Taught my first class, feeling overwhelmed, need advice on teaching complete beginner!

September 24, 2017, 7:24 AM · So i just finished teaching my first student. Shes 12. I started with some warming up exercises to stretch her joints a bit and then told her the parts of the violin and the bow.

I then told her the names of the strings and then showed her the rest position, and then the standing posture for playing (make a V, take a step out) I then gave her the violin and showed her how to place it on her shoulder. I pointed out the button of the tail piece and how that should go to her collar bone area but she didn't seem to be able to keep that position, it looked like she was just keeping it there since I was telling her to. Her head wasn't putting it's weight on the chin rest And throughout the class it kept slipping down to the point where her chin wasn't even resting on the chin rest and the violin was just resting on her shoulder.

Do I just keep reminding her to hold it right? She does the same with her bow hold, and keeps bending her thumb and pinky finger instead of keeping then straight.

I got her to play the e and a strings towards the end of the class. I held the bow above her hand and guided it up and down and then had her do the same and she did that reasonably well. It did go off to the side a few times but not too bad.

I told her to go home and practice her bow hold on a pen or a stick until she buys her own violin in a few days.

Now my concerns are whether this is normal for a beginner. Am I moving to fast? I don't want to bore her but at same time I want her to get her basics right. I will obviously have to continue fixing all the mistakes she makes but do i halt progress till then? I was thinking of moving to simple fingering in the second class but should i not do that until she gets the holding right? I feel like that will bore her too much to lose interest in playing.

She was very happy though that she could bow the strings and asked me to show her how to play a song but i told her that comes later on.

I guess my main worry is, am i doing this right? Teaching is so much more difficult than i expected it to be. Im looking for any helpful advice when teacing a beginner. (first time shes playing any instrument)

Replies (51)

September 24, 2017, 7:32 AM · You can get some good information about starting a beginner at Michael Hopkins website. http://stringtechnique.com/
He is a professor at Univ. of Michigan and is head of the music education dept.
September 24, 2017, 8:28 AM · Before you can teach a beginner how to hold the violin properly, you need to make sure the setup is correct for the child. Does she need a shoulder rest (most do), does she have the right shoulder rest for her body, etc.

Re the bow hold, I have good success using the Suzuki beginner bow hold at first--thumb under the frog instead of on the stick (makes it easier to keep thumb bent and fingers curved.

Pictures of correct holds are a useful teaching tool.

If this is your first time teaching a beginner, have you observed other teachers with beginners? I recommend observing as many lessons as you can.

September 24, 2017, 9:18 AM · The OP wrote: "She does the same with her bow hold, and keeps bending her thumb and pinky finger instead of keeping then straight." ???

Neil

September 24, 2017, 11:14 AM · Look out for videos and paper documents from lessons from Suzuki teachers, Paul Roland, or Kurt Sassmanhaus. And doubless many others.
Edited: September 24, 2017, 11:53 AM · OP's student is age 12. Depending on the student, it might be helpful to look at a variety of resources on teaching, including those geared toward older students or adult beginners.
September 24, 2017, 1:01 PM · I'm not trying to make things more challenging for you than they already are, but there's one important matter not yet addressed in this thread. Was it your 12-year-old pupil's own idea to start violin lessons -- i.e., is she self-motivated, as opposed to parent-motivated? My guess, with someone 12 y/o, is that the kid herself wanted to have lessons. But …?

If violin lessons were, in fact, her own idea and she wants to learn, then you're at an advantage; but if not, you may well have a significant deadweight working against you already.

September 24, 2017, 1:33 PM · I agree with Jim, if the young musician is doing this because she wants to, the largest problem has been resolved.

Stay human, you, and your student, will make mistakes. That is inevitable and you need to be as gentle with yourself as with your student. Maintain an environment where it is OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Finally, playing the instrument must be fun. If this does not bring you joy, why bother?

