Welcome to Violinist.com! Log in, or join the community!
Violinist.com
Facebook Twitter Google+ Email Newsletter

First Violin Lesson

Teaching and Pedagogy: See for yourself how a very young kid is taught the violin

From parmeeta bhogal
Posted December 18, 2006 at 09:02 PM

Has anyone seen this first violin lesson on youtube?

I am just comparing it to lets say, Laurie's blogs about her lessons, students...and cookies.

First Violin Lesson

From al ku
Posted on December 18, 2006 at 09:13 PM
could be better, could be worse. not bad:)
From Vivian Guo
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 05:12 AM
I actually like the teacher. She reminds me of my first teacher, whose teaching I miss a great deal.

[Watching him practice]

For heaven's sake, can luthiers make better violin for smaller sizes...Help!

From Gennady Filimonov
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 05:15 AM
she seems fine......
the thing is if she gets your child excited about playing, that will be the most telling.
From parmeeta bhogal
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 10:21 AM
Also the language. The child seems unresponsive to the teacher but then you realise he just doesn't follow the language; sometimes his face suddenly lights up with understanding when his mum translates for him.
From parmeeta bhogal
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 10:24 AM
From Elizabeth Smith
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 12:32 PM
There are three lessons in that series (that I can see) and in each one, the child and the teacher are wearing the same clothes and the lighting in the room is the same. Seems a little staged to me. (Hint: next time bring a couple of changes of clothes)
From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 12:38 PM
The comments I've read on YouTube about this clip make it obvious to me that there's no point in posting anything there. "What a bitch teacher" someone wrote. Why? In what way? Her instructions are non-stop, true, but they are repetitive, easy to follow. And, let's not forget, DEAD ON THE MONEY!

And, in the final analysis, if the teacher spends fifty minutes of an hour lesson patting the child on the head, giving them milk and cookies, establishing rapport, performing for the parents, demonstrating until they're blue in the face, using child-psychology like a pro, but failing to actually give a series of instructions that offer results...(deep breath)...the teacher might be an expert educator but I'd doubt their violinistic or violin-pedagogical abilities. I'm sorry to be so retro about this. But if someone spends their time learning to talk to children, learning to be a child psychologist, playing games with students, it leaves little time to teach. I don't recall my teachers telling me funny stories. I don't recall them trying ever-more ingenious ways of presenting information which I'd try ever-more ingenious ways of not comprehending, like a baby twisting away from a proffered spoonfull of babyfood. I don't recall, in short, being the one in the position of power, except over myself.

The end result is that I learned to play the violin. The end result I see in all too many kids who've had perfectly charming but utterly impotent teachers is that, two years into their studies, they can't play "Twinkle" or, heaven help us, a G major scale. Such kindliness ought to be abolished.

From al ku
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 01:01 PM
Emil, but you are a genius and most kids are not! :)

there probably was music everywhere when you grew up, but for many families, a lesson is as much a lesson for the kid as for the parents.

even though i personally agree with your conviction on less game and more violin, for most kids, you will run into a wall...too much culture shock:)!

on this lesson, i agree with Gennady's stand,,,one has to make it exciting, at least on the first lesson!

From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 01:41 PM
Al, I'm no genius. And my exposure to music early on was unusual, true, but not the causal factor. Proof? All the kids with whom I sometimes ended up going to pre-college, who had no musical exposure at home, and who played better than me earlier than me. Where we all went from there is a different, and irrelevant, story. But take my regular pianist, Michael Sheppard. Man was picking out tunes on the piano at two yet no one in his home played classical music. More proof is easy...how much exposure to classical music has your daughter had, before she herself started lessons? Yet look at her now, at the ripe old age of five!

As for making the first lesson exciting, how would you do that? Either the kid wants to learn to play the violin and can understand that the first lesson will NOT result in their playing the violin or they don't and can't. I've tried having advanced kids play for prospective students. I've tried early-beginner kids play for prospective students. I've tried playing for prospective students. I've tried explaining the first few months' worth of basics to the parents and the expectable waypoints on the road to progress. There has been no, repeat NO, pattern or rhyme or reason to the proportion of kids who walk out of the first lesson "intimidated" (by what? I always want to ask) or those who stay and persevere. One of the most vociferous, self-assertive little girls - according to her mother - lasted one lesson, in which she successfully learned how to hold the violin. She never came back, in spite of demonstrations in lessons, etc. etc.

