Advanced Technique for Strings – Push Your Group to the Limits

Lesley Schultz • March 2021String Section • March 6, 2021

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The last few months I have been discussing method books for your level 2 to 3.5 groups to push their techniques and their musicality. The books I choose to review are widely available in school libraries, but there may be newer versions available with new resources. This month I am focusing in on a book for your group that plays level 3.5 music or higher, Advanced Techniques for Strings (from Hal Leonard’s Essential Elements for Strings series), or as we call it where I teach “The Gold Book”.

I love this book for many reasons; it offers how-to guides for all instruments on how to practice three-octave scales, and primers in reading tenor and treble clef for celli and basses. It offers rhythms to practice the scales with and pushes the students with three octave arpeggios as well. As students in these advanced/top groups are more likely to be studying privately (and working in whatever specific instrument scale/technique book their teacher feels is best for them), there are usually some who aren’t in lessons and this book helps bridge and fill those gaps for the group, putting everyone on some equal footing.

The shifting exercises in this book are very strong, taking all instruments to fifth position (and further in some cases) in all keys to four sharps and four flats with a wide variety of time signatures including 6/8 time. I as a teacher would not work through this section line by line, but I would pick what was most relevant to the music I was performing, and work through those as warmups as I take care of any housekeeping issues like attendance, or a minor instrument repair. In a top group, you could even have student leaders work through the exercises or at least know how to start them, while you took care of the housekeeping business as I call it. All ideas for you to ponder. I also like the extended unison song excerpts included, in again, a wide variety of styles, keys and time signatures.

The last section in this book is something I wish more books would do, or perhaps someone could put together a book of this for various level groups. I love the orchestral excerpt pull outs, with the actual parts for each instrument, enabling the group to work on style, and ensemble. This is just another way to add a quick bit of technique and style to your rehearsal before digging into working on music for your concert. Working on short excerpts as a group of actual music, that the students won’t have to perform on a concert, can allow them to feel safe in taking a few musical risks, and I am a firm believer that the more music you put in front of students, the better.

Advanced Technique for Strings is an excellent all-around book for your groups that are playing 3.5 level music or higher. I would use it as a supplement to whatever concert music you might be working on. That said, depending on what is going on in your area, this is a great book to push all of your students to better technique during this time of fewer concerts. Given its unison structure through most of the book, also makes it ideal for online teaching and learning. Given its wide availability, it is worth checking out for your advanced groups.

Lesley Schultz currently teaches orchestra and secondary general music at Princeton City Schools (Cincinnati, OH). She earned her Bachelors of Music Education from West Virginia University and her Masters of Music Education from Ohio University. Lesley is a Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Lesley keeps an active performing schedule around the state of Ohio, performing with several regional symphonies on viola. She is a member of TI:ME and serves as OMEA Conference Liaison for OMEA and on the conference committee for TI:ME. Schultz is a columnist for SBO Magazine. In her spare time, she enjoys knitting and watching West Virginia Mountaineer sport.

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