A. Notes in green are open E (or can be 4th finger on the A string).
Last week, I mentioned to my students that I would be taking the day off for my birthday (It happened to coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday) and a few students said they wished to play "Happy Birthday". I was, of course, honored, and happy to oblige. I have about 7 students working on the G major pieces in Suzuki Violin School Volume 1 and 2, so I used "Happy Birthday" as a supplemental piece to get in more practice with those pesky low 2's.
I sent out the note names via FaceBook with the following decoder: Notes that are close together are "shorts", and those that are far apart are "longs". Notes that are just a note name are on the D string. Notes with finger numbers are on the A string.
DD E D G F# DD E D openA G DD D3 B1 G F# E CC(low2s) B1 G openA G
My students sent over videos of their performances and I am absolutely thrilled! The videos that were shared with me via Facebook are on the studio Facebook page (www.facebook.com/arianaviolin) as I can only post YouTube or Vimeo links on this blog. Thank you to my wonderful students for making my birthday so special!
Every year around Halloween time, we have a special group class called "Spooky Suzuki", where we play Halloween-themed games, learn spooky versions of our favorite songs, and, of course, dress up in costume!
This October, we took our music to the streets of Southington and performed at the Apple Harvest Festival. My two Suzuki group classes, Twinkle and Book 1, performed their favorite pieces and the crowd loved it.