Foundational Note Reading Skills, Part 3

Minuets through Early Book 2

Initial Note Reading

Around the time a student is playing Minuet One with ease, I present them with their first note reading book – a booklet I made to move the elements they’ve learned together. It’s called Foundational Note Reading for Young Violinists and is available at my Creek Edge Press website. This booklet takes them through the steps we’ve covered previously at group class. I ask that students write slowly and follow the directions precisely as written on the page. If they do so, they learn how to copy and correctly write the A, D, and two octave G scales on the treble staff. These are then used to practice reading the scales they’ve learned to play in their lessons.

From there, we use I Can Read Music, Vol. 1 and Sassmanshaus Early Start on Violin, Vol. 1. My students pizzicato the pitch portions of I Can Read Music, Vol. 1. I assign 5-10 pages of pitch each week, but we do the rhythm pages only at lessons (unless their parents are musicians who can count). I use the Sassmanshaus book because young children love it and the pictures are engaging. I usually mark out the slurs and sometimes the fourth finger, when suggested, as well. For the most part, this works well for my students. When they’ve completed both of these, we pause and use Vol. 2 of I Can Read Music as sight reading and intonation practice during lessons. I add in selections from the first volume of Applebaum’s Beautiful Music for Two String Instruments for their assigned note reading.

Key Signatures, Intervals, the Circle of 5ths

Volume 2 of the Sassmanshaus series introduces quite a few keys and finger patterns, so be aware that the last third of this book may be best introduced once a student is past Witches’ Dance and Gavotte from Mignon. My students have done well learning to play in these keys when they’ve been introduced with the concept of the key. I do this in group class by placing my bow on the A string and ask them to find the key signature card that matches the string my bow is sitting on. They always choose the card with three sharps because this is ingrained in them from previous learning. We list the songs we learned in the key of A. I then roll my bow to D and ask them to find the key signature card that matches that string, point out the two sharps, and name pieces that we learned in the key of D. I then roll to G string and they find the card with only one sharp and we name the pieces we learned in the key of G. After that, I say that I’m going to pretend that I’m a cello and I wonder aloud, what string I would land on if I had another string. Sometimes, a student already knows, but if not, we say our musical alphabet from A to D and D to G several times to show the relationship between the notes. Then we discover G going down to C in the same manner. I put my bow on the A string and say 3 sharps, roll to D string and say 2 sharps, roll to G string and say 1 sharp, roll to my imaginary C string and the students chime in with zero. This is how we learn the key of C. We go the opposite direction to learn the key of E. They then practice showing me the answer to which key signature I’m holding up by placing their bow at the correct level.

I introduce the interval of a fifth by pointing out the relationship between each of our strings. I typically have them play the first two notes of Twinkle Melody in their open string ‘keys’ first. Then, we put our first finger down and notice how we can play a fifth using our first finger on two different strings and, likewise, with our second and third fingers. I then call A, one, and sing/play the first five notes of an A scale on numbers. They echo me. Then I play and they echo a variety of intervals within that five note pattern. We finish by listening for intervals in our folk songs.

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