Teacher needs help

September 10, 2010 at 04:49 PM ·

Can anyone suggest (with a brief description if possible) a tried and true book/method suitable for use with an older man (beginner) who wants a traditional, non-Suzuki approach and wants to move quickly to his end goal of being able to sight-read easy classical and pop songs?  He has arthritis quite badly, so isn't expecting anything amazing; but he wants to progress fast and see how what he is practicing relates to the end goal, plus he wants it to be somewhat enjoyable in the process, not too tedious.  He is not very patient with carefully laying a beginning foundation, but wants to get to the "fun stuff" right away. 

I'm just about out of ideas to try with this older beginner, and would greatly appreciate any suggestions for a method book, as well as for an easy duet book suitable to keep his interest during the early slogging till I can get him over the hump - thank you!

Replies (26)

September 10, 2010 at 05:30 PM ·

i dont know what you mean by 'older' - but i am 69 (suggest you read the discussion 'too old at 69') and even if i were 29 or 9, recognize there is no quick and easy way to learn.  set goals, but dont set them too high.  i see nothing wrong with the suzuki books.  you can give 'target' exercises in addition to scales, arpeggios, etc.    and both of you should read the book EFFORTLESS MASTERY by Kenny Werner.  even though the title is misleading, in fact it's dead wrong, it makes one feel comfortable, i think, with very small baby steps.   and remember, everyone started somewhere.   good luck.

September 10, 2010 at 05:30 PM ·

What age group is the student?

Have you checked the archives here?  Many good articles regarding older new students and books/methods.

September 10, 2010 at 06:46 PM ·

Essential Elements for Strings.

Im mostly self taught, Im 46 years old and have been playing for 2 years. I looked at a couple other methods but this is the one that works for me and I would recommend it for adult beginners.

September 10, 2010 at 07:51 PM ·

 Another vote for Essential Elements (1&2) followed by Essential Technique...

September 10, 2010 at 07:55 PM ·

 Sooo.... he doesn't have high expectations for himself, he just wants to progress faster than every other beginner and get to the fun stuff right away?  That sounds like every student I have ever taught no matter if they are 3 or 76.  

Violin is not a fast process.  He's going to have to learn that.  It's actually a really good life lesson for most people, I find.  Teach him as you would any other student.

September 10, 2010 at 08:03 PM ·

But if you need method book ideas, I would use the Suzuki books to help teach him technique and supplement it with the Mark O'Connor method books.

I like Essential Elements, but as you progress through it it becomes more and more obvious it's for a beginning string orchestra.  For a strictly private lesson environment, I would use that as supplemental material as well.

September 10, 2010 at 08:50 PM ·

I wouldn't use the Suzuki books for him...there's a ton of other material out there that is more appealing to an adult beginner that can accomplish the same goals.

Essential Elements is very nice for large group classes in late elementary school, though it will be a pretty quick study in one-on-one private lessons. Shirley Givens "Adventures in Violinland" are quite awesome. Mark O'Connor's new series is interesting as well.


September 10, 2010 at 10:31 PM ·

One good thing about Essential Elements for this particular student is that it uses lots of familiar tunes.  The kids don't always recognize them, but an older adult certainly would.

September 11, 2010 at 12:25 AM ·

Thanks a lot for the suggestions!  And yes, wanting to get to the fun part and bypass the slogging can be quite typical for students of any age!  :-) 

October 6, 2010 at 02:00 AM ·

I've had great results with my adult students using The Doflein Method for Violin. Many short easy pieces, logical progression of technique, everyone seems to like it. This is the only method book I was comfortable teaching straight through without my editing or skipping around. I've also used Maia Bang method-- its somewhat easier, slower paced.

October 6, 2010 at 01:06 PM ·

I started out on the Maia Bang method!  This from an older adult, who, just 48 months ago, didn't know how to hold a violin - didn't know  how to hold a bow, couldn't read notes, etc.

I highly recommend it because it won't let you get discouraged.

