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Teaching the very young

Teaching and Pedagogy: My strong willed daughter wants to learn violin but she doesn't want to learn all of the basics such as bow hold, etc. She thinks she already knows how.

From Jennifer Sersaw
Posted October 17, 2006 at 06:15 PM

My daughter will be four next month. She has a violin and is starting to show an interest in actually learning how to play. I can't afford to put her into private lessons with a good teacher yet, but since I am a violinist myself, I am starting to teach her the basics. My problem is that she is very strong-willed and doesn't want to learn how to do it. She just wants to do it. For example, she doesn't want me to show her the correct way to hold the bow because she thinks she already knows how. She thinks that because I can play, she can be just like me. She doesn't realize that there is a lot involved and that she needs to get all of the basics right. I know it is hard to teach really young students, especially when they are related to you, but does anyone have any pointers? Thank you so much.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Sersaw

From bill Pratt
Posted on October 17, 2006 at 06:39 PM
Let her royally screw up learning the violin and it will be a blessing. She will go on to be a gifted illustrator, or cardiothorasic surgeon, or entrepreneur.

She's really little.

From Patricia Baser
Posted on October 18, 2006 at 12:45 AM
I have a 3 and a 4 year old. We do violin a little at a time. Practice time usually ends up near bedtime (it's one of their many delay tactics). We have ups and downs. The youngest is just doing the 1st twinkle rhythm on the E with help. We are just starting to try fingers (I hold them down).My oldest daughter can play Hot Cross Buns by herself and part of Twinkle (with help)- we deal with attention issues (Sponge Bob & Dora both rank higher than the violin right now). We relate everything to frogs, since that is what they both love. The bow hand is not a bunny rabbit, it's a frog. We used froggy stickers for left hand finger placement. "Mississippi Hot Dog" is "Froggy loves to ribbit". I bought a little frog at Target for each of them that lives in their case and only comes out for practice. It sits on the scroll when they play and is sad when they don't visit. I also made some cards with things like "tap your pinky on the bow 10 times", "play with a bean bag on your head", etc to add variety. We also have a big foam die we can roll to determine how many times to repeat something. They also take a Kindermusik class and sing in their cherub choir at church. I know they like violin and will develop better attentions later, so I am just trying to go with the flow (and build up good rental credit).
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 18, 2006 at 11:00 AM
My daughter is 7 and I'm also homeschooling her in violin. She had professional lessons last year but didn't get along with her teacher.

The stuffed animals that someone else suggested can be a good thing when you and your daughter aren't getting along as well as you might. My daughter goes through periods where she's very oppositional and then if her stuffed kitty is teaching her instead of I, it goes better. The kitty can tell her things that I can't get away with.

From Jen Thompsn
Posted on October 18, 2006 at 11:44 AM
Just an idea (?) -- try taking away all of the elements, and change the focus. Teach her to hold the bow at random times in the day without the violin around, she will probably be more interested when she isn't focused on the violin and making sound. the reverse is probably true also, learning to hold the violin without bow in the other hand. this should help in teaching fundamentals and learning as few bad habits as possible before you can afford a teacher.. but teaching such a young child is risky as a teacher if they don't know what they're doing, and even moreso for a parent. have her listen to the songs she learns before she plays them.

