String Pedagogy

Karel Butz is an author for Oxford University Press.  His text Achieving Musical Success in the String Classroom is available for purchase.

Oxford University Press
Barnes & Noble
JW Pepper

Prices are $38.95(USD) paperback and $108.00(USD) hardcover. E-book format is also available.

Achieving Musical Success in the String Classroom describes the author’s pragmatic pedagogical approach toward developing complete musicianship in beginning through advanced-level string players by incorporating the ideas of Mimi Zweig, Paul Rolland, and Shinichi Suzuki. The author’s philosophical assumptions are explained regarding the structure and purpose of string teaching contributing to a high level of musical artistry among students.   Introductory through advanced string concepts relating to instrument set-up, posture, left- and right-hand development, music theory, aural skills, assessment procedures, imagery in playing, the development of individual practice and ensemble skills, and effective rehearsal strategies are explained in a sequential approach that benefit the classroom teacher and student. In addition, several score examples, sample lesson plans, grading rubrics, as well as videos of the author demonstrating his pedagogical ideas and techniques with musicians, are included.

“A wonderfully accessible book: conversational in style, offering clear, applicable teaching strategies lodged firmly within the pedagogical canon and reflecting the latest research and best practices. With its emphasis on individual student development as a foundation for ensemble development, the book lays out a sequential approach, from the most basic building blocks to advanced musical concepts. Butz reminds the reader that technical growth should be viewed through the lens of music itself and ‘the euphoric effect of music [should be our] chief motivating factor’ as the end goal is lifelong musicianship of our students. Bravo!” — Kasia Bugaj, Florida State University


Chapter One | Philosophical Assumptions

Zweig, Rolland, and Suzuki Pedagogical Concepts

What is the Purpose of Learning a String Instrument?

Why String Education Matters

The “End Goal” for Students

Establishing a “Healthy Foundation” for Music Learning


Facilitating Success

Parental and Administrative Support

Treating Students as Artists

Personal Mantras

Chapter Two | The First Lessons: Preparation; Parental Involvement; Aural Skills; Rhythmic Training; Written Theory


Instrument Sizing

Fingerboard Markings

Preparing the Bow

Instrument Supplies

Method Book Selection

First Year Orchestra Practice Planners

Parental Involvement

Demonstration “Informance”

Aural Skills


The Musical Alphabet

Interval Training

Ear Training Worksheets

Rhythmic Training

Marching and Clapping to the Beat

Imitating Rhythmic Patterns

Associating Visual Images with a Rhythmic Pulse

Composing Rhythms

Associating Body Movement with Rhythmic Pulse

Associating Body Movement with Subdivision

Rhythm Flashcards

Rhythmic Dictation

“Clap on beat _____.”

Written Theory

Understanding the Function of the Music Staff

Drawing the Clef

Time Signature

Musical Math

“Up-Down-Same” Note Patterns

Note Identification

Chapter Three | The First Lessons: Tension Free Playing; Posture and Instrument Set-up; Left Hand Pizzicato; Application of Music Theory to Performance; Introductory Lesson Plans

Tension Free Playing


Skipping and Clapping

Arm and Neck Stretch

Forearm Stretch

Spaghetti Noodle Arm

Bucket of Water

Jell-O Fingers

1-2-3, Jump!

Sit and Stand

Establishing Proper Posture and Instrument Set-up

Violin and Viola Posture

Cello Posture

Double Bass Posture

“Catch-Phrases” for Maintaining Proper Playing Position

The First Sounds: Left Hand Pizzicato


“Ant Song”

“D-A-D Song”

Maintaining Correct Left-Hand Position and Finger Patterns

Left-Hand Finger Placement

Left-Hand Thumb Placement

Building a Strong Fourth Finger

Building the Tetrachord

Application of Music Theory to Performance

Identifying Intervals on the Fingerboard

Music Form

“Rehearsal Detective”: Identifying Music Symbols

Music Reading

First Year Orchestra Sample Beginning Lesson Plans

Chapter Four | The Bow

Preparing for the Bow

Establishing Proper Bow Balance

Earning the Bow

Beginning Bow Balance Games


Applying the Bow to the String

Overcoming Right Hand Tension

Three Foundational Bow Strokes: Martelé, Détaché, and Legato

Teaching Martelé

Teaching Détaché

Teaching Legato

Bowing Analogies

First Pieces Incorporating the Foundational Bow Strokes

“D-A-D Song”



