I'm creating my own method book

May 16, 2008 at 05:41 AM · I'd like to create a violin method book for myself and my students, and maybe even publish it some day. I know I'm young, relatively inexperienced, and probably ignorant of a lot of things. Please don't use this to attack my credentials.

I'd love to get some input on content, format, etc. I'm going to create 3 books: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced. Anything you love about your current method book, tell me! Anything you wish method books included, tell me!

I'm doing this because there isn't a method book that I know of that has everything I want to teach

in it.

Thanks!

Replies (35)

May 16, 2008 at 08:02 AM · Don't forget music theory. I know lots of violinist who don't a drop of music theory. It seems: pianist, guitarist, and college music students are the only ones who have any music theory knowledge.

May 16, 2008 at 08:18 AM · Others may feel differently about this but anyway, ...

I know that the early repertoire, nursery rhymes and simple folk melodies is there to make practising more interesting for beginners. On the one hand, they don't yet have enough skill to play anything more sophisticated, on the other hand, too much of repetitive exercises, scales etc is perceived to be boring, so nursery rhymes it is.

Well, for me it was the exact opposite, I found the nursery rhymes extremely boring and instead I found the boring repetitive exercises and scales far more exciting. As a result, I practised scales and finger exercises a lot lot more than the early pieces.

My teacher noticed this and she tried to come up with more interesting repertoire which was still suitable to my level. Eventually, I got to play Telemann, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Boccherini menuets, Brahms Waltz and similar. This made practising the pieces interesting and I put proper emphasis on learning and polishing the pieces, something I hadn't done before, choosing to instead do scales etc.

Often we found that there are some pieces which exist in a transcription to a key more suitable for me at any given time. For example, The Boccherini menuet exists in a shortened transcription for accordeon in G major on Werner Icking's public domain music archive.

Also, I extracted some melody lines from Beethoven quartets, selecting from first and second violin, whichever was appropriate for the level I was at. I then put this back together as a simplified ultra short version in a notation software to print the score. Such notation software also allows it to transpose the score in an instant to another key. I could then practise in whichever key I was focusing on at the time.

I believe that people who love classical music will probably find a violin school which selects practise pieces predominantly from classical repertoire more interesting than the usual mix. It would have saved me quite a bit of time hunting for scores. Although, hunting for scores and editing it into notation software was an exercise well worth doing all in itself.

Of course depending on the audience, you may achieve the exact opposite effect. Anyway, just my personal 2 cents.

May 16, 2008 at 11:12 AM · Good for you! This will prove to be an important exercise in clarifying your own personal philosophy of violin pedagogy and will undoubtedly be useful to your students and their parents. You may also find that it could be used for weekend teacher training workshops and to support local teachers.

My one suggestion is that you think hard about your philosophy regarding how one must go about learning the violin and then be sure that this thread carries through all the various topics. If, for example, you believe that the correct mental picture is necessary before the correct action can take place, then you would spend time discussing the correct mental picture before presenting the corresponding exercise. If your aim is to create players who can teach themselves, you will want to provide a general outline, illustrate how it could be applied to passage work, etc..., and encourage the student to experiment. An example of this approach would be the Galamian scales and arpeggios book where he provides all sorts of rhythm and bowing combinations.

May 16, 2008 at 12:16 PM · Thanks everyone! I hope even more people get a say soon.

I definitely plan to include theory. That's the big thing that every other book lacks for me. I also plan to have either a scales section for each book, or a supplementary scale book. I'm going to include a variety of pieces, and for each piece, an etude to work on whatever technique it introduces.

Can anyone help me out on copyright issues? I want to include various pieces from various books, including Suzuki... What do I have to do?

May 16, 2008 at 12:54 PM · What I would enjoy especially for younger kids is a daily lesson and then a "homework section" that may include a bit of theory (name these notes for example) and then a Practice Plan. In the practice plan it would include a staff with a melody and then step by step plan on HOW to practice it. It would look like this:

1. First clap and say the rhythm

2. Then clap the rhythm but say names of the notes

3. Put up your imaginary violin and say the fingering out loud

4. Pizzicato and say the fingering out loud

5. Play arco!

I give these sort of practice strategies to my students all the time and it takes the guess work out of it.

