How I Use The Finger Charts

If there was one tool that I could get everyone to try...

It would be the finger charts. If you don't have time to download anything else, get that one. 

Just go to http://edwardsviolinstudio.com/downloads/  and enter password: suzuki.

The reason is, they are tested in actual lessons and they continue to get consistent results. I have been using and testing them for a few years and they ALWAYS work.

How do they work? The finger charts tell kids which finger number (1, 2, or 3) to place on which string (A or E) for Twinkle and the first half of Suzuki Book One. (You'll see a small letter A or E above the fingerings to designate the string.)

I use them as soon as a student is ready to learn Twinkle, has learned where the tapes are, and has done a week or two of initial practice on Hello 1 -2 -3 and Monkey Song. (All of this is covered in Practice Tip #17 - Find The Right Address.) 

I found that with the finger charts, learning and memorization of these pieces goes faster with less frustration at home, AND they function as a pre-note reading exercise. Little eyes have a hard time reading a music staff, but they CAN read large numbers and letters.

I'm always careful to explain that the reason we use finger charts is not to need them anymore! As soon as possible we turn away from the charts and play from memory. (Later we will do the same thing with actual notes.)

Coupled with listening and memory work, the finger charts are just enough of a prompt to enable students to move forward. They create frustration-free practicing, because they gives beginning parents and kids an understandable system to use.

There are two sets of charts, and each comes with a set of instructions on how to use them. You can get them here:   Just go to http://edwardsviolinstudio.com/downloads/  and enter password: suzuki.

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If you have used the finger charts, please add a comment here. Your honest feedback helps everyone understand how to use the tools more effectively.

How to Beat Performance Anxiety

We have all felt it.

The dry mouth, the shaking hands, the sudden loss of words. Performance anxiety is no fun. And when it comes to music, performance anxiety can kill good musical expression.

Here are five ways I've found that lessen performance anxiety:

  1. Adequate practice.  A "polished piece" is one that has been mastered to a level that can be played with ease. Sometimes this takes weeks, and sometimes months! Depending on the level of difficulty, you may need more practice to get to a level of polish than you first think. Remember, learning the notes is only half way.
  2. Plenty of rehearsal. A rule of thumb I have started to follow is to formally rehearse the piece twice as much as I initially think necessary. That includes scheduling extra time if needed with an accompanist (I say "no" to the performance if this is not possible), and playing through it at least twice in the space I am going to perform in.
  3. Memorization. Reading notes that are not well internalized is a distraction when performing. Over-reliance on note reading is a sure way to destroy good musical playing, because the brain is engaged in reading rather than expressing. Sheet music can be used as a safety net for a performance, after memorization has taken place, but only as a prompt for the real purpose, music-making.
  4. Routine. Do everything the same way as you set up, each time you play and rehearse. This applies to everything from checking your tuning to the initial placement of your bow.
  5. Take your time. When getting set, take time to play the beginning mentally, get back in touch with what you are trying to do musically. Breathe, allow your body to settle as much as possible.

Dealing with fear is another aspect of the process that I'll cover in future posts. But if you'll do these five things consistently, your performances will go better and you'll feel less nervous.

You can conquer the fear of performing. Remember, the more you do it, the easier it gets, and if you take the right intentional steps, you will get there.

Violin Angst