Pitch Problems C# vs C-natural

Tags:

Katherine said: Dec 5, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
75 posts

I have a student working now on Minuet II (Book I, Violin). She still struggles with C-natural and C# in particular. I think it is a combination of not hearing the pitch error and being in the habit of playing C#. I thought she simply was not practicing much. But on discussing w her mom, she says she listens to the recordings every day multiple times. They also practice G-major scale, every day, she says. Yet when she plays, or I play the G-major scale, or Etude, with her, at lesson, she frequently plays C# (and G#) and then self-corrects, or corrects after I point out it needs to be corrected. (In which cases, I have us go back and play it again with the pitches corrected). We have had weeks of lessons now where we repeatedly correct C#, or C natural, (She has as much trouble with the accidentals (in Minuet I)—she gets the C natural in place and then won’t play the C#). We spent almost 2 months of lessons, I believe, on Minuet I with a lot of the time spent on pitch correction—isolating the passages and drilling on them during the lesson—it really got in the way of working on other aspects of the piece). It seems there is something more or different I should be doing so this struggle doesn’t go on, but I am not sure what else I should be doing. My few other students I have taught this piece to have had challenges with this, but not to this extent. Her mother is getting frustrated as well and unsure what more to do. Of course I do not observe their practices. Perhaps asking them to demonstrate practicing for me, for 5 min, might help me to see what is happening with practice and suggest some changes? Thank you for any ideas.

Celia Jones said: Dec 6, 2013
 Violin
72 posts

Katherine, my daughter has been on Minuet 1 for over 6 months, practises and listens daily, and still cannot consistently play the finger 2s correctly. Her teacher will not have her move on to Minuet 2 until it is correct. We have tried many many different tactics and improvements come slowly and gradually.

Usually my daughter won’t talk about it, she just says she played it right and gets upset if I try to discuss the topic. Then today she said “but the teacher says it’s high 2 until after the D”. I don’t know what she meant by that, but whatever it was, she was relying on what the teacher said rather than her own ears. So I think she really can’t hear the remaining errors.

I’d love to hear of some new ideas too—anyone?

Katherine said: Dec 8, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
75 posts

Celia—I guess it is good to know we are not alone! I do find that this is a challenge for most kids.

I think I understand what she is saying. I divide Minuet I into three sections. In the written music, each section is two lines. In the first section (which is repeated on its own before moving to the 2nd section) the C is natural. In the 2nd section the C is #. In the 3rd section C is natural again. The 2nd and the 3rd section are played one after the other, then repeated.

I think in my student’s case, as well, she does not hear the pitch errors and instead relies on memorizing (or trying to memorize) where the C is “low” and where it is “high”.

Celia Jones said: Dec 10, 2013
 Violin
72 posts

Katherine, my daughter solved it herself the day after I posted that. She closed her eyes, said “I can hear better with my eyes closed”. And totally got it. So there’s another idea.

Mengwei said: Dec 11, 2013
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
120 posts

“but the teacher says it’s high 2 until after the D” probably means around mm.15-16, which is the end of temporary change to “D major” (high 2 C#’s) and after that it goes back to G major (low 2 C’s).

One of my students had lovely intonation until Etude, then nearly every C# and every C natural became “in between”, neither sharp nor natural. It wasn’t from lack of listening unless perhaps lack of attentive listening/attention—to your own playing! We’ve been working on it by:
- Putting down fingers 1 & 3 and moving 2 back and forth to feel the low and high spots
- Playing a game where I stop before a 2 and ask is the next one low 2 or high 2
- Asking before we play any piece or scale, what kind of 2’s are in XYZ piece (doesn’t work for the Minuets but we aren’t there yet)
- Counting the number of high 2’s in a section and making sure you get all of them
- Learning Bohemian Folk Song (from viola), an easier tune than Etude with both low and high 2’s

Another student working on the Minuets will “slide” into a low 2, so we’ve been working on having low 2 “get ready in the low 2 position” (close to 1) vs. in the high 2 position where it’s been cozy for over half the book.

It’s taking a few months (slowly and gradually!), but it’s given me ideas on how better to prepare these two for their future pieces and how better to prepare other students before they “get stuck” at Etude. We also continue to refine review pieces and work on bowing styles to balance out the LH finger drilling.

Katherine said: Dec 11, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
75 posts

Mengwei—thank you for some new ideas.

the in-between problem you describe is actually a more common problem I have had with students.

I had seen this idea sometime ago (for use perhaps in a group class). I think I will try it w this student w/ Minuet I and the low/high C problem. It may help me discern better if she is still not hearing the pitches:

Students and parents are facing each other; students hold their hands palms up, parents hold their hands on top, palms down. Teacher plays a song, and randomly plays a wrong note (sharp, flat, wrong rhythm etc.) When they hear this, the students bring their hands up and slap the parents’ hands—the parents simultaneously try to pull their hands away.