Edited: September 24, 2017, 3:04 PM · From your past posts, OP, you're apparently a self-taught player with a bit less than 5 years of playing under your belt, doing pretty well for being self-taught (emphasis on that caveat). You posted your Soundcloud previously (LINK) and your intonation issues have a degree of consistency that suggests that your left-hand placement is problematic.

If I were you, I would really spend some serious time with pedagogical books that show proper set-up, both for your own benefit and for your pupil (whom I assume you are teaching for free). Simon Fischer's books are a great place to start.

Unlike other people who teach the violin, you don't have the benefit of having spent years working with a competent teacher who would normally serve as a model for how to teach well.

September 24, 2017, 3:28 PM · Violin is hard because there are a whole bunch of delicate things going on at the same time. My own hunch is that if there was no shoulder rest, then this was your biggest problem. Biggest in the same sense as the brightest star in the night sky.
Edited: September 24, 2017, 3:41 PM · Given Lydia's post, and the fact that this is your first student ever, you are really jumping into the deep end here. Beginners are among the toughest to teach for a beginning teacher, even for one who can play quite well. An intermediate student would be easier to start with, but based only Lydia's description you may be intermediate yourself, so I don't know how well this would work. Could you possibly pass this girl onto a more experienced teacher?
I understand that this may or may not be possible, depending on where you live, and the girl's financial situation. I understand that you may really need the money yourself. But beginners really deserve the highest quality instruction they can get. You are laying down foundational habits, and if you instill bad habits, she will be fighting an uphill battle trying to compete against peers who have done it right for much longer than her. Please, if at all possible, stop teaching her.
September 24, 2017, 5:42 PM · Paul I think that yes these are normal things to happen with a beginner. As other people said, its best to ensure that she gets the set up she prefers, regarding the chinrest and shoulder rest. (I also hope that she should be playing with the right violin size) All these can be adjusted, and the utmost goal is to keep the student relaxed and make sure that she does not stretch all those muscles around the neck, the arms etc.

The idea with the pencil is really good, and I would suggest that she keeps doing those exercises even when she gets her own violin and when she is not practicing (for example while watching tv or something, if she wants)

I think that you should constantly and patiently remind her what she is doing wrong in a calm manner. These things need time. You can go along with exercises with string changes and then gradually add some left hand fingering and teaching the first position. Simultaneously with the latter, you can work on some simple songs. Since she is old enough you can ask her while she progresses what she likes to play, and offer her a simplified version if the song is out of her reach.

I assume that you are her only music teacher so occasionally you should mention a few things about music theory.

Now regarding some thoughts posted here that stem from the fact that you are "apparently self-taught". Well I personally have no clue about that. Say that this is true, what I can get from the link posted, is sheer enthusiasm. Sometimes it's the main thing that beginners want to see from their teachers. Music is all about motivation, enthusiasm many emotions and feelings. A beginner that would maybe play "twinkle twinkle little star" or a simplified version of their favorite song in their first few months, simply don't care if their teacher can play the Paganini capriccios along with their morning coffee. Of course there can be issues with the technique but I am pretty sure that they can be addressed later on.

And everybody on this planet deserve the highest quality instruction that they can get, not only beginners. But what it the highest quality instruction? It could be many things, and in my humble opinion technical expertise and teaching years could be on the very bottom of the list.

Keep us posted.

Edited: September 24, 2017, 6:18 PM · Thank you guys so much for all the wonderful replies!

Lydia, I went back and listened to my old sound cloud recordings and I've really improved over them thankfully. For example this is Mozart's violin concerto 3 (just the first minute) I recorded 1 year back.

https://youtu.be/ES0En2Fn-l4

Yes the student wants to learn the violin herself and it was she who pressured her mom to start the classes. Lieschen, I would pass her to another teacher if I could find one but western classical isn't realy a part of my country so there are very few teachers and most of them in the big cities.


September 24, 2017, 6:21 PM · Neil, I mixed them up while writing here.