---Ann Marie

October 6, 2010 at 01:15 PM · Hi! Really, any of the current school series have potential. The plainer ones like All for Strings or Essential Elements may look less "childish" than Sassmanhaus, Artistry in Strings or String Explorers, though the content is as suitable. There is a new edition of Tune a Day, but I haven't seen it. Part of your job is convincing your student that basic melodies, folk tunes & scales will get him where he wants to be faster & easier. Spend some time building up a little collection of warm-up exercises (actual exercises & little bits to play, like scales in 3rds). Be sure his equipment is well-adjusted & everything fits to help him w/his arthritis.

October 6, 2010 at 01:17 PM · Oh- Be pretty specific about what something is "for" and what it should sound like, and be liberal but not sugary with acknowledging better sound, volume, intonation, bow use, etc.

October 6, 2010 at 02:31 PM ·

I wonder about Mark O'Connor's new books - they include a range of tunes and seem like they might be more interesting to an older beginner.  Another approach is to figure out what music he likes to listen to to see if you can begin there in some way.  What I'm thinking is that he's interested in learning because he's heard violin that he likes and would like to be able to do some himself, hence guiding him with what he has heard and might wish to play, within reasonable limits.  It seems to me a very good thing to be embarking on something new at his age, and part of your task may be to guide him to get pleasure from his playing, no matter how imperfect by normal standards.

October 6, 2010 at 04:21 PM ·

I'm an adult beginner, also with arthritis issues.  I started lessons in June.  I'm currently working out of "All For Strings" and "Essential Elements", and have been enjoying both.  There are enough actual tunes sprinkled in among the exercises to keep up the interest level.  I'm also using the Suzuki Book One -- not really for Suzuki technique, but just because it contains some really good music!

I totally concur with the suggestion someone made in an earlier post -- explain VERY thoroughly how each exercise is going to help build toward more technical proficiency.  Perhaps play a bit of a piece that demonstrates the technique in question, so your student will understand what he's working toward.

October 6, 2010 at 04:26 PM ·

 I enjoyed All For Strings as a new adult beginner. I also enjoyed Samuel Applebaum's Beautiful Music for Two String Instruments. (Both have multiple volumes, which is nice as well.) The duet book was great because it made me feel like I was playing "real" music from the start. My teacher also had me playing tunes from the Suzuki vol 1 book, even though she had no interest in the Suzuki method itself. The nice thing was that I could listen to the tune on the accompanying CD (or I bought the CD to accompany the book; can't remember) and it was a help during the week as I practiced on my own. Good intonation check, to boot. 

December 30, 2010 at 07:25 AM ·

As an adult beginner myself, I'm sick of Suzuki. I started off with Le petite Paganini, I didn't enjoy it much but still better than the Suzuki. I feel like I'm a "monkey see monkey do" with it, no offend to any others who are using the books. It's just not for me!

BTW, I found 2 Essential Elements for Strings: 1 is Essential Elements for Strings, and one is Essential Elements for Strings 2000, same authors. I see a review says that the 2000 was a split version to get more $$? Which one should I order?

December 30, 2010 at 12:42 PM ·

The difference between Essential Elements and Essential Elements 2000 seems to be mostly in the inclusion of a "play-along" CD with the 2000 book.  There are a few minor differences in the order the songs are presented in, and even few differences in the songs themselves (a few were dropped and a few others added in the 2000 version).  I bought the 2000 version, thinking the CD would be fun.  It was OK, but as I learned and my playing improved on the material, many of the CD accompaniments were hopelessly SLOW!!!  Also, the CD included with the book doesn't cover the entire book -- you have to buy another CD separately if you want recordings of ALL the material in the book.


December 30, 2010 at 02:22 PM ·

I am an adult beginner and self taught.  I bought Violin for Dummies and it was quite helpful.  4 months in and I was playing Christmas music with my brother in law on piano.  If I had followed this book WITH instruction I would be so much further along!

December 30, 2010 at 02:39 PM ·

 Nobody has really addressed the goal of being able to sight read... I think getting a big book of really easy songs and just play through them... Once you can play in the key of C you can get a lot of pop music from the 50's - 70's for the organ and just play through them.  Or a church hymnal just page through until you find a song in a key you can play in and start playing.

