Suzuki Violin Bowing & Fingerings

Jasim said: Dec 17, 2011
Jasim AlmusallamViolin
15 posts

I love the Suzuki method. Yet, I have to struggle with my teacher often (Suzuki trained teachers can be found here) about how the bowing and fingerings in the music are wrong. A great example of bowing controversy is Book 4 Vivaldi A minor 2nd solo. What is the reason behind the way they are printed? How can I answer someone who insists they are wrong?

Also are these aspects different in the new Editions? What do you recommend? My teacher is open to using the Suzuki method since other methods have proven failure, however, we need answers to this dilemma.

My attitude has just been stick with what’s written and follow through. I need to answer my teacher though, because he’s been saying he’s brining his own print for some of the next pieces…

Hope you respond,

Jennifer Visick said: Dec 18, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Just so long as you’re not going to be playing at a Suzuki Institute with other students, I see no reason why your teacher can’t change the bowings that are printed. Fingerings, too.

The more advanced you get, the more often your teachers, Suzuki or not, are likely to mark up your parts with “their” preferred bowings and fingerings. And/or dynamics and articulations, ideas about tempo, etc., etc.

If you are going to be playing at a Suzuki institute, get yourself a copy of the revised books and practice those bowings for the institute repertoire.

Jasim said: Dec 18, 2011
Jasim AlmusallamViolin
15 posts

Thanks Jen,

I think I’m gonna have to put my foot down about this one. The Cadez version (Suzuki) I find has challenged my right hand and so clearly shows pedagogical value. There is no shame in going slowly but surely.

I feel much of the Suzuki bashing is coming from not understanding the reason behind going against historical or common fingering and bowing. Also there is that need to do more material for parent pleasing and some hint of racism. Hence often anything other then Suzuki is often referred to as “European”. This attitude should really be called out. It upsets me since Suzuki has done so much for the world of music and people.

As to other editions, perhaps a student showing a handicap or real lack of progress should continue with easier versions as necessary. The versions in Suzuki pushing through ear knowledge and hardship as a challenge. It is somewhat of a game.

Again, thank you for your response.

Tiffany Holliday said: Dec 18, 2011
Tiffany Holliday
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Eugene, OR
12 posts

When it comes to being ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ there’s this funny little concept called werktreue…a German 19th and 20th century idea that sought the trueness of the composers intent-hence the text fetishism surrounding urtext editions (see Susan Cusick). This concept has influenced both Suzuki and traditional teachings…but I agree that Suzuki wrote everything with pedagogical purpose. However, for the teacher that is bringing her own part to locate the ‘right’ fingerlings and bowings, one must remember a professional violinist in the 18th century would not have played the written notes at all-but would instead compose or improvise their own concerti! If we wanted to be true to what Vivaldi or Bach wanted, we wouldn’t be playing their music at all (See Bruce Haynes). To say that one version is more right is really limiting the students scope to performance practice of the 1950s. HIP is the most fascinating world…and so is teaching!! Let’s just be honest and admit Suzuki does not teach composer intent-but rather skill and facility.
Sent from my iPhone

Jasim said: Dec 18, 2011
Jasim AlmusallamViolin
15 posts

Wow Tiffany, that was a most enlightening post! Thank you! It’s puts a smile on my face knowing those ole boys were so much like jazz musicians. Great post!

Jennifer Gray said: Dec 18, 2011
Jennifer Gray
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
28 posts

Thanks Tiffany! Great post! My only comment is that “a professional violinist in the 18th century would not have played the written notes at all-” is a bit strong……….perhaps you could say that they would use the written framework of the piece but would embellish it play with the bowings, notes, and note lengths etc and add their own personality to the mix……….much like a great jazz musician interpreting a standard.(as Jassim points out)

Tiffany Holliday said: Dec 18, 2011
Tiffany Holliday
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Eugene, OR
12 posts

JEN!!!!

