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REVIEWS:
ABCs of Strings and Complete Technique

*Scott, Heather. K. (October 2014) "REVIEWS: Complete Technique for Viola (Violin, Cello, Double Bass) by Janice Tucker Rhoda. (Carl Fischer, $16.99) Short studies that nurture physical awareness," Strings Magazine, 29(3):83.

In this follow up to her best-selling ABCs of Strings series, author-violinist-teacher Janice Tucker Rhoda presents a new suite of studies and exercises for advanced-beginner to upper-level students. The Complete Technique for Viola, Book 1 covers techniques for violists to learn and improve right-arm bowing and left-hand work in first through fifth positions. Focusing on quality rather than quantity of practice, Tucker Rhoda's short exercises are wonderful bite-size snippets demonstrating important technical ideas such as slurring, bowing, shifting, double-stops, and octave work.

It presents a good review of basics and then moves on to more challenging techniques through the course of 400 exercises, including scales, arpeggios, broken thirds, harmonics, checking octaves, and left-hand pizzicato.

Her focus on achieving physical awareness while playing is exemplified in the "hammock swing" technique highlighted in the first half of the book. This particular move helps violists create a more comfortable balance while playing, especially when reaching for G and C string notes, which can be a strenuous stretch for the left hand.

In addition to the viola edition, Tucker Rhoda's Complete Technique is available for violin, cello, and double bass as well. For cellists, the exercises include thumb position, three octave scales in fourth and seventh positions, and advanced chromatic scales. H.K.Scott

Complete Technique series


*Knecht, Melissa Gerber and Anglea, Lydia (February 2014) "Reviews: Violin, THE ABC'S OF VIOLIN FOR THE ADVANCED (Book 3) and MORE ADVANCED (Book 4). Janice Tucker Rhoda. Carl Fischer, 2012, 2013 each $14.99." American String Teacher, 64(1):86.

This violin method, quite accessible to the advancing violinist, is designed for both children and adults. Both books include a CD with complete violin and piano performance of each piece, piano accompaniment alone, and printable PDF accompaniments. Book 3 includes studies, scales, arpeggios and charming classical and popular melodies. Outstanding teaching aids are particularly novel and pedagogically strong. As an example, helpful diagrams illustrate fingerings up the string, mapping first to third position notes. Double stops are introduced first as string crossing slurs, then presented as double stops within fun melodies. Harmonic and natural minor scales are initially presented, then followed immediately with pieces utilizing the appropriate keys. Low third-finger F-natural in third position on the A string is introduced in exercises and melodic practice tunes. I highly recommend this volume as a method or supplementary material to any medium-advanced violin student beginning to shift, learn spiccato, and theoretically to understand violin playing. M.G.K.
Book 4 explores pizzicato, followed by natural harmonics, low first finger on each string, with the rest of the book devoted to second position. Each lesson begins with a warm-up exercise introducing the new note followed by a familiar tune in second position emphasizing that note. The wonderful quality of book and CD are sure to challenge and encourage students in learning second position. L.A.

ABCs of VIOLIN


*Heyes, David. "Double Bass Sheet Music Reviews by David Heyes," "THE ABC'S OF BASS, by Janice Tucker Rhoda, Carl Fischer, www.carlfischer.com," AUSTA Stringendo, October, 2012, P. 72.

These books are excellent for the beginner through to the intermediate student and offer over 100 melodies alongside simple correlated technical exercises.

Book 1 begins with open strings and then introduces 1st position. 3rd, 1/2 and 2nd positions are introduced in that order, and a wealth of short pieces, some original and some written by Rhoda, inspire both musical and technical skills in equal measure. The font is large and player-friendly, with fingering suggestions but with plenty of space for teachers or players to add their own. A few scales and duets ends this volume.

Book 2 reiterates material learned in Book 1 before introducing all positions up to the octave harmonic on the top string. The pieces include a range of keys and idioms and many useful technical exercises all within the "traditional" position structure inherited from Simandl so many years ago, but still relevant today as the basis for more modern techniques as the student progresses.

Every melody has excellent accompaniments by David Cleary and is aimed at the bass teacher with some pianistic skills; playable, supportive and well written.

I can see many of these pieces being used for the various international examination boards because they are so accessible and effective.

