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Teaching the Violin and Viola:

Creating a Healthy Foundation


Stacia Spencer
Philosophies and Concepts of Teaching Children the Violin:
Paul Rolland
BIOGRAPHY
Paul Rolland (1911-1978) was a gifted teacher and one of the most influential pedagogues of the 20th
century. In the 1960s, he founded the University of Illinois String Research Project, where over a twoyear period, he and his research associates taught students using the principles he had developed
throughout his career. Out of this project came the film series, The Teaching of Action in String Playing,
and a book, The Teaching of Action in String Playing: Developmental and Remedial Techniques for Violin
and Viola. Rolland also worked with the composer Stanley Fletcher to develop new repertoire that is
very musical and a lot of fun to play; each piece in the two volumes of New Tunes for Strings specifically targets a
technical issue in violin playing. These books are a great addition to the early repertoire in both
private and group lessons.
APPROACH
Rollands approach was very detailed and based in the bodys most natural physical motions,
whether walking down the street, swinging a baseball bat or playing the violin. He believed that a
balanced body in motion is free of tension. Rollands creative and innovative strategies to achieve this
state of balance and relaxation in playing the violin and other string instruments is well demonstrated
in his film series, which is highly recommended for both new and seasoned instructors.
KEY CONCEPTS FROM PAUL ROLLAND
Rhythm associated with action
Tapping rhythms prepares for vibrato
Exercises for relaxed left hand
Sliding back and forth on the magic x by brushing the edge of fingerboard in rest position
Tap hand up and down fingerboard for flexibility and free movement with arm
Building strength
Holding violin in Statue of Liberty position
Exercises for free movement
Shifting body weight with long bow strokes
Silent bow placements
Swinging arms in motion with playing
Flexible bow movements
Use of follow-through in bow strokes and after releasing the bow
Push and pull bow to develop sustained tone
Vibrato Development
Learning beginning stages of vibrato through tapping motions
Involvement of fingers, wrist and forearm in vibrato movement