I meant she curves her thumb out rather than keeps in and her pinky flexes fully

September 24, 2017, 6:34 PM · Paul L, I think you've done amazingly well for someone who is self-taught, but the video makes it clear that neither your left or right hands is aligned the way that they should be. The left-hand position in particular is what makes your intonation unstable.
September 24, 2017, 6:44 PM · After watching your video, to echo previous posters, you aren't ready to teach.

Teaching when you're out of your element will only create frustration and a sense of failure for your student. You don't ever want to do that to a child.

September 24, 2017, 6:50 PM · I'm sorry, but to my mind, whatever anyone else says, you should not be teaching - and especially not beginners. Unless one has had professional teachers one has no idea how the violin is taught.

I know that is blunt, that is simply how it is!

September 24, 2017, 7:11 PM · Is that because I'm sitting down in a bad way? In this video I'm standing up, do tell me if the left hand is still a problem here

https://youtu.be/VhfvNTslZsI

September 24, 2017, 7:42 PM · Yes, this isn't quite fair (I can't play like her either!), but, I think it is still demonstrative none-the-less:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-mA9OMP3DE

Compare and contrast just the left hand position.

Edited: September 24, 2017, 7:52 PM · OP, whoever studies with you will not get to where she needs to go. You need to stop teaching. I am sorry.
Edited: September 24, 2017, 8:49 PM · Normally I would be the first on the "OP should not be teaching" bandwagon. But Paul does not live in a western country and has said that violin teachers are few and far between, and only in the cities. The odds that his student will progress to conservatory level are zero, but few of my students will get there either. If a 12-year-old girl living in a nonwestern country wants to learn the violin and there are no qualified teachers within reach, which is worse? An autodidact like Paul, who it must be admitted has done really well for himself without a teacher--yes, I see and hear the deficiencies also--or no teacher at all and no violin lessons? The student isn't going to become a professional either way but maybe she can learn enough to enjoy playing and bring pleasure to herself and others, just as the OP does.

One also has to admit that many "violin teachers" in western cities are not much more qualified. I have seen and heard things that would curl your hair. Kids barely out of high school who were not remotely close to conservatory level themselves hanging out a shingle as a "Suzuki" teacher; sweet ladies who were never properly taught themselves but have been the neighborhood violin teacher for sixty years, and so on.

If the OP lived in my city, I would be imploring him not to teach. But he is apparently the only option for this girl, and he cares enough to ask questions. She could do worse.

September 24, 2017, 8:51 PM · Totally agree with Mary's post. 0also very impressed with your ability to teach yourself Paul L.
September 24, 2017, 8:51 PM · Totally agree with Mary's post. 0also very impressed with your ability to teach yourself Paul L.
September 24, 2017, 9:06 PM · I agree with Mary Ellen on this, but I also think that Paul L should try to figure out what the right physical approach is so that he's not teaching a student his own problematic position.

Your left hand should essentially be parallel to the fingerboard, and you need to relax the whole hand; the tension is visible.

Your right hand is holding the bow well above the frog. Fiddlers sometimes manage with that hold, but a classical player's hand should be at the frog. Your elbow is much too low, and your wrist is too high.

Edited: September 24, 2017, 9:41 PM · I have a lot of respect for Mary Ellen whose argument is sound and persuasive. I however have to disagree in this case.

The idea that there is no qualified violin teacher (for a beginner) within reach in an non-western country (of about 1.4 billion people) is not convincing and may even be offensive to some.

The OP suffers from a number of serious issues on both the right hand and left hand that are obvious even to an middle-aged intermediate player like me. How can a beginning student move forward to her fullest potential with such a teacher?

September 24, 2017, 10:32 PM · David Zhang, I agree. I think the larger question becomes: What accounts for the success stories of those who emerge out of the countries you wouldn't expect, and how did some of the countries which typically produce good players get that way? Is it happenstance? Talent?

