New to teaching Begining Strings

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    Hello very helpful folks on the message boards. I have taught band, choir and general music over the past 8 years and enjoy it all immensely. My job currently is K-5 general and I was able to acquire the 5th grade strings in my building so that I could work with my kids even more. I took string methods in college and did well. I will have beginning orchestra two times per week about 30 minutes each time. I would love to hear some recommendations on how to start off the year, how to teach violin, viola and cello simultaneously in the same period. I’ll have the Essential Elements method book but I want to go deeper than that and pull from my Orff training too. Wide open topic – feel free to post what you find most helpful or most critical. Thanks!


    This post is a bit older, but I hope your school year is going well!

    I’m currently a music education student who is very interested in teaching strings sometime in the near future. My biggest advice for you would be to remember that most of the technique for all of the different instruments is essentially the same, but with slight modifications to accommodate the differences between violins/violas and cellos/basses. In a beginning string group, I think it is very important to emphasize good technique more than anything else. Starting the students off right will set them up for success later in life. Don’t let poor posture or funky fingerings slide by! Don’t let your cellists play like violinists (in the way they position their left hands) and don’t let your violinists play like cellists (with the way they hold the bow).

    One nice thing about starting in a heterogeneous string classroom is that all of the instruments share at least 3 strings. Essential Elements works in D Major on the D string for the longest time. Don’t feel like you need to stay with that sequence! Have the students transpose up or down a string. Play around with tonality and play some of those D Major tunes in D minor by lowering the third. This is a great way to introduce and teach low 2 (or just plain old 2 for lower strings) fingerings early on and a great way to get students to be able to recognize differing tonalities.

    Now that you’ve had the program up and running for awhile, are you facing any new difficulties that you did not anticipate when you first started? How are your students progressing? What kinds of things are you doing to make orchestra fun and exciting?


    Hello powersc982!,

    I am also, like gruber108, currently a music education student. I, also, think it is extremely important that posture and technique be one of your first priorities. Many orchestral students get away with slouching, bad posture, poor hand positions, and improper bow use. At the beginning of each rehearsal, I recommend checking all of these important things. Students are sitting up straight, sitting on the edge of their chair, and have their feet flat on the floor. Left hand thumb should never be sticking up or out. It should be relaxed and promote good hand position and finger-extensions.

    Bow-check position is a great way to check your students right hands. Have them hold the weight of the bow in their left hand at the balance point about 1/3 down from the frog. Shake out and place/drop their hand onto the frog. There should be no tension or unnecessary gripping. Check all of your students visually and correct as needed.

    Four main elements to producing a good sound: Contact, weight, speed, and hair. Contact is where the bow is touching the string in relation to the bridge and the fretboard. Weight is how much pressure the bow has against the string. More obvious, speed is how fast the bow is moving across the string. Last, but not least, hair is how much of the bow hair is vibrating against the string. These are your key ingredients to sound production and sound quality. Do not let your students get away with using only part of their bow. It is extremely important that orchestral players learn to use all of their bow with adequate speed.

    There are pedagogical ways to help with building these fundamental techniques. One example is the use of straws in the f holes. If you place two straws or bridge one straw in each f -hole this helps the students with bow contact. They can play on a consistent part of the string by playing against or next to the two straws.

    I hope this helps, and good luck on the rest of the year!



    I am also a music education student. I am presently taking my string methods class. I would like to share some of my string challenges with you.
    I started on cello. I had problems with the bow hitting my legs due to improper peg height adjustment. I also recommend checking the students grip on the bow. The students should be warned about the tingling and numbness in their finger tips when they first start playing. You don’t want the parents thinking something is wrong with their kid.
    The bass was easier for me to play accurately because of the distance between the strings when bowing. My sound and bowing suffered until I learned how to properly apply resin to the strings.
    I am presently on violin. The biggest adjustment is the way I hold the bow, the amount of bow I use, the amount of pressure applied to strings with the bow, and accurately hitting the proper strings with the bow.
    You can apply the same basic principles you use for band, choir, and general music. The only differences are the instruments being played. All method books have limitations, but I found a link on another topic that may be helpful Web article: “Choosing Literature” —
    The ideal situation would be for you to play along with the students. It will give you the ability to teach more style related fundamentals. You may have to practice a little, but the method books are easy at this level.
    Good Luck!

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