Vamoosh Teacher Training Day 21st April 2024

Tips - Vamoosh String Book 1.5


Vamoosh Book 1.5 for Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass

Here are some teaching ideas for Vamoosh Book 1.5 which some teachers or parents may find helpful.

Useful Things to Know
It is helpful to show your pupils how to cross reference this first page whenever they are struggling with note-reading. This will give them the confidence to know they can problem solve themselves at home when they are practising a new piece.

1. Blue Blazes
This is an excellent warm up item that can be easily taught by rote and memorised. Teach the first line using Call and Response (sing or play the first line and have your pupil(s) repeat back to you.) This can be done either on your instrument, or using note-names and hand-signs. The long E at the end of each line should be exaggerated with a fast retake at the end. The final E before returning the to the start should be short and accented. Draw attention to the Staccato element in the second two lines. I prefer that the bow remains on the string with fast, marcato strokes. Cellists will need to have their first finger in 4th position ready for the Es.

2. Ballad
This set of variations is easy to learn and makes for an excellent warm-up to any lesson. I like to create a chart that looks something like this:

    A  B  A  D
    A  B  A  D
    A  E  F  E
    F  E  B  A

Cellists will need to be shown how to find E and F sharp in 4th position. Moving between this and 1st position may take a few attempts. I like to encourage them to feel their arm dropping down to 4th position and stopping when the thumb touches the back of the neck. Stickers also help.

Theme: Encourage long bows, with generous movement and good contact with the string. Perhaps a little swaying to avoid tension building up in the arms.
Variation 1: Staccato notes. I prefer that the bow remains on the string with marcato strokes, encouraging free movement without losing contact with the string that could lead to the tightening of bow-holds.
Variation 2: ‘Long Caterpillar’. Use the whole bow on the half-notes, then small bows at the tip or the heel for the sixteenths. This is a tricky bowing and worth taking the time to make sure it’s done properly.
Variation 3: ‘Piccadilly Circus’. Encourage strong marcato strokes with good contact.

3. The Old Chuckwagon
This is a simple duet that consolidates the left-hand shape with a simple open-string accompaniment. When teaching in groups, it is nice to switch parts to vary the lesson. Violinists might like to walk around, following each other in a line like a train if there is room to do so. This helps to dilute any tension into the whole body and helps to feel the pulse from the legs upwards.

4. Pineapples are Juicy
This easy piece uses open-strings and the 1st finger only. It is easily taught by rote using the words, followed by note names/fingerings accompanied with hand gestures. A slightly more demanding Accompaniment part is useful when teaching in groups, or to vary the lesson. Short improvisation sections separate the verses. One way to stimulate improvisations is to ask your pupil(s) to imagine foods, or activities to provide the rhythm. For example: Coconut Ice Cream, Swimming in the Sea. Suggest that they use any notes, including open strings and fingered notes in 1st position. An alternative is to do ‘question and answers’ where you play a short phrase, and your pupil responds with an answering phrase of a similar length. The important thing to emphasise is that there are no wrong notes, and they are free to experiment as long as they maintain good physical form. This is a piece that children love returning to. This can be performed in a number of ways, using singing and playing of both parts. Dancing should also be encouraged.

5. We’re not sitting still!
Much of what you try out in Pineapples are Juicy can be used in this piece also. It is a piece that is easy to learn by rote and as such avoids having to explain the complex-looking notation. This, as well as Pineapples are Juicy can be returned to in any lesson as a way to lighten the mood or mix up the activities.

6. Reel
This easy-to-learn piece is in the style of a barn dance or ceilidh and is a great way to burn energy in a lively class setting. As all the notes are on the A string, it offers a good opportunity to learn the note names on the A string. For example, you could start by asking “If I put one finger on A, what note would that B?” They can then work out what note is covered by the other fingers. The more they learn by discovery the better. Once that is established, sing the note-names along to the slow backing-track. If there are children in the group who have yet to learn fingered-notes, they can join in with the open-string part in the Accompaniment. If you have more advanced players you can combine them using the melody with the same name in Book 3.

7. Dog and Duck
The first bar of this piece is repeated every other bar on the first page. Teach this bar to your pupils first by asking them to copy, and have them play it whilst you play the intervening bars. This not only gets them playing straight away, it also gives them a chance to hear how the melody unfolds. This should motivate them to learn the intervening bars and before long they will be able to play the whole thing. In groups, it is nice to split into two groups and have them play against each other. Conjure the image of dogs barking, or ducks quacking for the notes with accents. The lower-note alternative is optional for more advanced players who would like to attempt both. The middle section on the right-hand page involves actions. The last one ‘Something else?’ gives your pupils the chance to create their own gestures as they see fit.

