Adult student specifying the method to be used - thoughts?

Edited: August 14, 2017, 12:31 PM · I am curious how the teachers here would respond to an older adult student who specifies the violin method that he/she wants to be taught from. I can understand parents relying on what the teacher recommends for their child method. However, a motivated adult can easily preview the various methods out there, including public domain methods from years ago and come to a conclusion on what will keep them motivated to practice.

In my particular case I came across the Doflein method at the suggestion of George Wells, a frequent contributor to this site. The selection of music suits my taste and I like the rigor of the method and the way attitudes or positions and use of the fourth finger are stressed from almost the first lesson. The Bang, Auer and Suzuki methods left me unmotivated. Of course, the teacher would be expected to supplement the chosen method with etudes and other repertoire as required.

Replies (61)

August 14, 2017, 12:31 PM · Although I am not a violin teacher, I can clearly see this:

Being an adult beginner is itself an obstacle finding a teacher in some parts of the country (world). Insisting on a particular, lesser-known method does not help the situation.

Edited: August 14, 2017, 12:53 PM · I agree with Sung Han. I'm an advanced adult student and have taught a couple of young and adult students in the past due to the shortage of teachers those days. I would say that the method of teaching depends very much on what kind of teachers are available to you. Just as you won't ask someone who practices traditional Chinese medicine to work on an open heart surgery, it's not reasonable to expect a teacher who is deeply rooted in the tradition of Russian, Soviet or Franco-Belgian to teach Suzuki without having had proper Suzuki training. I would argue that teachers who are teaching the methods beyond their expertise are taking the risk of being irresponsible, unless it has clear understanding between the two that they are doing an experiment.
August 14, 2017, 1:09 PM · Very few teachers work strictly from a method book; even Suzuki teachers who are teaching kids will frequently use other material also.

Also, Doflein is frequently used to supplement, but it's rarely a primary method book.

You will find that most teachers have a particular way that they like to start students, and they may have a set of exercises that they've designed or curated themselves, that they'll give you to work on.

In terms of repertoire, they'll probably ask you what you style you want to play. It's common to assign pieces from the Suzuki books because they are well-curated and readily available. But easy tunes from other sources, including non-classical sources, are pretty common as well. (By and large, though, Twinkle Twinkle to start is nigh-universal.)

Choose a teacher and discuss with them what you believe will keep you motivated, and provide constant feedback about whether or not you understand what you're being instructed to do, and how well your practice sessions have been going.

I think sometimes adult students treat this like any service that they are buying, no different than calling a plumber. It's not that. It's more like an apprenticeship.

August 14, 2017, 1:31 PM · I think it is inappropriate to be seeking a teacher then dictating the material covered, speaking as a student and a (not a violin) teacher.

Doing this is worse than calling a plumber to fix something that you are unable to fix yourself. It's telling the plumber what to do when you have no idea yourself what to do, or even what the problem is...

That said, my teacher is utilizing that materials that I already have on hand and asked me to get a few additional items/books for our work together. I happily complied. (I'm a returner, so in a slightly different boat than yourself.) Everything that she has recommended I do thus far has dramatically catapulted my progress forward, if we had been working together "under my terms" (aka chosen method, whatnot), I'd be all the worse for it.

As a student, I would never presume to tell the expert (my teacher) what material/method I want to practice/use.

As a teacher I would tell the to-be student that my teaching methods have been honed for years and you can take them or leave them.

After all: you don't know what you don't know, and you need to have faith that what your teacher is teaching you will lay the foundation for years to come.

Besides, the end goal is one and the same with all of these methods: to produce thoughtful, smart and "good" players. No matter the "method" chosen, there will always be periods of time where motivation may wane and you have to rally yourself to remain motivated and interested - same as any other pursuit. The solution to these periods of time are to look inward and see what you can do to change, and communicate with your teacher what is going on with you.

I agree with Lydia - this really is more like an apprenticeship.

Edited: August 14, 2017, 3:44 PM · My choice of the word "specify" was way too strong and definitely not what I intended to be a discussion between me and my potential teacher. I think Pamela M better phrased my intention of a discussion where I lay out the materials I have and make my point about which methods include materials that motivate me. Of course, the teacher is the expert but perhaps stretching his/her teaching method into new areas would benefit both of us. Perhaps this is not the case for some teachers with a very fixed syllabus. I can certainly understand that.
August 14, 2017, 3:45 PM · If you can find a teacher who teaches a wide variety of different music styles, could you request that you learn Doflein pieces along with other teacher-suggested work? I think it's perfectly acceptable to request learning of particular music, as long as your teacher says it's not too hard for you. However, requesting a specific method of teaching seems inappropriate.
Edited: August 14, 2017, 7:21 PM · Ideally, the teacher you trust should know the most appropriate method to get you as far as possible as a violin player. One thing that turns a lot of teachers off is the way in which adult students question everything (speaking as an adult student myself .)
Edited: August 14, 2017, 5:47 PM · I'm also intrigued by OP's statement that "The Bang, Auer and Suzuki methods left me unmotivated". I wonder why would that be? Method is only a tool. It's the application of a tool makes the difference in its effectiveness.
August 14, 2017, 7:14 PM · I would find it difficult to work with a beginner who came in with no prior experience and expected to tell me how to teach him. I would be particularly irritated at a suggestion that perhaps using the specified method would benefit my teaching.

