Double Stops Forewords

To provide further credibility for my approach to the study and teaching of double stops, I enlisted the help of two well-known Suzuki pedagogues. When I contacted both William Starr and William Preucil, Sr. back in 2002 and 2004, respectively, to ask for their reviews, I was absolutely touched and, quite frankly, surprised to witness their extreme generosity and willingness to help me get started, as I began blazing into uncharted territories pertaining to double stops. Their overwhelming support and endorsement has been vital and critical to me and I am forever indebted to each of these wonderful Suzuki pioneers.

I now share with you the Forewords which were so graciously given to me by William Starr, one of my former college professors, and also William Preucil, Sr.

William Starr, renowned Suzuki violin pedagogue, writes:

“American Melodies: Double Stop Solos and Duets for Violin, Volumes I and II, is an excellent resource for the study and performance of double stops. Mrs. Martha Yasuda, a former student of mine, has developed a very practical and helpful system to assist students in hearing what double stops should sound like. Having students play the duet parts first before playing the double stop solo arrangements further strengthens one of the key principles underlying the Suzuki method of violin instruction — that of listening to a musical piece first before playing it. Students will enjoy learning to play double stops as they play something fun and familiar to them.

For this reason, Mrs. Yasuda has chosen as her musical setting well known American patriotic and folk songs sung by most children. Younger students can also join in the fun as they play the duet parts in these fine arrangements. Students will be challenged as the duet parts alternate back and forth between the melody and the harmony.

Double Stop Solos And Duets
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 the Wikipedia 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, the Vivaldi 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.

FOREWORDS

To provide further credibility for my approach to the study and teaching of double stops, I enlisted the help of two well-known Suzuki pedagogues. When I contacted both William Starr and William Preucil, Sr. back in 2002 and 2004, respectively, to ask for their reviews, I was absolutely touched and, quite frankly, surprised to witness their extreme generosity and willingness to help me get started, as I began blazing into uncharted territories pertaining to double stops. Their overwhelming support and endorsement has been vital and critical to me and I am forever indebted to each of these wonderful Suzuki pioneers.

I now share with you the Forewords which were so graciously given to me by William Starr, one of my former college professors, and also William Preucil, Sr.

William Starr, renowned Suzuki violin pedagogue, writes:

“American Melodies: Double Stop Solos and Duets for Violin, Volumes I and II, is an excellent resource for the study and performance of double stops. Mrs. Martha Yasuda, a former student of mine, has developed a very practical and helpful system to assist students in hearing what double stops should sound like. Having students play the duet parts first before playing the double stop solo arrangements further strengthens one of the key principles underlying the Suzuki method of violin instruction — that of listening to a musical piece first before playing it. Students will enjoy learning to play double stops as they play something fun and familiar to them.

For this reason, Mrs. Yasuda has chosen as her musical setting well known American patriotic and folk songs sung by most children. Younger students can also join in the fun as they play the duet parts in these fine arrangements. Students will be challenged as the duet parts alternate back and forth between the melody and the harmony.

I believe very strongly that this collection as well as Christmas Melodies fills a major gap in the field of the study of double stops. Mrs. Yasuda’s idea of relating double stops to duets is very cleverly done and is clearly a demonstration of Dr. Suzuki’s idea of making learning enjoyable for the student. I enthusiastically recommend both American and Christmas Melodies.”

William Preucil, Sr., Professor of Music (Emeritus) at The University of Iowa, writes:

“Christmas Melodies and American Melodies: Double Stop Solos and Duets for Viola, Volumes I and II, offer interesting material for students at varying levels of advancement. Volume I has nice duets that later become double-stop solo versions, while Volume II, using the same pieces, presents the same concept with a higher degree of technical challenge and bravura. These arrangements are expertly written and carefully edited for the student and they delight with originality and flair.”

TECHNICAL POINTS TO CONSIDER IN TEACHING AND PLAYING DOUBLE STOP SOLOS:

Obviously, as students launch into their new world of playing double stops for the first time, teachers need to address certain technical issues that will inevitably come up. Bowing on two strings instead of just one is a very intimidating experience initially and students need reassurance that they will do just fine. They are generally quite nervous about the whole thing. There are three technical concerns that need addressing. They are: 1 – Learning to maneuver the bow, 2 – Learning to play double stops in tune, and 3 – Incorporating music theory concepts which help to translate into double stop mastery.