Merietta Oviatt said: Dec 19, 2011
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

TIFFANY!! You found a way to cross Suzuki with Renaissance! You definitely are in the correct field—you musicologist you!
With that being said—you are completely correct. Each and every piece in the Suzuki repertoire has very specific and important pedagogical purpose. This is why it is important to take from a registered Suzuki teacher. We go through great training to learn what those specific points are. Sometimes the fingerings/bowings do not fall within those pedagogical points, but it is dangerous to dismiss things without knowing which ones those are.
Tiffany isn’t just an expert in early music (oh yes, she REALLY is), she is also a registered Suzuki teacher.

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

Rafael Videira said: Dec 20, 2011
Rafael Videira
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
West Haven, CT
24 posts

Hello everybody!

I agree with Tiffany, Jennifer and Merietta, as well as with the fact that if they are not playing the pieces in a Suzuki group setting, this is not a big problem, as long as they learn the technique behind the piece.

One thing I would like to add to this is that depending on the age of the child, he/she wont care to what edition the music is being played. They just want to “play the piece” and, in fact, until about High School age they don’t really care about the “composer’s intent” very much.


Rafael Videira, DMA
Violist—Violin and Viola Instructor
www.RafaelVideira.com
www.SuzukiSchools.org

Jasim said: Dec 20, 2011
Jasim AlmusallamViolin
15 posts

So how do you guys play the Nachez version (also Suzuki)? Particularly the part in 2nd solo with al the 16th notes and slur in the middle.

It’s challenging to make that part sound musical. I like how it has form and changing shapes. It’s so much easier to play 1 note down bow 3 slur up up bow. I’ve been experimenting and find if I use more hair on the downbeat less pressure on the slurs, upper have of the bow, you get more musical control.

Any ideas? Opinions?

Merietta Oviatt said: Dec 21, 2011
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

Jasim, I think I know where you are talking. I am away from home and do not have my books in front of me. However, I think that you are talking about the part on page three that modulates?

It’s not easy to help you without seeing/hearing you, but I think that your plan is good. I would not try to stay in the upper half because you can get trapped up there. Perhaps just trying to stay in the middle of the bow. Putting an accent on the first note is ok, but try not to emphasize it too much so that the phrase can remain smooth.

Again, it’s hard to help you without seeing/hearing you. I would go onto the SAA site and find a Suzuki teacher in your area. This way they can identify exactly what you need. Also, as you are older and are talking about musicality—ask yourself if you like how it sounds? Is that they way you want to interpret the music? Experiment with different ways of playing it and decide what you like best. This is what makes us artists—how we interpret the music. For pedagogical purposes I believe you should meet with a teacher so that you learn what skills are being taught in that particular piece. However, for purposes of musicality, make it your own.

Boy! You sure have received some great advice from all of these teachers in this thread! I know many of them and would trust their opinions—especially considering most of them are all in agreement with each other :0) This just shows how great the Suzuki community is.

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

Jasim said: Dec 21, 2011
Jasim AlmusallamViolin
15 posts

You’re so right! It’s been a wonderful experience this thread.

Yes, it’s the solo parts, on page 1 and page 3. They share the same bowing. Thanks for the advice on the middle of bow, I’m going to try it out now. It’s easy to get stuck in the comfort zone of the tip true. I even thought about maybe using it near the balance point and use more wrist/finger movement than arm since its piano anyway. I will record myself and see how it turns out. It’s like a puzzle this one, cracking it could all be about touch I think. :)

As to Suzuki teacher, none are in my area. I met a cello teacher that seemed indifferent and bogged down by Suzuki bashing and snobbery from local musicians. It was very difficult to find my current teacher (who I actually progressed with) pushing my own program with Suzuki books and some Sassmanhaus concepts. So it’s been a delicate march down the line of lets keep going it works, and “I don’t understand why they are doing this, it’s wrong.” No matter, I understand, it’s me that’s laboring trough the pieces and I see/feel/hear the benefits, and understand through my experience how it’s an incremental challenge piece by piece.