“See the Little Monkey”

Rhythmic Patterns Utilizing Martelé, Détaché, and Legato

Applying the Bow to Music Reading

Developing Pitch Accuracy with the Bow

Finger Before Bow (“FBB”)



“I play, you play”

Practice: Isolate the Problems

Individual and Small Group Instruction

Listen with Closed Eyes

Beyond the Three Fundamental Bowings

Bowings That Extend from Martelé

Bowings That Extend from Détaché

Bowings That Extend from Legato

Common Bowing Problems and Solutions

Chapter Five | Rehearsal

Characteristics of an Efficient Rehearsal

Rehearsal: Feel, Hear, See

Rehearsal Design: Environment, Structure, Skill Set

Structuring Student Behavioral Expectations and Responsibilities

Structuring Effective Rehearsal Routine

Process for Developing a Skill Set

Rehearsal: Motivating, Inspiring, and Developing?

Strategies for Efficient Rehearsals

Isolate the Difficulty

Practice “Turtle Speed”

Remove the Dynamics

Establishing Accurate Pitch

“Do You Love Your Sound?”

Isolate Right Arm Motion and Open String Practice

Shadow Bow and Silent Finger

“Spell a Word”


Morse Code

Inward, then Outward

Practice Ugly!

Four Pillars of Practice

Deeper Level Questioning

Chapter Six | Assessment

Why Assess?

The “What”

The “How”

The “Why”


Differentiation at the Beginner Level

Differentiation at the Intermediate and Advanced Levels

Assessment Non-Negotiables

Macro Before Micro Concepts

Informal Assessment

Ensemble Within the Ensemble

Color-Coded Cards

Show of Hands

“Would You Like Another Try?”

Teacher/Student “Recital”

Hands-On Adjustment


Formal Assessment

Formal Performance Rubric

Anonymous Recorded Tests

Ensemble Tests

Audio Visual Tests


Self-Graded Tests

100% Mastery

Summative Assessment

Retest Procedures

Chapter Seven | Intermediate – Advanced Level: Refining Left Hand and Bowing Technique; Music History and Theory

Refining Left Hand Technique

Morse Code

Morse Code with the Scale

Chunking with Morse Code

Double Stops: “Separate/Separate/Together”



Natural Harmonics

False Harmonics


Preparatory Shifting Exercises

“Changing Tone”

Shifting and “Blocking”

Half-Step and Whole-Step Shifts

Isolate the Shift

Expressive Shifting

Continuous Vibrato While Shifting

Retaining Pitch Accuracy

Introductory Vibrato Exercises

Vibrato Exercises with the Bow


Refining Bowing Technique



Louré and Portato




Sul tasto and Flautando


Col legno





Music History and Theory

Incorporating Music History into the Rehearsal

Interval Relationships

Harmonic Structure

Rhythmic Principles


Open String Practice

Chapter Eight | Intermediate – Advanced Level: Ensemble Development with Rhythm and Phrasing

Establishing Rhythmic Precision

Associating Words with Rhythm

Clap on the Rest

“Clount” = Clap and Count

Clap and Snap

Tennis Ball Exercise

Signal a Number


Stop the Trill

Drop the Dot/Drop the Tie

Stop and Reset

Pulse the Beat

Remove the Dynamics

Popcorn Seating

Reverse Seating

Circular Seating


Pizzicato versus Arco


Singing the Melody

Score Study

“S/S/S”: Separate/Stopped/Slurred

Chunking and Chaining

Isolating Awkward Fingering Patterns

Memorization and Closed Eyes

“Play on beat _____.”


Remove the Fingerings

Bow Uniformity

Eye Contact


Rehearse Like Sections


Audio/Visual Recordings


Phrase Endings

Inner Voice Lines


The “Wave”

Musical Form and Phrase Architecture

“Paint the Sound”

Bow Distribution


Conductor’s Gestures

Word Bank

Body Movement

Imagery to Establish Character

Establishing a Quality Sound in the Beginning Orchestra (1)