From Daniel Blomdahl
Posted April 28, 2008 at 04:22 PM
I know he'll be able to learn becasue he's very smart, he understands musical sounds, (he enjoys "playing" the piano, but all the sounds he likes are these beautiful chords. I have noticed most children his age just like banging on the piano. He also likes using his fingers, instead of his whole hands to bang the keys.) and he listens to me.
But what I really need are tips for teaching this young....
A really GREAT new book on teaching (although it is about cello teaching) is "Rosindust."
It would be much better if you could BOTH attend the child's lesson from an experienced teacher AND then you could work with the child on a more daily basis to reinforce the techniques and exercises that are taught.
When I teach young children I also try to teach their parents (I don't charge extra for that) so they can be a bit ahead of the child for daily work. What I have found is that in about 6 months, the child has moved ahead of the parent in those aspects that will be important. For those children whose parents do not take violin too, but who can belp by playing along on piano, I encourage that. In some families, a sibling has studied violin, and I enlist bits of help (during the weeek) from them.
I do favor the progression of music taught in the Suzuki program. The Suzuki method is really good for young children who will not be reading music for a while. But, I believe it should be used in a Suzuki "school" with other children and joint partaticipation as well as the individual instruction.
Personally, I will take on only the exceptional student less than 6 years old. Young children are unique, however, and some have incredible attention spans, and others almost none at all. Right now I've got a 6-year old who has been taking lessons for 6 months (shortly before hre 6th birthday. She has never shown boredom or lack of attention - we can go on for 60 minutes, although I typically limit child lessons to 30 minutes. But with her, we can repeat the same few notes ad infinitum, and she just keeps working on improving it. I've kn own her and her family since she was 1 month old, when I was teaching her two older brothers. She has wanted to play violin since she was 2.
My teacher notices nuances and techniques that I simply do not have the experience to know. I have a strong appetite for learning and have read many books on violin, history, performance and have a background in music already. I still wouldn't teach anyone.
My humble opinion, of course.
Other than the obvious points of being extremely patient with young children, and try to use analogies that their youthful minds will readily relate to and click with, I am not sure if there's any specific training for youngins.
Just give it your best shot and make sure they're having fun.
I believe you have to be 17 or maybe 18 to take the Suzuki Certification course. I highly encourage you to do this if you plan to take young students on.
I do not think four is too young, but educating the very young is a specialty of some teachers and not others. It may be something you find you are very good at.
An instructor experienced in teaching young children would have a better background in what does and does not work, which you will lack. That doesn't mean it's impossible, and if the alternative is no lessons at all, just maybe you should teach to the best of your ability even though you don't have any training or experience.
My personal feeling is this may not be the right time for this. I think your intentions are great, and your enthusiasm is wonderful. However, it takes a long time to develop certain things like a really deep understanding of technique. To know how to do something is one thing. But to truly understand all that is involved in doing it is something else. When you understand that deeply, you can teach it much more easily and make many different analogies. Kids can grab on to visual aids really well.
I saw your videos on youtube and I think you're a good violinist. I've taught high school, middle school and elementary school students. Without a doubt elementary school age kids were the ones I had to be most careful with. When they start, they develop habits that later in life are very hard to kick. If you aren't always looking for these things it is very easy to let them slide. I know this from personal experience. I taught a lesson and was observed. Later when I watched the video of the lesson, I saw that I let his bow arm do whatever it wanted. I had been so concerned with other things like good rhythm, good intonation, and keeping the violin up to notice that the kid's bow grip was atrocious! You need to be 100% sure you can do this. At this age you can potentially get them really interested in playing, or can potentially kill the subject for them (which I doubt you'll do). I would just think very hard before saying "Yes".
Regardless of what you think of the Suzuki method, you will have to admit that it represents a wealth of expertise in teaching violin to young children which has been accumulated by countless people over a very long period. There are probably hundred thousands of man years of expertise in Suzuki,
In the absence of anything else so readily available to an aspiring teacher, I would want to tap into that source of expertise, I would not want to start from zero. If I had any second thoughts, I would tell myself that I can always adapt it and find my own methodology as I gain my own experience OVER TIME.
Before this background, I believe your best options are 1) walk away from this, 2) work with an experienced teacher and become a sort of coach under the guidance of that teacher, 3) get Suzuki teacher training, 4) a combination of #2 and #3.
you did say you are a very musical person and for a 4 yo kid, there is a lot to learn from you...about music. you can help prepare the kid with better music theory, note recognition or even sightreading which is lacking in 101% of young kids thus making violin lessons very stressful and frustrating.
hey, there is money on there for your skills, grab it! :)
if you can teach the kid to love music with fill in the blank violin techniques, it is not the end of the world, but a wonderful beginning!
It was a colossal train wreck. I overloaded my students so quickly that every last beginner eventually quit. (My sincerest apologies go to them!)
Teaching beginners is hard. I don't recommend using Suzuki books without proper training because they leave too many gaps, and you will probably get stuck on the same songs.
If they can spend the extra money, I really liked the Adventures in Violinland books. They're newer (level 4 was published just two years ago) and less known, but I advocate them for the following reasons:
1. They are illustrated and imaginative, geared toward very young beginners.
2. They provide a wealth of information and lots of little fun pieces to work on.
3. They progress at such a slow rate that you can guarantee they will get something new to work on each week.
4. The slow progression, in addition to the fact that it starts the left and right hand separately, allows for good habits to set like concrete.
5. My kids absolutely love them. Even the big kids have a good time at my lessons.
6. It combines ear training with note reading based on a "movable do" scale, and includes activities like figuring out simple melodies by ear, and exercises that help them compose their own songs and write them down.
8. An entire book is devoted to Captain Thumb and the four sailors (or pirates, if you prefer) that take the bow out to sea... This book is guaranteed to set up a great bow hold, and addresses the factors of tone production so they can pull a straight, clean tone from the start.
7. There's an entire book devoted to a string crossing game with a map and weekly clues and a treasure at the end! Fun! (Treasure not included)
8. Theory, technique and etudes packaged in easy to swallow pills.
9. The teacher gets to play along a lot, both on violin and piano.
10. Did I mention fun?
Have I given enough reasons yet? I was originally very reluctant to try them because there are six books for the first year, costing a total of $84. But having taught for six years now, and after using these books for just two, I am so excited to see what wonderful violinists I'm able to produce--violinists who love to play and sound good. The road ahead looks bright, too. Third and fourth year books have shifting, position work, scales and etudes, quality repertoire (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Bartok, etc.), folk tunes and fiddling, and lots of great sounding duets and piano accompaniment, so the teacher gets to play a lot, too (my favorite part).
I've been in a similar boat as you, wanting to teach and not realizing exactly what teaching the violin entailed. With trials and errors, I had to teach myself how to be a better violin teacher. Suzuki may work if you can get the training, but books that come with instructions and lots of activities may be a better bet in your situation. They're pretty self explanatory, but be sure to get all six of the first level and look through them ahead of time so you can see where they're going.
I think the most important thing that will make you a successful teacher in the long run is your love of music and your love of sharing what you've learned. With the right tools and guidance, you'll do fine. Dig into your resources: check with other teachers and ask lots of questions. If your first student proves stressful, and you look back with regrets because of all the things you wish you knew before you started, I think every teacher feels that to a degree. Just learn as much as you can about teaching before you start, and learn even more once you start. Learn from mistakes, and always keep learning. That's how you get to be a good teacher.
Best of luck to you!
Violinist.com Editor Laurie Niles is in New York to cover the biennial event at The Juilliard School, including classes by Brian Lewis and Sarah Chang.
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!