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SIGHT READING VIOLIN MUSIC
A Guide for the Non-beginner
By Keith Cook
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Keith Cook
All rights reserved.
The two pairs of notes indicated with brackets—B C and E F—are natural half steps having no black note in between.
The notes with the arrows are identical; A# is the same as B[??]; C# is the same as D[??].
Major scales have eight notes with the following combination of whole steps AND half steps. Half steps occur between the 3rd and 4th notes, and between the 7th and 8th notes. This pattern of whole steps and half steps occurs the same way in every major key.
If we attempt to play the major scale beginning on A, we notice that the half steps do not occur between the correct pairs of notes.
If we attempt to play the major scale beginning on B, we notice that the half steps still do not occur between the correct pairs of notes.
Beginning on C we have:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 C D E F G A B C
Now, we have the correct combination. The half step between 3 and 4 occurs with E to F; the half step between 7 and 8 occurs with B to C. This is called a C major scale, and defines the key of C major. The following exercises are all in the key of C major. Exercises i and iii are full scales. Exercise ii shows the difference between B and F involving the second finger. Even though both notes are natural, the second finger on the G string is high, while the second finger on the D string is low.
At right is the pattern of fingers for the key of C major. Prior to playing exercises i thru v, the teacher can point to the notes on the diagram as the student plays. Practice these exercises each time you study the short pieces in this key.
In the beginning, play these exercises without meter. Then, play each pitch as a quarter note. When that is mastered, play as eighth notes. Finally, play as written. The teacher should pencil in different bowing combinations once facility is developed.
Many times, songs and pieces are referred to by key rather than by a specific name such as Minuet in G, or Concerto in D. A piece such as a concerto, symphony or sonata rarely has a name, and is always identified by key. It is easy to figure out the key: simply write out a scale beginning on the given note. Remember where to put the half steps. Here is G:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 G A B C D E F# G
In this key we have our half step between 3 and 4. It occurs between B and C. We had a half step between 6 and 7, but not between 7 and 8. By raising the F to F sharp, we create a whole step between 6 and 7, and a half step between 7 and 8.
Now let's try the key of D.
In this key we have our half step between 3 and 4 -with the notes F# and G. We had a half step between 6 and 7, but not between 7 and 8. By raising the C to C#, we create a whole step between 6 and 7, and a half step between 7 and 8.
Can you finish the key of A?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 A B C# D
We know that the key of G has F sharps. To avoid having to put the # in front of every f, it is written in after the clef sign. When you see one sharp after a clef sign, it means the piece is in the key of G major, except in the case of different modes (minor mode will be covered later). This is called the key signature.
These key signatures all indicate G major. Since F is the first sharp, one single sharp is always F#. All of these clefs are showing F# in their respective notations.
The key of D major has F sharps and C sharps. Instead; of putting the # in front of every F and C, these are both placed after the clef sign: The key signature.
These are the finger patterns for the keys of G major and D major. Compare the patterns, and take note of the similarities and differences. Pay close-attention to the second finger placements; the high position of the third finger on the G string required to play C#.
There are formulas for "figuring out" keys based on the key signatures* patterns. However, key signatures are very easy to memorize. There are only half as many key signatures as there are alphabet. Memorize One sharp as the key signature for G major.
Two sharps is the key signature for D major.
Here are major Scales starting on F and B[??].
Note the half steps. The F scale has. one flat: B[??], The B flat scale has two flats: B[??] and E[??].
Instead of writing a flat sign in front of every B, the flat sign is written on the staff after the clef sign as is the case for sharps. One flat is the key signature for F major.
For the key of B[??] major, The b[??] and the E[??] appear in the key signature. Two flats is the key signature for B[??] major. You must say the word "flat" when naming this key. B major will be a completely different key.
Study the F Major finger pattern. Are there any high 2nd fingers? Which strings have low 1st fingers? Are there any low 4th fingers? What do you notice about the 2nd and 3rd fingers?
Compare the B[??] finger pattern with the one for F, Which note is different? Which fingers are involved in playing the different note?
Major scale beginning on E[??]. There are now three flats: B[??], E[??], and A[??]
The major scale beginning on A[??]. has four flats: B[??], E[??], A[??], and _____
Now, with so many flats, we can really see the value of having key signatures. The key signature for E[??], flat major is 3 Flats. The word "flat" must be said when naming this key.
The key signature for A[??] flat major is Four flats. All Keys are named for their first notes. Four flats is also The key signature for F minor, not F "flat" minor. In that key, the first note is F, not F[??].
Try to fill in the rest of the notes for the scales beginning on D[??] and on G[??]. What are the key signatures?
Compare the finger patterns for A[??] on the left, and E[??] on the right. Note the balance of the A[??] pattern: all of its 1st fingers are low; all of its 2nd fingers are low; and all of its 4th fingers are low. The two low 3rd fingers are on adjacent strings touching (creating half steps with) the 2nd fingers. In E[??] major, Ds are natural. Therefore, it is possible to use the open D string. Why can't we use open a string? Are any open strings usable in the key of A[??] If so, which one, and why?
The key of A major has Three sharps. They are F#, C#, and G#. These are written in after the clef sign in this pattern
The key signature for E major is Four sharps. They are ____, ____, ____, and ____.
Notice the symmetry of the A major finger pattern. Also notice the fact that there are no longer any low second fingers. Care must be taken to place the high third fingers all the way up next to the fourth finger.
In order to play a low G# on the g string, the first finger is moved back and an A[??] is substituted. D# on the d string can similarly be played by substituting E[??].
* These 8 measures are in the key of F# minor. See p.39 and p.49
You must say the word "sharp" when naming the key and scale of F# major. If you just say F major, that's another key—one which was previously studied. Do you remember which one it is, and what its key signature is?
Excerpted from SIGHT READING VIOLIN MUSIC by Keith Cook. Copyright © 2013 Keith Cook. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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