Janice Tucker Rhoda has produced two excellent books for the beginner and progressing bassist, containing enough material for a year or two; other pieces and studies can easily be introduced along the way to vary the repertoire and skills studied. I particularly like the introduction of all four positions in Book 1, followed by the others up to 6th position in Book 2; there is strong pedagogical knowledge here. Highly recommended. D. Heyes

ABCs of BASS


*Heiles, Anne Mischakoff (November 2009). "Reviews: CDs and DVDs," "The ABC's of Violin FOR THE ABSOLUTE BEGINNER, 2006; FOR THE INTERMEDIATE PLAYER, 2008," American String Teacher, 59(4):90.

Author of a series of five books for adult and young players, from the earliest to the intermediate stages (volumes 4 and 5 use such words as "budding virtuoso"), Janice Tucker Rhoda has taught for the Suzuki program of Longy School of Music and at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. Her books, designed to supplement Suzuki's, hold great appeal because of their liberal use of American folk songs, traditional songs, and familiar classics set with attractive but simple piano parts.

In these two DVDs (she has also recorded CDs of the books' music), Rhoda demonstrates not only how the songs are played, but also how to teach them. Rhoda wisely uses a former student of hers, Yuki Beppu, to play through the pieces from both Books 1 and 2. Beppu performs with charm and conviction.

In both DVDs, Rhoda gives good teaching tips, some of them not run-of-the-mill (such as, for beginners, winding a rubber band around the frog at the mother-of-pearl inlay for the pinky to rest atop). She discusses violin supplies and good care of the instrument along with how to practice, and she demonstrates a patient approach to teaching. These DVDs seem suitable for adult beginners to view and use as guides and could make excellent supplemental material for pedagogy courses and young teachers. A.M.Heiles


*Cohen, Barry. L. (Fall/Winter 2007-08). "The ABC's of Violin for the Absolute Beginner DVD," New Music Connoisseur, 15(2):21.

There was a time when taking a music lesson was not unlike going to the dentist. An overly perfectionist teacher might be ready to apply his/her baton to your noggin if you were slow to respond to a basic drill or kept forgetting what a "sharp" meant. In a word it could hurt.

Things are quite different now and technology has provided all sorts of options for the student who wants some notion as to how to play that fiddle his uncle bought him several Christmases ago. If one doesn't have the cash to take formal lessons then there's no better way to learn than to pick up this Carl Fischer DVD for the cost of $20. A much admired teacher of strings, Ms. Rhoda in her very gentle but convincingly authentic way hardly matches the scary stereotype we just described. She is very thorough and covers just about every aspect of the violin we non-players can imagine. Even the first step is delineated with complete sincerity and seriousness: "Let's take the violin out of the violin case." From there we learn about the instrument's parts and how to adjust them, how to tune up using the pegs, how to set the shoulder rest, how much pressure to put on the bow, how to position one's fingers, instructions conveyed optimistically, as for example, "You will learn to stretch the pinkie." She tells you what is incorrect and exactly how to fix it, and allows an assuring "Very good" after every bit of advice she is certain has been followed, a simple technique that sways one to believe they are the only student being addressed via this DVD.

Ms. Rhoda performs a large number of selections the beginning violin player might learn to play, airs like "Amazing Grace," "Home on the Range," "Ode to Joy," "The Arkansas Traveler," etc. "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is used as the lesson piece. There are three original selections on the disk: "A Shakespeare Play, "Espańa," and "Hebrew Melody," intending to train the left hand as well as the right hand's bowing techniques without rushing into more complex works before one is ready. This is a very generously sized DVD, and that alone makes it a bargain. It is divided into six sections: Play All, Intro, Lessons, Helpful Hints (with some advanced techniques), Performances, Credits/Info.

Janice Tucker Rhoda, whose biography is included in Marquis Who's Who in America, Who's Who of American Women, and Who's Who in the World, has designed her path-breaking instruction series, The ABCs of Strings, to encourage students of all ages to play the violin, viola, cello and bass. Ms. Rhoda is a graduate of New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where her teacher was well-known violinist and pedagogue, Eric Rosenblith, protégé of Carl Flesch. She also studied with such luminaries as Nancy Cirillo, Rudolf Kolisch, Yuri Mazurkevich, George Neikrug, Daniel Pinkham, Gunther Schuller, Roman Totenberg and Bejamin Zander. Her Suzuki teacher trainers were Shinichi Suzuki, William Starr, Joan Reuning and Lorraine Fink.

