Duets

To depart from the topic of double stop solos for a bit, I would now like to address the writing of the duets in these books. When most students are going to read a duet for the first time, they ask which part they are supposed to play. I can see a twinkle in their eye and a growing excitement when I tell them that they get to play the first violin part.

You see, students are conditioned to believe that the first violin part is the most important part of the duet and generally has the most challenges. Having played much music in the orchestral arena, I agree with part of this statement—the part that says the first violin part is generally the most challenging to play.

However, I do not agree that the first violin part is the most important.

I decided that I wanted to play a little trick on some of the students that have a little “first violin chip” in them, the ones that say internally to themselves, “Watch me—this melody is more important than what anyone else is playing.” With these individuals in mind, (there were quite a few of them in my studio!) I decided to deliberately write the music with the duet parts being equal in difficulty, trading off melody and harmony parts.

What did this create? After the first violinist finished playing the first melodic phrase, the next phrase, being the harmony part and unfamiliar to the player, would generally require some rhythmic understanding, rests usually being present.

So many times, I would witness the first violinist become very flustered, as he/she would have no idea how to count the passage and we would have to stop and work things out. On more than one occasion, I witnessed the “first violin ego” become a bit deflated after this somewhat humbling experience!

My idea, of course, was never to embarrass anyone, but to try and get across to students that the harmony part is just as vital as the melody part, and quite frequently, is actually more rhythmically challenging to play! (Having been Principal 2nd violinist in the Greenville Symphony, I know this to be the case.)

I feel somehow comforted to know that I am making a small dent in helping to put into proper perspective the role of the first violinist in relation to other players. It is one of my personal goals as a violin teacher to replace the “first violin chip” with a sensitive, listening ensemble player, thereby creating greater harmony between all voices in music!

BOWINGS, DYNAMICS AND MUSICAL TERMS

BOWINGS: Having played a lot of solo repertoire over the years, as well as music in many orchestras, I have been able to visually see a lot of physical scores. As a young student, I can still remember how frustrating it was in my amateur, adult orchestra to be bowing in the opposite direction from everyone else in the section. This was very embarrassing to me and I tried the best I could to fit in with everyone else. I generally had to mark my parts with additional bowings to ensure that my bow would be moving in the right direction and that I would not stick out.

These early experiences have remained in my memory for many years! Now, as a music publisher, I try as much as possible to PLASTER my parts with bowings so that young students can have every opportunity to learn how to follow bowings, thereby gaining invaluable experience as an orchestral player later on.

ARTICULATIONS: I have made a concerted effort in each publication to differentiate between dots and dashes. Most scores leave this type of thing up to private teachers or conductors to decide, with occasional markings found in the scores to give a general idea for the intent or style that the writer has in mind. Then, the teacher or conductor puts markings in the scores by hand at rehearsals or lessons.

However, when writing the double stop solos, I had particular articulations in mind which I thought would sound best. I also thought that by including these distinctions in the scores, it would be educational for the students to learn to observe and follow these articulation symbols, while simultaneously saving teachers a lot of time at lessons. (Many additional hours were spent as I painstakingly entered each dot and dash in the appropriate places!)

DYNAMICS AND MUSICAL TERMS: We, as human beings, have the capacity to play music from our hearts, touching others that listen in ways that no one quite understands. The name of my teaching studio is “Suzuki from the Heart.”

How is it that some students seem to play with passion and zeal, while others limit themselves to a robotic demonstration of steely fingers touching metal strings in ways that exhibit no emotion? I can remember as a young student struggling with my inner emotions, how they got expressed, etc. and I can also remember some of my teachers’ frustrations with me as I couldn’t seem to get the point of it at all.

How does this process of musical expression start clicking for students?

My observations over the years have been that, as students begin to grasp the weight and importance of dynamic symbols and terms found in music, they begin to start formulating their own personal identity in becoming one with the music. As their practical understanding relating to musical symbols increases, their playing begins to unfold with freedom and depth.

Again, how does this really happen?

When teachers encourage students to exaggerate dynamics and the true meanings of musical terms!

Please keep in mind that technical issues need to be set well in place before dynamic contrast can have the purest impact on the listener. If the basics are not well established, the listener is distracted by the technical limitations of the player and is unable to be fully drawn into the musical expression elements being shared.

Foundational elements that I consider as basic necessities within any given piece of music so as to not create distractions for the listener are categorized as follows: 1 — making a good tone, 2 — playing in tune, and 3 — playing with rhythmic precision. The notorious violinist, Jascha Heifetz, emphasized that true music making begins once the technique is mastered.

Interestingly enough, after I recorded the CD, I began noticing that the music that I played on the CD really did not reflect what was visually found in the score. I decided to use my Finale publishing skills to integrate what was played on the CD with the visual score by adding more dynamics and musical terms. (It was actually a lot of fun to put down on paper what my musical interpretation reflected! I’m still not 100% happy with all my efforts…)

It is my hope as other Double Stop books come out to continue this type of integrated endeavor, so that students can start learning to formulate their own individuality as young artists through paying attention to and exaggerating the true meanings of musical symbols.

CONCLUSION

Hopefully, as you have seen and heard samples from the Yasuda Double Stop Solos and Duets books, you are beginning to understand that, although double stops are certainly a major emphasis in these books, my Yasuda books actually incorporate more than learning solely about the mechanics of playing double stops.

Indeed, these books are interested in fostering musical education through the use of strategically designed duets, which include opportunities for students to learn much about following bowings, dynamic symbols, and musical terms.

It gives me great personal satisfaction to watch students enter the magical world of double stops, learning to conquer each daunting challenge with great enjoyment! Within months, most students are absolutely mesmerized by the special effects that playing a double stop can create. It has truly been a labor of love to watch each individual student that I have interacted with over the years enter into the special world of double stops, shaking and trembling, soon transforming into a “Double Stop King or Queen.”

It has also been equally enriching for me to watch students learn to become sensitive players, learning the art of actively listening to others, while simultaneously expressing the music which is inside them.

Martha Yasuda completed her musical studies at the Eastman School of Music, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in violin performance. Christmas Melodies, Volume I, for Violin was distributed by Alfred Publishing Company, Inc., for three years, this distribution relationship ending in July 2010. All of Martha’s books are available on her Website at www.YasudaMusic.com. Mrs. Yasuda also is the Arranger for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra education concerts, where children in Kindergarten through 2nd Grade are in attendance, watching the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra perform.

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