Teaching a Four Year Old

April 28, 2008 at 04:22 PM · I might be getting a 4 year old to teach. This won't be until the end of this year but I want know if anyone out there has any techniques or hints to help out.

Replies (27)

April 28, 2008 at 04:23 PM · Take some Suzuki training. There are many summer institutes where you could do that, and I'm sure they'd happily accept a qualified student, even at this late date.

April 28, 2008 at 06:13 PM · Well, the only thing I'm worried about...is that I'm not a very good player. I'm at the very end of book 2, the very beginning of book 3. I mean I'm the only one and she wants her child to learn.

I know he'll be able to learn becasue he's very smart, he understands musical sounds, (he enjoys "playing" the piano, but all the sounds he likes are these beautiful chords. I have noticed most children his age just like banging on the piano. He also likes using his fingers, instead of his whole hands to bang the keys.) and he listens to me.

But what I really need are tips for teaching this young....

April 28, 2008 at 06:36 PM · I think it will be unfair to both you and to the child for you to be the primary teacher. At the elvel of Suzuki Book 2 you do not have any idea of what lies ahead and the effect of what is now taught to the child (or yourself) on development of that future technique. Without that knowledge, you do not know alternative teaching (and learning methods).

A really GREAT new book on teaching (although it is about cello teaching) is "Rosindust."

It would be much better if you could BOTH attend the child's lesson from an experienced teacher AND then you could work with the child on a more daily basis to reinforce the techniques and exercises that are taught.

When I teach young children I also try to teach their parents (I don't charge extra for that) so they can be a bit ahead of the child for daily work. What I have found is that in about 6 months, the child has moved ahead of the parent in those aspects that will be important. For those children whose parents do not take violin too, but who can belp by playing along on piano, I encourage that. In some families, a sibling has studied violin, and I enlist bits of help (during the weeek) from them.

I do favor the progression of music taught in the Suzuki program. The Suzuki method is really good for young children who will not be reading music for a while. But, I believe it should be used in a Suzuki "school" with other children and joint partaticipation as well as the individual instruction.

Personally, I will take on only the exceptional student less than 6 years old. Young children are unique, however, and some have incredible attention spans, and others almost none at all. Right now I've got a 6-year old who has been taking lessons for 6 months (shortly before hre 6th birthday. She has never shown boredom or lack of attention - we can go on for 60 minutes, although I typically limit child lessons to 30 minutes. But with her, we can repeat the same few notes ad infinitum, and she just keeps working on improving it. I've kn own her and her family since she was 1 month old, when I was teaching her two older brothers. She has wanted to play violin since she was 2.

Good luck!



April 28, 2008 at 06:53 PM · I'm at the same level of playing that you are. I would no sooner take a student to teach as I would assume I'm ready to apply at the local symphony orchestra. I am a very accomplished instructor, of many things, Violin is not one of them. My humble recommendation is to beg off and recommend someone that has/is a current professional instructor.

My teacher notices nuances and techniques that I simply do not have the experience to know. I have a strong appetite for learning and have read many books on violin, history, performance and have a background in music already. I still wouldn't teach anyone.

My humble opinion, of course.

April 28, 2008 at 07:10 PM · Well most of you forget that I have much musical experience. Although I have only been playing violin for 4 years (August of this year) I have 9 years of musical experience, plenty of music theory (giving me knowledge of music and the ability to understand even if I can't play it). And I have already taught two piano students. One was 10, the other was 13 but never acted his age and i think he was a little bit slow at learning, so I have developed a patience that will carry over to a 4 year old.

April 28, 2008 at 07:49 PM · If you really want to teach the child, then of course you'll manage. Just be absolutely certain you have no bad habbits in playing yourself that you'll teach to the child. Undoing these things when they're taught first can take students quite a long time later on in their lives.

Other than the obvious points of being extremely patient with young children, and try to use analogies that their youthful minds will readily relate to and click with, I am not sure if there's any specific training for youngins.

Just give it your best shot and make sure they're having fun.

April 28, 2008 at 08:05 PM · I have to second andrew Victor's advice. The best option would be for the child to have a private lesson with a Suzuki trained teacher. The practice partner (usually a parent, but could be you) should be there at the lesson to take notes. Some of the lesson, maybe even most of the lesson, is usually with the practice partner, explaining how to work with the child the other six days during the week. The practice partner has to have the discipline to do exactly as the teacher asks, not to rush ahead and not to criticize. This is a daily commitment for the practice partner and is a long-term project. You could learn a lot by being the practice partner, however, you will eventually go off to college and it could be difficult for the parent to pick up where you have left off given that they would not have benefited from the practice partner training all along.