8. Scaling up D major
Here are four versions of a one octave D major Scale. The contrasting backing accompaniments create the sense that this is a piece of music, and is a nice way to start a lesson from here on, hopefully establishing a habit of scale warm-ups without any sense of drudgery. Below is a composition task. Ask you pupils to fill in the stems with notes and have them play their composition back to you. This may encourage more compositional activity from your pupil(s) by way of a simple introduction.

9. Violin Concerto
This melody from Beethoven’s Concerto perfectly compliments the scale that has just been practised in the previous item. It is nice to perform without backing-track as a duet.

10. Cool Drift
The first two lines of this piece address the issue of bow-speed, saving bow with a slow down-bow, followed by a fast, lighter up-bow. Lines three and four are more melodic, and could perhaps be taught first as they are somewhat less problematic. A short string-crossing and scale section tie the two halves together. There is an ensemble version of this piece that is also available here.

11. Oh When the Saints!
This popular and familiar tune is relatively easy to learn. The focus this time should be on starting with up-bows and avoiding any retakes. The bow should remain in contact with the string throughout.

12. Easy Streets
This piece introduces the low 2nd-finger pattern for violins and viola, and the 2nd finger for cellists. It can be very easily learned by rote so all the attention can be focused on this new pattern. Use the improvisation sections to consolidate this pattern, allowing your pupils to make up small tunes. The Accompaniment part uses just open-strings and the first finger, useful if you have a mixed ability group.

13. On the Railroad
Conjuring the image of an old North American railway, this piece helps to consolidate the low 2nd finger shape. The top part (left hand page) is all on the A string, whilst the Accompaniment part is on the D string, using the same shape. The one use of F sharp in this part can inspire a discussion about the role of the sharp sign and ultimately the purpose of key signatures.

14. Rumpus
The first line of this piece is easily learned by rote, helping to consolidate the feeling of the low 2nd finger (2nd finger for cello.) The middle two lines are useful for bowing. Ensure the players use all the bow for the whole-notes, with small bows at each end of the bow for the quarter-notes. The different rhythms between the parts is a useful introduction to ensemble playing and rhythmic synchronizing.

15. Spaghetti Junction
This piece is longer than usual, but is divided up into simple sections that utilise already established skills. B flat is introduced on the G string in the Accompaniment part. Octave tuning in the middle section with the low 2nd finger shape (2nd finger on Cello) is also helpful for stretching out the 3rd finger (4th for cello.)

16. Jitterbug
This jolly piece is quite easy, except for the string crossing in the third line that reinforces the left hand shape. This is especially the case for violinists who are using their 4th finger to play A.

17. Across the Irish Shore
This gentle tune evokes a calm and reflective mood. This is the first tune that is firmly in the key of C major. The use of the 4th finger is encouraged in the violin part with a lower octave alternative offered. If slurs have already been learned, it would be nice to add them here, pairing quarter-notes into one bow.

18. Scaling Up C Major
As with Scaling up D Major this piece is a good warm-up for any piece that is in C major.

19. From the New World
The familiarity of this famous piece will ease the learning. If slurs have not yet been introduced, it is OK to leave them out and add them at a later date. The third line offers a harmonic alternative. This is for use if you have a group lesson and wish to make it more challenging, otherwise ignore the lower harmony part.

20. Three Blind Mice
This is quite a challenging piece, made easier by the familiarity of the melody. For mixed ability groups, players who are struggling have the option to repeat the first two lines only.

21. Overture
This simple melody combines high and low 2nd finger (2nd and 3rd finger on the cello) in the key of G major.

22. The Road Less Traveled
This duet is in e minor, helping to consolidate the finger pattern already established, plus introducing the high B, forcing the use of the 4th finger on the violin.

23. Harry Hotspur
Sir Henry Hotspur was a nobleman from Tottenham in North London, after whom the famous football club is named. This piece is an excellent concert item, useful for combining mixed ability groups. The open string Accompaniment can be played by beginners, whilst more advanced players can share the melodic lines. The combination of naturals, flats and sharps can inspire conversations and really get your pupils thinking about their function. In group settings, ask them to discuss how to finger each note, referring to the ‘Useful Things to Know’ page for assistance.

24. Slurs and Ties
This simple tune introduces slurs as well as drawing attention to the difference between slurs and ties.

25. Moonshine
Inspired by the title of Beethoven’s famous piano Sonata, this simple tune uses scales and slurs in the new key of A major. When performing as a group, it can be nice to offer solos to individuals for specific lines.

26. Sinfonia
Another piece in A major, this time in multiple parts. When combining Violins, Violas, Cellos and Basses, this piece works well without the backing-track as an ensemble piece.

Quiz Time!
This quiz page is a way to celebrate all that has been learned over the course of the book. The dotted-eighth rhythm may need to be demonstrated to give a clue as to the identity of the famous tune. With all questions, try not to provide the answer. Instead, lead your pupils to the correct answer, either with clues, or by encouraging group discussions.