I once met a violist who was studying at Colburn conservatory, one of the most selective schools, who was from Azerbaijan. He said that there wasn't much going on in the way of classical music in his country. Now I don't know the full details, but he had to make it over there somehow, and it didn't happen when he was 5 either. A more famous example is the pianist Joey Alexander from Indonesia. Obviously there wasn't much Jazz piano going on over there and he came over to the US after he had been recognized as having lots of potential.
How did China become such a hub for classical music given the circumstances of the cultural revolution? How did Venezuela get El Sistema to work so well given its economic situation?

I think we need to think more in depth about this.

Edited: September 24, 2017, 10:42 PM · I can think of large chunks of area in my own country (USA) where finding a qualified violin teacher for a beginner might be difficult if not impossible. Most of Alaska, for example; parts of rural Texas, or for that matter rural stretches of any state large enough for one to be hundreds of miles from the closest major city. I don't find it difficult at all to believe that the same might be true in another country, particularly one with a large enough area so that many people do not live within easy reach of a major city.

Furthermore, many many violin students where I live do not get private lessons at all, either because their families cannot afford them or because their families do not prioritize them (most often the former). For these students, their only opportunity to learn violin is through the strings classes offered by their public schools. Many of these classes are taught by non-violinists (cellists, bassists, even wind players at times). This is far from ideal and I guarantee that few if any of these students will have an opportunity to move forward to their fullest potential. So should we eliminate strings programs from low-income school districts on the grounds that the children cannot possibly learn violin properly?

Most students are not going to move forward to their fullest potential, either because playing the violin is only one of several activities they may enjoy, or because they refuse to practice effectively or sufficiently, or because they do not have access to a fully qualified private teacher. Is it really all or nothing? Are we really going to say that students may only be permitted to study the violin if they are taking private lessons from a qualified teacher?

I have been accused of being an elitist at times in my life, possibly with some accuracy, but I don't think this set of circumstances merits the purist approach. Let the poor girl do what she can with the violin. She won't be going to Juilliard, but neither will most other violin students, and at that (and based on Paul's videos) she is likely better off than public school students in large after-school string classes taught by band teachers or college sophomores.

September 25, 2017, 12:06 AM · I feel like i should really mention the cultural aspect that affects this situation.

Parents here want their children to engage in co curricular activities and often enroll them in football/cricket classes or piano and guitar classes. Some of them enroll their children in western classical violin classes. They dont do this for their children to become great violinists but for their kids to do something other than studying so they have a holistic/well rounded life. There is very little scope for western classical music since there is only one professional orchestra in India. I would agree 100% with everyone telling me not to teach if I was teaching Carnatic or Hindustani classical violin since the scope for that is vast and there are a lot of institutions that give students many opportunities.

The most people do with the ability to play western classical violin here is play for friends/ youtube/ or if they are really involved and passionate make string quartets with their friends (though finding a competent cellist is nigh impossible.)

I will work on my own deficiencies as a violinist but i feel like the notion that im ruining the opportunities of this girl is kind of faulty since there are no serious opportunities for western classical music here.

I started playing violin since my family has a history of it going back to my grandfathers' father and possibly before on both sides of my family.

Its not like the country is dead in classical music though. There is a vibrant scene, its just that the focus is on indian classical.

I dont charge that much (even going by local standards) For eight, 40 minute classes a month I charge 500 INR which is around $7 ($1 per class)

But i will definitely work on my own skill as that is a continuous journey for me!

September 25, 2017, 12:56 AM · Hey Paul, send me a message. If you have the ability to videoconference through your web browser (I use FaceMeeting.com), I'd be happy to connect a few times and offer you some assistance and feedback to help you with your student. In doing the preparation work, you will also find opportunities to develop your own playing as well.
Edited: September 25, 2017, 1:41 AM · I recall reading somewhere that David Kim (current CM of the Philadelphia Orchestra) commuted by plane to Manhattan every two weeks by himself as kid of about 10 to study with Delay. He has parents who were likely immigrants with very little resources BUT knew the importance of being taught by the right teacher. Geographical distance was not an issue.