Best approach would be to bring in your desired books and *ask* me if I thought material from them could be *incorporated* in the lessons.

It is the teacher, far more than the choice of method, who makes the difference.

Edited: August 14, 2017, 7:36 PM · Im not sure but I think its an interesting idea. The student, in such a case, already knows herself or himself and is basically telling the teacher "this is how my mind works best" not that this method is necessarily a better or worse one than the one/s the teacher uses. How to balance between this and the idea that the teacher is already a rich source of ideas and material?

plus, Ive ready many good things by experienced teachers here about the Doflein books. However, its a bit upsetting to practice solo one's part of the duet and only get to actually play it with someone else during the lesson with the teacher.

Edited: August 14, 2017, 7:49 PM · In this case teaching method is a chosen book and set of materials, and not necessarily related to how the teacher teaches themselves.

I think that's an important distinction.

It really would depend on how they broached the topic. If they walked in and demanded to be taught using whatever method then the teacher probably isn't going to appreciate that.

If you ask the teacher if they would be willing to work from a certain set of materials you might find more success.

Beyond respect for authority, it comes down to the teachers experience with the chosen materials and their comfort with the way the information is relayed. When I teach guitar students I have a strong preference for Noad's Solo Guitar playing. If you come up to me and *tell me* I'm teaching you using something else you can get lost. If you ask me if we can use this other method for whatever reason - maybe you've already started on it with someone else, like the choices of music, etc - then it's a bit more negotiable. On the other hand, if you show up with something that is completely inadequate or is very far removed from my comfort zone I'm going to ask you if you're willing to work with materials I'm more familiar with. I'd be happy to obtain a copy of whatever it is you're using and we can work on some selection from it, but I wouldn't use something I wasn't already comfortable with as a core 'text' in teaching.

Most times a teacher will use a set method for a reason. They're comfortable with the method and will be able to teach you best from material they know well. They can't teach you something they don't know, and while most teachers can probably make any method functional, you're not going to have as good an experience as if you would have let them teach what they know best.

Tammuz,

As for duets, the solution is to either, as a teacher make available a midi/recording of you playing the accompanying parts, or allow the student to record you playing them themselves.

As the student, you can always play one part, and then play the other with your own recording. This is very useful in that you are forced to fix your counting, or else you'll suffer greatly trying to do it!

Edited: August 14, 2017, 8:44 PM · As Lydia said "I think sometimes adult students treat this like any service that they are buying, no different than calling a plumber. It's not that. It's more like an apprenticeship."

And as Mary-Ellen said "M · I would find it difficult to work with a beginner who came in with no prior experience and expected to tell me how to teach him. I would be particularly irritated at a suggestion that perhaps using the specified method would benefit my teaching.
Best approach would be to bring in your desired books and *ask* me if I thought material from them could be *incorporated* in the lessons.

It is the teacher, far more than the choice of method, who makes the difference"

A teacher in some way, is like a doctor, the method material is like the medicine prescribed and the overall approach is like a doctor's methodology. If you want an alternative medical practice, go to a doctor who already does that. Or try to teach yourself and see how far you get. It's not Dolflien as such that I object to, but the OP's arrogance of presuming to dictate to the teacher. In other respects, a violin teacher is like a martial arts teacher; if you want BJJ, don't go to an Akido teacher; if you want Kung-Fu (of which there are actually many styles and systems) don't go to a Karate teacher. And how presumptuous to say that the teacher might also benefit from trying your approach!

Recently two women approached me to teach them both at the same time but preferred country fiddling. I tried to patiently explain to them that while I played just a bit of it myself, as well as lots of different kinds of pop, I am primarily a classical player and totally a classical teacher. I told them that now-a-days most non-classical violin players that I've seen, be it pop, American country fiddling, Celtic, etc. have had classical training and that I could tell this just by looking at them for a second or two. I told them that with a classical technical training they could eventually take it where they wanted on their own. I also said that while there is nothing wrong with square-dancing, don't approach a ballet master and expect him to teach it to you. Well, so far they're coming back and seem actually fascinated with the challenges of my fundamentals of properly holding the violin and bow, etc. as well as learning to read music.

August 14, 2017, 8:46 PM · The empirical evidence is overwhelming. Generations of accomplished violinists started out as obedient children and followed the formula of listening to their teachers and diligent practice.

There is no evidence that the practice of "coming to your teacher as equals" would result in any level of measurable success when it comes to the beginning stage of learning to play the violin.

Edited: August 14, 2017, 10:25 PM · "However, a motivated adult can easily preview the various methods out there, including public domain methods from years ago and come to a conclusion on what will keep them motivated to practice."

This shows a marked if unintentional disrespect for the level of expertise and experience possessed by a good violin teacher. It isn't something a motivated amateur can match by simply "previewing" methods.

