1st violin vs. 2nd violin


Sara said: Aug 23, 2011
191 posts

What do all of you out there do to bring respect to the second violin?

In all actuality, second violin is needed! It is important! Without it, orchestra music would sound rather boring.

And yet the snobby firsts still stick their noses up to the seconds and seconds still (young players that is) end up feeling worthless and like they are cast out with no hope that they could ever recover from being seated as a second violin.

Any ideas? I don’t teach orchestra, but I wish I did so that I could dispel the myth that the seconds are worthless!

I encourage my students first and second to always just play their best and enjoy the music. But it seems that some of them simply can’t enjoy it if it’s not first violin.

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Jacob Litoff said: Aug 24, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

Well similarly I bet kids would love to just go to 12th grade and skip all the other grades and get school over with as soon as possible. But we have to work our way up the ladder. If students all want first violin and you said yes to everyone it wouldn’t be so much of a reward. They must practice hard and when they get more advanced they stand a chance of someday being in the first violin section.

On the other hand if they complain to much tell them you’ll move them to the 3rd violin section …which is the same as playing viola! Oy vay….. then they’d have even farther to go to get to their dream.

With my students I let some of them switch parts for one piece sometimes.

Also what do you do with a violist, to keep them inspired since they can never rise to a higher part? That is my question.
Or even with a second violinist who is content to stay there, or even read a 3rd part when wanted and doesn’t have the dream of playing first…but will happily play what ever part you give him/her?

Sara said: Aug 24, 2011
191 posts

Jacob, I understand that as musicians we want to always strive to improve our skill. That was not my topic.
Nobody should be made to feel “less than” just because of a part that they are playing in music.

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 24, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
943 posts

We violists LIKE the inner harmonies!

What you do with a violist—and I think this would apply to a second violinist as well—is to give them REAL parts—not arrangements made “easier”—from composers who understood how to write a good inner harmony.

Or, you arrange a part so that the inner harmony is interesting.

And, you play pieces that give appropriate melodies to violists.

Or, you teach them how to MAKE the part interesting. Every musician comes across a part that makes them a better musician—a part that “plays itself” if the performer can only get out of the way and let the composer’s idea come through. Every musician also sometimes encounters a part that they have to make into better music—a part that the performer must interpret in such a way as to make the composer’s idea look better.

This happens to the people with the melody and the bass line as well as to people with inner harmonies, although perhaps in different proportions.

P.S. Find a youth orchestra where the director constantly rotates the seating without re-auditioning students, within all sections as well as across violin sections. And do your level best to keep every student possible away from any youth orchestra that you find is doing something akin to what the students at Interlochen summer music camp used to call “Bloody Friday…”—though I’ve heard Interlochen doesn’t have that system anymore.

Terri said: Aug 24, 2011
 Violin, Piano, Cello, Viola
10 posts

My kids’ chamber ensemble coach made it very clear on Day 1 that the firsts and seconds would be rotating and that both parts were important in a quartet.

Jacob—violists don’t see violin as a “higher part.” But they would appreciate it if the violinists stopped being so uppity all the time. :)

said: Aug 24, 2011
 12 posts

Many kids and youth orchestras assign seating on perceived merit after an audition (all the ones my kids have been in). So it’s pretty hard for them not to be discouraged. I always point out to my violin playing daughter if she either gets uppity playing violin 1 or discouraged if she ends up as violin 2 that orchestra playing at her level is a learning experience which is not only about playing the individual part correctly but also about learning ensemble playing—and that’s a team sport. The last two years she has been leader of one orchestra, not because she is the best player, or the oldest, but because she always practices and knows her part, turns up on time, and doesn’t time waste during rehearsals or grumble when she is asked to do something, and is willing to help the younger ones with fingering, tuning etc. The conductor did rotate all the first violins around all the seats before making a decision on who gets the leader’s job, but doesn’t rotate between sections.

I also point out (if the moaning gets too loud) she should try being an orchestral flute player like her sister (maximum of only three players at best in an orchestra with near as many flute players auditioning—at least round here—as there are violinists; and for many orchestral parts the flute 2 contribution consists of 83 bars of rest, a few bars of dull twiddles and then another 80 bar rest!—thank goodness for concert bands!)

Donna said: Aug 24, 2011
4 posts

I remember hearing a conductor address his All-State orchestra at a rehearsal. He asked the violinists to think of themselves as a coloring book, with the 1st violins as the outline and the 2nds as the colors. Neither one is as wonderful without the other..