And yet, one of the shyest girls I've ever taught (you know who you are!) has, in the one year she's studied with me, persevered and gotten to a point where she's starting to play scales in spiccato, is playing in up to five positions, three octave scales, and is able to sight-read pieces from Suzuki Book 2. She is one of five kids, so parental supervision is not to praise (exclusively) here. Her parents are highly intelligent, highly educated but not, as far as I can tell, either musical themselves nor do they (again, as far as I know) have classical music playing day in and day out at home. And as for the "intimidation" factor, this particular student's sister is much more outgoing, yet it is that extroverted, unintimidate-able sister who quit six months in.

Basically, if a kid's gonna, they're gonna. And one can heap theory upon hypothesis, raise mountains of verbiage and research to the educators' hearts contentment, but it won't alter that fact. What it will do, as far as I can tell, is to breed a culture of such staggering scholastic permissiveness that American schools become the laughingstocks of the planet. And that the kids who learn to play do so in spite of their parents and teachers, and not thanks to them.

From al ku
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 02:21 PM
"Where we all went from there is a different, and irrelevant, story" beg to differ:) i think it is relevant because that is what matters. imo, you will go far and deep. let's pray for the most optimal circumstances to come.

agree with your assessment on the current cultural decay where people work hard to find substitute for hard work when there is none. violin is freaking hard and it takes years to bear fruit. most would have chosen an easier way out. ehh, like piano, hahaha.

i think a teacher needs to be both hard and soft, serious and fun and use them wisely, to push just enough before the kids break and then back off. and then come back for more:)

on that, i appreciate that pic inside the CD where you were feeding deers wearing a pair of glasses almost as goofy as mine:)

overall, it takes so much to be caring teachers or parents. good intonation and musicality are often startlingly unpredictable in that age. case in point:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEENuY-VXuI

From Vivian Guo
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 06:48 PM
I think the reason why the setting and cloth were the same for all three lessons is because the video was broken down into three parts instead of three lessons at different times.

I bet the mother is from the country I am from. Her Chinese has the familiar accent I grew up with. :-)

Cute boy.

From janet griffiths
Posted on December 19, 2006 at 07:43 PM
It would seem unfair to comment on the content of the video as this is only presumably a snippet of a lesson and we do not know what went on during the rest of the lesson.Bow hold perhaps, I would hope at least some musical element even if it is clapping a rhythm in time.The teacher did praise and encourage the correct violin hold although I did get the impression that the little chap didn't really understand why he was being asked to hold the violin.As to Emils comments I agree with them wholeheartedly.Some years ago I had a very highly strung little pupil with the patience and attention span of a mosquito.I spent a lot of time devising ways of encouraging him with the result that after a year he could play very nicely in tune, and then he left.The unpaid time and effort that I put in wasn't worth it.Shortly after he left I got another student of the same age.This time I asked the child,not the parent if he really wanted to play the violin and why?He replied that he wanted to play the Paganini caprices.After the lesson I handed him back to his father who sports a bullet in his ear lobe and has his forearms heavily tattoed.This child arrives prepared, concentrates throughout the lesson and is also self sufficient in the management of his violin and bow,he always keeps it clean and wipes the residue resin away.Not bad for a six year old.
From Vivian Guo
Posted on December 20, 2006 at 12:53 AM
It's amazing that a 6-year knew about Paganini, which should give us a hint of the family as a whole. I never heard of Paganini until I was in college...
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on December 20, 2006 at 04:05 AM
Greetings,
for me, what Emil is talking about is clear goals, and without a goal to have achieved by next week (or broken down into a smaller unit with the cooperation of th eparent) a child is going to get nowhere (or an adult for that matter).Children also have quite a highly developed sense of whetehr or not they are being offered anything meaningful.
So it simply remains to ask `what is the goal?` If the goal of th elesson is how to get cookies from complete strangers the only satisfied people in the long run will be the local paedophiles.
Cheers,
buri
From janet griffiths
Posted on December 20, 2006 at 07:28 AM
The point is Vivian,this is not a family of great culture.It is a highly supportive family who are a little in awe and wonder at their sons musical interest, and are doing their best to encourage it.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 20, 2006 at 07:43 AM
Hey people, what's wrong with cookies?

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. But yes, you'd better know your medicine!

And Emil, dear friend, your first violin lesson was in the womb, wasn't it?

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 20, 2006 at 09:22 AM
I think the teacher could improve the lesson greatly by smiling.
From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on December 20, 2006 at 03:28 PM
Laurie, m'dear, I actually started late, at 8 years of age. But as for cookies, there's nothing wrong with them when used as reward or incentive. But I was talking about giving cookies as a metaphor for all those very sweet, very motherly teachers whose personal amiability is a poor substitute for actual teaching.

