You’re at the WRONG HOUSE!

Peeking Through House

I like going through the following monologue with students who need some basic help with intonation:

“Imagine you are walking home. You go in the front door, you head for the kitchen. You open up the refrigerator and take out some food. You plop down on the couch and turn on the TV. All of a sudden a strange voice says, “What are you doing? This isn’t your house!”

What would you do!? You would be embarrassed, right? And if they are nice, the neighbors would probably just chuckle and send you on your way.

I know you would never really do that. But now let’s imagine the same thing with your fingers. First finger, second finger, third finger, they all have a specific address! When they wander off, we have to get them back home.”

For beginners, bad intonation happens when their fingers have not yet learned to land on the tapes accurately. When we add tapes, we need to then practice which fingers go where. This seems obvious, but getting your kids to DO it is another story.

PRACTICE FINDING THE RIGHT ADDRESS

Tapes

The first thing I have students do is position their thumb (see Practice Tip #16 - Hello Mrs. Thumb.) Thumb goes roughly next to the first tape, opposite first finger.

When we have Mrs. Thumb’s address settled, then it is easy to figure out that first finger lives across the street. If first finger lands behind or in front of that tape, he is at the wrong address. 

Once we have first finger at the right house, we find the correct address for second and third finger.

You can also take a washable marker and write a 1, 2, and 3 respectively on the fingers, starting with index. Make sure their fingers are curled around the violin, or have them hold their violin hand straight out at you. The numbers should look upside down until the fingers are curled around the violin. They should appear right side up to the student in play position

Have some fun with this. Let the students help concoct the story about what happens when someone shows up at the wrong house.

Mischievous-minded students sometimes want to let off steam by purposely placing fingers incorrectly. That's OK! Let them be wrong on purpose, and then make a deal with them that they also have to show how to do it correctly.

FINGER POPS

When at least a general understanding of finger placement has occurred, I have them move all three fingers up and down several times on the tapes, trying to aim them together. At this point I'm not looking for complete accuracy, only a general sense of movement and placement.

  • POP! The fingers pop up and down. Do 5 - 10 pops in a row.
  • The idea of this exercise is to learn to move the fingers from the hinge at the base of the knuckles.
  • To add some fun, I have them roll a 30-sided dice to see how many finger pops they will practice each day at home.

HELLO 1 2 3

Kids like to say hello to pretend friends. "Hello 1 2 3" helps with landing on the tapes in sequence and keeping the fingers down. (Do following the Finger Pops.)

Use the following sequence for Hello 1 2 3:

  • Place first finger on the first tape, and say “Hello, 1!”
  • Place the second finger on the second tape and say, “Hello, 2!”
  • Place the third finger on the third tape and say, “Hello, 3!”
  • Pick up third finger, leaving one and two down. Say, “Goodbye, 3!”
  • Pick up second finger, leaving one down. Say, “Goodbye, 2!”
  • Pick up first finger. Say, “Goodbye, 1!” Now there are no fingers on any tapes.

Things to watch for

Watch how the fingers are landing. The tips of the fingers should land from above, rather than flat or from the side.

Fingers should start in “hover” position. That is, in curled position over their correct address, rather than sticking straight up or squeezing against the neck.

Try not to squeeze or grab. We want to convince the brain and muscle memory that the fingers can move and land on their own with strength, not because we are squeezing.

Monkey Song

Combine the Pepperoni Pizza rhythm with Hello 1 2 3 and you get Monkey Song. (Click here for the lyrics to Monkey Song.) All you have to do is play one Pepperoni Pizza on each note, starting on the A string.