May 16, 2008 at 01:16 PM · To my mind, the whole idea of writing a method book comes with the experience which only a lot of teaching can provide. This is the basic problem with many state curricula & lesson-plan guides in many subjects. Somebody with a doctorate in some facet of education or research is hired to write a glorious piece of paperwork which is then forced on the people in the trenches. I think you have to have struggled your way through a lot of students, searching for ways to explain things succinctly, organizing what a player needs to learn in some logical sequence, have tested that out, adjusted for failures. You say not to knock your credentials, but the credential you seem to have right now is the enthusiasm of youth. So hold onto that if you can, but write "your own method book" when you've done the "school of hard knocks part", too. Sue

May 16, 2008 at 01:24 PM · Tasha,

Bravo! Go for it!

You can start developing your materials and try them out in your own teaching. Then when you have something ready to share with other teachers you can self-publish online -- developing and enlarging as you go. Eventually it will evolve into your own method book.

I am very happy that you want to include theory. Most of the available theory instruction materials are based on a piano keyboard. It would be great to have one that is based on the violin fingerboard, finding the intervals and chords, etc. on the violin. In fact, that could be a significant publication all by itself.

May 16, 2008 at 01:49 PM · Thanks everyone, for your encouragement. I also really appreciate the input on content, helps so much! I really like taking advantage of everyone else's vast array of experience.

Sue,

Yes, I'm young, but I know what's good for my students, and nothing out today that I've seen covers everything in an approachable way for every level. Thus, I'm going to make my own. I would say I'm a tad better than "enthusiastic youth" as I've been teaching violin for 6 years, teaching in general most of my life (various tutoring in school, as well as horseback riding), graduating with a bachelor's in violin performance this June, fulfilling requirements for Music Teaching certificate except student teaching, and getting a master's in violin performance beginning this fall (student teaching to follow). I also got the graduate assistantship for my master's at my university.

However, I know I've got a lot to learn, and what I can learn will largely come from experience, which I just can't have without living for a while. But all my professors agree, for my age, I'm well experienced and very wise in my teaching. Well, that's just from what they've observed, anyway. I'm getting advice/input from my violin professor as well, so I'm hoping this will be a high quality series (when it's all said and done) that I can put a lot of time and thought into.

No more talk of my credentials, please.

Thanks again, everyone! Keep 'em coming! =)

May 16, 2008 at 02:23 PM · For me the main thing that many string methods books lack?

Longer pieces. Most of the books out there have skads of 16-bar diddies and short tunes, which is fine early on. Some include maybe 2 or 3-1 page pieces but that is it.

Also some thoughts to keep in mind--how would you intend the books to be used? And thereby how much do you want to include on the page vs. have the teacher cover/explain? What age bracket? What level of adult involvement--lots of explanations are good for understandings sake, but only if the audience will read them, otherwise they add bulk. Pictures as explanations?

-One of the better all around and much more thorough books that I´ve seen (I had to do nethods book review once upon a time)-was String Explorer. Of course it is one of the thicker books out there-because it tries to do everything (i.e. technique, history, theory, etc.)

-One of the thinner books that relys much more on the teacher, that was an old stand-by for a while was the All for Strings series.

Along the lines of what Ben was saying, Adults have the mental focus and maturity to drill scales and arpeggios and other less-than-folk-tune kind of thingsd-more often than not young kids do not. The catch being-if you know your scales and arpeggios you can read through a majority of the repertoire for the violin that is out there.

May 16, 2008 at 03:19 PM · I like to keep up with the new methods and editions that come out. Sometimes I get these books unsolicited directly from the publishers, sometimes they put ads in the ASTA Journal offering free copies, and sometimes I buy them.

It is a good idea to keep up with what is already out there, if you are planning to publish your own series. The big publishing houses might not take too kindly to inadvertent copyright violation.

Also, Marc, I have been teaching with String Explorer since it was published. Lovely method. I have had nice results, and the kids seem to get a kick out of the theory!!!

May 16, 2008 at 05:09 PM · Yes, I like String Explorer, too.

Thanks for all the "food for thought" comments!

May 16, 2008 at 08:50 PM · Tasha, I really relate to your drive in this area. When I first started teaching I felt that nothing had been created that really addressed all the aspects of learning the violin in a good way. The closest I've found is the Adventures in Violinland books (but I won't go off on that here because I'm starting to sound like an advertisement). The one thing about those books that I could use an adaptation for is the age level appropriateness. I use them with adults and skip through stuff that's not applicable, but I think it would be great if another book series similar to this one could be designed that fits adults and older beginners.

If I lived closer, I'd get together with you over coffee and do some brainstorming on paper. You could assemble the books, and I would illustrate. :)

It's interesting to see that you taught horsemanship. I spent eight summers doing that before beginning my career as a violin and piano instructor, and the teaching experience I gained from those years was invaluable.