Jacob Litoff said: Aug 24, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

Well I understand that parts can cross but without an E string on the viola and without a C string on the violin, generally the viola’s range is not to quite as far above middle C as the violin…isn’t that correct? I just came from a rehearsal for a few concerts next week playing viola, and generally my part had higher pitches than the cello and lower than the violin 1, violin 2, flute , and harmonica. Is that unusual?

Generally I find with my viola students they tend to have much less interest in practicing, and much less motivation than my violin students. I wish I knew how to keep them as motivated.

In general the 1st violin has the melody the most , the 2nd violin the second most , the viola and the cello….well I guess that is a tossup. But at least the cellist has the bass line usually. So what can inspire a viola student?

So getting back to the point wonky1 how do you see the difference between a violin and a viola?

when you see someone wandering in front of their house and they can’t find the key or the entrance well who is that???!!! I’ll give you a hint….they usually sit next to the cello section and in front of the oboes.

said: Aug 24, 2011
 12 posts

Ah, viola jokes! :D
I think viola players have a reputation amongst other junior string players as being violin players who couldn’t quite make the grade as violin players, so switched to viola as it’s easier to get an orchestra position as there aren’t so many of them. Either that or they were kids who were big for their age so they got landed with the viola as the school needed someone who could play it.
Actually my (violin playing) daughter has said that she would like to give the the viola a go at some point, as she likes the sound of it—but is going to wait until she is big enough to use a full size viola as it’s the sound she is interested in, so no point in restringing a violin. We heard the Australian Chamber Orchestra playing the Telemann (I think) viola concerto a couple of months ago and it just inspired her. She is very taken with chamber music and ensemble playing and can see where the viola fits into that. (She wants to play in string quartets)

Jacob Litoff said: Aug 25, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

THere are two types of violists..those who start out on viola, and those who played violin first then switched.

Yes viola is nice to have in chamber music. Viola has a wonderful tone(well the full sized one). Actually several kids want to play viola because those tiny little violins are too squeaky, and they like the sound of the lower pitches from the beginning.

Now I had a student who in high school tried on violin to get into the district festival no matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t seem to get in. So in her senior year she tried out on viola and made the first stand!!!!!!

There is very little repetoire written for viola, not counting everything that has been arranged but was originally written for something else. So it is nice to play violin and viola and switch back and forth. Most viola parts in an orchestra are less demanding than violin parts. I like playing repetoire for viola and piano, unaccompanied viola, and chamber music sometimes,
but prefer to play violin in orchestras and with all other literature as well.

Some famous pianist( I forget which one) once made some comment about how much piano literature there was to learn, with new pieces for piano being written constantly. He said if he was going to relive his life he probably should have picked cello instead, for they can be happy with a few great pieces but not much more to learn. Not to many cello concertos have been written and become well known. But why didn’t he wish to play viola? there are even fewer viola conceros written!!!

Sara said: Aug 25, 2011
191 posts

Soundsogood ~ I love that statement! Thank You!

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Terri said: Aug 26, 2011
 Violin, Piano, Cello, Viola
10 posts

Violists get paid the same as violinists but only have to play half the notes. :cool:

Jacob, I have a house full of people who can play both the viola and the violin at reasonably high levels. It’s like asking if I like chocolate or black raspberry ice cream—both please!

Jacob Litoff said: Aug 26, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

Well if one can play violin at a high level sure they can play viola at a high level. Wonky1 , all they have to be able to do is read alto clef.

And Wonky1 , if you and your students don’t see the violin as a higher instrument than viola, then do you and your violin students read violin music in bass clef?

Jacob Litoff said: Aug 26, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

“Violists get paid the same as violinists but only have to play half the notes. :cool:” Well wonky1 they sure don’t get much of a workout. How can they stay in good shape?

Geralyn Theobald said: Aug 26, 2011
 Violin, Viola
Tallahassee, FL
4 posts

It is every musician’s job to stay in top form, regardless of the instrument he/she plays.

I direct an entry-level youth orchestra. I choose original music and good arrangements composed specifically for Grade 1-2, that includes interesting parts for ALL sections.
ALL violins rotate parts + seating, so all students experience every part and sit in the front and in the back. Learning to play sitting at the front AND at the back of the section requires different skills — when they move to the next level, they are likely to sit in the back, initially.