But as for offering treats, as a matter of fact, here's a little anecdote that ranks right up there with Cosby's "Kids Say the Darndest Things".

So a year ago or so I was teaching my youngest student ever. Again, he knows - or his parents know - who I'm talking about so I won't mention his name publicly to avoid embarassing him. He's an adorable and highly intelligent kid, but BECAUSE he's highly intelligent it's clear instantly when his attention starts to wander and when his brain takes a lunchbreak. Thus, in this one lesson, his eyes start going glassy and I realize he's on his way out to La-La Land. Thinking a sugar boost might get him back into the land of the thinking, I ask his mom if it's ok for him to have a spoonfull of espresso-fudge, a sort of melty covering I usually use for ice cream (available from Whole Foods, if anyone's interested). When she gives me the go-ahead, I get him a spoonfull of the stuff which he devours instantly.

"What do you use this for?" he asks.
"Ice cream, usually," I tell him.
"Ice cream?" he asks muzzily, doing a great accidental impression of that we-don't-need-no-steenkin'-badges movie scene. "We don't have any ice cream." [pause for thought and free-association] "Or any money."

I'm a responsible, sober teacher, and so I think I managed to stop laughing within an hour.

From Vivian Guo
Posted on December 20, 2006 at 07:09 PM
Having been able to read the posts all, but Buri's sentence:

"Children also have quite a highly developed sense of whetehr or not they are being offered anything meaningful."

sticked out right away.

I can attest to it, and my childhood memory is sitll fresh. :-)

Janet,

I got your point all right the first time. But on the other hand, isn't it also true that in a musical environment, a child would more likely to succeed musically without much "pushing"? Think about it!

From Laura Yeh
Posted on December 20, 2006 at 06:42 PM
Emil,
While I agree with some of your comments, no offense, some I disagree with because they seem a bit elitist. Children who seem to show special "talent" can thrive without some games and fun, but most kids won't and most kids will quit without some such things when they're very young. While there are teachers out there who sugar coat everything and play useless games use it as a replacement for high expectations, not all teachers who use fun childlike elements in their teaching have low expectations of their students in terms of good technique and beauty of sound. What's wrong with making things fun and still expecting the highest standards? I work quite a bit with very young students (3 and 4 year olds) and I find that they actually progress better with the fun and games in the lesson and at home practices. I can usually get them to focus better. It is hard for a 3 or 4 year old to focus on doing something as complicated as violin playing for 15-30 minutes. They need to be engaged to really make progress and take in what you're telling them and often the best way to do this is through rhymes, games, fun, etc. It needs to be balanced of course, and it is easy to have too much fun and games and not enough discipline, but I think that's part of learning to work with each child. What is the proper balance for this particular child? Never-the-less, don't mistake fun and games and being "nice" for having low standards.

I have to say this particular teacher doesn't seem well suited to young kids, at least not yet. Maybe with more experience she will learn. She seems to be someone who works more effectively with older kids. Notice how her attention is mostly on the mom through the lesson rather than the student. The poor student is bored through most of it and is being ignored. I find that my attention in the lesson is directed towards the student at least 90% of the lesson. While I do talk with parents some of the time, I want the students to feel that I think they are just as important. Young students cannot develop a good relationship with the teacher if they feel ignored most of the time. Not to mention, it seems to me that the student was not properly prepared for placing the violin. Generally, I teach students where their jawbone is before placing the violin. They need to fine their jawbone, mommy's jawbone, my jawbone, etc. Young kids have no idea what a jawbone is and if you tell them put your chin on the chinrest, they'll contort themselves to do exactly what you say rather than placing the jawbone. I'm sure we've all seen kids who tilt their head funny to get their chin on the chinrest as well as to "see their fingers." Knowing to place the jawbone can really help alivate this problem. Young kids need a lot more preparing for things than older kids. Having them tap their finger tips to help them learn which part of the finger touches the string as well as learning that the fingers stay round and curved, finding their jawbone, finding the "magic spot" near their base knuckle that serves as a point of contact on the neck of the violin, touching the part of the thumb that contacts the bow, etc, doing all of these things AHEAD of time helps the student to understand what to do when you have them try posture things for the first time on the violin or bow. It's not as necessary for say an 8 year old student, but it's certainly vital for 3,4, and 5 year olds.

In my opinion, the results I saw in the lesson were not so good. The child didn't seem to know how to place and hold the instrument correctly himself and I didn't get the impression that he really understood what he was supposed to do. I do wonder if the results would have been better had the teacher taken a more child-oriented approach.
-Laura

From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 20, 2006 at 07:19 PM
AHA! So a spoonful of sugar and caffeine help the medicine go down!