Thank you for your support, it’s of great value since I’m standing alone on this. It’s silly what the uninformed think of Suzuki. I met one that described it “assuringly” as a brand like Yamaha or Honda. It brought me a funny picture of when I was in San Francisco’s Zen center. How would Shunryu Suzuki smile when his teachings would be compared to a motorcycle manual. :)

Cynthia Faisst said: Jan 9, 2012
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

After spending three years with Dr. Suzuki and watching him teach I would have liked to see his own note book for each of these pieces.

Unfortunately, we are stuck with only the bowings that were retained in the hard copy publication and a limited number of videos. If you were in teacher training with him you might observe him trying out half a dozen different bowings for the passages you bring up in this inquiry, until he was able to get the desired musical skill from the specific students he had before him that week.

I often lament what he would have left us if he had the digital tools to edit his ideas with out fear of using up too much of the page. He was a pedagogical animal. He wanted to know how many methods he could use to lift the abilities of his students. He understood that with out skill you can not fully access the world of expression, which is infinite.

There was no way that all of the students who had the privilege of studying with him could bring back the last word on his methods and ideas. But the one most important abilities I did bring home from him is to be curious and inventive about teaching.

You can not know what kind of musical problems your students will be faced with in the future. You can not know what kinds of demands the music they discover will make on them. The best gift you can give them as musicians and human beings is to develop their curiosity and the ability to become their own musical problem solvers.

For this we need to continue many lively conversations.

And as Sensei did in his era, push the limits that this technology can provide us with and keep demanding more accessibility of that technology for the use of musicians so we can share our ideas more easily.

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Jasim said: May 21, 2012
Jasim AlmusallamViolin
15 posts

I have a question about choosing the right tempo for Suzuki repertoire.

For example, the 1st Mov. of the Vivaldi A minor is written allegro (around 100 Bpm). I’ve only managed to execute the Nachez bowing at 64 Bpm. Anywhere near “allegro” has the discussed bowing above sound absurd.

Also, the 3rd movement at presto? How can we get around the 32th notes there? It seems more natural at 110 Bpm which is allegro…

How do we choose the right tempo for practice and performance considering we play the music as its written?

Thanks in advance you all have been of great help.

Jennifer Visick said: May 21, 2012
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

First thing that comes to mind is that Vivaldi (and probably Nachez) were likely not really thinking in terms of bpm—Allegro means joyful; play it at a tempo that makes it sound joyful (not frenetic, messy, or stressed out). Unless a composer (or arranger) specifically puts down a metronome marking (and sometimes not even then), think of the tempo markings as quite a bit more flexible than whatever range your metronome gives.**

Second: you’re still learning (aren’t we all?). If playing the Nachez bits at 64bpm is as fast as you can go without making a mess of it, then play it at that speed. Even if your own musical sense (NOT your metronome) tells you that it ought to go faster, you can always come back later, when this is a review piece and you have a lot of other music and technique under your fingers, and play it faster. I know I did (and do).

Third thing that comes to mind is that tempo is flexible. It’s music played by people, not by a metronome. The metronome was invented for the music, not the music for the metronome. When the metronome becomes unhelpful, free yourself from it. No one performs Vivaldi with a metronome beating at them onstage… You’re not in a Hollywood recording studio, therefore you don’t need to fit the music to a click track…. Our own tempo when we walk, when our heart beats, when we dance, or in any other activity with a “steady” beat does not remain exactly the same all the time. If you want to push the rest of the music a bit faster, and have the Nachez bit a little slower… well, if you can do that and still make it sound musical, why not? (I’m not talking about big differences here…)

**Footnote: In a literature class I took, the prof. spent some time discussing a C.S. Lewis essay where he makes a distinction between intent and meaning. The author intends, the book means; the work itself may have meaning of which the author is not fully cognizant. I think the same can be said, in fact perhaps more so, of music: the composer (or the arranger) intends, but the music (or the arrangement) expresses the musical idea. Your interpretation of the tempo markings (or of anything else on the page) may be musical, even if the composer did not know the full extent (how could they?) of all the different kinds of interpretations that performers would give the music.