Most students seem to develop an appreciation for the inner voices (vln 2 + vln 3/viola), and don’t appear to feel “slighted” when not seated in the 1st violin section. Rotating section leaders, based upon student preparation, helpfulness to others and consistent attendance reinforces everybody. ALL students feel the “pressure” of sitting up front; learn the skill of sitting in the back; and begin to understand how to “lead” a section.

In my 30 yrs of teaching, I’ve found that students DO have inclinations toward particular instruments— ranges of sound. Some students will avoid the E string at all costs. Some students have instant affinity for particular instruments and some develop it.

It’s important for violinists to develop humble attitudes toward their “team members” in the lower strings—for w/o the lower strings, there is no foundation + there are no lovely inner voices. Speaking disparagingly of other instruments promotes a “prima dona” mindset. Students think themselves the “highest” of the instrumentalists, which benefits no one, least of all themselves. Dr. Suzuki hoped to develop beautiful people thru his method—the violin was the vehicle. It is the same goal we have for our own children. And when we lose sight of the true goal, our children let us know by balking.

A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin;
what else does a man need to be happy?
Albert Einstein

Jacob Litoff said: Aug 26, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

When I use the words ‘highest’ or “higher” I”m talking of treble clef vs alto clef and bass clef.
A C, 2 octaves above middle C, is higher than the viola C string that is one octave below middle C. It doesn’t make that note more sophisticated nor ooes it make the people who play that note more sophisticated. In Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht musik the First violin part starts higher than the viola part. That doesn’t mean that the person who plays the first violin necesarrily has the IQ of Einstein. It simply means there are more vibrations per second of the notes played on the violin rather than the notes played on the viola.

In your quote “a table , a chair, a bowl fo fruit, and a violin, what else does a man need to be happy”? Which is higher the table or the bowl of fruit? Assuming the bowl of fruit is sitting on top of the table, naturally it is higher. But that doesn’t mean the table costs less! They’re all important.
So stop misinterpretting everything I say.

Jacob Litoff said: Aug 26, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

any person who can’t hear that the pitches on the violin are higher than the pitches on the cello or double Bass shouldn’t be playing an instrument. Hearing how high a pitch is has nothing to do with one’s ego.

said: Aug 27, 2011
 145 posts

I like that soundsogood— I’m going to use that with my students! Thanx

Jacob Litoff said: Aug 27, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

And when it comes to ones ego….students need more. To hold the violin in the right posture one must have their head turned to the side and their nose up in the air. Now those who end up playing 2nd violin usually aren’t hold either their nose or their violin high enough. And since violas tend to be a little bigger and heavier than violins, well they have more problem looking quite as egotistical and snobby as violinists. If they do, well by all means put them in first chair of the viola section. If you try to kill a childs ego their posture will fail!!!!!!!

Gail said: Aug 27, 2011
 Violin, Bass, Cello, Viola
4 posts

Jacob, You’re getting funnier all the time :-)

Jennifer Visick said: Aug 27, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
943 posts

I would disagree… egotistical playing of musical instruments is not necessarily good for your posture or the health of your body—in fact I would go so far as to say that it can be a factor in damaging your muscles if it leads to excess tension (as sticking one’s nose up in the air—literally—can do).

And on a slightly more spiritual side… there’s a difference between putting one’s ego to good effect for the sake of the art, and allowing one’s ego to commandeer the music (and the instrument). I once heard a violinist at a summer music festival say something like this:

‘Using myself (that is, my ego, my skills, my personality, etc.) to show off how interesting Bach is produces a much more satisfying artistic and musical result that using Bach to show off how interesting I am.’

I’m pretty sure that when Shinichi Suzuki told us that he wanted the children to have “noble” hearts, he wasn’t intending for us to create a generation of snobs—even if the trade-off is that their violins don’t droop so much!

Jacob Litoff said: Aug 28, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

Well then RaineJen I suggest you teach your students to play in a more humble posture. Yes in India they play violin sitting crosslegged in a yoga posture with one end of the violin against their chest, and the scroll of the violin against their foot. they play most of the notes by sliding their index finger up and down the strings. This yoga posture with the violin slanting down and the head a little more drooped looking down towards the foot is definitely a much more humble way to play violin.

