Wednesday, March 18, 2015

More Excellent Supplemental Books for Suzuki Violin and Viola Students

As I've talked about before, I love using Suzuki's methods, philosophy, and books for teaching violin and viola lessons. I think that his method of teaching is the kindest and most effective for teaching music. However, it's not possible for one set of books to contain all the music that people love to play! Therefore, I like to give my students additional books and music to supplement their repertoire and help them hone specific skills. I made a list of great supplemental books here, but since then, I've found so many other books I like, I felt I needed to do another post! So here's more excellent supplemental books for Suzuki violin and viola students! 

1. I Know a Fox with Dirty Socks

This book has tons of short little songs with accompanying teacher duets. I love using it for very young students, because the first pages have fun songs with cute lyrics that they can play on the open strings, or just using first finger. It's great for giving students a small break from their Suzuki pieces, and good for sight-reading practice as well. It has several familiar tunes, including Hot Cross Buns and shortened version of Jingle Bells, as well as little made-up tunes like the eponymous "I know a fox." Well worth having for a studio, especially if you teach very young students. The duets might be fun for group classes too.

2. The Lord of the Rings Instrumental Solos for Violin (or Viola)

I originally got this book for me (I'm a huge fan of the books and the movies), but it turns out many of my students loved the Lord of the Rings too! This book has lots of great songs from the movies, including the creepy, chromatic "Ring Wraith" theme. They are a bit challenging, so this book would be better for students in Suzuki Book 2 or above.   

3. Theory Time Book Series

The music school where I work suggested that I used these books with my students, since that allows them to take the Texas State Theory tests for their grade levels as well. At first I was skeptical--the books teach treble and bass clef, and since neither violin or viola students use bass clef on their instruments, and violists don't use treble clef until they're shifting into higher positions, it seemed unnecessary. However, there's a ton of good information about rhythms, keys, and intervals in the books, and when I tried them with my students, they seemed to like it. The books are clear and concise, and they give students plenty of opportunities to practice. I found the primer, 1st, and 2nd level books a bit to simplistic, so I prefer to start my students in book level three. I like skipping around in them to focus on what techniques we're using in their music. 

4. Ivan Galamian's Contemporary Violin Technique (Vol. 1--Scales & Arpeggios)

I have a soft spot for this book, because my first private teacher recommended it to me, and I've been using it ever since. It's an excellent technique builder for advanced students! However, there are some crucial differences between the violin edition and the viola edition. The viola edition begins with two octave scales and includes double-stop exercises in thirds, sixths, and octaves, but it leaves out the one position scales and the one string scales. The violin edition has the extra scales, but the double stops are in Volume 2. Nonetheless, it's a challenging book that requires plenty of shifting, especially in the three octave scales and arpeggios. It's great for advanced or very dedicated intermediate students.

5. Wohlfahrt Etudes

I vaguely remember playing some of these etudes as a kid, but I didn't use them with my students until this year. I got a new student who's previous teacher had assigned her Wohlfahrt etudes, so I explored some of them with her. Seeing how the etudes helped her develop her technique, I started using them with my other students as well. Wohlfahrt is good book for students in Suzuki Book 2 or above--the first volume is all in first position, but it explores different keys, finger patterns, bowings, and rhythms. I like that the Schirmer edition includes both volume one and two, and it has some suggested variations for students try. I've seen my students' dexterity and felicity improve quite a bit after playing through a few of these etudes, and the bowing variations allow students to master different rhythmic patterns and bowing techniques. 

6. Kreutzer Etudes

Last but not least, I give Kreutzer etudes to my advanced students--those in Suzuki Book 4 or higher. These etudes are very challenging. Many of them require students to shift into high positions, or they teach very advanced bowing or fingering techniques. The famous second etude has a plethora of rhythmic and bowing variations that are fantastic for building a strong bow arm. Kreutzer is a classic for a good reason; in addition to building strong technique, many of the etudes are tuneful and enjoyable to play. These are a must have for any studio, or any advanced student.

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