Jasim said: May 22, 2012
Jasim AlmusallamViolin
15 posts

Thank you very much Jen. That really makes a lot of sense!

In fact, I’ve noticed that many players and orchestras change tempe within the piece.

By the way your footnote about C.S. Lewis reminded me of the book Godel Escher Bach. Familiar with it? It’s written like a fugue based on Bach’s A Musical Offering. Both you and your professor might like it.

Jasim said: Jul 6, 2012
Jasim AlmusallamViolin
15 posts

Hi! Hope summer is doing well!

Anyone know is there is a piano accompany CD for the violin method? It would help to play along with it

Thanks!

Alissa said: Jul 6, 2012
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

The cd that comes with each book has accompaniment tracks… Every song plays twice, first with the violin and piano evenly balanced then with the piano more pronounced.

Barb said: Jul 12, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Jasim,

I picked up a copy of Ed Kreitman’s Teaching from the Balance Point at the institute I attended recently, having seen it recommended on this forum, and am finding a lot of useful information, even though I teach cello, not violin.

Just to reiterate what has already been discussed here, I will quote from page 100:

“One very important point that all Suzuki teachers must keep in mind regarding shifting and the use of position work in the Suzuki Method books is that the pieces in these volumes were not intended to be used as a collection of performance repertoire. Rather, they are a carefully chosen, graded series of technical exercises—edited specifically for the sake of developing a comprehensive violin technique—not for musical expression or performance. I have heard of inexperienced teachers, most of whom are very fine players, who completely re-finger an isolated movement of a Handel Sonata for their student’s performance. Often, these teachers ridicule the Suzuki edition, claiming that “I would never play it that way.” Of course, they may be right in their opinion, and their edition of the piece may serve their student very well. But perhaps these teachers miss the point. Looking at the entire body of repertoire as a method, we can see that it was edited to provide many examples of different kinds of shifting. Some of these work well in performance; others are merely included as an opportunity to prepare and practice a particular shifting technique that will be needed in more advanced repertoire.”

He also lists several different reasons for shifting and examples of why certain fingerings might be chosen, and in the paragraph prior to the one above suggests:

” If you are unsure why a particular fingering is printed in the music, indicating that you should be shifting from one position to another, try playing the passage without the change in position. Notice if there is anything awkward about the execution of the notes. Are there a lot of string crossings? Are the finger patterns physically difficult to play? Do you run out of fingers just before the end of a run? Now go back and play the passage again, using the fingering that was indicated in the music. See if the passage makes more sense to you that way.”

As for the Suzuki CDs, there are some listed here separate from the books. I’m not up on the violin CDs—it could be that these are older editions? The viola and cello CDs still come separate from the books, and are available just about everywhere.

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

Jasim said: Jul 12, 2012
Jasim AlmusallamViolin
15 posts

Thanks very much Barbara!! What you said should be considered to be the first page print of and Suzuki Method. It certainly would help dissolve confusion, ridicule, or just time wasting from diversions or re fingerings/ bowing/ string crossing, or shifting.

The book you mentioned is on my wish list now for my next order.

I have the music CD’s that match the Violin books, and recently ordered the piano accompaniment sheet music. However, the editions of CD’s don’t play twice, where the second time the violin is at lower volume.

If the piano accompaniment sheet music had it’s own tracks, I could use it for practice, without doubling the violin. The Violin CD’s are played in perfect tempo, often too fast for a beginner to emulate without compromising major tone or musicality. Not to mention that it’s quite stylized with advanced stroke technique, vibrato…etc.

The Violin CD is good as it is, and the stylistic feature is valuable in the sense the student can begin to navigate how to reach a tonal goal. However, a backing track alone just in piano, can be a great help since one can listen to their violin alone to pay attention to mistakes, tonal issues, etc… and have a feel that simulates playing in tempo with piano.

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