Jacob Litoff said: Aug 28, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

When one is performing they can control the minds of everyone in the audience. Yes it is the performer that determines if the audience all drops the programs simultaneously and falls asleep, or sits at the edge of their chair unable to take their eyes off the performer. When the performer is slumped over in a humble position, it is more than likely all the programs will fall. When the performer has the instrument up, the head twisted to the side and the nose up slightly, their inner soul will not be blocked at all, but rather will shine and radiate such enjoyment of the music that the audience will have all their minds under the power of the performer. The only thing that could hinder this is if the performer is … just concentrating 100% on how great it is to be getting so much attention in such a powerful position(in which case they probably won’t be called back to perform there again), or … where they concentrate on all the best things they can
to accomplish the goal of getting this performance to be the best one they’ve ever done. If they think like this hopefully they’ll be called back many times. It works for me.

Gail said: Aug 28, 2011
 Violin, Bass, Cello, Viola
4 posts

Well Jacob, you’re doing it again. ;-)

I’m beginning to see the sly humor in Jacob’s comments. I don’t think everything he says is meant to be taken literally.

True, there are problems with little peoples egos in the orchestras—HUGE problems as a matter of fact. But it seems to me that they are created by the adults in their world. I guess this poses the question of genetics versus environment!

In the vein of some of the other posts here, I rotate seating in the violin sections of my orchestras, and I also make an attempt to play pieces that feature the viola and/or cello sections—-all the while pointing out where the “important stuff” is in each piece. Sometimes I have the “important parts” stand to play that section—except for cellos, of course.

Elizabeth Rothenbusch said: Sep 3, 2011
 Violin, Piano, Viola
Cleveland, OH
6 posts

keep politics out of music !

Jacob Litoff said: Sep 3, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

Gail, if you have all the people(except the cellists) playing the important stuff stand when they play those important passages, well what do you have the double bass players do the rest of the time?

Jacob Litoff said: Sep 3, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

Keep politics out of music? Keep ego out of music? All I can say is you people must live on processed foods. Yes with no nutrition left in them. You obviously want processed music, with almost nothing left in it. Most music was written for politics. Water musik, 1812.. Yes , political parties commissioned the music. And people who have gotten into big political positions need some ego just to be strong enough to stay there(often the music they commissioned supports that). So does any musician.
And as far as what a musician concentrates on while playing, well it sure makes the biggest difference as to what happens in his audience as he plays….just like with people in politics from different parties. Maybe if you try thinking more along just pure ego when you play in a place like Texas or Nebraska you’ll get better results than in New England or New York. But I doubt it. Concentrating on ways to make listening to the music the most enjoyable experience ever I think would have best results everywhere. Now people in the political and business world who simply want to make as big a profit as they can as fast as they can find a big crash pretty soon ..like in real estate, and now health care. Yes and like Bernie Madoff. And those who try to make the world as pleasant a place to live as possible, will go down in history with much nicer memories like Mother Teresa. I’m sure for musicians it is the same.
And when playing in an orchestra in any section if you play quite well people will notice. When I’m playing in an orchestra and having fun with listening to how my part interweaves with other musicians parts , often the other musicians will come and say hi to me during the break. But if I just listen to my part and ignore the rest of the people in the room I don’t seem to have many people to chat with during a break. And if I do it is usually asking questions like how far I drove to get there! The latter doesn’t help one’s ego very much. I”m sure kids can get the same reactions from people in the group no matter where they sit or what part they play. But since they don’t have a drivers license yet most likely probably the questions will be a little different. Maybe “What did you eat for lunch!?!?!”

Marcia said: Sep 3, 2011
Fort Mill, SC
1 posts

that kind of language isn’t really appropriate for Suzuki from what I understand being a new member.

From: SAA Discussion

Paula Bird said: Sep 3, 2011
Paula BirdViolin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
346 posts

I think I’ll unsubscribe from this topic now. It seems to have reached to the depths of the discussion. So sad.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio

Virginia Thompson said: Sep 3, 2011
Virginia ThompsonViolin, Guitar, Piano, Cello, Viola
Saint Petersburg, FL
17 posts

I’m really disappointed with the language. Suzuki is all about love, patience, kindness, and understanding how to be respectful. A true Suzuki teacher would never say such things, but we are all human and once in a while we run across a Suzuki teacher who just doesn’t get where we come from.
Peace be with you all

Virginia Thompson

Virginia Thompson said: Sep 3, 2011
Virginia ThompsonViolin, Guitar, Piano, Cello, Viola
Saint Petersburg, FL
17 posts

By the way, I’m a second violinist and we are not worthless. We have an important part to play as you mentioned at the beginning of this topic. First violinist may be able to play the high notes but second violinist play the difficult in between notes. This means counting, listening to all the other instruments, and being a good second violinist means knowing when to come in after 32 measures of rest. I say that’s pretty important! Not all first violinist are good at second violin when they are young.

