Home For Passionate Violin Learners of all Levels
Complete violin learning platform made easy through:
    - Step-by-step lesson modules
    - Instant access to all content
    - All music and resources provided. No need to buy books
    - Private feedback channel with Beth Blackerby

Why Choose Violin Lab
Become a Member
You must be a member to respond to discussions.

Hi Beth! Any advice on playing violin duets? I just received a copy of Suzuki: Duets for Violins, which I intend to play with my 8 year old son (at some point), who's been taking suzuki lessons for 3 years now. There must be more to consider than learning the 2nd violin part and "just play", right? :) One difficulty must be that as we both are more or less beginners, it may be difficult to tell which one of us is playing (more) out of tune while playing at the same time... Or are duets too much to handle for two beginners in the first place? Thanks!

3 Responses
Posted: March 10, 2011
Last Comment: March 11, 2011

Posted: March 11, 2011
Thanks for the tips! One difficulty arose, that I haven't event thought about, not much anyway: Now I really have to start counting! So far I've played either familiar tunes or listened the pieces from youtube (or similar source) till I really hear it in my head, so the rhythm comes very easily without really having to count. There's not much reference performances available for duet 2nd parts! Also those seem to be more difficult to learn because often there is no obvious melody, so when practicing the notes for 2nd part alone I may play totally incorrect note and not even notice it. So, this forces to read more accurately and have confidence to play what I've read even though it may sound strange when the 1st violin is not playing. Challenging and very interesting :)

Posted: March 10, 2011
This discussion includes members-only video content

Beth Blackerby
Posted: March 10, 2011
Hi Tomi, great question! Yes, it is hard to put two independent lines of music together....but just at first. There is a steep but short learning curve. The difficulties in the beginning are just as you imagine. Discerning who is out of tune and to what degree is tricky, and any indiscretion in counting is immediately apparent. There may be times when you come to a grinding halt, and have to start over. But like I said, that happens, but only for a short while. Once you get the hang of it, it will flow much better.

My main suggestion to students who are playing together for the first time, is to just put it together phrase by phrase. Just tell your son, "today, let's work on the first phrase".

When I played regularly with a string quartet in graduate school, we would use this method to tighten our intonation: hold each note on each beat, one by one, without rhythm, several seconds each, until they were perfectly in tune. Then someone would say "next", and we would go to the note occurring on the next beat, holding that one until it rang perfectly in tune. Although this method was time consuming (and perhaps will be tedious for an 8 year old), the wonders it worked with intonation was amazing! It's one of those exercises that tunes your awareness and then broadly manifests throughout the rest of your practice.

Also, when you're practicing together, experiment with positioning your bodies in different places. Try standing across from each other as opposed to side by side. Tuning in to each others' physical movements helps to stay rhythmic. And don't hold back on moving. Moving to the music shows where the beat is.

And for kicks, as well as to demonstrate just how important the physical movement is to good ensemble playing, you and your son turn your backs to each other, or one of you go out into the hall and try and staying together! It's fun to try and also forces the listening!

I know you'll enjoy playing with your son. Playing music together is very bonding! Some of my fondest memories as a child were playing Broadway show tunes with my mom accompanying me at the piano.