Should children do everything right from the start?Teaching and Pedagogy: What do you think is the best approach for technique to kids?
From Matthew Dakoutros
Some of my students are in the joyful age of 5 - 10. I try to teach them the tecnique as good as I can, and I try to make them hold the violin in the "correct" position, hold the rhythm steady, have a good quality of sound etc. It is obvious that children who are around 5 cannot do it right, and it is obvious that as much as they may love the instrument, they mostly want to go out and play football, or whatever.
My approach is not to push them too hard. I try to make them do the stuff they must as good as they can, and if there are problems and they can't do something perfect, I live it for the time being, but always have in mind to remind them, and try to make it better.
However, since I am not too experienced, I always worry that this may not be correct, and maybe I will end up having students with bad looking hands and stuff. Do you think that kids should do everything right from the start and then move foreword, or move along and corect things as you go?
From Karen AllendoerferI think what you're talking about, having everyone do it right from the start, is a good goal, an ideal that you should strive for but reconcile yourself to not reaching with every student. Some students will interpret having to do everything perfectly from the start as burdensome teacher-driven perfectionism, become discouraged and feel bogged down. Others will move more easily through this stage, and will probably have an easier time generally with learning the violin. I just don't think you should give up on the first group. They can still catch up later and may, as adults, make better and more compassionate teachers because they remember the struggle.
Posted on June 11, 2012 at 03:05 PM
From N.A. MohrI took the advice of our piano tuner early on and it served us well ;D
Posted on June 11, 2012 at 03:10 PM
He said the most important element is to find a teacher that the child enjoys being with, who makes it fun and keeps their interest in the instrument and learning alive.
As long as they don't learn any really 'bad habits' and make some measurable progress, don't worry about it.
My daughter just finished her piano education - with what I consider a laid-back approach to learning. Many of the kids that she was with in the early years...who played much better than she did at the time...have long dropped out and no longer play the piano at all.
A couple, who were more driven than she was to begin with, have gone on to pursue the piano as a career. But a lot of that drive to succeed was internal...not driven by parental/outside pressures.
Making music has to be fun for children...
From Emily HogstadBut don't the very very very best teachers make it fun *and* absolutely correct? Yes, I think those things are very difficult to find together, but not necessarily mutually exclusive by any means. I'm thinking of one teacher in particular who used to be a member of this site who has her little kids looking beautiful and relaxed and pliant and balanced when they play. They have fun, play games, AND have perfect posture and make beautiful sounds very early on. However, she had a lot of fantastic training and an obvious natural gift. And I'm not sure, but I think her kids were usually from a middle-class to upper-class background, where a mom or dad could invest a lot of coaching time.
Posted on June 11, 2012 at 03:47 PM
So there are teachers who can do both. Most of them will be in big cities, charge a lot of money, and require a certain investment of time from child and parent. If those three things are obstacles your family can overcome, then yeehaw. But if it becomes a choice between a fun teacher who lets bad technique slide, and a teacher who is so terribly dull or unpersonable that s/he drives you or your child to give up the instrument...I'd say go with the former. Because you can always fix the bad stuff down the road. It will take a long time and it will be frustrating but it's better than not playing at all. I think.
This is a question I've spent A LOT of time wondering about. I've studied with some people who let bad habits slide for years and inadvertently kept me from fulfilling my potential. But they were nice people, and I either didn't know what a good teacher was, or they were too nice to split off contact with. I got to a point where I wondered if I should give up the instrument until I could get good training. Looking back, I would have missed out on so much if I had given it up. My bad-habited playing is better than not playing at all. Nowadays I can't afford lessons very often (a few times a year, maybe?) but when I do, I go to a person who literally can teach me more in an hour than I'd learn from other people in a year. Thankfully these sessions are both ridiculously fun and ridiculously educational. Which ties back to my first point: if you're in the right place at the right time, you can find the best of both worlds. And hopefully if you're a teacher you can be the best of both worlds. Or at the least aspire to be. But it takes great training and an inborn natural gift. And not many people have those things. And a lot who do choose to focus on their performing career.
From Matthew DakoutrosThose are some good answers, and close to the stuff I was thinking.
Posted on June 11, 2012 at 06:47 PM
I try to make the lesson fun and enjoyable, and try to show the kids why music is such a wonderful thing, that's why I want them to participate as much as they can in groups, concerts and stuff. I try not to be a dull teacher who focuses on learning technique right, though it's not the easiest thing to balance fun and learning, but I think I handle it.
The hard realisation is that 90% (if not more) of the students will most probably not be profesional musicians. That was wierd for me at first, cause I wanted to be a mucisian since I remember myself. However I think the best approach for them is this: I try to explain why we need music in our lives, even though we may not be profesionals, and I try to explain why it is important to learn things in the right way, rather than going to someone who would just do fun pop songs, letting them play only by ear (And I am not doing this cause of the fear of them leaving the class, but beause I think that this is the right thing to do).
In any case especially for kids who do not seem that they will follow music, I try to make the lesson fun and enjoyable, but at the same time educational, and have them learn as best as I can.