Virginia Thompson

Gail said: Sep 3, 2011
 Violin, Bass, Cello, Viola
4 posts

Well we all make mistakes—guess I was wrong about the “sly humor” I was trying to see in Jacob’s posts!

Well Jacob, it could be that bass players sit on bass stools.


Jacob Litoff said: Sep 3, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

Gail, I hope my asking about double bass players didn’t offend you. I was just being silly. But Most double bass players I know only sit on the stools during rests. I don’t see them sitting while they’re playing. Not even on umpah umpahs.

Jacob Litoff said: Sep 3, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

Virginia…I think it is very nice how you say that suzuki teaching is all about love patience kindness and understanding how to be respectful. But when I went to Japan and saw Suzuki in 1990 The teachers there were so insulting to the students it was amazing. The parents too put so much pressure on the kids it was unbelievable. They all expected the absolute best and nothing the least bit less than that. Here in the USA it is the opposite . The kids are FAR less disciplined, the parents are far less involved with the kids learning(at least I’ve been unable to get them too involved), and the kids(unless they’re from a foreign country) progress much slower. But regardless of that the teachers here give great compliments to absolutely anything. Here is a poem I wrote the other day that addresses that issue:
ON a trip to Japan
2 decades ago
I watched this great man
turn the violin and the bow

into many gorgeous tunes
that when played by the young
their notes they filled the rooms
with songs so beautifully sung

Suzuki he did teach
More instructors there did too
those words sweet as a peach
Were really very very few.

Sometimes those kids played great
But got strong words of dismay
This made me contemplate
Was this the only way.

The kids sure practiced very hard
Their mothers by their side
Allowed no playing in the yard.
For mistakes moms whipped their hide.

the playing sure did rise
to levels very high
Those teachers seem so wise
Their results above the sky

But when I came home again
Yes to the USA
The teachers used a different pen
Yes they taught a different way.

The boys and girls made awful sound
Made me want to plug my ears.
Those teachers surprisingly found
Almost anything but tears.

They praised the students many times
With words that were so sweet
They seemed to say that rotten limes
Were very nice to eat.

But then they’d pick one tiny thing
the kids could sure improve.
Try to get the string to ring
Or get the tune to move.

While the kids they had so far to go
So much that must get better
Mostly praise instructors show
With a very happy letter.

With this huge supply of compliments
At levels still so low
Can their desire for improvements
Ever truly grow?

Or will they view the violin
as nothing but a game
And never do much practicin’
or ever strive for fame.

Or will it bring such cheer and love
Each time a tune they play,
That keeps them working hard enough,
and still has them playing today.

The same ideas do apply
to planet earth and life
When we stare up at the sky
Wanting love and not the knife.

We can sit around and praise the world
For the little that its done
Ignoring all the war and crime
and just saying that life is fun.

Or sternly we can work quite hard
at making life rise higher
Be dismayed in our back yard
Aim to end all war and fire.

I hope someday we sure do find
that nice point in between
Yes some way that’s kind
and not to yang or yin

Must exist in love and harmony
Show friendship for each other
With nature we must live and see
beauty we cannot smother

I hope the day it does arrive
when peace does here return
For such a time we all do strive
and strongly we do yearn

The path that we must wander on
To get to such a destination
Will take an awful lot of ponderin’
and lots of contemplation

Jacob Litoff said: Sep 3, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

Every person in an orchestra is important, every part is important. I played viola today for a wedding in a string quartet. I didn’t consider my part worthless. I even got the melody once or twice!!!!!!!!
True kids don’t seem to understand how to play accompaniment sometimes when they first start, and don’t seem to think it is worth doing. But it is good for them to learn how as soon as possible.