Why should a girl of 12 in India simply settle with being taught by someone who is manifestly unqualified and destroy her own chance of becoming a decent player?

Edited: September 25, 2017, 4:35 AM · Once again I'm with Mary Ellen on this one. The answer is "Because some help in person is better than no help".

The OP's technique is functional enough to have fun with. Even if she ends up with the same problems, it's not impossible to play that way. If the OP wanted to become a serious classical player, he'd be facing months if not years of meticulous rehab work with a good teacher. The same is likely with the girl. But she'll be more skilled than if she weren't taught at all.

In the US and the rest of the developed world, most people aren't enrolling their kids in violin lessons for them to become future musicians either. They're burnishing future college applications and giving their kids exposure to culture -- the well-rounded kid effect, just like the OP describes his situation.

Do you know the kind of money and commitment it takes to fly a kid to New York for regular lessons? You don't make those investments unless a kid is already exceptional, very advanced, and thoroughly committed to the violin.

Normal people begin with the neighborhood teacher, or maybe even the public-school program, and rarely want to drive more than 15 minutes, maybe 30 minutes at the most, for lessons. And that's people with cars who have the leisure to haul their kids to things. Good luck if you're dependent on public transit or both of your parents work and they don't have the money to hire a nanny to chauffeur their kids around.

Edited: September 25, 2017, 8:13 AM · Mary Ellen is right -- there definitely are places where it's hard to find a violin teacher. For a lot of families, even a one-hour drive once a week can be hard to manage.

My own feeling is that the OP would do well to set Mozart aside and get himself a few books of studies (Wohlfahrt, Dont Op. 20, Mazas, Schradieck). He should go through those very patiently, watching himself in the mirror to correct his fundamentals. Paying close attention to how his hands feel to unwind the tension that's there. He's a young man and has time to do all that, and it will turbocharge his technique. If he can afford a few Skype lessons with a pro, so much the better.

In your video of the Mozart, just to consider a couple of spots, bars 53-54 (G#!) and of course at bar 60 your intonation is quite unreliable. (Mine isn't spectacular either so don't feel offended.) What happens when you work on a piece beyond your real level (and I have experienced this many times) is that you solve the local problems of each passage "by any means necessary". So if you picked apart the intonation at bar 60 you could probably force your fingers into the right spots, but what you are looking for is a general scheme for improving the reliability of your intonation overall so that each such passage that you encounter comes more naturally. The other thing is that you may have practiced it the way you're playing it so many times that your ear is convinced that it's good enough or possibly even that it's correct. That's where scales and scale-based studies come in ... they continually calibrate your ear for intonation and they help you set the muscle memory for the finger positions that go with all of the combinations of half notes and whole notes. That's what you don't have at bar 60, and you're not going to get it by working on bar 60.

Edited: September 25, 2017, 5:03 AM · David Zhang, commuting by plane to Manhattan every two weeks is far from having very little resources.
Its like you're saying rose pink is a likely shade of blue.
Edited: September 25, 2017, 5:14 AM · If I were living in India I would not send my 12-year-old daughter to an airport by herself.
September 25, 2017, 6:16 AM · OP, what is the availability of Carnatic or Indian classical violin teachers in your area? There are violinists with that training who have standard technique and could probably teach Western classical, too.
Edited: September 25, 2017, 7:47 PM · Many assume that the 12 year-old girl faces the choice of the OP or nothing. I don't. She is not going to look for a qualified teacher if she thinks she has one!

I know a qualified teacher is hard to find. I happen to live in a part of the US that if I was told in grad school this is where I would spend my academic career, I would be "stunned to silence" ( this is a Mary Ellen quote that stuck with me).