From Raymond LiuMy teacher tried to teach me to be perfect. I couldn't manage it with the limited time I had, since violin was only a secondary instrument. He gave up on me and started not teaching very well. I quit, and several months later, pick up the violin and am much better than before, pulling a good sound. I think it's because my arms "forgot" how to play violin, and therefore forgot the bad habits. When I start again, I already know a lot of the basics of sound and technique, so my bad habits get dropped. Thus, I think you should strive to make a person's technique perfect, but instead of push, just impress upon them that it is important and, without nagging, remind them about it when they forget to do whatever you're asking.
Posted on June 11, 2012 at 10:36 PM
From Kathryn WoodbyIdeally, yes, but.... :) :)
Posted on June 11, 2012 at 11:00 PM
I like the sentiment, which has often been expressed here, that perfection is not possible but excellence is. You can start instilling excellence at any age, any level, even if their motor coordination or intonation can't quite do "perfect" yet, or even if they can't manage every variable at once, you can find a way to strive for excellence in what is manageable. Balancing the learning readiness with high expectations. I agree that the best teachers are the ones who can really get that excellence/high standard happening at a very high level, while still preserving enjoyment, and that takes a huge amount of psychology and a thorough knowledge of the instrument and how to teach it, find different ways to explain and motivate, and get in deep. But perfection=frustration; excellence=beauty, and isn't that what the point is after all? :)
From N.A. Mohr"The hard realisation is that 90% (if not more) of the students will most probably not be profesional musicians. "
Posted on June 11, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Why is this a hard realization? What could we possibly do with THAT many professional level musicians? We don't WANT that many pros...lol.
What we do want is for children to develop an understanding/joy of music and then to grow into adults that still appreciate music...and participate in some form (especially as an interested, involved audience! :D)
I am always disheartened by the concept that if you're not good enough to be a professional you've somehow failed.
From Charles CookThe prerequisite for good technique is a light touch and flexible muscles. If you concentrate on this in the first months good technique will come in time. One thing you can do is have 15 min. lessons 2-3 times a week with NO practicing for the first month or two. Younger students will learn poor habits very quickly when left on there own in the fist month. Once the student has a lot poor habits the lessons are not as fun, they are not advancing, their playing is poor which they don't enjoy or the teacher ends up over correcting the child. Not fun for either one.
Posted on June 14, 2012 at 03:38 AM
From Lisa Van SickleThere was an interesting thread on here a few months back about thte whole idea of perfection. I think asking young children for perfection is a non-starter, for many reasons.
Posted on June 14, 2012 at 06:29 PM
BUT- I agree with others, such as Emily, who feel you need a good start. Kids are a work in progress. Their hands grow, then their arms, then the torso lengthens, then the arms again. The teacher needs to be vigilant that through all these changes the kiddo is working towards excellent positioning. It's much easier to learn it right than to try to fix ingrained habits later.
From Skylar NguyenIn my opinion, I truly believe everything should be perfect from the start. My 1st violin teacher was an 18 years old scholarship student, the 1st thing that she make me get down right is how to hold the bow and the violin correctly, I don't remember how long we spend on the bow hold and position, but I do know that after 6 years away from the violin, I'd still pick up the bow and hold the violin correctly. Even if I only lasted on the violin for less than 2 months. Now, it still irked me when teacher get lax about bow hold on little kid....brr (BTW I was 6 then)
Posted on June 14, 2012 at 07:43 PM
From Adrian HeathOops!
Posted on June 18, 2012 at 08:29 PM
From Adrian HeathOne of the "secrets" of good teaching is only teaching what a child can actually do well, but choosing it in such a way that it will lead on to the next feasable thing.
Posted on June 18, 2012 at 08:32 PM
This is part of the genius of Mr. Suzuki: starting with short strokes instead of meeowing long ones; lively rhythms rathert than dreary tunes; starting by imitation of sound and gesture rather than "transcribing" a written page; adapting posture to a child's morphology; choosing fine music rather than well-meaning fakes; choosing music that contains the necessary techniques and learning how to practice it. Etc.
This way, learning can be fun and "perfect" at he same time. As can playing: watch Mr. perlman, for example..
Quality with a capital Q! Children are very, very sensitive to this. Quality in the music, Quality in the approach of the teacher, Quality in the parental support. These are our chidren, not performing monkeys.
Standing up on a stool is not the same as growing!
I'll add a few verbs later...
From Andrew VictorI have to agree with Adrian.
Posted on June 18, 2012 at 08:42 PM
But a few very practical things I found out teaching young beginners.
1. Start them with a correct bow hold - it is actually easier for them to do than any of the incorrect one. (I've had kids 3 and 4 years old doing correctly this at a fun family evening - I would not take on such youngsters as students of mine - don't know why my first teacher did!)
2. Don't worry them about the "absolutely correct left hand posture" at the very beginning. Yes, always show them by example and try to get them to hold their left hands properly when they learn to play "Twinkle," but I have found that it's not a big future problem if the left wrist gets lazy. I think it is more important at that early stage for them to feel they are capable of making the progress the teacher expects.
3. Once they get to using their 4th finger the left wrist will have to come to proper posture under the teacher's guidance, or they just won't be able to get the note in tune. Besides "correct left-wrist posture" depends on individual's physical characteristics - so there will be differences.
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