Contemporary Music—Examples of Suzuki songs

Anita said: Oct 17, 2012
 40 posts

Hi, Parents,

I’m a parent of 2 Suzuki violin students and I’m looking for contemporary music—not necessarily music that would be used in the Suzuki lessons—that uses any of the songs in the Suzuki books, through say Book 4.

I’ve come across one, Gavotte from Book 1, and it positively electrified our listening / playing of that (then!) difficult song. Go Tell Aunt Rhody (a fiddle tune) can be found, too, in a lot of toddler recordings (Blech! Can anyone recommend a good one?). Just to be able to hear other artists use the music, put it together in different ways, was invigorating.

Classical music recordings are fine, but I’m more interested in other uses—like rock, rap, hip-hop, movie sound tracks, salsa, etc.—anything of a more modern, contemporary persuasion.

I’d need artist name, name of the recording, name of the movie, etc. Thanks!


Paul said: Oct 17, 2012
 11 posts

Hello Anita, please can you tell me where did you find the contemporary version of Gavotte from Book 1 that you found it so invigorating?

Anita said: Oct 19, 2012
 40 posts

It’s by an old-time Cuban artist, Guillermo Rubalcaba—not the son, the father. It’s the 4th track on the CD Pasado y Presente, called La Reina Isabel. He does Gossec’s Gavotte 3 times—in piano, base and violin.
Give me Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, and all the old time Cuban artists any day over anything my kids have to learn in Suzuki. I get so sick of listening to the Suzuki CD’s I could scream, and some teachers act as if that’s a crime. I think it’s only natural for an intelligent, questioning mind to want to branch out a little.
It helps my kids to connect the Suzuki repertoire when I have examples that move my soul—and my hips! A Gavotte was, originally, a dance, after all.


Ana Lisa Portillo said: Oct 20, 2012
Ana Lisa PortilloViolin
El Paso, TX
5 posts

Hello, Anita-

I know that Vanessa Mae has produced many recordings of classical pieces with a techno dance beat. Techno is not my thing, so I can’t give you any specifics. I am crazy about Afro-Cuban violin, though! You won’t find many recordings of Afro-Cuban violinists playing Western classical pieces note-for-note because (1) improvising is of prime importance in traditional Cuban music and (2) Afro-Cuban violin is more percussive, rather than melodic. Simply put, the aesthetic is very different. A couple of years ago, my students performed an arrangement of “Que Bonita Bandera,” and they loved the challenge of trying to play in the pocket (grooving hard) rather than playing a melodic line.

You may be able to ask your teacher for reading assignments from something like Hal Leonard’s Latin Fake Book. There are plenty of simple Latin melodies a young student could read—Guantanamera, El Manisero, Frenesi, Capullito de Aleli, etc.

You could also listen to some great Afro-Cuban violinists for inspiration. Some of my favorite recordings are violinist Anthony Blea’s “Virgen de la Caridad,” which includes a duet with the legendary Alfredo de la Fe; Cuba L.A.’s 1998 recording with violinist Ilmar Gavilan on tracks 2 and 11, Cuba L.A.’s “Dos” featuring Pablo Mendez on track 2, and track 10 on Regina Carter’s “Something for Grace.”

I hope this helps. Good luck!

Anita said: Oct 21, 2012
 40 posts

Wow, thanks Ana Lisa! El Manisero is one of the tracks (2nd to last) on the CD I mentioned, too. We live in a place where we have a wonderful influx of different violin traditions—Mariachi, Norteno (there should be a tilde over the n), classical, Old Time American Fiddle, etc., but we rarely hear anything from the Latin music tradition.

What absolutely wonderful recommendations.

I looked up the Hal Leonard Fake book on Amazon—I’ll have to ask their Suzuki teacher which one they would need. There’s lots of them—Easy Fake book in Key of C, or B-flat, and a multitude of others.

Thank you so very, very much!


Carol Kiefer said: Oct 24, 2012
Carol Kiefer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Washington Crossing, PA
79 posts

Time for Three has an early CD with an improvised version of the Bach Concerto in D- for 2 violins (Double), plus some other Suzuki pieces in their own style. My students love it! Listen to the Czardas!

Carol Kiefer
violin & viola teacher

Ana Lisa Portillo said: Oct 24, 2012
Ana Lisa PortilloViolin
El Paso, TX
5 posts

Carol’s comment reminded me of the 1936(?) recording of the Bach double by jazz violinists Stephane Grappelli and Eddie South. They start off playing Bach’s notes, but of course they end up inserting their own ideas. It really swings!

Anita, you would need a fake book in the key of C. Violinists don’t normally use fake books, so the key reference is for the horns—a trumpeter would get the Bb book, an alto sax player buys the Eb book, etc.

Emily said: Sep 22, 2013
 59 posts

We have a lot of fun playing blue grass fiddle tunes and there are a lot of books available for this genre.

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer

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