Taught my first class, feeling overwhelmed, need advice on teaching complete beginner!
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)
You can get some good information about starting a beginner at Michael Hopkins website. http://stringtechnique.com/
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.
The OP wrote: "She does the same with her bow hold, and keeps bending her thumb and pinky finger instead of keeping then straight." ???
Look out for videos and paper documents from lessons from Suzuki teachers, Paul Roland, or Kurt Sassmanhaus. And doubless many others.
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.
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 …?
I agree with Jim, if the young musician is doing this because she wants to, the largest problem has been resolved.
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 (
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
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?
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.
Thank you guys so much for all the wonderful replies!
Neil, I mixed them up while writing here.
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.
After watching your video, to echo previous posters, you aren't ready to teach.
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.
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
Yes, this isn't quite fair (I can't play like her either!), but, I think it is still demonstrative none-the-less:
OP, whoever studies with you will not get to where she needs to go. You need to stop teaching. I am sorry.
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.
Totally agree with Mary's post. 0also very impressed with your ability to teach yourself Paul L.
Totally agree with Mary's post. 0also very impressed with your ability to teach yourself Paul L.
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.
I have a lot of respect for Mary Ellen whose argument is sound and persuasive. I however have to disagree in this case.
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 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.
I feel like i should really mention the cultural aspect that affects this situation.
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.
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.
Once again I'm with Mary Ellen on this one. The answer is "Because some help in person is better than no help".
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.
David Zhang, commuting by plane to Manhattan every two weeks is far from having very little resources.
If I were living in India I would not send my 12-year-old daughter to an airport by herself.
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.
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!
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-
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.
Hermes, IT has always been understood. Completely. Some of us do NOT accept IT!
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.
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.
And to the OP: if you can, I recommend taking Gene up on his generous offer of help.
Mary Ellen's perspective is very sane. :-)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hey Paul, I agree with the others about hand position, intonation, etc. and hope you'll keep working, watching instructional videos, etc.
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.
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.