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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 3

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Caroline Colenbrander


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 426

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23384

Office Hours: By appointment (Wed. a.m.)

Course Objectives:

  • Strings Methods introduces the basic techniques of playing, understanding and working with stringed instruments. Students will concentrate on one instrument for the school year but will also gain working knowledge of the rest of the string family through observation of classmates.
  • Students will acquire a basic methodology of string-teaching techniques while being taught in the same manner in which they can be expected to teach heterogeneous strings classes in the future -- the "methods" part of the course will mostly be demonstrated by using the class as an example.
  • Students are required to read Essential Elements for Strings -- Teacher's Manual -- Book 1, which is intended to be a reference book assisting students to understand the techniques and principles learned and applied during classes. 
  • Students will be assigned instruments to make up a workable string ensemble and will be expected to perform as a member of this ensemble.  Emphasis will be given to instrument care and maintenance as well as to tuning, posture, tone production, basic bowing and left-hand techniques.

N.B.  Students who have taken Strings before will generally be assigned different instruments from the one(s) previously studied. 

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Materials:

1)     M. Allen, R. Gillespie, F.T. Hayes. (1995) Essential Elements for Strings -- Teacher's Manual -- Book 1. Milwaukee, WI 53213: Hal Leonard Corporation


Recommended Materials:

Essential Elements for Strings -- Book One "Play-Along Trax" CD set.  Hal Leonard Corp.  

Method of Assessment:

A)   Class Participation and In-Class Playing Tests                                             (25%)

  • Class participation, evidence of daily practice, knowledge of the text content, and possible short in-class playing tests, as well as regular class ensemble performance and participation will be marked.
  • N.B.   Any missed playing test must be made up within one week of the originally scheduled date.  It is the student's responsibility to make   PRIOR arrangements with the Instructor for a change of test-date -- or there will be no mark assigned.
  • N.B.  Participation marks will be awarded on an on-going basis.  University policy states that "a medical certificate, or the equivalent for a non-medical problem, must be submitted to the Dean's Office (CNH 112) in explanation of non-attendance that might affect your participation grade". 
  • N.B.  Please keep in touch with the Instructor regarding all assignments/attendance (preferably by e-mail or by phone – see numbers above).


B)   “Strings Beginners” -- Written Assignment                                                  (15%)

  • Write a 2 to 3 page double-spaced essay in which you give your opinion stating two or three basic fundamentals to teach beginners in strings (violin, viola, cello or string bass).  After indicating the age and musical background of the beginner, please explain why you feel that these are important points to teach a new string student.      
  • Essay-presentation, spelling and grammar will be marked.  Point form will not suffice.
  • N.B.   Late assignments will be penalized by one mark per day late.

Due: anytime, but not later than Wednesday, October 8, 2014. Feedback for written assignment will be by October 29, 2014.


C)   "Teacher/Teachee" Teaching Assignment                                                    (25%)

  • The Strings Methods Student will be a “Teacher” to a non-string-playing friend or family member (neither a current nor a former Strings Methods member, nor a former "Teachee") how to play the instrument that he/she is learning in the current Strings Methods Class.  The "Teachee" must be given a minimum of 7 "private" 30-minute lessons by the "Teacher" before the grading. 
  • Marking of the “Teacher/Teachee” Assignment will be based on an eighth and final (20-minute) “private      lesson” in the presence of the Instructor to show how the “Teacher" and "Teachee" work together, as well as to demonstrate what has been learned during the 7 previous "private" sessions.  An example of the test lesson         à


would involve zeroing in on some technical "problems" which the "Teacher" and "Teachee" had encountered, while demonstrating some techniques which had been addressed at foregoing lessons. 

  • N.B.   In November, times are to be arranged with the Instructor à testing is done during the first week of January.  Please do not procrastinate about booking your time, since the testing time depends upon your "Teachee" friend as well as upon you. 
  • N.B.   The Instructor requires at least 48 hours PRIOR NOTICE by phone or email for a request to re-schedule this grading.

Due:  by arrangement – January 6, 7 and/or 8, 2015Feedback for assignment will be by the following week.


D)   Bach Chorale String Ensemble “Theme and Variation”                  (20%)

  • The Instructor will divide the class to form ensembles during January -- depending upon numbers and instrumentation, it will be necessary to form different-sized ensembles.  This is a team assignment.  Each ensemble will work on a Bach Chorale and arrange a "Theme and Variation" for the ensemble.
  • The harmonically-sound, well-balanced (minimum 4-part harmony) and unique arrangement created by the members must take into account the following: instrumentation of the ensemble, the ranges of the instruments, appropriate bowings and dynamics, as well as the playing levels and/or abilities of the performers.
  • Finalized copies of the score -- with bowings and expression markings -- should be handed in to the Instructor the week before the performance date
  • The ensemble will perform the Bach Chorale arrangement in the presence of the Instructor and the class for marking by the class as well as by the Instructor.  The ensemble will possibly be requested to play through the entire work (and/or parts) twice at the testing in order for the Instructor to mark and observe the ensemble performance fairly.  Stage presence will count – concert dress is encouraged. 
  • N.B.   Some January and February classes will be used partly for preparation of the Bach Chorale Ensembles so that everyone will understand the procedure.  It would be wise, however, not to leave the bulk of your work and rehearsal until that time.
  • N.B.   Since this is a group assignment marked by Instructor and class during class-time, attendance is necessary by all ensemble members for the run-through days (TBA) as well as for the performance dayNo-shows will forfeit full marks for their part of the assignment.     

Due:  Wednesday, February 4, 2015.   Feedback for assignment will be by the following class.


E)   Final Exam                                                                                                                      (15%)

  • The final playing exam for Term 2 will take place in the third week of March.  The exam will comprise several exercises and/or scales and/or one or two short solos -- to be provided in advance by the Instructor. 

Exam Date:  Wednesday, March 18, 2015.  Sign-up will be available early in March.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.