Fun way to introduce tonalization?

Essie Liu said: Mar 2, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Hi, I’m wondering if there’s any fun way to introduce tonalization, especially for young kids. In Pizzicato Open String Study of Violin Book 1, ‘With the bow, try to play tones with the same resonance as the pizz’ , I’m afraid some kids are just too young to understand the meaning of resonance, so how do you usually interpret it in their way? Also, it’s suggested to be taught at each lesson and I learn the importance too, but I’d like to know what kind of activities do you generally do with your students. (Honestly, I feel it a little awkward for a kid to just do the arco notes according to the resonance that (s)he has not even felt yet in the pizz.)

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Sue Hunt said: Mar 3, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Yes, it is a difficult concept. Tone will come automatically if you get the ratio of speed, weight and distance from the bridge right. It’s a matter of helping kids to notice the difference in sound when one of these is not quite right.

You could use similes and metaphors, like chocolate tone.

You could bow on the child’s shoulder. The child will be able to feel the weight and, to an extent, the speed of the stick.

You can demonstrate the difference between putting a small heavy object on a table, leaving your hand resting on it, and keeping the weight of the object in your hand so that it doesn’t quite settle on the table.

You could play some of this collection of straight bow games, such as “Express Train” and “Nellie the Elephant.” Making sure that the bow is straight has a big effect on controlling its distance from the bridge.

Express Train is for long fast bows which stay on the track. The Teacher or Parent is the derailment crew.

Nellie the Elephant swings down and up the elephant’s trunk.

Laura Burgess said: Mar 3, 2013
Laura Burgess
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
32 posts

I agree with Sue that descriptions like “chocolate tone” work well. (Sue, I always enjoy reading your posts!)

Young students may not be able to conceptualize resonance but many can hear it. The pizzicato resonance sounds like a ringing bell, where the tone from pizz played in the wrong part of the string sounds flat.

Also, this is not your last chance; teach them where they are today and build on that in the future. I like to have an ongoing dialog about what tone they prefer and why, giving them examples. I also tell them my opinion and why, so they learn to value resonance even if they don’t know the word.

Karen Zethmayr said: Mar 3, 2013
Karen ZethmayrViolin
15 posts

For the component of resonance that comes from good intonation, I like the term “fat sound.” A personification that also seems to help is that the other string hears its name: “look! it’s so excited, it’s wiggling!” (It not only sounds fat, it looks fat.) They can see this on my violin first, because they can put themselves at a better focal distance. At home, Mom can help them tell the ringers from the klinkers by watching for that vibration, which is often too close to the child’s own eye to be a useful marker.

I use the D on the A string first; the D string is thick enough to make it easy to see the difference between resonating and not resonating (sympathetically vibrating). Seeing is believing, and the cool “magic trick” of physics gets their attention. Then I play the D out of tune, and they can readily (a) see that the G string remains unimpressed, and (b) hear that the tone stops dead when the bow stops. The stroke is martelé of course, and they need to learn to allow time with the bow “holding on to the string” to listen for the ring.) Stopping and listening is a skill in itself.

When they try it themselves, they can only count a ringtone if they’ve used a martelé stroke (stop dead on the string) instead of cheating and lifting the bow, which can give an after ring, but not the kind we want. At home they can play “how many rings out of 10 strokes.”


Caitlin said: Mar 3, 2013
Caitlin HunsuckViolin
Merced, CA
41 posts

I’m working with a four year-old right now on Tonalization (the youngest I’ve ever worked on it with yet!)… and he gets it! I think preparation is the key thing. When we started Volume 2 (I do this with all students) I had him do hopping exercises with his bow on his shoulder— tip hop to frog, hop back to tip. Then we did it on the violin (no sound), then we did long bows, then Chorus. He has really nice, strong, long bows.

Now we are looking at Tonalization. He learned the notes first, and now we are working on “tuna tone” long bows. I think the key is getting him to hear the difference and putting that with a picture. I have a copy of Dr. Suzuki’s pictures of tone. Spider Class, Hippo Class, Gold Fish Class and Tuna Class. I demonstrate each Class on my violin. Every student gets it. Then we quiz, I play, tell me what type of tone that is. Then we work on Tuna Tone with Tonalization. Instant results!

Then I work on ringing tones. I take a similar approach to Karen. Though I let them look at my strings to see if my “D string 3″ is making my G string ring! Then we listen for it. Then they try. They love it when they can do it! We play G string, the D3 (they can hear if they are a perfect octave most of the time, and adjust), again they love it when they do it! Praise is an amazing motivator! I never show disappointment when they don’t do it right, but tons of excitement when they get it right. For some reason, they makes them want to get it, and they usually do! Then show that Tonalization notes are mostly ringing notes… then ask for a ringing Tonalization.

This entire process takes about 3 months for my average student (we are moving on in Volume 2, we just work on it at every lesson).

Essie Liu said: Mar 4, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Thanks everybody. All the ideas are just fabulous! Looking forward to further thoughts.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

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