Hi Guys and thanks for dropping by!
Today I’ve decided to make a video to help master your Suzuki Twinkle Variations. Although I’m not a Suzuki method teacher per say, I certainly respect the ideology behind this method and indeed use aspects of Suzuki teaching with my own students.
If you’re following the Suzuki method, either solely or simply as a component of your wider learning program, you’re no doubt looking to develop strong and reliable technique. Indeed, when intermediate or even advanced students come to me with technical issues I will often spend a month or so working through the Twinkle Variations in order to identify and rectify any issues with basic technique.
Take your time to read this post, watch the video and really master all the technique that is addressed in this seemingly simple set of variations!
Why I start My Teaching With Suzuki
When I began teaching, I noticed a stark contrast between the technical ability of Suzuki trained students compared to their traditional, music reading counterparts. Having been taught to read and understand music from the time I first picked up a violin, I was baffled as to how these students seemed to have such beautiful technique and yet were seeking something different in terms of their learning pathway.
So, when my own daughter began learning the violin, I purchased my very first Suzuki book 1 and we started working through the Twinkle Variations together. It all suddenly made sense; instead of focusing on reading notes and understanding the music in front of us, we were totally focused on the development of accurate technique and a beautiful quality of sound. No wonder the Suzuki students I’d encountered previously had such great technique!
From that point forward, I used the Twinkle Variations as part of the first three to twelve months of every new student’s learning pathway.
Introducing Busy Busy Stop Stop
This is the first bowing style we encounter in the Suzuki Book 1. Although it may sound silly, when you play those four semi quavers followed by two staccato quavers, the sound really resembles the words ‘Busy Busy Stop Stop’
You might like to put a bright coloured sticker in the middle of your bow so that you can aim to keep to small notes moving across the sticker. Later on, you could try it in the top or bottom parts for some variation.
The advantage to this bowing pattern is that you can’t go too wrong in terms of how you are moving your right hand and arm and this allows you to focus more on the left hand and fingers.
Before starting the fingered exercises, why not play some busy busy stop stops on the open A and E strings. How about four on each string to start off with? You could increase this number as you get better.
The following exercises are shown on the video and are not designed to be completed in one go. Repeat each exercise as many times as you can but only as many as good technique will allow. Look out for maintanence of the following important technique:
- Be sure that your fingers are standing up tall and that your pinky finger is not lying beneath the neck of your violin
- Ensure that your mouse hole and cheese are well shaped.
Exercise 1 - First Finger On The E String
The first exercise I’ve shown you on the video is to play open E followed by first finger on the E string. You want to ensure that you’re super careful of your left hand position here. I find that when students start playing on the E string, they tend to squash the left hand and thumb together and push the wrist out to the left.
To avoid this, keep focusing on the mousehole and ensure that you are actually placing your fingers on the E string, not the A string. Most times when students present with this problem, they have placed the tips of their fingers on the A string and are leaning the fingers over to the right to touch the E string. This is not what you want to do! Focus on ensuring that the tips of your fingers are placed on the E string.
Use the busy busy stop stop rhythm and repeat E, E1, E, E1 as many times as you can whilst maintain good technique.
Exercise 2 - The 3, 2, 1, 0 Build
We now move across to the A string where we want to build the fingers up to A3. Start with your first finger, then add the second finger and finally place the third finger directly on top of the second finger.
Before adding the bow, ensure that your left hand and wrist are loose and relaxed and that the mouse hole is evident.
Now use the busy busy stop stop rhythm to play A3, A2, A1, A0
Take a moment to build the fingers up one by one. You should not try snapping the fingers on at this stage. Repeat this exercise over and over again, ensuring that you build your fingers up confidently and correctly each time.
Exercise - Playing The Middle Section
This is the most difficult part of the piece and it’s important that you practice it in isolation until you’re confident with the E to A3 build.
Use the busy busy stop stop rhythm to play E0. You then want to take time to build your fingers up on the A string. Now, you want to play A3, A2, A1. You should then repeat the whole sequence: E0, A3, A2, A1. Notice that there is no A0 in this exercise.
When you’re moving across from E0 to A3, don’t be tempted to snap your A3 on prematurely. Building your fingers up carefully will result in the ability to play the piece quickly and correctly later on. If you try to rush from E0 to A3 in the beginning, you may be able to play more quickly, but you’ll not develop a strong and confident frame in your left hand and your intonation will probably suffer.
Putting It All Together
Once you’re pretty confident with the three exercises, you are ready to play the first Twinkle Variation – Busy busy stop stop. As you’ll see on the video, I’ve played the piece with builds and then with snaps. I encourage you to focus on the builds for at least a week of practice. Only once you’re fingers are confident with their placement on the A string you could try snapping the A3 instead of building it.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re on the way to some really solid beginner technique. It’s so important not to rush the beginner stages of your violin journey. Take the time to ensure that these exercises are easy and confident before moving on to the different Twinkle Variations.
If you do feel ready, take a look at my post on the Twinkle Variations; you can find it here. This post covers each of the different bowing styles that you need to complete the entire set of Suzuki Twinkle Variations
Best of luck with your beginner technique and remember that if you ever have any questions or need a hand with anything violin related you can ask me in the comment section below.
Congratulations on learning your very first piece!
(Founder of myviolinbff.com)