I believe you have to be 17 or maybe 18 to take the Suzuki Certification course. I highly encourage you to do this if you plan to take young students on.

I do not think four is too young, but educating the very young is a specialty of some teachers and not others. It may be something you find you are very good at.

April 28, 2008 at 08:29 PM · Although I like the Suzuki method over-all. I don't really like the Suzuki method. I don't know why I just don't really like it. I prefer to use my own acclectic (sp?) method of many different ones. Mostly from the Jaffe Strings.

April 28, 2008 at 08:32 PM · I don't think I'd take money from the kid. Maybe jam with him. Have some fun. But take money? It isn't quite like babysitting. Then again, maybe it isn't such a bad idea...wish I'd thought of that back then;)

April 28, 2008 at 08:36 PM · Well, I never said I'd charge money. I never would. His mom was my first piano teacher, and I'd do it as a favor.

April 28, 2008 at 09:43 PM · I'll probably be pilloried for saying this here, but at 4 years of age, the effectiveness of any teaching you do has more to do with your relationship with the child than your knowledge of violin playing. If you can get the child to play "twinkle" with a positive attitude and something approaching a proper bow grip you will have taken them far.

An instructor experienced in teaching young children would have a better background in what does and does not work, which you will lack. That doesn't mean it's impossible, and if the alternative is no lessons at all, just maybe you should teach to the best of your ability even though you don't have any training or experience.

April 30, 2008 at 04:57 PM · You are teaching all the foundations of spiccato, shifting, multiple-stop playing, vibrato, colle, barriolage, etc. etc., from the moment go, and yes, even with a four-year-old.

April 30, 2008 at 08:18 PM · Well I know alot of techniques. Just not the last two mentioned. Other than that I can I teach it. I think many of you underestimate me. Although many of you think that I overestimate myeself.

May 1, 2008 at 02:17 AM · I think that it's great that you want to teach this kid. But, I think it is only fair to tell you that this is a VERY dangerous and difficult age to teach. I think S Dunlop had a valid point. This is a very impressionable age for kids. Most of what you will be doing will be cultivating a positive attitude towards while still teaching technique. I do not doubt your ability, but have you taught technique before? And to a 4 year old? It's very different than teaching technique to a 13 year old. Everything needs to be fun. As soon as it becomes boring and tedious, the student will shut down. You should have games ready for reinforcing good posture and technique.

My personal feeling is this may not be the right time for this. I think your intentions are great, and your enthusiasm is wonderful. However, it takes a long time to develop certain things like a really deep understanding of technique. To know how to do something is one thing. But to truly understand all that is involved in doing it is something else. When you understand that deeply, you can teach it much more easily and make many different analogies. Kids can grab on to visual aids really well.

I saw your videos on youtube and I think you're a good violinist. I've taught high school, middle school and elementary school students. Without a doubt elementary school age kids were the ones I had to be most careful with. When they start, they develop habits that later in life are very hard to kick. If you aren't always looking for these things it is very easy to let them slide. I know this from personal experience. I taught a lesson and was observed. Later when I watched the video of the lesson, I saw that I let his bow arm do whatever it wanted. I had been so concerned with other things like good rhythm, good intonation, and keeping the violin up to notice that the kid's bow grip was atrocious! You need to be 100% sure you can do this. At this age you can potentially get them really interested in playing, or can potentially kill the subject for them (which I doubt you'll do). I would just think very hard before saying "Yes".

May 1, 2008 at 07:56 AM · Even though I made a conscious decision against Suzuki when I started (as an adult) ... if I wanted to teach violin to very young children, I would most definitely attend Suzuki teacher seminars, if only to find out what I am getting myself into.

Regardless of what you think of the Suzuki method, you will have to admit that it represents a wealth of expertise in teaching violin to young children which has been accumulated by countless people over a very long period. There are probably hundred thousands of man years of expertise in Suzuki,

In the absence of anything else so readily available to an aspiring teacher, I would want to tap into that source of expertise, I would not want to start from zero. If I had any second thoughts, I would tell myself that I can always adapt it and find my own methodology as I gain my own experience OVER TIME.

Before this background, I believe your best options are 1) walk away from this, 2) work with an experienced teacher and become a sort of coach under the guidance of that teacher, 3) get Suzuki teacher training, 4) a combination of #2 and #3.

May 1, 2008 at 02:43 PM · daniel, i admire your courage to ask this on v.com:)

you did say you are a very musical person and for a 4 yo kid, there is a lot to learn from you...about music. you can help prepare the kid with better music theory, note recognition or even sightreading which is lacking in 101% of young kids thus making violin lessons very stressful and frustrating.

hey, there is money on there for your skills, grab it! :)

if you can teach the kid to love music with fill in the blank violin techniques, it is not the end of the world, but a wonderful beginning!

