Expressive Techniques for Orchestra

We don’t usually get very excited about string class technique books, but a new one has come out that has really caught our attention!

The name Sandra Dackow has been associated with outstanding string and full orchestra arrangements for decades.  If her name is on an arrangement, you can count on it being pedagogically sound, true to the original piece, and immensely programmable.  She now offers her expertise in an exciting new way – as co-author, with Kathleen DeBerry Brungard, Michael Alexander and Gerald E. Anderson, of an amazingly thorough high school string class technique book – Expressive Techniques for Orchestra.  This book covers areas never explored by technique books in the past.  It naturally includes standard and solid string pedagogy as well, but its originality sets it apart.

To start with, inside the front cover are arm and finger stretching exercises designed specifically for string players to warm the muscles for the physical contortions players encounter when asking their bodies to play their instrument.  The first page jumps right into String Calisthenics which include finger patterns in not only major and minor scale patterns, but also Lydian, augmented and diminished patterns, which not only exercise the fingers, but the ears as well.  Various bowings are then explored and some basic shifting which involves reading various clefs.  Viola and bass get some work in treble clef, cellos get tenor clef, and – hold on to your hat! – the violins actually get introduced to alto clef as well as 8va reading.  If you have students that plan to go on in music, the violinists will need to learn alto clef at some point, and this is the perfect introduction!

The book proceeds with rhythm studies and chorales in six major and six minor keys.  Natural harmonics are then explored leading into an extensive section on shifting using various finger patterns in various positions, which are then incorporated in well know melodies from classic and folk repertoire.  Same finger shifts as well as lower to higher finger and higher to lower finger shifts are drilled.  Cellos and basses have some thumb position work too.

On to scales – two and three octave scales and arpeggios in major and minor keys, stepwise and in thirds with solid fingerings and notated shifts, but otherwise very cleanly printed.  The last several pages are then devoted to short history lessons in the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, each with a string-relevant piece that could even be programmed at a concert – selections from “Messiah” for the Baroque, “Eine Kleine Nachtmusic” for the Classical and “St. Paul’s Suite” for the Romantic.  First and Second violin parts are included in the violin book, so the correlating pages in the viola, cello and bass books include some instrument specific literature with which every player should become familiar.

The inside of the back cover isn’t wasted – it includes a chart showing what to look for when sight-reading – identifying various marking (time and key signatures, tempi) and scanning the music for unique musical specifics (“roadmap” issues, key and tempo changes, dynamics, expressive bowings etc.)  Also printed on the inside of the back cover is a picture of a piano keyboard to help in any music theory questions that might come up in the course of the book.

Now you can see why we are so impressed with this new addition to the repertoire!  We don’t think you will ever find a more extensive string technique book than this one.  We highly recommend that you check it out at your earliest opportunity. Shop Stanton’s for all your sheet music needs!


Categories: New Publications, Orchestra, Staff Picks, Teacher Materials

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