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Laurie Niles

First Tunes

November 18, 2009 at 7:14 PM

Does anyone ever forget the first tune he or she learned to play?

Mine is seared in my head and hands, and I continue to teach it to beginners, before Twinkle, unorthodox as it is in its pedagogy (double stops, all down-bow, Shinichi Suzuki would shudder!). My teacher called in the "Irish Jig," but I think it's not a Jig, and it might not even be Irish. It's all open strings and is a duet.

Here are some of the "first songs" listed by members who entered the contest to win Mark O'Connor's new method books. (By the way, the contest is still going, if you want to enter!) "Twinkle" is certainly in the lead! The tune that Mark O'Connor has first in his book is "Boil 'em Cabbage Down," and it looks like at least one person learned that song first, other than Mark!

Twinkle Twinkle (26)
Mary Had a Little Lamb (7)
Lightly Row (3)
Hot Cross Buns (3)
Irish Jig
Dulce Dame Jolie
Jolly Old St. Nicholas
"The Snowman" from the Sam Applebaum series, aka "French Folk Song"
Hoe Down
Tunes from "Tune a Day"
Hobby-Horse by Tchaikovsky
The theme from the movie "Superman"
Tennessee Waltz
The E String Concerto
O Susanna
Merrily We Roll Along
Open String Waltz
Smoke on the Water
Bile em Cabbage Down
Autumn Moods
The Monkey Song

From Royce Faina
Posted on November 18, 2009 at 8:31 PM

Hoe Down!!!!

From Graham Clark
Posted on November 18, 2009 at 9:44 PM

The first night I got my violin, before I'd had any lessons, I worked out how to play "The Blue Danube Waltz"

I played it pizz, and then scratched it out with the bow

That was the first thing I ever played on the fiddle.


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 18, 2009 at 10:00 PM


Laurie,  I think there is a very good case for stratng a beginner on double stopped open strings.  It provides a natural support for the bow instead of having to worry about only hitting one string.  perfectly sensible.



From Laurie Niles
Posted on November 18, 2009 at 10:27 PM

Thanks Buri. I also like directing their attention to the ringing tone, and also I think it helps in learning the strings. :)

From Anne Horvath
Posted on November 18, 2009 at 10:52 PM

I don't remember the exact first piece I did, but I do remember getting out the rental violin before the first lesson and figuring out a bunch of my piano pieces on it.  


At that point, that probably was a Kuhlau Sonatina, and some Czerny too...


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 18, 2009 at 11:00 PM


now you`ve got me on the subject of the double stop,  it provides veyr useful early awarness of how the instrument is tuned,  training the ear to hear fifths from the word go.



From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 19, 2009 at 12:41 AM

First teacher, a sort of a little piece.

Second teacher, some stuff written with Russian indications that looked like a "little" piece but was "medlenno" full of shifts between 1st and 3rd position and always quarter notes and two notes per bow (so a half note lengh per bow).  BUT I NEVER SUFFERED AS MUCH.  It was so tough to keep = bow pressure and the equal bow lengh for each note + remembering with which finger to shift and on which bow to shift was pretty complex... I remember my teacher almost hangning on my arm as a koala to keep the pressure = and control the speed since I wasn't able : ) Really she was playing more than me even if I was holding the violin!!!

Ah, good memories but I thank her now...

Interesting post!!!


From Yixi Zhang
Posted on November 19, 2009 at 1:20 AM

The first day I got the violin before seeing a teacher, I figured out how to play the tune of "The East Is Red", which was the tune to play any time during the Chinese "Cultural Revolution". It sounded so horrible that I didn't play the tune ever again since then.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on November 19, 2009 at 1:38 AM

The theme to Star Wars...

From Philanthi Koslowski
Posted on November 19, 2009 at 4:49 PM

Ode to Joy...

...and unlike you courageous few, I was too nervous to even pick up my violin until after my 1st lesson. [My husband tells me I "have issues." :-)]

From Elinor Estepa
Posted on November 20, 2009 at 12:07 AM

Twinkle--that didn't "twinkle" for a quite a while when I was learning it.

From Elana Lehrer
Posted on November 20, 2009 at 4:00 AM

 Minuet 3 by Bach, as printed in Suzuki book 1.  :)  Interestingly, it's my cat's favorite piece, but only on the piano.

From Kay Pech
Posted on November 22, 2009 at 2:33 PM

My first piece that I can remember (I was 4 years old) was "My Grandfather's Clock"..... I still love it

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