When I first returned to the instrument last year, my lessons involved a significant commute to a city 200 miles away. I was thankful that i was able to join this past summer the local studio of my current teacher who has advance performance degrees from Indiana University and studied with a student of Galamian.

I refused to accept that my choice was someone unqualified or nothing.

September 25, 2017, 9:10 AM · There's a lot of Carnatic/Indian classical violin teachers but the playing style is just way different. See this video to get an idea on how different even the hold is-

https://youtu.be/rPT1VMBhSuY

Also, with the money that I get from these classes, I definitely will buy those scale books from wolfhart and the other ones that were mentioned since I want to improve myself.

September 25, 2017, 9:12 AM · It is not really encouraging to see that in this day and age it is not completely understood that not everybody has the same opportunities, the same means and the same funds.

Therefore, I don't really get the purpose of suggesting overseas flights for a beginner's lessons and comparing Hilary Hahn's technique with somebody's who is trying to help.

Edited: September 25, 2017, 10:32 AM · Hermes, IT has always been understood. Completely. Some of us do NOT accept IT!

Frankly, nothing is more elitiist than to tell someone she should accept sub-standard products/services because she lives in a "third-world" country.

Edited: September 25, 2017, 10:37 AM · I get that there may not be opportunities to learn western classical music, and obviously, neither you nor your student will become professional violinists. Even so, I'm not sure what your student is getting out of this. Her parents are paying for music lessons, and you don't have a grasp of the fundamentals of music. I don't know how this is contributing to her being well-rounded.

A concern for me is that I can read the frustration and insecurity in your original post. I work with children for a living, and I don't think it's right to set a child up for failure. As you progress in your lessons, you don't have the teaching skill to explain what you want. She's not going to be able to follow what you tell her, you'll get frustrated, she'll get frustrated and eventually quit.

Children blame themselves for the failures of their teachers. She could spend the rest of her life thinking she's just not good at music. It would be better for her to get quality music instruction that teaches musical concepts like rhythm, pitch, expression. She can then take those skills and apply them to western classical if she wants to.

September 25, 2017, 10:36 AM · Hermes,

Inequality in resources hasn't existed since the dawn of time. It's man made, and it's unacceptable. When people like you choose to shrug your shoulders, bask in your privilege, and look the other way, nothing changes. We can't just throw our arms up and accept defeat. That's why some of these posters are trying to suggest alternative solutions for this student and her teacher, and by the way, no one suggested flying overseas.

Edited: September 25, 2017, 12:06 PM · I'm just trying to figure out where all the outrage is coming from for one 12-year-old beginner of unknown talent, living in India (this is relevant only because Western classical music is not ubiquitous there), taking lessons from someone whom we all agree (a) has done a surprisingly good job of teaching himself violin, and (b) is not, by commonly accepted standards, qualified to be teaching violin. Loads of kids in Western countries are also taking violin lessons from underqualified teachers. I would say that this is more the norm than the exception, honestly. And people seem to be forgetting that the vast majority of violin students in any place, with any teacher, are not destined for conservatory or career. They just like to play the violin.

It also depends on the family's values and expectations for the child. For example, one of my children demonstrated exceptional athletic talent at an early age. We signed him up for CYO youth league teams from ages six through twelve (equivalent to putting a child in class strings or school orchestra). We did not pay for private coaching. We did not pay for him to play in an elite travel league. These are things that other parents with athletically talented children do, but we did not do--should we therefore have pulled our son out of CYO sports (with amateur coaches) that he enjoyed, because his developmental opportunities were going to stunt his potential to gain a college athletic scholarship (something we cared nothing about)?

I don't know what sorts of resources the girl's parents have and none of you do either, except for Paul, but it would be insane for anyone other than maybe a 1 percenter to spend the money to fly a child--a BEGINNER--to another city for weekly or biweekly lessons on anything before having any idea of the child's level of commitment or talent. I mean, by U.S. standards my husband and I are relatively well off, certainly not rich, but with enough resources to provide instruments and music lessons for our own children in our own city, but even for us, flying a child back and forth for lessons with an expert would be financially prohibitive and out of the question. If one of our children wanted to learn the sitar and there were no qualified sitar teacher in our city, our child would either get lessons with the local enthusiast who had at least some familiarity with that instrument, or nothing at all.

