I'm a mediocre violinist who hasn't played in 10 years, and I'm trying to teach my son and the neighbor's kiddo to play at a basic level before passing them on to someone better. They are 5 and 4, respectively. They have had three weeks of lessons total now.
Here is a video of a snippet of our last lesson:
(Yep, I sound like a drill sergeant, but if I'm chirpy, they get giggly over it and forget what they're doing! My son's already loving it. Neighbor's kid is not so sure, since he's convinced that being forced to stand for 15 minutes together is sheer torture--never mind that immediately after the "exhausting" violin lesson, he runs and jumps around like a monkey.)
Both violins are in locations on their shoulders I'd normally correct, but holding the camera pretty much kept my interactions verbal this time. (They had placed their violins themselves from rest position moments before.) Usually, I work with both of them together for 5-7 minutes, then I do each one separately for a while, then I put them together again. Right now, my big thing when working together is listening and playing when I tell them to, without making extra sounds in between!
I know this isn't much to go on, but I'd like advice--what are the biggest problems you see/hear, what would you work on next, etc.
I want them to be firmly in Suzuki Book 2, if not 3, before I get a professional instructor, for various reasons. I'm not using a completely orthodox Suzuki approach--for example, I am going to use tapes on the fingerboards, and I do plan on teaching reading starting next year. My son is dyslexic, like me, so I don't want his progress hindered by his dyslexia, though! (In orchestra in school, *I* solved this problem by simply memorizing all the pieces within a week of starting to practice them--it always took me just a couple of hearings. By the time a performance rolled around, not only could I play the violin part, but I could do the viola and cello parts, too. :-P Eventually, I did become one of the better sight readers in the orchestra, but it took a long time.)
I've never taught *anyone* to play before, but I have a laundry list of things I want them to do well--mainly things that I was NOT taught properly. I want a proper bow hold, with a relaxed grip, rounded shape, flexibility, and bent pinky and thumb. I want them bowing using nice fluid strokes in the middle of the bow. I want the violins to be in the right place on their shoulders! I want them to use their elbows to change strings rather than bending at the wrist. I want them to stay near the bridge with their bows and to bow straight. I want them to look across their strings toward their scrolls--not at the ceiling or the wall. *g* I want a nice, straight left wrist. I want them to touch the strings--when we get to fingerings--with the tips of their fingers rather than flattening the pads against them.
So, the biggest problems that I see:
Right now, my biggest struggles are with the younger one's bow hold. I've talked about holding the boy gently and have modeled with various delicate objects. I've had him make circles with his fingers. I've talked about the eye of the frog. I've said a dumb little rhyme about curling your pinky and thumb. I have him shake his hand out every time before he touches the bow. And YET he's always got the sucker in a stranglehold, with his fingers all pressed tightly together, and it's an ongoing battle to get him to put just his pinky up on the stick when he wants to try to hold the bow in a pinch with the thumb straight and all the fingers on the stick! ACK! If anyone can offer help--even how to get him to SPREAD his fingers, which would allow him to relax a bit--I'd be eternally grateful. I must be doing something right because the older one's grip is lovely for a kid that age. (At least at first!) Nothing seems to be working with the younger one, though.
I'm also struggling with getting the younger one to place his violin properly. The older one actually usually does it a lot better than in this video, but for the younger, what you see is the *best* you're going to get at this point. Every time he lifts his bow, he brings his violin to the bow instead of vice versa. I've modeled doing it right and doing it wrong, and he can see doing it wrong, but the only way I can stop him at this point is to hold the violin in place with one hand and his hips in place (so he can't twist his body under the violin!) with my knees and then have him set the bow. Ayiyi... Any suggestions would help me enormously here, too! My progress with him has been really slooooow.
My son's biggest problem at this point is getting clean contact with just one string when playing on A and D over the entire length of his bow stroke and, secondarily, keeping his bow stroke straight instead of going around the corner. He's mostly got a handle on the straightness, but he's struggling still with a clean contact with the strings. We've worked on correcting the elbow up when you're hitting a higher string than you should be and down when you're hitting a lower one, but he gets frustrated sometimes at his lack of control. He's making progress from one day to the next, so I think he'll get this pretty soon, but if anyone has a neat trick, I'm all ears.
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