Ms. Rhoda, who taught students to play the violin for over 25 years, was the director of the Suzuki Program at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA for several years and now teaches Violin for the Absolute Beginner classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. She also gives teacher training classes worldwide. You may learn more about her method of teaching on: "The ABCs of Violin for the Absolute Beginner" DVD. (Visit www.abcsofstrings.com) B.L.Cohen


*Scott, Heather. K. (May 2007). "The Mentor Maze," Strings Magazine, 149: 45, 46.

Janice Tucker Rhoda, teacher and founder of the Carl Fischer learning series The ABCs of Strings, agrees. "A teacher must have a positive attitude about teaching adults and not believe one must begin to play a musical instrument as a child. Au contraire!"

"Adults are more critical about their ability and need reassurance that it is worthwhile to continue pursuing," agrees Tucker Rhoda.

Tucker Rhoda is especially sensitive to physically challenged players and understands that a teacher working with adults must offer support for working through these challenges. "Years ago I had a wonderful student who began violin in her 40s," she says. "Before she played the violin she had a stiff neck, which led her to have traction at the doctor's office. She loved the violin and really wanted to play, but was leary due to her neck problem history." Tucker Rhoda says that she set up her student with a chin and shoulder rest that were confortable and made sure she was not tilting her head to the left or right. "She said her neck pain disappeared and playing her violin felt better than traction!" H.K.Scott


*Scherer, Barrymore Laurence "Practicing the Healing Art of Music," Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2005 Sec. D, P. 8.

"While having my ancient violin restored," Dr. (Susan) Pauker said, "I was referred to Janice Tucker (Rhoda), a teacher specializing in adult retreads." Ms. Tucker (Rhoda) started Dr. Pauker on the first book of the Suzuki method, widely used to train young children. To prepare to audition for the LSO, Dr. Pauker "blasted through four books of Suzuki in one year, practicing from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. most every night." B.L.Scherer


*Scott, Heather. K. (February-March 2003). "The ABCs of Violin for the Absolute Beginner," Strings Magazine, 17(6):97.

The ABCs of Violin for the Absolute Beginner by Janice Tucker Rhoda (performance book and play-along CD). Carl Fischer, 32 pps., $8.99 ($14.99 for piano accompaniment book), ABC1. Developed by experienced Suzuki teacher and performer Janice Tucker Rhoda, The ABCs of Strings is a new series of string method books for both children and adults. Having spent over 20 years working with students, Rhoda has developed (the) series for violin, viola, cello, (and bass). Each series starts with a book featuring classical, popular, and original melodies. The methodology is designed to advance students gradually towards more playing proficiency. Book 1 contains over 50 warm-ups, six duets, scales, and a work sheet for note identification. Several of the pieces within the book are original tunes by the author; other composers include Dvorák, Rubenstein, Schubert, Sibelius, and Franck.

The late educator Dorothy DeLay was one of the series' proponents, saying, "The ABCs of Violin are a truly valuable resource for every teacher of students in the early stages of exploring the instrument. They are immensely helpful not only in laying the essential groundwork, but also in making the process enjoyable." H.K.Scott


*Heiles, Anne Mischakoff (August 2001). "Reviews: Books & Music," "The ABCs of Violin for the Budding Virtuoso," American String Teacher, 51(3):107.

Rhoda has added to her popular series with a book of more advanced warm-up exercises, longer etudes, and familiar classical and popular pieces in three positions. Seven of the nineteen melodies are the author's, and other composers include Dvorák, Rubenstein, Saint-Saëns, Schubert, Adam, Sibelius, and Franck. This eclectic collection includes exercises for agility, shifting, a wider range of keys, double stops, simple embellishments, and chromatics...the book adds attractive material to the series, continuing its utility as an appealing supplement to Suzuki materials. A.M.Heiles


*Horvath, K.A. (August 2001). "'The ABC's of String Orchestra,' by Janice Tucker Rhoda and Andrew Balent," American String Teacher, 51(3):102.

Another in the ABCs of Strings series, this compendium is designed to complement the other published materials. Its twenty pieces offer much to the elementary string class. The repertoire, which mixes familiar pieces with original compositions by Rhoda, works in tandem with regular lesson material encountered in the first two years of study and utilizes G, D, and A major. The final page of each of the student books has these three scales written out with fingerings... The pieces present a variety of challenges for young players that include 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8 meters; slurred, hooked, staccato, and detache bowings; dynamics; repeats; fermatas; whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes; and pick-up notes. They use all four strings for the violin and the top three for viola and cello. The violin and viola books only require first position while the cello book includes extensions as well as second position, and the bass book uses the half and third positions.