While I agree that opportunities should not be unequal, the fact is that they are unequal, and insisting on the protocols of a perfect world while living in a very imperfect world is a pretty good way to make sure that nobody gets to experience anything, ever, except for the super rich. I don't see this girl as being any worse off than students I encounter in San Antonio on a fairly regular basis--students whose families cannot afford private lessons, so their only instruction has come from after-school strings in 5th grade followed by the school orchestras in middle and high schools. Are these students doomed never to reach their full potential as violinists? In most cases, yes. Do they enjoy playing? Also in most cases, yes. Should we take away their school violin instruction because it is imperfect and they have developed some bad habits, really? Even if they are enjoying the experience and developing a love of music?

I feel as if I've gone through the looking glass here.

September 25, 2017, 11:56 AM · And to the OP: if you can, I recommend taking Gene up on his generous offer of help.
Edited: September 25, 2017, 11:59 AM · Mary Ellen's perspective is very sane. :-)

David Zhang, your situation is not even vaguely comparable to this child's. You had already been a violinist for some time. You presumably had the time and the money to commute 200 miles for lessons; that requires enormous willpower and resources. (I can tell you flat-out that I would never consider doing that and it still annoys me to drive 30 minutes for lessons.)

If this child's parents decided that their kid -- a late beginner, in a country with little support for Western classical music -- ought to commute 200 miles to get lessons with a qualified teacher, I would consider them to be crazy.

Indeed, I would consider that to be crazy for parents living in the United States as well. If there was no qualified local violin teacher, I would encourage the parents to invest in some other kind of lessons, because they are vastly more likely to have a useful outcome investing in something that has strong local support. For instance, if your hometown has an awesome band program and no strings program, you might as well play a band instrument.

Yes, it's tough to start a beginner. The OP is probably capable of giving the girl a good enough start that she can decide how important violin-playing is going to be in her life, and then take lessons from somebody via Skype or whatever in the future. Yes, she might not learn as quickly or as well or as properly as she would with a more qualified teacher, but exactly how is she going to find a more qualified teacher? I assume that if there was a qualified teacher in the area, OP himself would be studying with that teacher.

September 25, 2017, 12:49 PM · I think Mary Ellen is totally right about a lot of teachers in the West. I have always lived in rather large cities, and had to go through a few teachers who were simply god awful in every way before I stumbled upon someone decent, who my parents could afford. Even then, I was switching every few years. Bad teachers certainly aren't unique to "third world" countries, and it can be hard to know if you have no one around you who is informed enough to let you know.

I also agree with her assessment of parental expectations. These days parents are way more involved ( some almost too involved ) with their children's lives and like to excercise their legally protected authority and spending power to dictate down to the minute which activities the children partake in. We can argue that this is selfish, fear driven, or living vicariously through the children, but we can all agree that this level of control exists in some households. In many cases, if a child wants to play tennis, but parents instead want a budding cellist on their hands, tennis becomes a lost cause, or a very stifled one at best.

In situations like these, it would of course be cruel, if it is determined that someone who is not qualified to cultivate elite playing, is the only option, to completely bar access to any learning, especially if the student didn't want to be a pro in the first place. But I think that what everyone is saying is that all options should be aired out against the situation before a prognosis is declared.

September 25, 2017, 1:01 PM · When feeling overwhelmed as a teacher, you need to remind both yourself and your student that you can only fix "one thing at a time." This is a reality of teaching. You will see hundreds of wrong things, and it's your job as the teacher to sort them out in your head and figure out what to prioritize first. But only ONE thing at a time. That's the key. If you're not sure what's most important, just pick something. You might spend several weeks just talking about smooth bowing, for example. One thing. And once that thing is fixed, you can start with something else. And after several years of doing this, they might be able to play a bit of music.
September 25, 2017, 1:26 PM · I am sure that I was completely misunderstood, and such issues are really important to me, and I have to reply so my apologies to everybody for this post.