I've long suspected as much.

From Laura Yeh
Posted on December 20, 2006 at 07:24 PM
To add to my previous post,
To have the elitist view that a child should have natural talent to play (and I may be misinterpreting you here Emil) is dangerous for the future of classical music. We need to learn to tailor teaching to each child, and not just stick with what has worked for "talented" individuals. To rigidly stick to one type of teaching and assume that if students don't thrive under such an approach then they don't have what it takes to learn to play decently, severly limits the future of classical music. While most violin students will not become professional musicians, I'm sure many will become classical music consumers, going to concerts and buying CDs - precisely the people that keep classical performers in business! We certainly don't want to limit that group. Why limit who can learn to play the violin to those who show natural talent before starting musical studies? It seems foolish to me and I'm sure to those of us who don't want to keep our livelyhoods and don't want classical music to disappear. Not to mention, learning the violin teaches many lifeskills from which anyone could benefit.

Emil, I certainly don't mean to be sounding like I'm attacking your ideas, especially since many have merit, but I just think that as classical musicians, we have to be careful not to fall into elitism. I catch myself being a musical snob often! It's very easy to do!

From Vivian Guo
Posted on December 21, 2006 at 03:15 AM
My parents never sent me for any lessons except for voice lessons, which was mandatory for my class (of talented kids, another class was for classical Chinese music). We had lessons after class and also on Saturdays. I always loved the Saturday practice only because that my mother gave me pocket money to buy snacks before I went home. Do I remember anything except for food? Nope. Admittedly, I was talented child, but I wanted to become a professor, not a singer/musician.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 21, 2006 at 07:18 AM
I believe that teaching is like doing a Vulcan mind meld. You have to get inside a student's head, sense how it works, and go with the student. Technical knowledge is not sufficient. I don't think that this teacher connects with the student. In my earlier comment, I recommended that she smile because that's a good way of connecting with someone and showing that you care about connecting. Photographs of Dr. Suzuki always show him smiling and enjoying himself with his students. I didn't pick up any signals showing that the teacher in the video cared whether the student understood her teaching or whether he would use it to develop as a musician. A good teacher will project to the student, look carefully for signals that he is responding, constantly evaluate the interaction, and modify it as necessary to keep the student engaged.
From Vivian Guo
Posted on December 21, 2006 at 08:22 PM
Paulin's point is certainly valid and important to consider in general. As some posters pointed out already, apparently there's a language barrier between the child and the teacher (evidence: the mother had to use Mandarin Chinese to interpret what the teacher said). Therefore, this point might not exactly apply to the core issue here. The teacher did encourage the boy when he finally understood what to do and how to do it correctly.

My teachers never smile at me. Even worse, I sensed my second teacher's displeasure at my inability in getting rhythm right, and moved onto the next thing. The first semester was hard on my psychologically, but I was able to convince her with my progress that I made a lot of efforts in learning to play the violin. A sense of rhythm cannot be improved over 30 minutes of lesson time. She seems to be more tolerant with me now even if I cannot play in rhythm with a new piece.

I think encouragement from a teacher is certainly important, but the teacher also needs to let the student know where his/her short-comings are. For me, I would prefer someone to tell me where my inadequacy is and more importantly tell me how to improve it rather than padding on my shoulder smiling at me.

From Laura Madden
Posted on December 21, 2006 at 09:58 PM
Since most lessons for the very young child must be kept to about 30 min. I agree with Laura that the time should be devoted mainly to the child, however one of the great aspects of Mr. Suzuki's method was his insistence on teaching the parent as well as the child so that something constructive will continue to take place until the next lesson. In trying to achieve this my daughter's first teacher would sometimes address the both of us at once, which left me wanting to know more and my 5 year old wanting to know less. One solution to this problem might be to have an "Open House" similar to public schools. Here the teacher could address all the parents at once. Explaining the importance of bow hold, left hand, posture and ear training, and why this is vital for their their child's musical growth.The teacher could also hand out some ideas and tips for successful practicing. My daughters dance teacher would often called parent meetings and she always talked about 'The Triangle' - Teacher - Student - Parent as being essential for success.

What makes an elite violinist?

Sarah Chang Our interview with Sarah Chang is one of more than two dozen in The Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1, which also features talks with Joshua Bell, Maxim Vengerov, and David Garrett, as well as a foreword by Hilary Hahn.

Get it now! For Kindle | For iBooks | In Paperback