Vibrato is the Joker of violin technique. Complex, elusive, and downright scary. Throw in a little mystery and histeria and we have ourselves a classic comic book villain.
For this very reason, I opted to choose a close study of vibrato for my task analysis project in string pedagogy. With Dr. Scott (batman?) on my side, I felt it the best time to tackle teaching the tough technique. I could dive deep into study of vibrato, layout a plan to teach it, execute that plan with my student Jenny, and edit the plan as I went. All with the comfortable safety net of Dr. Scott’s guidance and wisdom. What you are reading is the culmination of that process.
What is a task analysis?
Good question. New to me this semester, a task analysis is a close study of the steps taken to develop a skill. It is a careful look at each task necessary to grow a particular skill (reading, bow hold, shifting, ricochet, vibrato,etc.) within the context of your entire curriculum sequence.
There are several ways to organize a teaching sequence — through the lens of repertoire, for example — but a task analysis focuses on the development of one technical aspect of playing.
Where to start?
First, I got clear with myself about which task I was actually analyzing. My goal was to design a sequence for students in Book 2 with relaxed, functional left posture. My final outcome would be a student with elementary vibrato completely integrated into Book 1 review. Then, I hit the books. The work of Simon Fischer, Ed Kreitman, and Sue Baer guided my way. I looked for simple, elegant solutions that would be most communicable to student and parent. After immersing myself in their sequences, I built my own.
My sequence. I listed my sequence by defining expectations of my student. Some of the line items below (various vibrato sub skills) took one lesson to complete, but others took an entire week of practice, some several weeks. On my own evernote reference page I have it listed this way: Task Analyses Vibrato
My handout. Of course, this line item listing is for the teacher and not for the parent or student. In order to communicate my expectations and track our progress, I started our first vibrato lesson by putting this handout on the music stand. We referred to it every single week. Task Analyses Vibrato Handout
Watch it happen in real time!
The beauty of a task analysis multi-fold.
- Teachers can dive deep into just one skill to really think it through.
- You end up with a concrete plan for implementing a skill that you didn’t have before.
- This talk analysis is only a snapshot of the way we think about a skill in the moment, and by having a concrete version allows for revision.
My plan is to perform one intense task analysis per semester. It will come complete with research, planning, implementation, documentation, revision, and publication – just like this one! I invite you to do the same, using this analysis of vibrato as a way you can analyze an element of your own teaching. I recommend picking out your own Joker. Take seriously the technical skill you most fear teaching, and face it head on!