Blue Treble Clef  

Violin Beginner Music


Halamus Publishing - FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why do you use Folksongs to teach Classical Violin?

A: "Folk Music is the Basis of All Music. Every form of vocal and instrumental music we possess has developed out of folk song or dance..." (Oxford Companion to Music)

Folk music was the most popular music of its time. It has survived because it was popular with many generations of singers, instrumentalists, and their audiences. It has been preserved in aural history, and collected by many collectors who did not want it to be lost. Beethoven, Haydn, Weber, and others were even employed to arrange Scottish and Irish folksongs to preserve them.

Folk Music is the purest music that we have, because it has been edited as it has been passed down through the generations, and all the "rough edges" - sour notes, etc., have been worn away by the passage of time.

Q: Who were some famous collectors of Folk music?

A: The list of famous Folk music collectors includes:
  • Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
  • Robert Burns (1759-96), who wrote new words to old Irish and Scottish melodies (respectively),
  • George Thompson, who collected old Scottish and Irish songs and Welsh harp tunes, and engaged the foremost composers of the time, including Haydn, Beethoven and Weber, to write accompaniments for them.

    From the "Folk Music Movement":
  • Revd. Sabine Baring-Gould (English)
  • Revd. John Broadwood; Miss Lucy Broadwood (English)
  • Frank Kidson (chiefly English); Mary Neal (English)
  • Mrs Milligan Fox (Irish)
  • Mrs Kennedy-Fraser (Hebridean)
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
    and especially
  • Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) (Southern Appalachians, USA, (with Olive Dame Campbell))
    and in Europe:
  • Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
  • Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967)
  • and many others

Q: Who were some famous arrangers of Folk music?

A: The list of famous arrangers includes:
  • Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
  • Carl Maria Ernst von Weber (1786-1826)
  • Franz Liszt (1811-86)
  • Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93)
  • Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
  • Alexander Porfirevich Borodin (1833-87)
  • Georges Enesco (1881-1955)
  • Aram Ilich Khachaturian (1903-78)
  • Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
  • Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904)
  • and many others

Q: What else should I be playing?

A: 1. Scales, arpeggios, and scales in broken thirds, to start: they are introduced as you progress through the "Folksongs for the Violin" books, Parts 1 - 4. Then use any standard book of Scales for the violin.
The works of Otto Ševčik are also a good place to start - Ševčik's work has been described as "The Violinist's Bible" because just about every technical problem can be overcome by practising the relevant passage of "Ševčik".
But don't rush it!  The study of "Ševčik" is the work of a lifetime!
[How did the caveman eat the mammoth? - A slice at a time!]

      2. Choose from the vast Classical repertoire: music of (e.g.)
  • Bach
  • Handel
  • Correlli
  • Vivaldi
  • Telemann
  • Mozart
  • Haydn
  • Tchaikovsky
  • Weber
  • Dvořák
  • Brahms
  • Schubert
  • Mendelssohn
  • Etc. etc.
Discuss an interesting program with your teacher.

Q: But I just want to play for fun! Why do I need to learn the 2nd, Half, and 4th Positions?

A: One of my recent students wanted to play a baroque period sonata by Evaristo Felice Dall'Abaco (1675-1742). He found it very difficult and awkward to play the sonata in the 1st and 3rd Positions.
Played with Half and 2nd Positions in some passages, however, he found it very easy to play.
But first, he had to learn the 2nd and Half Positions, which he had previously neglected...
If he had known them already, his task would have been so much easier!
There are many other melodies which are made easier to play if the student is fluent in the second, half, fourth and higher positions.

Q How do I stay in tune in all those positions?

A: 1. Visualize a virtual fingerboard, and keep it in your mind's eye the whole time you are playing.
Always think ahead, and plan each finger move in advance. Don't worry! You will soon be so fast and proficient at it that it will be automatic.

      2. Use your Harmonics and your open strings (but only for early practise, unless indicated in the music!), to check that you are in tune.
(Make sure all your strings are in tune before you start! There are good electronic chromatic tuners available to help you).

Happy Playing!!

Q: How do the 'Folksongs' books fit in with the AMEB Syllabus for Australian violin students?

A: They can be a very useful additional resource or a remedial tool at various stages of study, and can help to lay down, or consolidate, a good foundation for violin playing.

Example 1:

I started a new student who had passed the First Grade AMEB (Series 7 syllabus) violin examination, but his mother wasn't happy with his prospects for Second Grade, or with his overall playing.
There were many gaps in his technique; his intonation was poor, and his bowing undeveloped.
In my opinion, if he had proceeded down the road of attempting an AMEB Grade a year, he would have failed Second Grade, especially as the new Series 7 syllabus (now somewhat modified!) was so much more demanding than the older Series had been.

So we started with Folksongs 2: The Violin in Major Keys (G, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, E, A, D, G), and the excellent (Series 7) AMEB Technical Workbook, Level 1, and commenced rotating through all the scales and exercises set for Second Grade (as well as revising the scales set for First Grade).

I gave him various bowing exercises, including Ševčik variations applied line by line to a simple study. These exercises he was to practise in front of a mirror to correct his widely sweeping bow.

I also gave him exercises which required notes to be played with different fingers, leading to easier position shifts, and eventually to scales on one string.
These were reinforced by the Technical Workbook exercises, which in turn assisted the study of 3rd position when we reached Folksongs 3: Third Position, Modes, and Pentatones

…Then we did the siren exercise. (One finger plays the bowed note while it slides up and down the string, and at the same time the hand slides up and down the neck on the ball of the thumb: slide the finger, and take the thumb along too!). Siren exercises, which sound like a siren, are fun for young students, and annoying to dogs and siblings. (I always tell the parent that the siren exercise is, in fact, a necessary part of practice, and assists in later position changing).

After a year and a half of playing enjoyable Folk melodies reinforced by lots of scales and exercises, we finally started the Second Grade syllabus. Now, his intonation is much improved, as is his bowing, and he can already play in, and shift to and from the third position.

There is a lot of third position in the Series 7 Second Grade syllabus.

Whether or not he decides to do the Second Grade examination, his playing now has a much more secure foundation for his future musical studies.

(Note: I make no apology for my Aussie spelling: we use 'practice' for the noun and 'practise' for the verb).

Example 2:

I started a new student who had done well in Fifth Grade AMEB, and wanted to do Sixth Grade, but hadn't played for a few months. One of his chosen Sonatas required fluent Second and Half Positions for ease of playing, and these positions had been sadly neglected.

We started Folksongs 4: A Brief Introduction to the Second, Half, Fourth, and Fifth Positions, studying the Second and Half Positions simultaneously, along with the rest of his Sixth Grade syllabus work, Scales, exercises, studies, etc. And yes, he got a good result in his Sixth Grade exam.