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The Back Room

by Karen Zethmayr

Go Fish Pitch


Printable flash cards for violin pitches in first position

These PDFs will print on prescored business cards if you prefer, but you can still use them as cards if you print on regular paper and cut with scissors.


Pitch flashcards 1
Pitch flashcards 2

"Go Fish Pich Key" is a fingering chart for the violin showing letter names and how to find them on the fingerboard. Plain paper is fine for the chart.
Go Fish Pitch Key

Some children prefer to use the cards as self quiz cards with the letters penciled lightly on the back.

On the other hand, some kids prefer card games. At a certain age, getting a cherished adult's undivided attention for a card game with a comfort food snack is a reward in itself. The adult doesn't need to be the prime home practice parent. The game can be a practice interlude in the beginning, because the position we play in takes time to get muscles and mind used to. As the child's practice stamina span increases, card games can be at other times as suits your family rhythm.

Lowering the Bar (we'll raise it later)
The ulterior motive is that the players hear the names as often as possible to become familiar. Who wins? Everyone who learns the letter names. Grandparents especially have a secret "go to the next level" button, which allows kids to win as often as they need to until they become a force to reckon with.
~~~ In the beginning, JUST THE OPEN STRING NOTES are enough to deal with. As those become old hat, introduce A string notes. (If enough people nag me, I will soon add bass, 'cello, and viola sets. Some families have other instruments in the house besides violins. In such families, there's nothing wrong with mixing the sets and having kids become familiar with other clefs. In violin/viola, or violin/cello families, add D string notes first after open string notes.)

Concentration (print a double set):
Turn all cards face down. Each player turns over two at a time, trying for a match. If no match, the cards go face down again for the next person. For small kids, their goal is to get matches and win. The agenda of the adult is to say the letter name of each card each time someone turns it up.

Go Fish (print four sets):
1. Deal 7 cards to each player. The remaining cards become a "bone pile," a face-down pile to draw from.
2. First player asks a specific player for a specific pitch he/she already has. (You can't ask for an OPEN E if you don't alredy have one.)
3. Naming cards: you can say, e.g., "B in the middle of the staff" or B 1st finger on the A string," but since there's more than one of each letter, you need to be specific once you are playing full deck.
4. STICKLER FOR ACCURACY rule (decide at the beginning of the game if you want to play this way; older kids will): if you ask "Do you have three Bs-1st-finger-A-String?" and the player only has two, that player doesn't have to tell you there are two. He or she only has to say "no," and it's legal for hi/her to ask you for your lonesome little middle-of-staff B the next round. Go Fish strategies are all fair game if you decide to go by those rules.

Raising the Bar
1. We raise the bar by adding pitches gradually until we have a full set.
2. The next level is to note the key most used in the first half of book one. For violin, that's A major with 3 sharps. For those pieces, we have not F but F#, Not C but C#, and not G but G#.
........ That's two syllables per pitch, and that makes reading in rhythm awkward. In other countries they use a naming system that adds "is" to the name instead of "sharp." F# is "Fis." C# is Cis with a soft C, and G is Gis with a hard G.
~~~ On every F flash card, take a "signal dot" or some temporary pealable tab or lable (1/4" is fine) and paste it just to the left of the note. Mark a # on the label. In all the games that card becomes "Fis" instead of F.

~~~ All my students "read" the beginning pieces to me (without the instrument) before playing them. As they read (and most of them read in tune, whether they realize it or not), they are my "conductor," and I play at whatever tempo they read. Until they've become fluent with the letters, they read me the numbers. Some say letters for open strings, some say "zero."
~~~ Those who have learned the letters use them while reading aloud. They find, e.g., all the Fs in Lightly Row and paste signal dots in their books, so they know to say "Fis" each time it occurs.

If you would like to receive notification as new Suzuki resources are added to this site, you can send an email to Your email will not be sold, shared, traded, or used for any other purpose than that which you requested. As it turns out, I have been adding a topic in a parent letter about once a month for my own Suzuki families.
Other Suzuki resources Grandma's Kite:
Pencil exercises, set one for bow hold
Pencil exercises, set two for bow hold
One Little Elephant (left finger strength and flexibility)
Left hand number card "pick up" game
"Home built" violins and ways to use them in group sessions
Reading readiness game "Who Ran Away?"

Reading readiness game "Rhythm Flash "
"Reading Readiness in Music

Supplementary Music and Midis

Twinkle Rag – a twinkle variation with a new twist on half of the rhythm in Variations A and D. Same four sixteenth notes in a ragtime setting

Daisy Daisy uses a three four twist on "Mississippi without the hot dog." The whole accompaniment is open D and G. The song and bass line can be played as a violin / 'cello duet or on the piano.

For more information on the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center Suzuki program, see Monroe Street Fine Arts Center,, 2526 Monroe Street, Madison, WI, 608-232-1510, or email

For more information on Middleton School of Performing Arts, see

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