Deanna said: Sep 4, 2011
90 posts

The nice thing about the Suzuki Method in regard to first and second violins is the duet parts. Growing up as a Suzuki kid—it was always the more advanced students who played the harmony parts. It’s the same now in my studio as well. There was for me and now for my students a bit of awe around playing the harmony parts—it must mean you play the regular part really, really well if you can even play the harmony part too.
When I started university I was placed in the second violins in the orchestra. After a couple of years I was moved up to the firsts. It was way harder playing with the seconds—now that might be because the section leader wasn’t as good at leading, or because in general the players were not as confident, or it might be because we didn’t get the melody as much so it took a lot more concentration to stay together and play musically. In my opinion, it takes a much more sensitive, musical player to play the second violin parts. The first parts, it’s true, are generally technically more difficult, but the second violin parts are often musically more difficult. Just my thoughts. I still play with the firsts and I enjoy it.

Barb said: Sep 4, 2011
Barb EnnisCello
674 posts

As a second year player, 10 years old, I was thrilled to play the Suzuki harmony, and in beginning orchestra preferred 2nd violin over 1st. I never felt worthless—I knew I played better than many in the first section. I enjoyed harmony, and didn’t like the sound of the high notes as much—which is probably why I eventually stuck with cello!

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 5, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
943 posts

Moderator’s note:

This thread is being considered by the moderators for deletion. Several posts in this thread have already been edited due to inappropriate references and inappropriate language which did not recognize the dignity of all individuals, nor set an excellent example for students.

G.V. and I are discussing whether this topic, both in the particular form it happens to be taking in this thread and/or in any form, is of any practical, beautiful, edifying, or other worth to the Suzuki community.

As has been the case whenever posts or threads have been considered for moderation or deletion in the past, the Aspirational Code of Ethics, although drawn up by the SAA for teacher members, is being used as a starting point to determine what is and is not appropriate for the SAA online discussion forums.

End Moderator’s note.

Jacob Litoff said: Sep 5, 2011
 Violin, Cello, Viola
Millis, MA
42 posts

Yes Barb2, the harmony parts to the suzuki pieces are nice,(or to any pieces) but lots of my students refuse to learn them. It seems they don’t want to lower themselves to playing the harmony. Now I think playing the harmony is fun , different and important. I love playing harmonies. But how can I convince this new generation to feel the same?

Alissa said: Sep 5, 2011
Alissa RiebViolin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

It’s strange how there are issues in studios that I never run into and issues I have in mine that are uniques to me or my town!  For instance, the harmonies in the Suzuki duet book or Fun for 2 violins are harder or equal to the melody in most cases and no one has ever not wanted to try them.  I have one recital a year where we don’t use the piano and I play the harmony.   I emphasize the sensitivity needed and the uniqueness of my part while we get ready for the recital. The first time a set of siblings did it, the others were clamoring for more.  However, I don’t “allow” a student to learn those special harmonies with challenging rhythms and bowings until I hear they’re “ready”.  It’s a big deal to be allowed to get out of their book and try something different!  Yeah, and refusing the teacher?  Not recommended if you want to stay with me!  Haha!  Seriously though, non issue.

As for a student looking down on the 2nds, I have had that a little.  Which is rough as I am a career 2nd.  I sure play that up from the start! In our challenging youth symphony program, I take pride in my students even getting in.  However, sometimes they feel snubbed if they don’t get to “move up” a section or group each year.  I go back to those harmony lessons we had as described above and explain that now they can learn that sensitivity that I always showed off with in recitals!  I then try to find nuances they missed in their 2nd violin part.  Now if it’s a true dud part (we know they exist) we have fun!  We make up outlandish stories for the part or try to be insanely picky “with our noses in the air”.  That way, they have fun memories to take to rehearsal.  We have a good laugh and realize we might be the only one having fun with it.  Those poor 1sts having to take it so seriously :-p

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Rachel Schott said: Sep 5, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
126 posts

Are you serious? My students LOVE the harmony parts!

Phyllis Calderon said: Sep 13, 2011
Phyllis CalderonViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Piano
Chicago, IL
21 posts

My students love playing the harmony parts. What I do is have my students learn both parts. Sometimes I even put my strongest players on the 2nd part.

Phyllis Calderon
Director, String Instructor
A Touch of Classical Plus, Inc.—Calderon Music Studio

said: Oct 31, 2011
 13 posts

I grew discouraged as a second violin, not because of prestige but because I was accustomed to playing by ear (a la Suzuki—I hadn’t done much sight-reading by then) and had no experience harmonizing—so I didn’t have a clue what my notes were supposed to be. I needed someone to sit down and record, or at least play, the harmony for me; until that happened—and somehow it never did—I played by guesswork.
I wonder if any of the second-violinists you teach are experiencing the same problem.

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