BOWINGS FOR DOUBLE STOP SOLOS: Basically, students need to understand how to maneuver the bow as they go from lower strings to higher strings, from higher strings to lower strings and finally, from one string to two strings or two strings to one. As is practiced in Suzuki pedagogy classes, going from lower strings to higher strings involves dropping the elbow and in going from higher strings to lower strings, the hand and wrist guide this motion, without raising the elbow.

To make these changes smoothly, the bow should try to anticipate the new string direction while still playing on the old string by gradually moving the bow towards the new direction. This prevents a jerky motion.

This same technical concept should be used as students move from one string to two strings or two strings to one. Also, the bow learns to “draw” instead of “press.” This takes some patience for the student to learn to evenly distribute weight between the two strings.

PLAYING DOUBLE STOP SOLOS IN TUNE: The first basic element to address is that of matching octaves (3rd finger with an open string). At this point in the student development, (late Suzuki Book 3, early Book 4) the concept of a “ringing” 3rd finger should be fairly well in place. If not, remedial work may be necessary before proceeding further.

Whenever students play a note out of tune, I ask them if they think it was too high or too low. Eventually, they begin answering correctly in a consistent fashion. This helps to build ear confidence so that they begin to trust their instincts concerning pitch.
I frequently explain the concept of fingers ”passing off” pitches to other fingers. Sometimes students play things out of tune because fingers lift too quickly before they assist the next finger. Fingers should always be placed on the fingerboard in relation to other fingers (either touching or having a space between them).

INCORPORATING MUSIC THEORY: Once students manage to match octaves fairly well, I address the concept of fingers (1-2 or 2-3) either touching across strings (this forms a minor sixth) or having a space between them (this forms a Major sixth). I actually put in the music a little “m” for minor and a big “M” for Major. I ask students which is harder to play and they all agree that a Major sixth is much harder to play than a minor sixth. I put a box using erasable colored pencils around all Major sixths as each carol is studied.

I like to have students count interval distances between notes by reciting the letters of the alphabet. Take the interval “A to F.” Making sure that “A” is counted as the number “1,” students continue counting letter names up to six on their fingers so that they understand distance relationships between notes.

I also teach students about perfect intervals vs. the major and minor intervals. The perfect intervals (unisons, 4ths, 5ths and octaves) need to be played “perfectly” in tune or they will cause listeners a great deal of pain! (i.e., MORE pain than the major and minor 2nds, 3rds, 6ths and 7ths produce when played out of tune.) I actually demonstrate the difference to students, showing them how very painful a perfect 4th or 5th sounds when it is “almost in tune!” versus when it is perfectly in tune. I help them listen for the bass overtones that resonate when these intervals are played in tune.

I teach students about key signatures so that they understand that even in the world of Suzuki, it is okay for the brain and the ear to learn to work together, helping each other out. A quick way for students to memorize key signatures is outlined below:

The names of the first 4 sharp keys follow the names of the open strings on the violin. Namely: 1 sharp = G (open) Major, 2 sharps = D (open) Major, etc. ending with the E string having 4 sharps.

I generally pluck the open strings and have students tell me the names of the key signatures and how many sharps each has. I ask them these questions repeatedly in lessons, trying to relate the information constantly to actual pieces that are being studied. This way the information is actually relevant for them and not simply something rote that they memorize. Jokingly, I will say to students when asking them what key a piece containing up to four sharps is written in, “Those open strings are sooo hard to memorize!”

The flat keys start on the E string side, using low 1’s across all 4 strings. Namely: 1 flat = F (low 1 on E) Major, 2 flats = B Flat (low 1 on A) Major, etc., ending with the G string having 4 flats, A Flat (low 1 on G) Major.

I have found that students actually seem to enjoy learning more details concerning the orderly world of musical structure. However, I think it is important to remember that the ear should never be left out of the endeavor.

MUSICAL GOALS

The ultimate musical goal when playing double stop solos is to be able to bring out the melody line at all times. The technical demands are a slave to this goal. This is not an easy task to accomplish for the violinist and can be worked on more successfully once technical left hand issues become easier for the student. The bow learns to lean more heavily on the note which is melodic in order to accomplish this goal. Vibrato on melodic notes is also another element which helps to give more pre-eminence to the melody.

Many thanks to Jun-Ching Lin, associate concertmaster in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, for listening to me play and for pointing me in the right direction regarding these musical issues.

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