Mengwei said: Dec 11, 2013
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
120 posts

I read about that game on another discussion here and have played it in group! It’s hard to keep track of who reacts and who doesn’t because I’m concentrating on playing a deliberate mistake, but in general the wrong 2 seems to get enough of a reaction (D instead of a correct D# in Minuet 2 also does). (Once I did Song of the Wind without circle bows and most of them didn’t catch it even though more of them play Song of the Wind than play Etude/Minuets.)

Another thing I tried with getting low 2 ready was to put my finger in between the student’s 2 and 3 (preventing 2 from hovering over the high 2 spot). However, I wasn’t paying enough attention and forgot to move away when it was time for a high 2!

This is more basic/general—the same or different game. Actually, it should be called the different game because there’s always a difference. But I still ask first, were the two things the same or different? Sometimes I’ll give a clue to watch for it or listen for it (or both). Once they identify by sight or hearing that there was a difference, I ask them to tell me what was different (conscious comprehension).

Barb said: Dec 14, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Some good ideas here.

Cello is a little different because rather than a low or high 2 in first position we have a 2 or a 3. This is one thing I don’t agree with in the Suzuki method. I like my students to start using the 2 right away so it is not a foreign finger when we finally get there. (I felt that way when 4 was introduced to me as a violin student.)

So I have my students do minor tetrachords (I usually call them “mini-scales”) as well as major, and introduce C Major two octave scale fairly early on. With younger students now I might have them play a “sad” little monkey climbing up the ladder, as well as the happy version.

That’s one idea to help with the skill of getting the finger ready, but there’s lots above on listening/hearing as well which may be more of your issue. Closing the eyes (or turning out the lights) is such a good and easy idea that we often don’t think of!

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

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Dec 16, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

Around the time that the Bk 1 student encounters the two different settings for 2nd finger, as in Etude, I introduce the idea of pillars in the hand. In the keys of G, D (except for the G string) and C, the pillars are fingers 1 and regular 3 (not high 3). And they stay in these positions; don’t change, for all the strings. We play a game in which 2 must be hugging one of the pillars, or else he’s “monkey in the middle”. The child watches, listens and imitates the good intonation of the teacher, just on one string, in a short tune using either setting of the hand. When 2nd finger isn’t in a high or low place but is somewhere in between, I call out “Monkey in the Middle!” and s/he gets a point. and when s/he gets to 10 he has to give up something, or sing something silly, or however you want to play the game. Of course the fingers are not kept down!, but rather, 1 and 3 are the “place holders” and the mapping points on the fingerboard which the student begins to visualize and feel in his hand. It’s vital that we must establish how to find 1 in tune, as it’s the anchor note for first position. And 3 must be in its proper position, exactly where it makes a ringing octave above the next lower string! Once the student feels these things in the hand, it is easy to find any high or low 2 across the fingerboard. Also remember to teach, and allow for, the swinging of the left elbow to facilitate the consistent placing of 1 and 3 on any string so that they are in tune, and the wrist doesn’t have to “twist”. It’s about fingerboard mapping and proper setting of the hand!
Good luck!

Wendy Caron Zohar

Jennifer Visick said: Jan 8, 2014
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

You might want to look into Barbara Barber’s “fingerboard geography” book—talking about tetrachords and finger patterns can help, and I find that Barber’s color coding of each finger pattern is useful.

Jennifer Kovarovic said: Jan 19, 2014
Jennifer Kovarovic
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Seattle, WA
18 posts

I’ve found that having my students sing the Minuets (using the syllable “la”) before learning to play them has helped a lot with differentiating between the C-naturals and C-sharps. If it’s still a problem after that, I’ve used these two strategies:

  1. I go to the piano and show them that C-natural and C-sharp are two completely different notes/keys. Having the visual of the keyboard has helped them clarify the importance of committing to one note versus the other.

  2. If a student is REALLY having problems, I have them play the piece, but they have to stop before every second finger on the A-string and announce “high 2″ (C-sharp) or “low 2″ (C-natural). Once they can do that with 100% accuracy, they can play through the piece without stopping.

Sera Jane Smolen said: Jan 20, 2014
Sera Jane Smolen
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
Ithaca, NY
24 posts

Lovely strategies!

When we learn to truly hear the music of children,
we learn to hear the music of the future.
—Michael Deeson Barrow

You must log in to post comments.

A note about the discussion forum: Public discussion forum posts are viewable by anyone. Anyone can read the forums, but you must create an account with your email address to post. Private forums are viewable by anyone that is a part of that private forum's group. Discussion forum posts are the opinion of the poster and do not constitute endorsement by or official position of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Inc.

Please do not use the discussion forums to advertise products or services