DOUBLE STOP SOLOS:
How to Teach and Play using the Yasuda Double Stop Solos and Duets Approach
by Martha J. Yasuda
My name is Martha Yasuda and I love playing and arranging Double Stop Solos! I also am a Suzuki violin teacher, string and orchestral arranger, and composer living in Atlanta, Georgia. Since 2007, I have served as the Arranger for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
In this article, I explore some of the basic issues relating to playing double stop solos and explain a bit about the my approach to teaching and playing double stop solos.
I am the author of four books pertaining to double stops for violin and viola, each book containing two volumes of difficulty. Their titles are: Christmas Melodies: Double Stop Solos and Duets for Violin and Viola and American Melodies: Double Stop Solos and Duets for Violin and Viola. More recently, I have come out with Christmas Melodies: Double Stop Solos and Duets for Cello, Volume I, with the advanced volume soon to follow.
DOUBLE STOP SOLOS — MAKING IT SIMPLE
Playing double stop solos on a stringed instrument has plagued students and teachers alike for years. Not only are the fingering and bowing techniques difficult for students to grasp, but the pedagogical aspects involved in teaching double stop solos also provide a daunting challenge for teachers as well.
For a nice, general introduction to this subject, please see theWikipedia article entitled Double Stop.
Based upon my extensive experience, there are several basic things that are helpful to have in place when beginning to teach double stop solos to a string player. First and foremost, the music should be interesting and enjoyable for the student. Secondly, students have to clearly understand what they are trying to do and have a plan for how to achieve results. Thirdly, the material has to be manageable and well-graded for the student.
THE ENJOYMENT FACTOR: It is always so exhilarating to watch a student move on to a piece that they truly enjoy after the student has “dug in their heels,” so to speak, for a while on a piece that doesn’t interest them as much. Some students endure this process more patiently than others, but it is always such a wonderful relief when a student finally moves on to Allegro, Perpetual Motion or, later, theVivaldi A Minor Concerto or the Bach Double. Students are just so happy playing these pieces!
This is not to suggest that other pieces which are less enjoyable for students should be skipped or studied less intensively.
We, as teachers, all know that each piece in both the Suzuki and the Traditional repertoires are carefully designed to build something essential in the students’ playing which they will later draw upon in other pieces down the road. Nevertheless, as teachers, I think we can all agree that it is a lot easier to teach something to a student when the student is truly enjoying what they are playing.
For this reason, my Yasuda Double Stop Solos and Duets books are all designed to be enjoyable for the student. In learning double stops, it is somehow comforting to a student to be playing pieces of music that they already know, such as Christmas Carols, folk and patriotic songs, hymns, etc. Quite honestly, this is the most essential element needed to “lure” students into the world of double stop solos without any begging or pleading!
CLEAR PLAN OF ACTION: As far as students understanding what they are trying to do and how to achieve results, the Yasuda Double Stop Solos and Duets concept is very simple and is designed to help unravel the mystery and complexity of playing double stop solos for students and teachers alike.
In a nutshell, students first play a duet with their teacher, with the same identical notes rewritten for one player as a double stop solo on the opposite page. As students play the duet first with their teacher, they get an exact duplication of what their double stops should sound like. I generally have students try to immediately play the double stop solo while the notes from the duet resonate in their ears. Is this not a wonderful representation of the Suzuki concept which encourages listening before playing?
GRADING: Concerning the grading of the material, it is essential for the music not to be too difficult in the beginning. There is nothing more sad and unfortunate than to watch a student who is attempting to play something that is just too far beyond their grasp.
The Yasuda Double Stop books are written with very typical, soccer-playing, ballet-dancing students in mind. Volume I pieces in the Yasuda Double Stop Solos and Duets Series are all designed with the absolute double stop novice in mind — in other words, the pieces are as easy to play as I could possibly make them, without sounding too boring. Many open string drones are used, as well as basic 3rds and 6ths, with occasional 4ths, 5ths or octaves (third finger with an open string). The 4th finger is used very rarely.
My goal was to create a musical situation or environment where students could experience a certain amount of immediate success, without imposing too many technical obstacles that would prevent this success from happening.
Interestingly enough, my most focused students do not seem to be under-challenged or bored by the Yasuda Double Stop books. I generally start teaching double stops from the Volume I Melody books towards the end of Book 3 in the Suzuki repertoire. This begins preparing them for the extremely difficult Seitz Concerto double stop passages, which are contained in the third piece in Book 4 of Suzuki.
I decided that older, more advanced students should have material written especially for them as well. Volume II double stop solos are quite a bit more challenging and are geared for the Book 6 and above student.