warmest wishes,
Jenni

From Bechler Sue
Posted on October 18, 2006 at 01:45 PM
It sounds like there may be a lot going on here. For example, a girl-child who sometimes wants to be just like mom and sometimes is struggling to separate her identity. I don't have a real good feeling about you trying to teach her yourself right now. The clash of wills could make the whole endeavor painful for both and eventually distasteful to your child. It may be that your child is actually wanting musical play, not playing an instrument. You could provide a basic keyboard and a box of rhythm instruments, or get into some construction projects like woodblocks, sandpaper blocks and oatmeal container drums, and let her "compose"and improvise. She will pick up the message that at your house, there is a difference between that and actually studying an instrument. Make sure you practice when she can hear you, give yourself written assignments, and mention things in passing like, "I am using my books/DVD to improve my bow grip this week." Your girl is still very young, and there's still time. Luck! Sue
From Elizabeth Smith
Posted on October 18, 2006 at 03:10 PM
Oh my goodness, you have five children under age seven. I admire what you're trying to do. Your daughter may be just a bit too headstrong at age four, but remember that many successful violinists start later-- at 5, 6,7, or even 8. She may need some time to mature in other areas. It could be an idea to cut back on the invevitable clashes for the present and to attempt to return to serious teaching every six months or so (to test the waters) until she's ready.
From Karin Lin
Posted on October 18, 2006 at 04:51 PM
Listen to Elizabeth. :) I also have a three-and-a-half year old who's been playing violin for about 10 months now. She showed interest in that she'd walk around pretending to play the violin (using a cordless phone and a chopstick) and asking me questions when I practiced, and she said she wanted to learn, so we started her on Suzuki. However, it quickly became apparent that she isn't ready for formal training. Some kids that age have the necessary attention span and concentration abilities, but she doesn't. A few months ago, we finally pulled her out of that, and I'm teaching her myself. I've dramatically lowered my expectations on what I expect her to accomplish in a given amount of time, and it's much more play-oriented...we have the violin out for about half an hour but spend probably only 5-10 minutes actually bowing and fingering the instrument. I'm simply trying to keep her interested, and learning---however slowly---until she develops the maturity and motor skills for a more structured approach.

I agree that your daughter might actually want music-related play rather than learning an instrument. There's lots you can do to start her musical education. We listen to music, talk about the instrumentation, about the composer's style, etc. Since she's already reading, we do flashcards for the treble staff. I see this all as building a foundation for future study, rather than being panicked that she isn't actually playing the instrument yet. Good luck!

From Jennifer Sersaw
Posted on October 22, 2006 at 01:40 AM
Thanks everyone for your responses. I am not working with her on a daily basis. I don't want the clash of wills and I do want her to develop her own identity. I do work with her when she wants to though and I have changed from being her teacher to just gently guiding her, and for now it is working. I have some friends that are trying to talk me into really pushing her and getting her serious about it right now (as in practicing everyday and things like that), but like most of you, I don't agree with them. She may not be ready yet, and I don't think I should officially teach her, but I will help her when and if she wants it for right now. If she wants to play violin fine, but if not she can be whatever she wants to be. I just basically let her do it on her own. When she wants to get it out, we do. I am following her lead. As she gets older, we can see what she really wants to do.
From Albert Justice
Posted on October 22, 2006 at 02:02 AM
I think, I would try and be very creative. I liked the idea of about spreading out the elements away from the instrument. But I was thinking of even more separation, like also practicing posture (in playful contexts) without the violin around.

As an adult student, I 'often' have to practice motions without the instrument. You might at least find ways to ingrain motions without her even knowing she was learning similarly--creatively..

And if conflict becomes an issue, de-emphasize conflict and return to play--kid's symphony time stopping in at Mickey D's playland along the way. You can do this, just be creative, loving, and patient.

Good luck. al
Bach gave us God's word. Mozart gave us God's laughter. Beethoven gave us God's fire. God gave us music that we might pray without words.
(borrowed quote from user at Violin Masterclasses)

From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on October 25, 2006 at 03:11 AM
The problem is that by the time she's competent, able and willing to decide what she wants to do, it may well be far too late for her to be a professional. Some vocations, however cruel it is to say so, require an early start - too early for a child to be expected to make the decision entirely on his or her own. If one decides to be a ballerina at eighteen, one's out of luck. If one decides to be a violinist at twelve, one is fighting an uphill battle and has already lost the possibility of starting a solo career by an age at which managers and presenters are actually interested in new talent. Certainly, a late start may still result in success as a member of an orchestra, even a top-tier one. But the door of solo opportunities will be all but shut.

As for your daughter wanting to do without wanting to learn, I hesitate to say what I'm about to, not being a parent (yet). However, while understanding that you want her to develop her own personality, have you asked yourself whether that includes ANY and EVERY personality she might care to develop? A strong will may be a good thing, but can easily make a spoiled child as well. And a child who is taught early that they can have literally ANYTHING they wish for - including the long-fabled "Royal Road to Knowledge", as asked for by some long-dead tyrant - is not exactly being prepared for the hard work, step-by-step learning, and patience that succeeding in the world will demand.

