She is a five-year-old beginner, and she learns new pieces at the speed of lightning. Unfortunately this comes at the expense of playing things in tune and attending to the details that allow for technique to advance. She seems to listen to herself play long enough to figure out by ear what the right fingers are, then she saws through pieces, looking at the ceiling and giggling at her mother.
How to get through to this little gal?
The other day, I found myself reciting a long list of things that fell on deaf ears...
“Okay, let's stand up. Watch your fingers. Listen, it's out of tune. Wait, wait, slow down. No, no, do that again. Wait!”
“Can you hear that you are playing out of tune?” I asked her. How crazy, that someone who can learn so much by ear would then play it all out of tune. Obviously, she is an auditory learner.
“Can you hear that you are playing out of tune?” I asked again.
She stood there and smiled, swaying around, always in motion.
“Do you talk?” I asked politely, but with some frustration.
She looked at her mom and giggled.
Fine, then, I thought, getting an idea. I won't talk to you either, not for the rest of the lesson!
I played the beginning of Perpetual Motion completely out of tune, accompanied with rolling eyes and other pained facial expressions. She seemed interested. So I played the same thing perfectly in tune, smiled big, and nodded my head. Then I pointed to her.
She understood. She played the beginning of Perpetual Motion, but inevitably came to an out-of-tune note. I pounced. I played the note she was playing, flat as it was, made a horrible face, then dramatically slid up the fingerboard to the proper place and smiled with satisfaction. Then I pointed to her.
She corrected her note.
We went on like this, correcting many out-of-tune notes. If she did something I didn't like, I simply mimicked it on my violin, with some exaggeration and a bitter face, then played it right and smiled.
When her bow went skittering over the bridge, I pointed to it and shook my head with disapproval. Then I played on my own violin, skittering across the bridge and shook my head. Then I dramatically placed the bow in the right place for me, then for her.
I actually enjoyed the challenge of communicating with her with the violin only, using no words at all. I'm not sure if this will work every single week, but it certainly was a fun experiment. Now I can add, “Charlie Chaplin teaching” to the repertoire!
Another suggestion: play along with her. Kids often don't know what a violin sounds like when played properly. She is an auditory learner and will hear the dissonance when she plays out-of-tune.
You may also want to consider a grading systme for posture, tone, intonation, etc. Have her achieve a passing grade on all of these aspects before moving on to the next piece.
Jenni, yes of course I know Julie Bamberger! She is an excellent teacher and friend. Is she your teacher, or is someone else?
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