August 15, 2017, 4:42 AM · The OP said the Suzuki Method left him unmotivated. Did he really try the Suzuki Method? Or did he just try to play pieces from the Suzuki books? I agree with Raphael. It's a bit like going to your medical doctor with a lump in your neck and asking him to recommend only herbal remedies.
August 15, 2017, 5:57 AM · I bought three of the Suzuki books. They weren't initially recommended to me until I showed some interest in local community orchestra. Unfortunately there isn't an orchestra I can make it to here.There are session opportunities.

The introduction of Suzuki is a good solid approach to the classical mindset and I think this is a one of the best methods to start with.
Even if I hadn't seen the value in it though, I would always defer to what my teacher thinks is best.

I can't speak for James, only for myself. With Suzuki, I don't think it's really the techniques being taught. It's more the approach intended for young children. If you could teach Suzuki in an adult way I don't think it would be so much of a turnoff to some adults. IOW translate it to us.

Being taught beginning Suzuki reminded me of attending extra college courses and everyone in the room is 20 years younger than you are.

August 15, 2017, 6:22 AM · The whole issue about method books without even having a good teacher working with you is doing things completely in the wrong order. A good teacher can teach you even without any method book: They can write down the suitable material for you to work on if necessary to begin with. They can even make you write your own exercises, if your teacher thinks you are so talented, just like what Henning Kraggerud's teacher did when he was a student. Like a lay person reads medical textbooks or legal journals, what a beginner thinks he understands about these method books and what actually he does often have very little resemblance.
August 15, 2017, 7:01 AM · Wow! Well I asked how the teachers out there would respond to a hypothetical "discussion" between a potential student and teacher about using a method. This discussion never really happened. It is clear that most teachers would not welcome this discussion from an absolute beginner. But some here brought up that they were returners or had prior musical experience and this might add a different flavor to the discussion. I'm in that group having used the methods by Noad, Guiliani, Carulli, Carcassi and Sor among others, during my time learning classical guitar. I consider myself a beginner on violin but I can read complex music and have clear ideas about my musical taste.

I'm a bit surprised that some took this idea very personally and have impressed on me as the OP some quite unflattering characteristics for even bringing up the possibility of this discussion: "This shows a marked if unintentional disrespect" ,"The OP's arrogance of presuming to dictate to the teacher" I wanted a flow of ideas but lets not make it personal. I have the greatest respect for all of you.

August 15, 2017, 7:32 AM · Wow, the OP completely missed my point and cherry-picked one statement that is not applicable to his situation whatsoever.

I don't know what part of, "everything that she has recommended I do thus far has dramatically catapulted my progress forward, if we had been working together "under my terms" (aka chosen method, whatnot), I'd be all the worse for it", the OP misunderstood. But I have to reiterate as both a student and a (other subject matter) teacher: as a BEGINNER you must follow the teacher's foundation laying plans. You are not in charge, you are the student. You are going to your teacher to learn from them, not to dictate how they teach you.

I cannot imagine going to my teacher and telling them what method I prefer they use, what with the implied arrogance, entitlement and blatant disrespect for the teacher/master and their expertise. I'm sure they would tell me that they were too busy to teach me and I'd never see them again. I too would not work with a student like that.

And, even though I am a returning student, never once have I dictated to my teacher my preferred "method" or materials used. That is their job, not mine. Had I been a beginner student, I would have said, "tell me what I need to get and I'll get it". No questions asked or arguments brooked.

I'm going to turn the tables here: when you learned classical guitar, did you dictate which methodology you initially learned from? Or, did you learn one way, then build on that and expand your horizons as you gained more experience?

Isn't there a Chinese saying something to the effect of: if you want to know what lies on the road ahead, ask the person with the bloodiest feet? Experience counts. Defer to the person with experience, because you have no idea what lies on the road ahead.

Re: musical taste and previous instrument experience - this is a conversation to be had with your teacher. I see absolutely nothing wrong with going to your first lesson and saying that you would love to be able to play some point along your path as a player. This way, you and your teacher are on the same page re: your musical tastes and goals, and you can then be the willing and obedient student.

August 15, 2017, 7:58 AM · My teacher welcomed all suggestions, we had a great partnership equally open minded to each other, but ofc. the teacher was guide in our travelling together.

I asked my teacher for directions to make the best progress. She helped me in those directions, but at the same time encouraged me to play pieces that i enjoyed most.

At some point i had found a Hans Sitt etude and she enjoyed it as a melodic etude and found the quality to be good as a tool to learn certain technique. She did however say that if i didnt enjoy playing it i should rather find a piece more compelling to me. I did...

In all meeting between people i find that the relation is basis for everything else.

excuse my english

Edited: August 15, 2017, 8:52 AM · @Pamela - I bought the part for my washing machine repairer before he turned up. He was amazed I managed to get it over the net for 1/4 of the price he could!

Speaking as a piano teacher with over 25 years in the business, it would be a poor teacher indeed who couldn't work with any method. Though they may have to say from time to time (as I do) "I disagree with this (or that)".

