One of the wonderful things about teaching from the same repertoire year after year is you tend to develop “favorites”. One of my favorite pieces in Book 1 is Song of the Wind. It’s fun, energetic, and often a student favorite, and it’s fun to vary the tempo in group class so it becomes Song of the Gentle Breeze, or Song of the Tornado. Song of the Wind seems like a short, simple song, but there is so much to explore in just a few lines. One of the trickiest spots for beginning students occurs right at the beginning, in measures 3-4. There are several skills going on in that spot. There is a quick string crossing for both the left hand finger and the bow (more on that in a moment) and we have our first instance of a bow retake, also known as a a circle bow or circle set. But for any of this to work, the student also has to leave their first finger down, while moving the 3rd finger over to a different string.
I’ve created lyrics for this measure, which go like this (from the beginning of the song through measure 6):
“Up the scale then play 4 A’s then glue hop hop glue A…glue hop hop glue A”
When teaching violin students, I just change the A’s to E’s.
In Lightly Row, I have already taught the student to make a “tunnel” with the 2nd finger, by preparing the 2nd finger on the D string while playing the open A. Therefore, the concept of leaving fingers down is not completely new. What is new is that in measure 3 of Song of the Wind, the student must now leave the first finger down on the A string while moving the 3rd finger over to D, then back to A. It looks like this in the music:
When introducing this measure, I ask the student to imagine they have some sticky glue on the tip of their first finger. I tell them it’s not super glue, but more like school glue, which is sticky but not so much that they can’t lift the finger off the fingerboard. So the first finger is the “glue finger” and the 3rd finger has to “hop” to the D string, then hop back to the A string, so the 3rd finger is the hop finger. Without the bow, I will have student practice gluing the 1st finger to the A string, while gently tapping the 3rd finger on A, then on D, and back and forth. I want to make sure that this motion is comfortable and fluent before adding the bow.
For the next step, I will bow for the student while they play the left hand. I often have to remind students that it’s called a glue hop, not a glue drag. It’s important that the student lift their 3rd finger and place it on the new string, rather than drag it across. The image of the finger hopping over a mud puddle can be a helpful reminder. Because the 3rd finger is the most difficult to move independently, I will often assign students some extra exercises using left hand pizzicato with the 3rd finger. Common Pre-Twinkle Songs such as the “Ants Song” or “Pop Goes the Weasel” adapt nicely to left hand pizzicato.
Once they are secure with the left hand alone, I will ask the student to “Twinkle-ize it”, by bowing Twinkle Variation A for each note in the glue hop passage. The last step is to add the correct rhythms and bowings, and to introduce the circle set at the end which I will cover in a future blog post. During the first week, I will ask the student to practice just the glue hop part 20 times a day. At the next lesson, we can often add the rest of the notes to the song, much to the student’s delight.
I hope you have enjoyed the concept of the glue hop. How do you teach this tricky passage?