@ David, unfortunately sometimes it is neglected. It is a situation that HAS to change (in my opinion and I don't think it is appropriate to elaborate on this on this very thread). What I am saying is that, frankly, the student could be in a situation where she can not travel away to receive lessons from another teacher. So, till then what? The OP seems to really care about the whole issue and could be a good solution. I don't know personally the OP so he could also be a much better solution regarding motivation and inspiration.

@ Lieschen. First of all flying overseas was mentioned before, as an example of another student. Regarding the rest, I don't think you understood my perspective, otherwise I don't believe you would have written that. You don't even know me and you say that "When people like you choose to shrug your shoulders, bask in your privilege, and look the other way, nothing changes". This sentence is either not adressed to me, or it is funny. I am only commenting the "privilege" part. The largest part of my violin studies was done with a less than 100 euros violin. Had to quit lessons for 5 years since there was no teacher in town for my level. This should give you an idea about whether I would shrug my shoulders in each and every situation related to such issues.

September 25, 2017, 7:40 PM · Lieschen Müller, you said "Inequality in resources hasn't existed since the dawn of time. It's man made, and it's unacceptable." You are right, in that abject poverty is the natural state of mankind. Prosperity of any form above that is man made; this man-made prosperity includes violin making and classical music--only the surplus provided by the hard work of man is what allowed Stradivari and Guarnieri to make violins and Bach and Mozart to compose, let alone us to sit here and debate such matters.
Edited: September 25, 2017, 10:29 PM · The girl's mother is a nurse, she is barely able to afford this hobby of her daughter. Yesterday, she sent me amazon links asking me whether a violin she saw on there was good enough. I quickly showed her how bad the reviews were and that it was made of some sheet plywood or some such abomination. This was a violin set for $45 with a case and bow so it was terrible.

I offered to go to the local music shop and pick out a violin for $45 (so i did. for $45 i can pick just the violin alone which made more sense than buying a set with a crap violin. I will lend her a spare bow I have till she can afford one.

But it's important to note here that while im suggesting a violin of a slightly higher quality, she can only spend about 3000 Local currency ($45 ish) Today, the mother is coming over and ill be going to the shop to buy a violin.

On a lighter note, an amusing thing is how the girl really wants to see our labrador when she's practicing. She asks me now and then "where is the big dog"

I would gladly take up the generous offer of video conferencing help but sadly at the moment i dont have a web cam and my internet speed isnt fast enough for video conferencing, hopefully, i can upgrade my internet plan after a while.

September 26, 2017, 3:48 PM · Hey Paul, I agree with the others about hand position, intonation, etc. and hope you'll keep working, watching instructional videos, etc.

That said, there's something so inherently beautiful and musical about your playing (to me) that I enjoyed listening, despite flaws in intonation etc. It's amazing that you've basically done all this by yourself. Bravo!

September 26, 2017, 6:24 PM · Paul you are a very kind soul to help this girl and her family with such warmth and generosity. If anyone is "living the change," surely you are.
September 26, 2017, 6:30 PM · Paul, something you can work on with your student while waiting for an instrument is reading music. She will need to know notes, their values, and all that fun stuff.

I remember many moons ago when I first started, my teacher initially worked with me doing just pizzicato, no bow, perhaps for a few weeks before really doing much with the bow. So that may also work for you until she gets a bow. It may be an old fashioned approach, but it helped me to become comfortable with holding the instrument properly and working on left hand positioning before introducing the added complexity with the bow.

Good Luck with your endeavor, and remember, it will take time to even accomplish what seems like simple tasks, but the outcome will be rewarding!

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