Edited: August 15, 2017, 12:21 PM · During the 40 years I taught I never found a set of books that brought students to a practical level of playing faster than SUZUKI I found these books about 10 years into my teaching "career" when some Suzuki students were transferred to me. I always supplemented Suzuki with other works as I thought each student needed them. I am too old to have been taught by the Suzuki method, or from the Suzuki books - but the books at least have much of I the material I had as a kid studying violin at the Manhattan School of Music - and from other private teachers before that - and they provide a carefully thought out progression for building the technique of beginners of all ages. There is much other music that can be used to supplement the pieces in Suzuki - if that helps motivate progress. One that I loved to introduce very early on was the fiddle tune "Devil's Dance," a blue grass piece that uses the same notes learned in the first few pages of Suzuki. I think the students liked it because it sounds like a far higher skill level than they have actually attained.

I listened to the musical desirs of adult students and would follow them as mush as possible, because when i had been a cello student in the 2nd half of my teens my teacher "taught' me those works I wanted to learn after I had heard him play them in concert (I had been in the accompanying community orchestra). Without that I probably would never have learned to play Kol Nidrei or the Haydn D major Concerto at that age. When I say "taught" I actually mean "helped me learn," because that it is the way it works when the student is a competent sight-reader on the instrument being played.

However, I would never follow the advice of a beginning student who wanted me to teach from a method book because he had liked what he heard others say about it. I might look into it, I might use parts of it as a supplement if I thought it would help.

One thing I have learned in this life - from my own ignorance and observing that of others - we really don't know what we don't know! Still learning it! Wish more people would!

Edited: August 15, 2017, 10:15 AM · The difference between humility of children and arrogance of adults is probably the major reason why many teachers advoid taking adult beginners.

With all due respect to guitar players, the violin is much harder to play in the beginning stage. Anyone can pluck a guitar and, if the instrument is in tune, get something that sounds agreeable. It takes YEARS to get a violin sound agreeable.

August 15, 2017, 10:25 AM · David Zhang "The difference between humility of children and arrogance of adults is probably the major reason why many teachers advoid taking adult beginners."

As an adult beginner, I have to say that this is just uncalled for and unfair.

Edited: August 15, 2017, 10:55 AM · Let us not generalise.
I know psycho-rigid teachers and students, and also empathetic ones!

And David, I have been complemented on the tone of my beginners (amongst those those who do what I show them, of course!!)
Reliable intonation can take a few months, though.

August 15, 2017, 11:07 AM · "I'm a bit surprised that some took this idea very personally and have impressed on me as the OP some quite unflattering characteristics for even bringing up the possibility of this discussion: "This shows a marked if unintentional disrespect" ,"The OP's arrogance of presuming to dictate to the teacher" I wanted a flow of ideas but lets not make it personal. I have the greatest respect for all of you."

You asked how a teacher would respond to a certain approach, and more than one of us gave you the same answer. It isn't personal to you, it's pretty much how most teachers I know would respond to anyone coming in like that. I'm sure your intent was different from how it came across, but when you get the same reaction from different people, perhaps you need to reconsider the approach.

I am really not sure how else I could respond to such a question other than how I, as a teacher, would react.

Edited: August 15, 2017, 1:23 PM · The expression "The OP's arrogance" is unfortunate. How about "Many teachers would find such an approach arrogant." ?
August 15, 2017, 12:58 PM · I think you might get along much better if you "suggested" rather than "specified" and explained to the teacher what you like about it as you have to us. Then y'all can have a discussion about your goals and the teacher's approach and come to a mutual conclusion. As an adult student you do have to have mutuality, I think: you absolutely also have to trust the teacher once you agree to lessons with them but that doesn't preclude discussion/input from you. I think it's just your terminology of "specified" that's off-putting bc most of us have had students that thought they knew best and nobody wins in those cases :/

FWIW, depending where you live, I teach adults and I like Doflein :)

August 15, 2017, 1:05 PM · S.P. I think you might be the first person to have ever enjoyed an etude by Hans Sitt. I think his are about the worst. (Okay well maybe Alard's etudes are worse, but he was apparently one of Sarasate's teachers so he gets a pass.)

Coming back to James's question, I think reactions from teachers will vary. If someone gets huffy with you because you said you'd like to learn from a particular method book, then you can either acquiesce to their methods or go on to the next teacher.

August 15, 2017, 1:54 PM · To me, it sounds like the OP would best benefit from someone who is just starting to learn to teach. He's getting all these responses from experienced teachers who already have established the methods they're most comfortable with, whereas a brand-new teacher is still looking to explore different methods, and also would be less insulted when the OP tried to teach them how to teach. I know of students who are still in high shool or perhaps just graduated who would work well with the OP (I'm being quite serious, not facetious).
Edited: August 15, 2017, 2:05 PM · Well, if that's not the most patronizing! Many of the comments are just what I would expect of people who spend most of their working lives alone with children. Sheesh, get a life!
August 15, 2017, 2:09 PM · I realize that once a topic gets long, many responders don't read through all the responses before adding their input. I posted the following as the fifth reply (see above) to clarify that my intention here was for a discussion.
·
"My choice of the word "specify" was way too strong and definitely not what I intended to be a discussion between me and my potential teacher. I think Pamela M better phrased my intention of a discussion where I lay out the materials I have and make my point about which methods include materials that motivate me. Of course, the teacher is the expert but perhaps stretching his/her teaching method into new areas would benefit both of us. Perhaps this is not the case for some teachers with a very fixed syllabus. I can certainly understand that."
Edited: August 15, 2017, 2:40 PM · "Of course, the teacher is the expert but perhaps stretching his/her teaching method into new areas would benefit both of us."