May 1, 2008 at 06:03 PM · Thank you Al Ku. I know that this will be a learning experience for both of us. He will learn lots I'm sure while I learn what it takes to teach violin.

May 1, 2008 at 11:20 PM · Daniel, I was not taught through the Suzuki method books but was persuaded to use them when I began teaching. Without specific detailed instructions to accompany the books, I was left to try to fill in the blanks as far as setup and basic technique go. Simple enough, I thought: You hold the bow this way. This means down-bow, this means up-bow. That's a C natural, and here's how you count this rhythm.

It was a colossal train wreck. I overloaded my students so quickly that every last beginner eventually quit. (My sincerest apologies go to them!)

Teaching beginners is hard. I don't recommend using Suzuki books without proper training because they leave too many gaps, and you will probably get stuck on the same songs.

If they can spend the extra money, I really liked the Adventures in Violinland books. They're newer (level 4 was published just two years ago) and less known, but I advocate them for the following reasons:

1. They are illustrated and imaginative, geared toward very young beginners.

2. They provide a wealth of information and lots of little fun pieces to work on.

3. They progress at such a slow rate that you can guarantee they will get something new to work on each week.

4. The slow progression, in addition to the fact that it starts the left and right hand separately, allows for good habits to set like concrete.

5. My kids absolutely love them. Even the big kids have a good time at my lessons.

6. It combines ear training with note reading based on a "movable do" scale, and includes activities like figuring out simple melodies by ear, and exercises that help them compose their own songs and write them down.

8. An entire book is devoted to Captain Thumb and the four sailors (or pirates, if you prefer) that take the bow out to sea... This book is guaranteed to set up a great bow hold, and addresses the factors of tone production so they can pull a straight, clean tone from the start.

7. There's an entire book devoted to a string crossing game with a map and weekly clues and a treasure at the end! Fun! (Treasure not included)

8. Theory, technique and etudes packaged in easy to swallow pills.

9. The teacher gets to play along a lot, both on violin and piano.

10. Did I mention fun?

Have I given enough reasons yet? I was originally very reluctant to try them because there are six books for the first year, costing a total of $84. But having taught for six years now, and after using these books for just two, I am so excited to see what wonderful violinists I'm able to produce--violinists who love to play and sound good. The road ahead looks bright, too. Third and fourth year books have shifting, position work, scales and etudes, quality repertoire (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Bartok, etc.), folk tunes and fiddling, and lots of great sounding duets and piano accompaniment, so the teacher gets to play a lot, too (my favorite part).

I've been in a similar boat as you, wanting to teach and not realizing exactly what teaching the violin entailed. With trials and errors, I had to teach myself how to be a better violin teacher. Suzuki may work if you can get the training, but books that come with instructions and lots of activities may be a better bet in your situation. They're pretty self explanatory, but be sure to get all six of the first level and look through them ahead of time so you can see where they're going.

I think the most important thing that will make you a successful teacher in the long run is your love of music and your love of sharing what you've learned. With the right tools and guidance, you'll do fine. Dig into your resources: check with other teachers and ask lots of questions. If your first student proves stressful, and you look back with regrets because of all the things you wish you knew before you started, I think every teacher feels that to a degree. Just learn as much as you can about teaching before you start, and learn even more once you start. Learn from mistakes, and always keep learning. That's how you get to be a good teacher.

Best of luck to you!


May 1, 2008 at 11:25 PM · Greetings,

I agree totally with the above post. I do exactly the same. (minus the fun)



May 1, 2008 at 11:34 PM · Ah, but you have prunes. That keeps it loose, too.

May 1, 2008 at 11:56 PM · or stoned.

May 2, 2008 at 06:50 AM · Thank you Emily, I will consider using Suzuki. You have a persuasive arguement.

May 2, 2008 at 08:48 AM · That's Adventures in Violinland... :)

May 2, 2008 at 10:31 AM · Greetings,

maybe my endorsement threw him?



May 2, 2008 at 01:28 PM · Funniest thread ever!

May 15, 2008 at 03:51 AM · Adventures in Violinland is a very good beginning method.It's also interesting to see all the drawings and sayings by the students who Shirley Givens trained in the beginning with the method. You'll find the children of Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Samuel Rhodes and others have used it and their drawings and poems are included. Pamela Frank also started with it.

May 15, 2008 at 06:00 AM · It's very true, the "Suzuki Method" books are actually not method books! They offer an excellent progression of pieces to play, but I've used them with much supplementation, and much training.

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

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

2023 Authenticate LA: Los Angeles Violin Shop
2023 Authenticate LA

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide


Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop



Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine