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Essential Technique 2000 for Strings – Get Your Level 2 or 3 Group Shifting

Lesley Schultz • February 2021String Section • February 5, 2021

Last month I reviewed two lesser-known technique books: A Scale in Time and String Techniques for Superior Performance. This month I am going to review Essential Technique 2000 for Strings, which is technically the third book in the Essential Elements 2000 Series. This book was edited by Michael Allen, Robert Gillespie and Pamela Tellejohn Hayes and published by Hal Leonard. There are two versions of this book, and the older “non 2000” version is still published and available in many school libraries, but there are a few differences between them.

Essential Technique 2000 presents concepts in ways that are accessible to a wide variety of learners, featuring finger map patterns and pictures for each instrument. If you have been using the Essential Elements 2000 series right along, your students will be very familiar and comfortable with the way the information is presented. Learning how to shift can be a daunting task for both teacher and students, though it need not be. The same basic finger patterns translate well up the instrument at least through 5th position. Essential Technique 2000 exploits this to its advantage, particularly in the violins and violas, with exercises designed to be played exclusively in 3rd position. It covers standard shifting conventions on each string for each of the instruments, and practices shifting on most fingers from first to 3rd position. This part of the book is its strongest area, presenting the technique first in small bits that are easy for the students (particularly the younger advanced level 2-3 group) to understand and put into practice.

The second part of the book dives into playing multiple octave scales using those newly-gained shifting and position skills. It covers major scales to three sharps and three flats, and presents both short melodies in the key and a flexible scored chorale. It also features scales in thirds and arpeggios. It then breaks into minor scales to three sharps and three flats, and presents the three different minor scales, but omits the thirds and instead of a flex scored chorale, we get two unison tunes. The one criticism I have of this book is that it omits at least one minor scale in thirds, and a chorale, unison tunes are fine, but students need to ear-train harmony in minor keys just as much as major keys. At the end of the scales, there is a short section on chromatics.

When it comes to offering other bow techniques (spiccato, portato etc.) there isn’t much to offer, just a short section on rhythm and bowings with some spiccato thrown in. Essential Technique 2000 does have a good section on vibrato, but I have discovered over the years that some students actually get more confused working through this section of the book, so I would not have it be your only resource. This is the weakest part of the book.

Despite a few shortcomings, this book has many advantages. It is widely available in any music store, Amazon, and in many established school libraries. If you use Essential Elements Books 1 and 2, it is the next logical step and the students are familiar with the format. Any book can teach what you want it to teach with just some additional instruction. Have the students play their scales with the various bow techniques, like spiccato or portato. Take a rhythm you need to work from your concert selection and have the kids play it with a scale. The fingerings and shifting techniques are solid, and the diagrams in that part of the book are excellent. It is yet another book in the technique stable for that level 2-3 orchestra that has excellent tools you can use every day.

 

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. Lesley is a columnist for SBO Magazine. In her copious amounts of spare time she enjoys knitting, watching West Virginia Mountaineer sports and spending time with her family.

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