Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Excellent Supplemental Books for Suzuki Violin and Viola Students

As a Suzuki Violin and Viola Teacher, I love using Suzuki's methods, philosophy, and books when teaching lessons. However, there are many other books I use to supplement lessons. These books can help students learn to read music and provide fun solos for special occasions like Christmas. Supplementing lessons can keep students engaged and help them develop and review their skills.

1. Solos for Young Violinists and Solos for Young Violists by Barbara Barber. 

These books are designed to complement the Suzuki Violin/Viola series. The author, Barbara Barber, is a famous violin teacher and Suzuki teacher trainer. In addition to the enjoyable solo pieces, Barber includes a scale in the key of the piece before each solo. This is a great introduction to regular scale practice, a valuable part of a young musician's development. The pieces can supplement Suzuki books from book one up to book four or five.


 2. Duets for Violins by Dr. Suzuki and Ensembles for Viola by Elizabeth Stuen-Walker. 

These excellent books are a necessity for any violin and viola teacher. I find that playing duets with my students dramatically increases their ensemble skills, intonation, and rhythm. Playing with another person develops their relative pitch and teaches how to listen for pure musical intervals. They learn to follow my lead first, then I teach them to lead the ensemble themselves. Because the parts work together rhythmically, students learn to keep a steady beat and play with accurate rhythm for them to work. These duets also allow me to play with my students on their recitals. While having a piano accompaniment is lovely, often accompanists have only limited rehearsal time. I dislike having students perform when they have not had a chance to regularly rehearse with a pianist. With the duets, I can rehearse with students in their lessons, which helps them feel more prepared for their performances. Furthermore, when other members of the family are learning violin as well, duet music gives family members a chance to play together. I have a father and son who are both taking lessons from me, and they love playing duets together!

3. Violin Note Speller and Viola Note Speller by Edward Janowsky.

This book is very useful for teaching students to read music. As I've mentioned before, some people have a misconception that Suzuki students do not learn to read music. The truth is that when I first begin a new student, my primary focus is on teaching beautiful posture and technique. Once a student is ready, I introduce note-reading using a supplemental book such as the Violin Note Speller. Once a student has learned to read notes, a fun app like Flashclass helps students practice their skills.

4. Easy Popular Movie Instrumental Solos for Strings (Violin and Viola Editions). 

One of my students had this book when they came to me, and I was delighted by the solos it had. They're fun for students from middle school to adults, and a refreshing change of pace for me. In particular, I love "In Dreams," which has some of the major musical themes of The Lord of the Rings movies. Be forewarned though, even the level one book has some very challenging sections (changing keys, flats) so I think this book is better for students in Suzuki Book 2 or higher.

5. I Can Read Music (Violin and Viola Editions) by Joanne Martin. 

While the Note Speller books do an excellent job of teaching beginning notation, the I Can Read Music books are excellent for practicing sight reading and rhythmic notation. In particular, they are very valuable for Suzuki students who often play by ear so easily that it can be hard to tell if they are actually reading music, or have only just figured out how to play a piece based on how it sounds. The pieces in this book are non-musical, which is actually a great benefit since students can't "cheat" by using their ear-training.

6. My Very Best Christmas (Violin and Viola Editions) by Karen Khanagov. 

While many of my students use the Christmas Time for Violin books, I couldn't find a viola edition for it, so instead I had my viola students get My Very Best Christmas. I was very impressed this book. Instead of only having a piano accompaniment, it has a duet part as well (see the entry for Duets for Violins about why playing duets with my students is so valuable). It also comes with a play-along CD, which can help students practice at home.

7. Disney Solos (Violin and Viola Editions). 

I actually originally bought this book for myself--I got a request for some Disney songs at a wedding I performed at, so I found this book. Since then, many of my students have enjoyed playing the solos too. I've found this book better for students who are in Suzuki Book 2 or at least the second half of Book 1, so don't introduce it before they are ready. These pieces can be an excellent way to inspire or motivate students who are reluctant to practice, or to give students a fun, relaxing piece to play after they've been working on a really intense classical piece. Of course, you never know when a bride might want "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" at her wedding, so they can come in handy for professional musicians and teachers.

Related articles on Suzuki Method and Violin/Viola teaching or performing:

Pascale Method for Violin--A Review

Persistence--The Most Important Aspect of Talent

Seven Ways to Develop Listening and Aural Skills in Music Students

Music Lessons for Children with Disabilities 

Suzuki Method for Adult Students

Suzuki Method--a Violin Teacher's Perspective

Suzuki Philosophy: Every Child Has Talent

Suzuki Techniques--Listening is the key

Violin Life Lessons

Inspiring Practice

Practicing Violin Effectively

Great Apps for Musicians

Inspiring, Helpful Books for Violin and Viola Teachers

For Parents: How to Support Your Child's Music Practice and Development

Overcoming Performance Anxiety: How to Help Music Students Prepare for Recitals, Auditions, and other Performances

More Apps for Musicians and Music Students

Classical Music Isn't Dying--It's in a Recession

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