Strings (Orchestra) Classes
The five levels of Strings are arranged by level, not by age or grade.
Size - unlimited
Strings students need to provide their own instrument to
play in any of the ensembles. Instruments can be purchased, either new
or used, or may be rented. Most of the local music stores have very
reasonable prices when renting an instrument, and even offer special
pricing for the first few months.
Where to get stringed instruments: William Mason's Violin Shoppe, Roberson's Music, Music and Arts, etc. Please do NOT go to Guitar Center for a stringed instrument. We have had several problems in the past with Guitar Center selling the WRONG instrument to families. Go to Guitar Center if you want a guitar, but not if you want a violin, viola, cello, or bass. You want to go to a store that specializes in school instrument rentals and sales.
students need to get the correct size instrument - the music store can
help you with this. Most beginning string students will NOT need a
full-size instrument, so please don't automatically give your 8-year-old
your grandfather's violin from the attic! It is best to have either the
music store or a professional strings musician help you determine the
correct size instrument to get.
Students who need a
fractional size instrument are encouraged to rent, not buy. Most music
stores will let you trade in your smaller instrument for a larger one as
the student grows. Buying is usually only recommended when a student
needs a full-size instrument.
*FAYM owns a FEW
instruments (larger or harder to find instruments) that may be available
for students to play. Quantities are very limited. The rental fee for a
FAYM instrument is $15 per month. Please email [email protected] for availability.
WARNING: Please do NOT order a colored string instrument online. These instruments are made very poorly! While students are attracted to the pretty colors, the instruments do not play well, do not stay in tune, have a poor tone, and usually need quite a bit of adjusting and maintenance to function properly. The money you save purchasing these inexpensive instruments will be spent getting these instruments up to par. This is a classic example of "you get what you pay for." Your best bet is to either rent from the local music stores or buy a reputable brand name instrument, either new or used. The student will enjoy playing and progress better on an instrument that is in good working order. Please don't be afraid to ask if you need an opinion on an instrument that you are considering purchasing.
All students need to bring their own folding music stand. FAYM has a few extras for students to use, but not enough for all students in the class. Please plan on bringing your own folding music stand.
Strings Testup and Audition Requirements
Enrollment in Strings 1, 2, 3, or 4 requires completion of the previous level strings class, and successfully passing the testup.
Students who are new to FAYM but already know how to play a stringed instrument can audition into ANY level of Strings class. Please sign up for the earliest available audition day.
Students in any of the orchestra, percussion, or band classes may test up to the next level before the semester begins. Students are encouraged to ask for assistance when practicing for their next level test. When the student feels like he is ready, he may sign up to test to the next level. However, testing up is not required by any student at any time. The student may stay in his current level for as long as he likes, as long as he is comfortable at that playing level. Most students spend more than one semester in each level of Strings, except for Intro Strings, which is designed to be a one-semester class.
- all scales must be played in rhythm (all notes the same value)
- students should be comfortable counting AND playing the required rhythms
- students will be asked to sightread a short example
- it goes without saying that the requirements should be performed with a good tone and careful intonation, appropriate for the level
- correct posture/position matters!
- everything from the class syllabus should be mastered in order to move up to the next level
Intro Strings does not require any previous musical experience or knowledge.
Strings 4 requires a private teacher.
Returning strings students should always register for the SAME LEVEL class they attended the previous semester. If a student wants to try a testup, don't register for the new level class - always register for the old level class. When the student comes in for a testup, if the grade is a passing grade, the teacher can easily adjust the roster with the click of a button. The student does not need to fill out any other forms or register for the new class.
All students signing up for Intro Band or Intro Strings (including Intro Percussion) are required to attend the Musical Instrument Demo on Wednesday, August 7, at 12:00pm. This meeting is required, even if the student already knows what instrument to play.
Strings Class Descriptions
Orchestra Classes (5 levels)
Instruments of the orchestra include violin, viola, cello, and bass.
The five levels of orchestra are:
- Intro Strings - introductory class, no previous experience required
- Strings 1 - beginning level orchestra
- Strings 2 - elementary level orchestra
- Strings 3 - intermediate level orchestra
- Strings 4 - advanced level orchestra (private instruction is required for this level of strings)
Students must pass the minimum proficiency requirements before enrolling in any strings level except for Intro Strings.
in all strings classes have a required performance at the end of the
semester (Winter Concert or Spring Concert). Participating families will
contribute to the rental of the concert venue (usually about $12 per
The Intro Strings class is for absolute beginners in orchestra. No experience necessary! Students will learn how to hold their instrument and bow, care for their instruments, produce a good tone, and learn how to read music notation. Most students will attend the Intro level class for only one semester. Occasionally, the teacher may determine that a student should repeat the Intro Class for one more semester to gain more confidence.
a student is in Strings 1, they stay in their current level until they
test up. Students do not automatically advance to the next level of
strings when the semester is over. Students will have the opportunity to
test up before each semester starts. Click HERE for a testup.