Please keep me informed, and feel free to call me if you want to chat about specifics.

May 16, 2008 at 09:20 PM · Great idea Tasha!

I would second Roy's suggestion about including theory specifically for violinists. I know my theory was weak for years even as I was progressing much more quickly in the physical aspect of playing.

Whatever you end up doing - Good Luck!

May 16, 2008 at 10:38 PM · Emily,

Thank you! I wish we could get together, that'd be wonderful! Feel free to just blurt out ideas as you think of them.

That's so cool, I also had about 8 years of horseback riding teaching...

Debra,

thanks!

May 17, 2008 at 03:45 AM · that sounds like a cool idea...

would it be an etude book or more of an instructional book like Flesch's Art of Violin Playing (not exact title..?) or Galamian's?

May 17, 2008 at 04:07 AM · I'm not entirely sure how I want it to work. I figure it'd be more like String Explorer + Suzuki + Flesch... but with all my suggestions, and any other suggestions. It's not a book you read cover-cover and then know how to play the violin. It's a book you play from, and it will use as few words as possible to cover all the bases.

What does everyone think? Teacher edition, where I tell the teacher which book to buy when for which tune, or do I go through the trouble of copyright permission to copy pieces into my book?

I have full intent of crediting everyone accordingly!

May 17, 2008 at 06:42 AM · Ear training.

Teaching kids boatloads of theory is useless if they can't *hear* an interval or discern the quality of a chord.

May 17, 2008 at 01:05 PM · Very good point, Gene.

May 17, 2008 at 02:34 PM · It is chicken and egg. They can't hear an interval until they are taught what to hear.

May 17, 2008 at 08:52 PM · I really like using little tunes everyone knows to help with interval recognition. I figured I'd include little excerpts for a portion of ear training. (ex: lullaby = minor 3rd)

May 18, 2008 at 10:54 PM · 1. i like "nanny, nanny, boo boo" for the minor 3rd.

2. large print edition for 50 year old eyes.

3. hurry up with the "how to play beautifully with little practice" chapter!!!

May 19, 2008 at 02:11 AM · Wow, Calvin, I'm so honored! You FINALLY posted! :)

Well, I'll work on those... Keep in mind, this won't be available for a while though... Til then, keep on practicing!

(FYI everyone, Mr. Mitcham is one of my students. I'm very proud to teach him. He brings me cookies because he read one of my posts! How amazing is that?)

May 19, 2008 at 05:46 AM · Hey Tasha ... if you could write interesting, fun, duet arrangements for the pieces or exercises you use in your book, that would be a big plus in my mind.

May 19, 2008 at 02:27 PM · Teresa,

That's definitely a big thing lacking in current method books for me. I plan to have a "teacher" and "student" version both for duet purposes (the teacher parts can be seen by the students) and for the necessity of the teacher to be able to expand on whatever is in the student's book.

May 20, 2008 at 01:31 AM · Tasha,

In my opinion there is a serious lack of meaningful material for parents of very young childrenwho study music. It is all rather cutesie and whimsical and often a big waste of time. I think possibly it is an attempt to be nonthreatening, but it ends up rather condescending in many cases. Most of the material for parents is so light weight it really trivializes the committment required from parents of young children and is seldom focused on mastery. They are all about little games and practice logs etc. but provides little context beyond the most basic. If your audience is a younger crowd of students, a "Parent Summary" which explain the learning objectives, and practice objectives could be a differentiator for your method. No method I have seen so far provides serious information for parents regarding what is involved in a crafting a quality musical educaton for their young student. The prior posts offer aspects. Why etudes, theory, sight singing, composition, counterpoint, scales, intervals, and related excercises which are endless? Why do you learn pieces in a particular order? How does one skill build upon the next? The context is missing to sustain the time and financial committment required to attain mastery over so many years of study. I, for one, am a parent who was fortunate to have a decent musical education as a child so I know a good a musical education one from bad or mediocre one. Most parents don't know the difference. I suggest student's don't quit, parents quit first and then the student quits. So many drop out because parent and child really don't know what they are doing when they leave the lesson. Good luck.

May 20, 2008 at 03:26 AM · I absolutely agree with J Kingston. It is really important to justify your sequencing of skills and pieces so the teacher, the parents and students using the materials understand the exercises in the context of your overall philosophy and pedagogical approach. They should clearly see the point of each exercise and have a good idea of where they are in the journey toward technical mastery. They should know how the skills they are learning now will be expanded on and applied later.