From Karen King
Posted on October 25, 2006 at 05:10 AM
Be the parent! As the mom of a willful child, I can only say with great affection, that the nature of childhood is foolishness. You need to outlast her for her own good. We were foolish at 4 and so are they! That is why they are so darn cute at that age.
They can really drive you nuts though and you don't want a tempermental, petulant child to work with. Consider this an opportunity to teach the work ethic. My family was from Eastern Europe and the luxury was not there for us to refuse our parents request. Willfullness can be a reason or an excuse depending on how you handle it.

The key is that she knows she is "Playing around" without "investing" in it. Otherwise she will have bad habits that will frustrate her later on. She needs to "invest" in working on it. Tell her it is OK to pretend she is playing sometimes, but if she wants to be a musician she must work hard on it. The good news is that she will probably grow out of this phase in a few months. In the mean time, get her in Orff class, baby Solfege or a related class where she can learn rhythm etc. which she can apply later when she sobers up and decides to work. Let her watch videos of good playing etc.

I held my ground in this case and it paid off for my son. She must respect the work ethic that being great or even "pretty good" represents. This is the hard lesson. There is no immediate gratification in violin as in school or many other things that are worth having. She won't appreciate this opportunity until she is in college.

Let her play "air violin" in and only hold the real violin when is ready to work. The violin is not a toy. She must respect it by and earned the privledge.
If she wants to play, just buy her a toy violin to goof around with, but save the real instrument as something very special.

From Gennady Filimonov
Posted on October 25, 2006 at 04:41 AM
I agree with Emil on this one 100%.
In Soviet Union, this was the time when the belt came out, and good practice (as well as who's in charge) was learned the HARD way.................:)
From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on October 25, 2006 at 10:56 AM
Gena, but then again, that was for actual professionally-directed kids. For a kid who's just having fun, I agree with Karen: let her play air violin as my mother was permitted to do at three, when she begged for a violin. But at every stage of exploration, the point should be made that this is REALLY tough and that if you're going to do it at all, you'll not have much fun unless you're able to do it well. And that this, in turn, means actual ::gasp!:: learning things, and working, and discipline, and correct vs. incorrect ways of doing things, and frustration and ultimately (hopefully) TRIUMPH. All that, but in language which is accessible to the kid - language the mother of this girl knows far better than any of us.

Of course, if either the girl or the mother have any hopes of a vocation in music, time will not wait. And both will later regret the crucial years lost due to parental protectiveness, New Age PC mentality, or simple self-indulgence. If the girl's dream is to play with the Berlin Phil, she's gonna have to bite the bullet and EARLY. If she wants to play around, I think Karen has hit the nail on the head: explain that pretend games are fun, permissible and even encouraged. But stress that the REAL violin is not a toy and that if you pick it up, you have to know how to use it.

Lery Slutsky was wonderful about this. I can still hear him saying "Your violin is ALIVE! Why are you choking her neck?" to get me to stop squeezing the neck/fingerboard in the manner of most beginners. He anthropomorphized the violin so effortlessly that I still ascribe sentience and nerve endings to it.

From howard vandersluis
Posted on October 25, 2006 at 02:19 PM
You could do things like put the violin up where she can't get it until she does four practice bow holds (or whatever) for you... But whatever you do, it has to remain light- a game. Usually the sort of "misbehavior" you're describing is a mismatch between teaching style/level and the child's developmental level. She's four, so lay off the intensive, conservatory style technical training and try to think more in terms of what such a young child is going to want from and understand about the instrument. Here's an example- If you wanted to teach her the correct way to hold the instrument, you might be tempted to give her a standard lesson (complete with music stand nearby and you as impatient teacher...)which would probably end in her misbehavior and your frustration, given what you've told us. Instead, taking her developmental level into account, you could suggest to her that you and she walk around with violins under your chins while you dust or something. She will quickly discover that if she wants to copy you, she'll need information from you so she'll ask you how you do it. Since you are her parent, you don't have to worry about getting it all done in a one hour session at a studio somewhere and you can afford some "fun and games" that wouldn't work in a regular lesson setting. For her part, she will get the direct evidence that mommy's way is working better.


... or follow the russian approach and just send her to a gulag if she won't do it right.

From Gennady Filimonov
Posted on October 25, 2006 at 07:42 PM
Howard,
you should read Oistrakh memoirs when he talked about his son (Igor), who had a tough time getting serious about practicing.
From janet griffiths
Posted on October 25, 2006 at 09:22 PM
Just one or two comments.Firstly teaching ones own children is not usually a good idea.Daily practice is however a very good idea,so some kind of daily meeting between child and instrument is a must.Even better if it is at the same time every day.Some children are ready at an early age to learn an instrument ,others aren't.It might be better to wait for a year and restart from the beginning.For me the child must have a desire to make a beautiful sound,if not they are not ready to start.There is a lot of pressure to start children early,but a motivated child who starts later will steam ahead.
From howard vandersluis
Posted on October 27, 2006 at 01:33 PM
Thanks Gennady, that sounds really interesting. Actually, despite what I said in the above post (I was joking a little, and mostly for the benefit of my good "russian" friend emil chudnovsky), I do believe that parents have to make demands on their children to concentrate, work hard etc. I agree that children don't know about longterm consequences of slacking off, so you have to make those consequences visible to them somehow through some nearterm unpleasantness that they can perceive. But it's much better to avoid any of that by taking into account the child's natural tendencies, don't you think? Also, I think that the teacher and the parents have to be aware of what exactly they are trying to teach at any given time. Are we trying to teach discipline? Violin technique? Self expression? My reaction to certain types of misbehavior will be different depending on what I'm trying to teach that day, or that moment, and there are certainly days when the real lesson is about concentration or tenacity or whatever. Most days though, I'm just interested in making the job of learning the violin as easy and as pleasant as possible for the student.
From al ku
Posted on October 27, 2006 at 02:33 PM
howard, i think that is a very thoughtful and factual summary of the challenges facing the teachers/parents. not a slam dunk situation.

one thing i see often is that the teacher does not pay enough attention to the student's way of thinking and insist on doing the teacher's way. that approach may work with very very few kids. although the direction is right, the process is flawed. to change, the student has to start not from the fingertip, the arm, not even the brain, but from the heart. you cannot touch someone without creativity, sponteneity and laughter. knowlege by itself is a bore. how many teachers sit the students down and ask: hey yo, give me some feedback...how am i doing...how can i be fun...how come you are just a star, but not a superstar, my fault or yours :)...

once i read on someone's desk a sign that says: diplomacy is the ability to tell people to go to hell and make them look forward to that trip. a positive slant off that is that the students need to feel that they cannot wait to get better. not because they need to or they must... if they do not have that instinct developed, it is either because the kids should play basketball instead or that the teacher failed.

however, to be serious in violin learning you have to be prepared to sacrifice a "normal" childhood. violin learning is a very very serious torture, i mean, education, so stop lying to the kids that it is a fun activity. it is not just music appreaciation either because you need to acquire some very challenging cognitive and physical skills instead of just passively listening to music for fun. the problem often arises when the parents as well as the kids are not clear or naive about this point in the very beginning. result? the parents and the kids look at each: why are we doing this?!

Emil mentioned a point in one of his posts which i agree very much, that is, there is a dilemma,,,violining at a very young age is no stroll in the park, but by the time when you really want to start learning violin, it is usually too late, possibly definitely too late for a solo career.

believe it or not, every kid and his parents start violining with that solo career in sight :)

From howard vandersluis
Posted on October 27, 2006 at 07:19 PM
Hi Al,

Thanks for the reply! Here are some thoughts-


"however, to be serious in violin learning you have to be prepared to sacrifice a "normal" childhood."

Why? Why does it have to be that way? Yes you have to sacrifice time from other things, but why does 'serious violin training' have to preclude a 'normal childhood' and include angry teachers and nasty stage mothers?

"violin learning is a very very serious torture, i mean, education, so stop lying to the kids that it is a fun activity."

No, not if you use age-level appropriate methods. It doesn't have to be torture until middle school age...

"it is not just music appreaciation either because you need to acquire some very challenging cognitive and physical skills instead of just passively listening to music for fun."

Kids learn many other 'challenging skills' without this sort of 18th century pedagogy and useless torture. Really, violin training of this sort is more like hazing, or maybe 'on the job training' for bad teachers.

"the problem often arises when the parents as well as the kids are not clear or naive about this point in the very beginning."

Yes, perish the thought that anyone would want their kid to dabble in violin playing!

"result? the parents and the kids look at each: why are we doing this?!"

I don't blame them. I'd fire a teacher who didn't take my child's intellectual and emotional development into account.

"Emil mentioned a point in one of his posts which i agree very much, that is, there is a dilemma"

I'll deal with his post later...


"believe it or not, every kid and his parents start violining with that solo career in sight :)"

Nonsense. Actually many famous soloists' parents (and other types of prodigies as well) claim they had no idea their kid would be that good at violin (or whatever), although I know there are others who planned for their child's solo career from before birth. Those parents are truly sick though.

Sorry, the tone is not for you. I'm just tired of seeing kids get mangled.

From Noel Pinnington
Posted on October 27, 2006 at 07:39 PM
I like what you say Howard. Certainly when I grew up in London, many of us learnt instruments - piano, violin etc., from an early age. What our parents had in mind would be that we would grow up like them, able to play and enjoy music.

My grandparents regularly sat us round the piano and accompanied us singing. Most of my relatives played some instrument reasonably well, some of them played very well indeed and one was a noted composer.

Just one of my friends, however, had talent and the will to became a professional soloist - a very successful one, but the rest of us became adults who enjoyed playing music. That was certainly what our parents had in mind when they paid for our music lessons.

And it is what I have in mind now paying for my young daughter's violin lessons.

From al ku
Posted on October 27, 2006 at 09:16 PM
howard, thanks for the reply and no need to worry about tone when dealing with issues with me:)

going to be a challenge to reply reply...

"however, to be serious in violin learning you have to be prepared to sacrifice a "normal" childhood." Why? Why does it have to be that way? Yes you have to sacrifice time from other things, but why does 'serious violin training' have to preclude a 'normal childhood' and include angry teachers and nasty stage mothers?
--because as you said, you have to sacrifice time from other things, which by itself, is abnormal. abnormal not in a negative sense, but a deviation from a routine commonly accepted for a kido. this is not a play on diction, but a real potential social dysfunction if not managed well.

"violin learning is a very very serious torture, i mean, education, so stop lying to the kids that it is a fun activity." No, not if you use age-level appropriate methods. It doesn't have to be torture until middle school age...
--my setup is half joke so take it as such. you sound reasonable and experienced, but what the heck is age level appropriate methods, asks joe or jane? in fact by middle school, kids are more comfortable to say,,,NO, i hate violin.

"it is not just music appreaciation either because you need to acquire some very challenging cognitive and physical skills instead of just passively listening to music for fun." Kids learn many other 'challenging skills' without this sort of 18th century pedagogy and useless torture. Really, violin training of this sort is more like hazing, or maybe 'on the job training' for bad teachers.
--don't they have to pay dues before we take them into our fraternaties?

"the problem often arises when the parents as well as the kids are not clear or naive about this point in the very beginning." Yes, perish the thought that anyone would want their kid to dabble in violin playing!
--tell them the bad news first, that it is a tough task and only hard work will make it easy.

"result? the parents and the kids look at each: why are we doing this?!" I don't blame them. I'd fire a teacher who didn't take my child's intellectual and emotional development into account.
--there you go again. joe and jane say, huh?

"believe it or not, every kid and his parents start violining with that solo career in sight :)"
Nonsense. Actually many famous soloists' parents (and other types of prodigies as well) claim they had no idea their kid would be that good at violin (or whatever), although I know there are others who planned for their child's solo career from before birth. Those parents are truly sick though.

--the key words there is : they CLAIM, as in i want my johnny to play ball so that one day he will grow up as a handsome benchwarmer.

From al ku
Posted on October 27, 2006 at 08:04 PM
noel, you are my idol. not joking.

in your opinion, taking all violining kids and their family of this world into consideration, in your estimation, what percentage is like your family in terms of treating music gently and lovingly?

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on October 27, 2006 at 08:41 PM
Greetings,
al I think your thoughts on this are very good but I do respectfully disagree with one thing you say, although it may be in the wording.
Leaning the violin should be fun. It is real fun.When I teach young kids they work like crazy and they have loads of fun and we laugh all the time. And this is done in such a way that the fun becomes a compnenet of their personal practice. And I keep the parnets in the room and have them particpate in all the games I play until they remeber how to have fun until they stop getting inthe way of the child by being to serious.
Of course, every teacher is differnet, but all the major studie son how effective earning ocucrs of recent years idnetify fun as a major component of practiicng (and dare I say performing). It is right up there with speciif golas that are neither too easy or too hard. The ind was designed to play and on the whole that is what the human race has tended to lose.
Go to a conervatoire of music and look at the faces you see in the corridors. Peek throuhg the doors of the practice rooms. Everyone is so bloody serious, and almost everyone is making a virtue out of not having fun. That is one of the unspoken facotrs why at best aartisanship is achived by the majority.
I"m off to play,
Burble Burble
From al ku
Posted on October 27, 2006 at 09:02 PM
buri, thanks for being lenient:)

the original question calls for the "very young", not necessarily young but very.

we may all orbit differently on that one, but i would venture to say it is in the age group of 2-5, in which some some 3 act like 5 and some 5 act like 3.

that is a group that really does not have its own voice or have its voice that we neglect to listen to, a group most parents and teachers do not really know what to do with. so, we stuff a violin in their face. fair?

and we tell them, my dear little munchkin, this thing is called violin,,,if you practice age appropriately it will be fun.

From Jennifer Sersaw
Posted on October 29, 2006 at 02:57 AM
I do believe that the age of 3 or 4 is far too young to push a child into being something that they will be for their life i.e. a solo violinist. I think that the child has to want to do that, and if they want to do that, it will happen. She is doing really well and is extremely intelligent for her age. She has this problem in other areas as well so it is just an uphill battle that we are working through. She is homeschooled for now anyway and is already learning how to read. She is just a child that wants everything to come naturally without having to work to get to it because so many things do come naturally for her. She has an excellent memory but sometimes doesn't want to challenge it. I will put her in private lessons later when I can tell whether or not she has a genuine interest in learning how to play, but for now, she is doing fine and we are making it a fun experience without pushing her one way or the other. She doesn't win though. She usually doesn't get her own way. I just don't want her to hate the violin. At a young age, I want to instill a general love of music which she has and I will just let her grow from that. She loves to sing as well, so who knows what she may do with music in the future.
From Susan D
Posted on October 29, 2006 at 07:03 AM
Well, here's the perspective of someone who was unsuccessfully taught by her own mother (a professional violinist), from 3 years of age. I loved the violin itself, and I loved music, but I couldn't tolerate being so unable to play. My mother's example made me want to *play* the violin, not want to *learn* the violin. I'd scratch away at the strings, fast as I saw her do, not really understanding why it didn't sound right, because it *looked* right.

Perhaps if she had spent some time playing very simple, slow things and demonstrating how to learn step-by-step, I would have seen that there is a track across the huge plain between incompetence and musicianship?

A child imitates what it sees, and if mummy is usually brilliantly zooming through fast pieces, then the child also wants to play fast and furious. LOL, I was even desperate to own a black dress, to look like mummy going off to work! It was all about imitating what I saw, not necessarily what she *told* me during lessons.

Regarding bow-hold for example - do you let her observe you always carefully, and slowly, step-by-step, taking the bow up for your own playing? Not just during a lesson, but whenever she is watching you play? And perhaps talking yourself through some simple things really slowly, so that this is what she begins to imitate?

I'd be very interested to know whether this works.

From Albert Justice
Posted on October 29, 2006 at 08:08 AM
I just finished re-reading this topic, and besides gaining some education myself, formed a question...

Jennifer, you did not say what level you play at, or what are your hopes/expecations for your child. My comments for instance, focused on music of the sake of loving music. Others were music for the career minded. Can you expand on this?