The point is to play music you haven't learned but is well within your technical ability so you can practice sight reading without the difficulty of the music getting in the way.  If the music is familiar it can be alot of fun but familiarity with the music also lets you know if you made a mistake.




December 30, 2010 at 05:05 PM ·

I find little difference between using the Suzuki books as a basis for teaching from the methods used on me in New York starting 72 years ago. Since I found out about the Suzuki books almost 40 years ago, I used them as a basis for teaching students between the ages of 5 and 60.

However, I do supplement the Suzuki books as needed (for whatever reasons) with more classical etude material, genre music, or more popular or religious tunes - whatever is needed to fix problems or to engage a student's interest.

One example, I found that the first few pieces in Suzuki form an excellent basis for starting some students on "Devi's Dream," a really catchy folk piece. Faster, some tougher bowings, but they are already ready for all the notes - actually good bowing discipline for some Bach and Vivaldi.

For a mature adult, learning to truly sightread is going to mean some really serious wood-shedding. Music books that contain the kinds of songs he is interested in would be motivating, and probably some fo the heavy-weight "fake" books that gig-players will use as sources for honoring requests might be just right.


December 30, 2010 at 05:26 PM ·

How about a set list? His real question may be hidden because he is asking for what he THINKS he wants.
I'm 55, and I have some specific aches and pains that make playing for hours impossible.

When I started at 54 years old, I knew it would not be something quick to learn. My goal was to be able to have some songs I could play that I enjoyed.

I was able to partly achieve that goal by mixing in some 'campfire songs', hymns, older ballads, etc. Many of the songs in the Suzuki book I have never heard in the real world. Here are some options:

Silent Night
Jingle Bells

Red River Valley
Oh Suzanna
Old McDonald
Grandfather's Clock
Comin' Round the Mountain

If I Had a Hammer
This Land (is Your Land)
Rocky Top
Hand Down Your Head Tom Dooley

Ave Maria
Amazing Grace
How Great Thou Art
Holy, Holy, Holy
Rock of Ages
Go Tell It on the Mountain
What a Friend We Have in Jesus


January 1, 2011 at 04:57 PM ·

36 Etudes melodiques by Charles Dancla (OP 64)  would be a good compromise. Each lesson  introduces a new goal ( new scale, new bowing ,new position  etc ) with a technical exercice and a melodic study.For more advanced student  ,another method by Charles Dancla is "Ecole des 5 positions op 141)" according to the same pattern. However ,the progression might be too rapid that's is the drawback of such old methods(around 1930) An alternatice was  the Mazas method but I am not sure it is still published

January 3, 2011 at 09:49 AM ·

I also vote for Essential Elements 2000...It's the preferred book used at most schools here.  It has 2 accompanying CD's  which my grand daughter didn't really find all that helpful, but know of others who liked them.

January 3, 2011 at 08:26 PM ·

I used Samuel Applebaum's "Building Technic With Beautiful Music" during my first year of lessons to supplement my Suzuki books (for additional sight-reading practice). There are many fun, easy, recognizable tunes in the books. Yet there is a basic violin skills lesson cleverly hidden in each exercise.

January 3, 2011 at 11:06 PM ·

I've used Applebaum "Beautiful Music to Learn by rote"; Kjos' "Strings Extraordinaire"--lots of familiar tunes there with duets included, including some open string parts for getting the technique down and organized pretty progressvely.  I also write out a ton of tunes for my students--hymns, holiday, folk songs, etc.--finale is my best friend  :)  As a method book that moves through technique thoroughly but efficiently and incorporates a lot of musicianship on the process I have been impressed with "New Directions for Strings" which the public schools around me use.   One thing you could do is find out what songs specifically he would like to be able to play, map out the skills (technical and musical) that are necessary, and base your curriculum on that--that way he will be able to see the progress between what he wants and the building blocks to get there. 

I did just lose a student to what I think was that reason....she had great musical goals and we could touch on some of them, but her technique foundation was totally tense.  She was frustrated by the way it hindered her but she was more frustrated by having to go back and work on it so we kinda went in circles.....hope yours comes out better!!

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