May 20, 2008 at 10:38 AM · Also, some may argue this, but you might want to study as many methods out there and decide what you like, don't like about them, and what you would change. That might help when doing yours.

May 20, 2008 at 05:56 PM · Thanks, to the last 3 who posted.

J Kingston: I really appreciate what you're saying. I too had thought of this, but hadn't quite formulated a real idea yet, or quite put a name on what the problem was. You've put it in place for me, and I truly appreciate it! I certainly intend to provide rationale, as well as little sections along the way for parents to be involved, should they so choose, to understand what their child is learning. In lessons, I send home emails of notes to the parents (or adult students) of what we've covered in lessons, and I hope to put a type of review in the book or else in a separate supplement for the parents.

May 23, 2008 at 01:19 PM · Oh, and Catherine, I am well aware of several (although probably not all) methods quite thoroughly (we had to do that for a project in my music education methods course).

June 5, 2008 at 07:41 AM · Tasha,

I don't know if my learning style is the norm, but I really benefited from having audio cassettes (I guess CD's now!) with recordings of the pieces. This really worked well for me when I started Suzuki Book 1.

There was also a popular Guitar etude book (can't remember the name!) I had to work through that had the same idea. Except on this tape, each etude was played slowly, at around the speed the student would be playing it while just learning it. Then, right afterwards, the etude was played at a normal (faster) pace, so I had a reference of what I'm building towards and what it should sound like when I'm playing it right.

Other than that, I second the duet suggestion. When I played my first duet with my first teacher, I said to myself, "wow, I'm making real music just like my teacher!" and it made me super excited as a student.

June 5, 2008 at 11:49 AM · Helen and Seph, thank you for resurrecting this!

June 5, 2008 at 12:34 PM · What is it that you miss from the books you used so far? Would you like to pick the good parts from existing books, and combine them? You couldn't publish most of the result for copyright reasons.

Really creating a new method book may be too much work for you alone. Have you thought about a collaborative effort like the books on www.wikibooks.org use, and invite members of this forum to contribute?

What I would have liked to change in the method books that I learnt from as a kid, is, that there were too many tunes, and none of them related to each other. I never memorized the pieces, since for every new technique, there were a few new pieces to play. The tunes learnt two months ago were long forgotten. Good training for sight reading, but if you can't play without looking on the sheet, then you can't watch your bow, left hand, or yourself in the mirror. I didn't play all tunes and the teachers selected carefully, but still, there were no etudes in the method books that lasted longer than a month before leaving my repertoire. The important habit of memorizing etudes I started too late I think and it was impeded by method books that bring up three new nursery rhymes for the smallest technical advancement.

Instead, for example, if you introduce a new bowing technique, maybe you can do so by modifying the bowing of a piece that the student already knows, so that he can focus on the technique, not the score. New techniques, fingerings, positions, trills, ... can be incorporated into tunes already learnt. Simplified parts can be rewritten in a more difficult way. Learnt pieces can be extended, so they still fit together with the first part. This would also reduce your effort of composing many different pieces for your book.

There could be a "warm-up" chapter of selected etudes to be memorized and used before every lesson.

June 5, 2008 at 05:45 PM · Interesting thoughts, Michael. Thanks, let me ponder all that for a while.

June 5, 2008 at 07:00 PM · I like the Dolfien 2nd and 3rd position books. They give short duets which I really liked. The sheets are difficult to read for kids, but they are fun because in the end you get a lot of experience on short little songs that build in complexity. My son hates them, but that is because they are messy to look at. It is almost as if they crammed as much on a page as they could to save paper. I took a few and redid them in Finale Song Writer and he really like them with a cleaner page. My point: Give a lot of consideration to your layout. Some Faber piano method books have great layouts. Look at them. Big type, theory, etc. all in a logical sequence. Each song has a "duet" part the teacher or parent can play if they want. They are well done. Janet Voght has a great piano method series as well. Take a look.

June 9, 2008 at 09:05 PM · I am an italian violin theacher. I am sorry for my enghish. I have my own violin method (www.e-bay.it),but I think that most important than violin method, is the right theacher, the talent of the student, the capacity of concentration of the pupil and his music passion.Than the general contest where the student live and study ( music school, parents, ecc).My violin method, howewer, it is based on russian school. Russian school as a basic principle, it has to prepare all the movements, to arrive to play very fluently. The student will be able to prepare bow changes, string changes, and position changes.(Maurizio Cassandra)

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