This is the sticking point. Please believe me when I say this with all due respect. Please do NOT present a preferred teaching method to an experienced teacher with the comment or even unspoken attitude that it might benefit *both* of you. This is probably where most of us are taking the most exception. You are presuming (whether intentionally or not, and I believe you are not being intentionally presumptious) to know how to improve someone's teaching in a field that is their area of expertise and most emphatically not yours.

I don't have a syllabus that is fixed in stone, and I do engage in dialogue with students. But there needs to be a fundamental understanding that I know more about how to play and how to teach the violin than my student does, or there's no point in having lessons.

Edited: August 15, 2017, 5:44 PM · OP, please define "method." It sounds like you are referring to a sequence of pieces with supplementary exercises. That in itself is not a "method."

If you want to suggest to someone ways to teach, I'd go with Erik's idea to find an inexperienced teacher.

Actually, many good teachers don't teach straight out of a book (following a rigid sequence). They tailor their teaching to the individual and supplement with books and other materials. There's a huge variance in what each student needs to work on. It's the teacher's job and expertise to evaluate that, and to prioritize that for you.

So even if you think you would benefit more from a particular "method," you can't make that determination. You don't have the expertise to understand what you need to work on the most and when. A book might say, let's start using the fourth finger. Well, it's likely that your teacher can see right away that something fundamental in your posture or hand needs work first. So they will assign other things to build you up. If you don't correct those issues from the start, you may be in for a long, tortured road of bad habits and delayed progress. Trust your teacher. There's a reason why they teach the way they do.

Edited: August 15, 2017, 6:38 PM · OP - you seemed taken aback that so many teachers have reacted personally to what you said. When you say not to make it personal and to keep it hypothetical, I have to say that I find that disingenuous. You obviously are talking about yourself and how you might approach a teacher; it's not some theoretical "what if". Once again, as others have said in different ways, the teacher is so much more important than any particular materials or method books that it's not even funny.

If a student comes to me with a little bit of background and brings a book that I normally wouldn't use, I'd typically work with that book for a while before prescribing something new. I have my preferences but I've yet to come across a method book that didn't have some rhyme or reason. That said, however, it is entirely up to ME to decide what we will use and when - especially in the early stages.

Again, a medical analogy: if I'm looking for a new doctor I will try to research the credentials, training, experience, hospital affiliation, etc. I'm not going to come in, inspired by one of those obnoxious tv commercials about this or that medication with more dire or even fatal side effects than benefits and say "Give me, give me, give me" at all, let alone before the doctor has a chance to say "open your mouth and say 'ah' "

August 15, 2017, 8:26 PM · Unfortunately, many patients do believe doctors should give them what they want because they did some online research or it worked for their uncle's friend, or what have you.
August 16, 2017, 1:54 AM · There is only one way to teach, and also to learn, and that is the EASY way. The difficult way is always a disaster.
August 16, 2017, 8:49 AM · I’m going to come to the defense of the OP, a bit. I started violin after college, and I’m very grateful that my first teacher started me with the Doflein books (and shortly after added some Kreutzer and scale studies). I found the musicality of the exercises to be engaging and the duets appealed to my fascination with chamber music. The books don’t have silly childrens’ cartoons and the tunes don’t sound like they were written ‘down’ to children. After all, as a beginner, learning violin is humbling enough ! The Doflein exercises have interesting folk motifs, various modalities, and some very 20th C melodies. I think I had fairly developed musical tastes when I was 22, and the Doflein books appealed to my tastes and rewarded my work. If you look at previous threads on this site regarding the Doflein books, I think you will find notable enthusiasm.
Look at it another way. If the OP had said he wanted to find a teacher who uses the Suzuki books, would the same admonishers insist that he not look for such a teacher but accept whatever method the teacher normally uses? Or would they encourage him in his quest to find a teacher who would use the Suzuki books.
Of course, it is the teacher, not the exercise books, that is more important. But I’m glad my teacher took into consideration that she was teaching an adult.
Edited: August 16, 2017, 9:09 AM · Rob,

My take is somewhat different from yours. The quality of Doeflein is not the point here, although the availability of teachers who use the book is relevant. That is, Suzuki teachers are much more numerous in U.S. so that would be less problematic than Doeflein.

More importantly, many posters, esp. violin teachers here have issues with OP's "specifying" what books to use to the violin teacher, based on his very limited (to the point of non-existent) knowledge about violin playing.

August 16, 2017, 9:17 AM · "Isn't there a Chinese saying something to the effect of: if you want to know what lies on the road ahead, ask the person with the bloodiest feet?"

This is why Americans prefer to walk a mile in another person's shoes. 1. you'll be a mile a way 2. you'll have their shoes 3. you won't have bloody feet. Ironically, though, said shoes are likely to be made in China...


Personally, I think there are aspects of teaching beginners that are just as important as the method book (many of which I've found are very similar in the tunes they use and technical progression--more similarities than differences): posture, bow hold, finger placement, control over contact point and sound.

For example, I've had many students, both experienced and beginner, come to me having never been told EXACTLY where the right pinky contacts the bow. I teach it to contact on the side as per Galamian, and I know that some teachers say to have it on the very top, which I disagree with. But the point is, many teachers just don't really make it clear one way or the other or give a good reason. And pinkie placement can be critical to the entire use of the and development of the bow arm. I can give a student a well-reasoned explanation. So I'd say that a beginner should look not so much at the method being used, but the teacher's understanding and explanation of the biomechanical principles at work. I would be suspect of a teacher that said "well, that's where I was taught to put it." There's a logical reason for each of these postural principles. And we should be able to explain why.

Edited: August 16, 2017, 9:54 AM · Scott,

This is off the topic, but the Chinese proverb does not say anything about the "bloodiest feet". The straightforward translation I found is this: "To know the road ahead, ask those coming back." "bloodiest..." seems a vulgarized version.

Edited: August 16, 2017, 10:24 AM · This truly was a hypothetical case as I clearly stated a few times. I used my liking of the Doflein method to give an example context to the discussion and provide an alternative to the ubiquitous Suzuki method. I also twice defined the use of the word specify to mean a discussion or if you like preference but some people don't read the whole thread. Nothing I can do there.

It is not really relevant to the discussion but many are interested in my status as a violinist and some are even assigning me progress levels. I'm starting book two of the Doflein method which I think puts me past the stage of being a violinist having "non-existent knowledge". I can also open my copy of O'Neill's one thousand eight hundred and fifty Irish tunes and play the tunes by sight reading them. Granted, they are nearly all first position but it's well past the twinkle twinkle stage. Perhaps to some here, this level of progress still puts me in the absolute beginner stage. I still think of myself as a beginner.

Anyway, thanks to all who have replied. It's been very enlightening and I appreciate everyone taking time from your busy day to contribute. I think I'll confine any future topics to the "choosing the best E string" variety so I don't ruffle any more feathers. ;)

August 16, 2017, 10:55 AM · Scott, I heftily agree with your analysis of absolute specificity in lessons, although my personal observation has been that many students benefit from starting with the pinky on the top of the bow (as it helps them to better physically grasp the planes involved) and then graduate to the side of the bow once their motor skills properly understand how the bow functions. If a student is ABLE to immediately adopt the side-pinky, then of course that would be ideal. I notice that with many brand new beginners, if I try to start them with the side-pinky, it either encourages a locked-out pinky or a straightened thumb.

I figure it's similar to how with very young students, we must start with them with the "monkey grip" in order to develop traction in the player, and then evolve their grip as motor skills and cognitive reasoning increase.

August 16, 2017, 11:16 AM · This is an interesting discussion because I'm coming from a unique situation. I'm a professional musician but amateur adult violinist. I take the violin quite seriously and practice 1-4 hours a day. I also have tremendous experience working with well known non-classical violinists, and I've always listened to violin music and read books about violin.

I was mainly taught from a friend of mine in the Netherlands who comes from the no- shoulder rest and Auer bow grip school. That's how I've been practicing for many months, but since he lives in another country, we don't see each other as often as I 'd like.

He told me to try to stick to his way of playing, and I said I'd give it a try but I felt that I needed regular lessons. He told me to go ahead and find teachers but that he would make certain predictions:

-Teachers would forbid me from using the Auer/Russian grip
-Teachers would forbid me from playing without shoulder rest

I went to one teacher, who said that if I continued with the Russian grip I'd have health problems and that the Franco Belgian way is the superior way. He also said I needed to play with a shoulder rest.

I went to another teacher who said it was OK for me to use the Russian grip but that if I played without shoulder rest which he recommended, that I need to raise my left hand shoulder. My friend from the Netherlands told me to NOT raise my shoulder or I would have problems down the road.

It seems everyone has a different idea of what's good and/or bad. My Dutch friend says that for what I want to do (play jazz music), the Auer grip is the easiest one since I'm mainly going to be using simple bowing.

It is extremely confusing as an adult violinist to hear all these vastly different opinions.

For now I am sticking to what my friend taught me as it's what I've doing the longest. But where I live, everyone uses Franco Belgian, and almost every teacher uses a shoulder rest. I did finally find a teacher who was familiar with the Russian grip and said it was OK for me to keep using it, so I'm hopign that this is the teacher that I can stick with.

August 16, 2017, 11:26 AM · Again, I would like to defend of the original poster:

While I will re-iterate that the right teacher is more important than which exercise books are chosen (I like Scott’s recent comment), maybe most important is the mind of the student.

And I think this guy has the right attitude toward learning violin.
I’m impressed that the OP is taking a fair amount of responsibility for how he wants to study violin.

He’s done good research on the various exercise books.

He’s chosen a very well respected ‘method’ – the Doflein books – for the good reasons he’s stated.

He’s asked your opinion – with a certain degree of modesty, I think.

If he had chosen some disreputable set of books, I could understand the amount of resistance in the responses, but I see nothing wrong with his choice or for the reasoning behind his choice.

I see this guy being a very engaged student, one who works hard, is self-motivated, will constantly be asking his teacher and himself what he should be doing and why. For an inflexible teacher, he would be a pain in the butt, and I doubt he would hang with that teacher very long, but he just might be a great student for talented teacher.

August 16, 2017, 11:32 AM · Love to teach him piano!
August 16, 2017, 11:50 AM · Sorry, but I ran out of patience to read all of these responses. OP, just get to it. You need to do everything, so anything is good right now. "If you don't think to good, then don't think to much."
August 16, 2017, 12:04 PM · I personally like to feel some freedom in learning.Some of the comments feel restrictive and narrow.

I need to feel it flows and is fun. I like the approach of those who mix it up a bit. IOW please hit me with the technical stuff, just do it in an untechnical way and not too much :). If this is like math class my eyes glaze over.

Another trait of a good teacher I suppose.Teaching children would probably be the best experience! Adults are just big kids who think they know a thing or two.

August 16, 2017, 8:24 PM · Are you a teacher, Rob Bigelow?
August 16, 2017, 8:30 PM · I'm not a teacher.
August 18, 2017, 7:16 PM · You mentioned 4 method books in your original post. Other than Suzuki, most of them are older methods that are not used as much anymore. Did you also check out Essential Elements, ABCs of Violin, Sassmanhaus, Sound Innovations, Fiddle Time, Barbara Barber's materials? As a teacher I put a lot of time and effort into researching and trying out various methods and pieces/etudes. I do own copies of the first 2 Doflein method books and while they are well thought out and have some good music, I generally dislike teaching beginners from books with little 1-2 line pieces, (I prefer having students learn and polish longer pieces) and much prefer Suzuki for this reason. For adult beginners (and some kids) I usually supplement Suzuki book 1 with a method book that has some written out instructions since most adults like to try to figure some things out on their own. I usually use ABCs of violin for this because it progresses with a similar sequence of techniques to Suzuki.

If I had an adult student who really wanted to use a particular method book for some reason, I would probably let them try it out, but as other posters have mentioned, they will probably not get my absolute best teaching simply because part of what makes my teaching methods work is my choice of materials and pieces to teach techniques and musical concepts. I can teach with any reasonable method book if I need to (and occasionally do, especially with students in school orchestra programs) or even a mismatch of orchestra music, but some books/pieces offer a more efficient route to good technique.

August 18, 2017, 8:10 PM · What you do and how you approach your lessons is your business. But from my personal perspective, I will tell you that I never told my teachers what technical material I preferred to be taught, even after studying for over ten years. I would have considered it presumptuous. If I study with a teacher, it is because I respect them and know for a fact that they know more about the subject than I do. I want that teacher to convey to me their unique approach. And part of that approach is the materials he or she chooses, and how he or she teaches said materials. For instance, if I could go back in time and study with Ivan Galamian, I wouldn't tell him I want to study Sevcik with him,even though I use Sevcik myself; I would want him to teach me Kreutzer, Rode, Gavinies, and his scale system, because those were core to his particular approach. That's my two cents.
Edited: August 18, 2017, 8:39 PM · Most ideas can be expressed if we find a productive way to express them. It may be a little less presumptuous if you bring the method books to your teacher, express your interests in them and ask for his/her opinion. I certainly have brought books and various ideas to my teacher with whom I've been for almost 10 years. Of course, we have known each other very well and we freely share our thoughts and explore options together all the time.
Edited: August 18, 2017, 9:07 PM · After reading more, I think the OP simply is hoping to ask the teacher if he could assign certain materials because they really motivate him. I don’t really see a problem with that question in itself (so long as he delivers it in a non-patronizing way). A teacher could say yes, or they could say no. The OP could ask why but he should respect that decision and not argue with it.

To a lot of teachers, “method” is not the same as “method book.” That’s part of why people are reacting so strongly to the OP's comments. Teaching methods/approaches are very personal and extend far beyond books. Also, the way the OP is wording things is a bit like saying to a friend, “Let's discuss how you could go on Weight Watchers to benefit both of us.”

So, don’t do that. Instead of saying, “Let’s discuss how you could use the Doflein method to teach me,” say, “I came across the Doflein method books and I was really drawn to the music and explanations in it. I hope to learn some of that music. How do I get there?” Explain your enthusiasm about the music. Don’t talk about a teacher’s “method” and don’t make it be about them. Don’t talk about how you want to “improve” their teaching.

Most people won’t be offended if you just say you are excited by Doflein (leave out commentary about your teacher's choices). I think some teachers will take that as a cue to assign you some materials from Doflein, actually – since they want you to be motivated too.

August 18, 2017, 11:27 PM · So much to read.

Bbut the Auer method ;(((

. Honestly i doubt id have anything to add after all of what was mentioned.

Look at the Kodaly method i suppose.

Imslp has all the books possible there.

Methods aren't mandatory. I learned up to abrsm level 8 in 13 months with my Egyptian teacher.

Students are different teachers are different.
Play for yourself.
Don't aim for paganini, i do not recommend it. The pain might be too much from thirds and tenths.

Play for love, play for beauty t, play to heal thine soul :)

Edited: August 19, 2017, 7:55 AM · Frieda and others: I never considered that using the word 'method' could mean anything other than a set of published method books. I can clearly see Frieda's point that it could be construed by some to mean the teachers method of teaching. My mistake and I'm very sorry if that was the meaning taken by many of you. I also meant my comment on helping both of us to mean the teacher gets a willing student to try out a set of unfamiliar method books on and I as the student get to use a method set that i already like.

Ingrid: I did not purchase the ABC's book although I did prereview it and essential elements in a music book store. I came away seeing them as more for kids or perhaps teens just starting out. Something about Doflein compels me, perhaps it is playing a Bartok duet before i even see twinkle twinkle. One method I enjoy playing to is Wohlfahrt's Easiest elementary method (Op 38). It is nearly all duets but the students part have a nice sound by themselves and it's freely available. I didn't dare offer it in my options because I expected nearly every teacher would dislike it.

August 19, 2017, 7:13 AM · Wolfhart is standard stuff. I did them when I was little.
Edited: August 19, 2017, 8:17 AM · I can also see it from the teacher's point of view. From a general point of view, she or he has invested (and continue to do so) time and effort in choosing excercises, études and so on. From a more student-centric point of view, they analyse the playing of each student and propose specfic exercises. So there is a general narrative they've worked on, a general chain of études and musical pièces...and there is individually tailored interventions to undo the specific knots of the individual student's playing.

This is not an easy job. So I can see why there would be questions about just incorporating more "unnecessary" (as perhaps seen by the teacher, seeing that they alreadyhave so many resources of their own) material that needs time to be internalised and rationalised.

However, teachers amongst themselves do probably benefit greatly from discussions of what they deem is most productive and efficient, in terms of literature used and lesson structuring. And one can see this happen here.

I also agree that some literature is targetted specifically towards children. this is evident from the tunes chosen all the way to the visual presentation (perhaps more cartoonish illustioations, playful fonts, more colour, more space between the lines..all of which will probably be viewed by an adult as superfluous and discouraging. So it won't be fair to force that on them either.

Also, there is no feeling of navigating from one distinct method away to another if the teacher uses in one lesson or within the span of several lessons Doflein (for the theoretical underpinning and the duets (good for intonation)), Wolfhart (for the études to inculcate coordination, agility, complexity of particular bowings or fingerings) AND a Suzuki book (for the musical content, the ability to memorize a longer piece, stamina, marriage of techniques that the student may well be Learning at that time from the other books) to teach. that puts a question mark on whether any one of those are singular, insular "methods" that should be pursued linearly and seperately without converging.also, it becomes evidence of the teacher's own method that she or he has constructed over years of experience.

Finally, suppose you find a not-s0-good teacher who teaches from Doflein and a good teacher who uses Suzuki (or the other way around). Best to choose someone with good technique and can teach good technique no matter the literature used.

August 19, 2017, 8:30 AM · This is somewhat off-topic, but Ahmed Al Taweel wrote, "The pain might be too much from thirds and tenths." Anyone who is in pain from thirds is doing something seriously wrong.
August 21, 2017, 2:13 PM · Hi Everyone,

I've been busy with preparing the music for the beginning of the rehearsal season, caught a break, and came across this thread which cites me.

Interesting responses and as a person who has been a teacher of adults (albeit not of music to adults) I see that there is a lot of deeply held opinions.

James left out part of the story. He contacted me directly about Doflien and I gave him my reasons for liking it over the other "methods" and/or books that I have tried. He bought a copy of book one, tried it, liked it, and then showed it to his teacher. In a follow-on message James informed me that his teacher was not convinced until he saw the Bartok duets in the book. That changed the teachers attitude toward the idea of incorporating Doflien into James' lessons. No, he did not, to my knowledge demand his teacher to use Doflien.

Of course, this brings up the whole issue of how to deal with adult beginners (like I was 40 years ago). Adults are going to do many things that children won't - like look at alternative stuff and have ideas of their own. Simply put: "Do this because I told you to..." doesn't cut it with adults. Also adults aren't motivated by the same things. Playing an open-string rendition of the base melody of: "Oh Mother I Can Tell You" (a.k.a., Twinkle) probably won't elicit the same grin that it does on children that cannot even read.

Of course it all comes down to motivation. What motivates one person (regardless of age) turns off another. I personally like Doflien and when I select the young aspiring musician that I will teach, I look for somebody who hungers to understand how things work. Doflien works well for them because it answers a lot of those questions.

No, I don't teach anyone who comes to me. My criteria are that the person must really want to play the instrument, have an inquiring mind that seeks a deeper understanding of everything and has a family that simply cannot afford lessons. Being over 70 allows me to be a curmudgeon and be opinionated.

August 23, 2017, 6:36 AM · "This is somewhat off-topic, but Ahmed Al Taweel wrote, "The pain might be too much from thirds and tenths." Anyone who is in pain from thirds is doing something seriously wrong." If it's physical pain, I'd agree. Psychological pain, on the other hand....

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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