The exercises and videos below have been assembled by TFO’s Teaching Artist team.
G major matchup – This exercise is meant to build group awareness of pitch matching and blending. The instruments enter in order from lowest pitched instrument to highest pitched instrument, with each instrument respectively playing a little softer so that they can actively listen to the sound of the group. Take your time going through this sheet and encourage students to occasionally stop playing so they could listen to the blend of the group and add themselves back in again. Make sure basses are extremely well tuned before starting this exercise. Click here to view the PDF.
Rhythm sight reading – This exercise is a great way to practice rhythm combinations and subdividing. Put on a metronome and have students clap the rhythm while vocalizing the subdivisions. A couple lines have the subdivisions written in, but feel free to practice every segment this way. Repeat each number as many times as needed, focusing on perfecting a couple per day until the class can confidently read the whole page. Once they are confident in the reading, have students play segments on open strings or give them pitches to make a nice harmony. If the bowing coordination is difficult for a segment, have students air bow to master the motions.
Bowing Sight Reading 101 – This exercise is meant to help teachers practice group bowing coordination (moving the bow in the same direction at the same time). Some of the patterns are meant to be tricky, so air-bowing the exercises as a group first is recommended. Click here to view the PDF.
Fingering Acrobatics Exercise – The fingering acrobatics worksheets are designed to help students practice common finger patterns in different keys. D major is a great start for practicing patterns; C major focuses on the low 2nd finger pattern for violin and violas. These work well for intermediate and advanced students.
String Orchestra Warm-ups: The fundamental exercises in these warm-ups were designed with the young string orchestra in mind but can be helpful at the high school level as well. The warm-ups can be used as a daily routine that builds individual as well as ensemble skills and precision. Exercises that focus on tone production, bow control, finger placement, scales, and bowing techniques are all included in this set of warm-ups as well as a chorale in G major to end the ensemble warm-up. If used on a daily basis and in creative ways, this set of warm-ups will help build the foundation of skill needed to take your orchestra’s music making to the next level.
–Developed by Christopher Ellis, Director of Bands & Orchestras at Osceola Middle School