And are you simply trying to underwrite her interest, or actually get her formally started on the violin?

And how are you doing with it now? regards, al

From al ku
Posted on October 29, 2006 at 12:52 PM
to look at a kid's readiness to start learning something seriously, it is more accurate to assess ability than age. each kid develops differently due to genetics, environment, and local water:) on the average, 3-4 yo is too young for anything structured. however, each kid in our household is not necessarily the average and thus he or she may need to be treated individually which is difficult because there is no precise template to compare books with. for that matter, in a house full of siblings, often we see wide discrepancies.

i do agree that no matter what approach to take, we cannot make the kid hate something which is an indication we have crossed the line.

to be fascinated by something versus to really be able to sit down, focus and go through sometimes rather boring or unpleasant drills separates kids who are ready to take on something seriously or not. i see some merits in starting very young on piano instead of violin in that regard.

unless 2 families have very very similar values and ideas on how to raise their kids, it is often very difficult to accept even some basic common grounds. if the kid is in tears, have we pushed too much? if the kid shows low interest, shall push more or acknowledge what we see? the teaching style always takes on the personality of the adults nearby. i do find susan's experience quite unique. usually it is the other way around. on one side, we have parents who put the kids interests ahead of their own. on the other, we have parents who put their careers ahead of anything else. then we have the majority who try to joggle everything and wish we have more brains and arms.

whereas there are ample examples in other fields of starting something late and eventually being on the top of the game, in violin, i have yet to come across top performers who have started lesson late. may be there is just so much to learn and the only short cut is to start early.

From Maura Gerety
Posted on October 29, 2006 at 02:53 PM
I started violin when I was three. From then up until I was about ten, my "studies" and "practicing" consisted of winging it, playing 'practice games' my Suzuki teacher would come up with, and learning to play stuff by ear, for fun, and not very thoroughly. Then my next teacher started introducing etudes and focused practicing, which like any sane kid, I fought against with tooth and claw. I continued to muddle along, somehow improving my playing along the way, and to be perfectly honest with you it's only in the last three or four years that I've really started even caring about etudes, discipline, focused practicing etc. Basically what I'm trying to say is don't worry if a really little kid doesn't want structure. It comes with age and maturity. If the kid loves violin, let her muddle along, have fun and improve "on the fly" for a while, until she's old/mature enough to work more seriously.
Ignore the stories you hear about tiny little Sarah Chang or Maxim Vengerov who practiced 8 hours a day when they were six. That happens maybe twice a generation. :) Most kids are normal.
Best of luck!
From Jennifer Sersaw
Posted on October 30, 2006 at 02:37 AM
I do some playing professionally but I am not ready for the demands of lots of orchestra auditions. I was not taught via the Suzuki method which I thinks can make a difference in how we think about the study of the violin at least that is what I have noticed. I was a violin performance major in college, but for now, besides some jobs -- solo or orchestra -- I am pretty much a full-time mom and play in a quality volunteer community orchestra. I started playing the violin when I was nine; however, I come from a family of career musicians and I started music on piano when I was five. I studied violin from the very beginning with a former member of the Virginia Symphony. I was one of those students that got up in the morning at 5 and practiced an hour or so before going to school. By the time I was in middle and high school, I was years (ability, technique, etc) above my peers though never a prodigy. I know the violin very well especially when it comes to technique so that is why I won't just let my daughter hold the bow any way she wants. I don't think she is ready to start studying so until we know what she wants, we just are going by what she is currently showing interest in and are letting her develop her own individuality. If she ends up wanting to really learn the violin then great, but if not that is ok too. I am not going to push her.
From Albert Justice
Posted on October 30, 2006 at 04:43 AM
I was just curious--besides, it sounds like you have figured it out pretty good to me.. I think I agree.

I think about how I use to play on piano, then play piano, and only after a lot of years, matured to where I truly 'played' the piano without trying to express some other layer of where I was in terms of maturity. Uh, think rock-n-roll.

I'm still saying a little personal prayer that God will keep the family tradition going for you... Can't help myself--it's all about the music.

peace,
al


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