Students in Strings 3 and 4 will have periodic assessments as part of their class work. Students who consistently fail these assessments may be moved back down to an easier level.
When ready, students can move up to the next level orchestra, as long as they pass the minimum requirements for testing up. Students may also attend occasional workshops for their instrument. Students wanting to audition for Junior Regional Orchestra must be enrolled in Strings 3 or higher. Students wanting to audition for Senior Regional Orchestra must be enrolled in Strings 4.
Curriculum for Intro Strings (introductory level):
In Intro Strings, students will learn the basics of their instruments, including set up, proper care, how to hold their instruments correctly, posture, position, fingering, how to produce a good tone, and basic bowing skills. Beginning notation will also be introduced, including reading notes on the staff, and elementary rhythms. Rhythms include the quarter note/rest, half note/rest, whole note/rest, dotted half note, and eighth note pairs. Students will learn major and minor 4-note scale patterns on each string, including the names of these notes.
Intro Strings students usually only spend one semester in this class, unless the teacher determines that students need more confidence in these skill areas.
Curriculum for Strings 1 (beginning level):
Strings 1, students will continue to develop good posture/position
habits. A big focus of this class is developing strong reading skills.
studied include all previously learned rhythms, plus the eighth
note/rest, and dotted quarter/eighth note.
Students will learn four different 5-note finger patterns on each
string. Violins/Violas will learn to use the 4th finger. Cellos will
learn forward and back extensions. Basses will learn to shift. Good
intonation will be stressed. Bowing techniques will be discussed.
Students will also learn the D, C, and G major scales with
arpeggios. Sound Innovations for String Orchestra Book 1 (blue) will be used. Assignments from this
book will be assessed through
the SmartMusic program.
Strings 1 students can not test out of this level until all skill requirements are confident.
Curriculum for Strings 2 (elementary level):
In Strings 2, students will continue to develop a good tone and be confident with intonation. Bowing technique and various articulations will continue to be developed. Students will learn the D, G, C, F, and Bb major scales with arpeggios, and b, e, g, d, and a natural minor scales with arpeggios (one and two octaves), Students will study and play five different 5-note finger patterns on all strings, be comfortable with beginning shifting exercises (3rd position), and read and write all notes on every string. Rhythms studied include all previously learned rhythms, plus eighth rests, eighth note/rest combinations, dotted quarter/eighth note combinations, sixteenth notes/rests, 16th/8th note combinations, triplets, and compound meters. Cellos will learn to shift. Students will practice beginning tuning using the fine tuners. Sound Innovations for String Orchestra Book 2 (red) will be used. Assignments from this book will be assessed through the SmartMusic program.
Strings 2 students can not test out of this level until all skill requirements are confident.
Curriculum for Strings 3 (intermediate level):
In Strings 3, students will continue to develop more intermediate playing and ensemble skills. Students will learn at least 8 major scales with arpeggios, and at least 6 harmonic minor scales and arpeggios in 2 octaves. Violin/Viola students will continue learning how to shift into several positions, and all students will learn the beginning basics of vibrato. Rhythms studied include all previously learned rhythms, plus sixteenth notes/rests, 16th/8th note combinations, triplets, syncopation, and compound meters. All students in Strings 3 will study the Junior Regional Orchestra audition requirements. Essential Technique Book 3 (the green book) will be used. Assignments from this book will be assessed through the SmartMusic program.
Strings 3 students can not test out of this level until all skill requirements are confident.
Students in Strings 3 will be tested in class periodically to make sure they are keeping up with the class requirements. Students who consistently fail these assessments will be moved to an easier level of strings.
Curriculum for Strings 4 (advanced level):
Students must be taking private lessons to be admitted into this level.
In Strings 4, students will continue to develop advanced playing and ensemble skills. Rhythms studied include all previously learned rhythms, plus mixed meter, uncommon time signatures, and advanced rhythmic concepts. Students will learn 12 major scales and 6-8 melodic minor scales, played in 3 octaves. Habits of a Successful String Musician is the class book. Students at this level should already have a developed vibrato and be comfortable shifting into several positions. All students in Strings level 4 will study the Senior Regional Orchestra audition requirements.
Homework: daily practice of assignments, method book pages, and concert music
Required Book: Students must purchase the String Basics book:
Intro Strings: a beginning workbook will be handed out in class ($5)
Strings 1: Sound Innovations Book 1 (blue)
Strings 2: Sound Innovations Book 2 (red)
Strings 3: Essential Technique Book 3 (green)
Strings 4: Habits of a Successful String Musician
Materials required: folding music stand; musical instrument (own or rent), rosin, pencil, tuner, metronome, violins need a shoulder rest, cellos need an optional seat strap (a seat strap is preferred over a rock stop); a SmartMusic subscription is *highly* recommended.