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Advice for teaching Suzuki violin to beginning 9 year old student and I have virtually no teaching experience

Teaching and Pedagogy: I am not a teacher but I'm interested in some advice to teach 9 year old girl who is learning violin for the first time. I'm doing a "lesson trade" with the girl's mother in exchange for taekwondo lessons.

From Rebecca Sharp
Posted March 4, 2013 at 07:07 PM

I'm actually not a teacher, but I've played violin since I was 10 (went up thru Suzuki book 9) and went on to get a performance degree in violin. I'm doing a "lesson swap" with my Taekwondo instructor in exchange for teaching her daughter Suzuki violin. She already has been doing non-Suzuki piano for a few years.
I haven't taught in over 20 years and only did it briefly then. I want to make sure i do this right and that Lydia (the girl's name),is inspired and feels good about her learning as well as being taught correctly! I was wondering if any private teachers out there have any tips and advice?

From Rebecca Sharp
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 07:07 PM
Seeing if I posted correctly!
From Gene Wie
Posted on March 4, 2013 at 08:30 PM
The best thing you can do is to observe lessons with established teachers, regardless of the method they use.
From Rebecca Sharp
Posted on March 5, 2013 at 07:18 AM
Ok, thanks! that's a great idea
From Sue Bechler
Posted on March 5, 2013 at 12:48 PM
Buy "The Suzuki Violinist" by Bill Starr. You could also read the writings of Paul Rolland, "the American Suzuki". If you would feel more comfortable branching out from Suzuki, the Applebaum books are still really useful and solid. You can use his written hints to students as your teaching tips.
From Scott Cole
Posted on March 5, 2013 at 10:56 PM
The standard Suzuki books are not suitable for beginners (in my opinion), even the first book. I would start with something like All For Strings before using the Suzuki material.
From Gene Wie
Posted on March 6, 2013 at 12:22 AM
All For Strings (and many other series like it) is designed for students at the 4th or 5th grade level, in a group instruction setting. It assumes that children using the book have already reached a certain level of proficiency in reading, fractions, symbol recognition, and abstraction.

The Suzuki Method is an entirely different approach altogether, and the books themselves are only a small part of the entire picture. The approach to teaching the material is differentiated to students at every age and ability level. Trained Suzuki teachers can initiate early childhood music education for three year olds. All For Strings is about as useful as a brick for teaching that age/ability cohort.

I would hesitate to say that it isn't suitable for beginners...the Suzuki Programs I see where I live (California) are very successful in getting kids to started on the path to playing violin. Even the Colburn School has a huge Suzuki program:
http://www.colburnschool.edu/page.cfm?p=1759

From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on March 6, 2013 at 04:27 AM
Re: suzuki as suitable for beginners....well, don't expect to realistically play twinkle the first week! The suzuki approach takes several weeks of introductory material before really getting to the books, which may be what scott is referring to, but all for strings is an entirely different approach. For beginning Suzuki, the materials Sue suggested will be helpful; another approach that works in good tandem is mimi zweig's stuff which you can find online, and bonnie greene's "blue book" which is great for beginning-level supplement.

However...I hope it's not out of line to say, I would discourage you from trying to teach Suzuki violin without training or at least a LOT of experience in that philosophy. I like a lot of Suzuki's ideas and I think it can be very effective, but I think it's absolutely one of the hardest "methods" to teach well...and if not taught well can actually be harmful (hence why scott hates it :) ). I personally don't like the school-structured methods like All For Strings as well for my teaching style, but they are well structured and MUCH easier to teach through, if you're open to something like that. Essential Elements is another one I've had good success with when I want to use something like that.

From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on March 6, 2013 at 04:29 AM
Edit: Sorry, I went through and reread again and saw that you had Suzuki training all the way up, so just take my last paragraph for what it's worth :)
From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 6, 2013 at 06:21 AM
Rebecca, I have a whole bunch of "Pre-Twinkle" stuff up here, if it's any help to you. She'll go faster, at age 9. And you can introduce reading sooner. I'd do enough Suzuki to get her position and ears set, then simultaneously do Suzuki rep along with a method book of your choice. Suzuki for polished repertoire, the method book for something in which you can turn a page a week.
From Pavel Spacek
Posted on March 6, 2013 at 01:28 PM
If I may have the cheek to advise.
William Starr's book The Suzuki Violinist is excellent. You need to buy some school anyway so you may as well check Kerstin Wartberg: Step By Step 1A (brown), 1B (light green). Suzuki Violin School vol. 1 is pure printed music - designed for a teacher who knows what to do with it. On the contrary, Step By Step contains the same repertoire plus preparatory exercises, page for parents, extensive notes and drawings for children to colour. My daughter loves this series and I am so enchanted with it that I recommend it to anyone who asks.

From Scott Cole
Posted on March 6, 2013 at 10:52 PM
"All For Strings (and many other series like it) is designed for students at the 4th or 5th grade level, in a group instruction setting. It assumes that children using the book have already reached a certain level of proficiency in reading, fractions, symbol recognition, and abstraction."

I regularly use All for Strings starting at ages 5-6. If the student has a private teacher, they are excellent. They start at the absolute beginning.

From Gene Wie
Posted on March 6, 2013 at 11:14 PM
I didn't say they couldn't be used to teach students at any age or ability level, I said they were designed to be used for group instruction for students at the 4th/5th grade level. Hence, starting in D major rather than A major (so that they can play together with violas and cellos).

However, using All For Strings for beginners who are smaller in size (as they tend to be below age six), forces them to start playing on the D and A strings, when starting on the A and E strings would make things more accessible. Some kids don't have a problem...ultimately this is about choosing the right material for the student, whether it's a string method, Suzuki books, Barber, Givens, O'Connor, etc.

From Rebecca Sharp
Posted on March 9, 2013 at 04:57 AM
Thank you all for the suggestions!! They have been great in shaping how to go about this and very helpful! I was trying to reply to each one of you, but I couldn't find the feature (i thought it would be just below the post) to do it. How do you respond to individual responses to posts?

I'm looking around for the books to get at a good price (i may just go online) and I'm contacting area teachers to see if they'd let in on one of their lessons (probably someone around the same age as my student and level) to observe! I bought the "All for Strings" at the local music store. I liked what it showed in that book in learning the instrument for the first time as an older student. I"m also pretty limited with finances and it seemed a good price at $4.95.

I used to have the William Starr, "The Suzuki Violinist" and read through it when I was a kid and started Suzuki, but I apparently don't have it now.

So far I've had about 3 lessons with Lydia. At the last lesson, I should have introduced only the first twinkle variation (just rhythm on A and E, not the actual song), I realize that now.
It's just that she seems quite bright and already knows piano(though not Suzuki) and can read music already having some music experience. However, the rhythms are tricky for someone just starting where everything about the violin is new! Now her father took Suzuki violin at about her age too.

I'm thinking about introducing non-Suzuki repertoire at some point, depending how things go with Suzuki,as that was a good point made as well. I'm looking into the Applebaum books and other things that were suggested! Again, all your tips and advice were so appreciated and I'll keep you up to date on how this goes!

From Gene Wie
Posted on March 9, 2013 at 06:22 AM
Shirley Givens' series "Adventures in Violinland" is well thought-out, with extremely clear instructions and creative illustrations to explain concepts in many different ways.

As an alternative to the Suzuki Method, I'd highly recommend checking it out. I attended a masterclass she presented a few years ago where she explained some of her teaching and why she created her system, mainly because of what she perceived as major flaws in the introduction of the Suzuki Method in the US initially. I don't believe that is the case anymore, but it's great to be able to explore different approaches to working with beginners!


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