At this level it is often hard to find exciting repertoire that presents the skills needed for technical development, particularly in the low string parts. All told, the volume is well done and makes an interesting, positive contribution to the available repertoire for the elementary orchestra. K.A.Horvath


*Heiles, Anne Mischakoff (August 2001). "The ABCs of Easy Piano Accompaniments for Violin" (Books 1 and 4) in American String Teacher.

These piano arrangements by Dan Fox are smooth and have nice chromatic turns. They lie well for the hands, and like the earlier version by Rhoda herself, support the violin part through doubling for about two-thirds of the tunes. They go with the second or "Millennium Edition" of Book 1. The accompaniments in Book 4 retain a sense of whimsy and ease of playing. A.M.Heiles


*Flores, Amy Catron (May 2001). "'The ABC's of Cello for the Intermediate,' by Janice Tucker Rhoda," American String Teacher, 51(2):103.

Janice Tucker Rhoda has written a charming method book for intermediate cellists. Included are many familiar folk tunes, classical melodies as well as a few original tunes by the author. All of the tunes are short enough to easily memorize. Each lesson emphasizes a bow technique or a new note or position. What I especially liked was the incorporation of simple and compound rhythmic meters and syncopation.

In the back of the book are six major scales and three natural minor scales, with encouragement to use a metronome, different rhythms, and different bowings. Also included is a worksheet for labeling fingerings and notes and a handy practice log with the encouraging words that lesson days count as practice days, too! This book is full of step-by-step instructions that can be an excellent tool to lay a solid foundation for the intermediate cellist of any age. A.C.Flores


*Heiles, Anne Mischakoff (November 2000). "Reviews Books & Music: Viola", "The ABCs of Viola," American String Teacher, 50(4):111.

Janice Rhoda's terrific collections for violin are now available to viola students as well. These are delightful, short, and mostly familiar tunes or melodies from famous works, augmented by some of Rhoda's own compositions. The accompaniments are simple and sometimes offbeat and funky. The three volumes make an excellent supplement to the Suzuki materials and are carefully graded to coordinate with those books. I have yet to encounter a student who has not been enthused enough with the pieces in the ABCs to practice them regularly--and that says a lot! A.M.Heiles


*Becker, Donald. (May 2000). "The ABC's of Violin Series by Janice Tucker Rhoda," American Suzuki Journal, 28(3):70.

In the ABCs of Violin series, Ms. Janice Tucker Rhoda has included a combination of her own original works and a selection of traditional tunes. These pieces reinforce concepts introduced in the Suzuki repertoire, and many Suzuki teachers find the books useful as supplementary reading material for their students.

The first book - The ABCs of Violin for the Absolute Beginner - contains over fifty warm-up exercises, six duets, scales, a worksheet and glossary. The books are now available in four violin volumes as well as books for viola and cello. Violin volume three introduces third position, volume four introduces second position and volume five (due in summer 2000) combines positions one through three. There are easy piano accompaniment books... The text of the books is minimal and enables teachers to be flexible and use the material in different ways. One measure rests in 4/4 time are introduced right at the beginning of the first book and follow a measure of quarter notes which nicely prepare the student to count out the four beats of the following rest as well as giving rhythmic repetition of the pitch. Different keys are used to teach particular technical points throughout the books and different meters are introduced to prepare students for contemporary music.

Well-chosen exercises are interspersed with the original compositions and folk tunes. A scale-like fourth finger study appears in the twenty-ninth section, and the A, D, and G major scales can be used by the teacher at any point. Three pieces from Book I of the Suzuki Violin School appear in the first volume: Go Tell Aunt Rhody (No. 24), Long Long Ago in D major (No. 43), and Lightly Row in G major (No. 54). I have used The ABCs of Violin Volume One as reading material with students from age eight to adult. It is helpful that the music is big enough to be read easily and the layout is generally clear and uncluttered. I highly recommend it as additional reading material for students of all ages. D.Becker


    Janice Tucker Rhoda in MARQUIS WHO'S WHO:

  • Who's Who in America (2004-present).

  • Who's Who of American Women (2004-present).

  • Who's Who in the World (2005-present).

  • Who's Who in American Education (2006-present).


The ABCs of Strings and Complete Technique series are published by
Carl Fischer Music