'But I only want to play for one minute!'

January 16, 2014 at 12:02 AM · So about two weeks ago, a teaching job suddenly landed in my lap. This of course caught me completely off guard, I've been playing for about 3 years, (suzuki book 6 and some extra work). My payment is that in exchange for 1 hour of violin, I'd receive math, Japanese and Spanish tutoring/help. My student is a 5 years old little girl who is, in a word, impossible.

For the first week, I tried teaching her the proper basic, such as stance and how to take care of the violin and such, only to realize half way in that the VSO is too big for her. But I manage to convince her parent to spend a little more than $60 for her violin and find a proper size. (She's a small-ish 5 years old, so a 1/8 should last at least some years. Given the fact that my medium size 9 years old cousin is also playing a 1/8 in her school orchestra).

But anyway, the violin didn't come on time last week due to the freeze over of North America. So instead of teaching her the stance, I went over to the bow hold. Now bow hold and stances are very important to me. My first teacher, who was around my age now (16), back about nearly a decade ago drills it very well into my head. So well that after a 7 years long hiatus on my part, I still have the best "aesthetically pleasing figure" when playing.

But here comes the trouble, the little girl, who I will now to refer to as K, is very...difficult. Now I don't remember the exact detail, but I'm pretty sure that it didn't take me that long at all to master the dummy pencil hold and transition to the bow (maybe two days at most, possibly less) I pull with all of my memory might to remember how my teacher once taught me and transfer it onto the new generation. But after about 5 minute of half-hearted attention, K broke down crying (apparently this happen a lot so her parents wasn't fazed, but this is my first job here! so I freaked!) The conversation when something like this.

K:(*through well practiced sparkling tears*)

"But I only want to play for one minute!" (direct quote)

Me: "But you can't just "play for one minute""!

K: "But my hand hurt!"

(*I saw her monkey climb upstairs, so this girl undoubtedly have very strong hand muscle*)

Me: (*trying to not have a freak break-down*) But K! We've only been at it for five minute, and you didn't even hold it for that long yet! Come on, you can do it!

K: I want my baby sister!!!

(*Baby sister mysteriously disappeared*)

Me: (*head bowing, practically begging*) Come on, you can do it. Let's try again."

(*at this moment, I can hear the gear in my head spinning frantically. I have A LOT of baby cousins, but they're so...obedient*)

K:(*grudgingly hold up the plastic straw*) ok..

(*K merely let her hand goes limp and give me a look that could kill. After another three minute of getting to nowhere*)

Me:"K, are you sure you want to play the violin? If you don't, no one is forcing you to. I can talk to your mom if you really don't want to play"

K: "I want to play"

Me: "Then you have to take it seriously"

K: "But I only want to play for one minute!"

(*By now, I am sure that K have the impression that by merely pulling the bow across the string, the violin will automatically produce Perlman quality playing*)

So there's my trouble, next Sunday is when I greet K again. By then, I would like to learn more, as much as I can, on dealing/teaching with difficult kid. K parents' are very understanding and is well aware of K waterwork. I also shown both of them the bowhold so that they can (hopefully) get it through K by the time Sunday rolls around.

If you have any, and I mean ANY advice at all, please throw them at me, I am desperate to be as best of a first time teacher as I can.

Replies (38)

January 16, 2014 at 12:07 AM · I hate to say this, but your five-year-old sounds..normal! Feel free to use any of these materials and ideas, which are all for beginners and small children:


It helps to break things way, way down and make them a game. Next lesson, you might be teaching her to make a "bow bunny" with her hand, not learning the whole bow hand. If tears and frustration and inattention interrupt, chances are that you simply have to switch gears and teach another aspect of violin: clapping rhythms, singing a song that she will be later playing, a song for identifying the number names of the fingers, etc.

I suspect, if you also started at age 5, it took you more than five minutes to learn your bow hold. Ask your former teacher. In fact, your former teacher might be a very good source of wisdom!

January 16, 2014 at 12:18 AM · Greetings,

as Laurie says/imples, teaching someone of this age is about having a wide variety of diverse activities and approaches. A five year old can only work in one way for a very limited period.

You could try getting her to write her own pizzicato piece. Read her an interesting story and work out amusing ways of adding music, with or without the violin. Sing and dance. Color pictures and talk about how loud or soft they are. org heaven forbids listen to violin music. You might even find out what music she likes and play it on the violin so it relates to her life....

that's why I don't teach kids any more;)



January 16, 2014 at 01:18 AM · I'm sorry, I have to disagree with Laurie and Buri. I don't think a few years of playing is enough experience to qualify you to teach. If you want to teach, take lessons from a Suzuki teacher on how to teach lessons. I think teaching beginners is even more difficult than teaching a student who's been playing a few years. I've been playing for almost 40 years and I would never teach a beginner because I haven't learned how to do it. These lessons are this child's first exposure to music and you don't want to sour her on the violin. Please offer to mow the family's lawn or babysit for free, but leave the teaching to a trained professional with education and experience.

January 16, 2014 at 01:28 AM · Greetings,

well I don't think you are agreeing or disagreeing with either of us because we didn't say whether it was good or bad in the first place.

I do sympathize with your opinion on this. it can be very destructive to have an unqualified teacher working with a beginner. However, Personally I am al most staggered by the horrible set ups and wrong fundamentals of Ss supposedly taught by qualified teachers so I don't think it is so cut and dry.

It can also be the case that a kind and enthusistic beginning

teacher can do a good job with basic set up and keeping motivation. It's a little different, but even with so called qualifications Nd years of playing/ teaching very Dvanced students I struggled with my first young child trying to use the Suzuki books. I quickly dropped them and used adventures in Voolinland. Every lesson from that was a great success I look back on with pride. And frankly speaking, a talented beginner teacher couold work from that and do a very good job simply because the demands are so low but it is such great fun.

I am not clear why taking a Suzuki course should be considered the best way to become a teacher although I recognize it's validity.

Idle thoughts,


January 16, 2014 at 01:47 AM · Yeah, I'm not that into Suzuki, but I do think Suzuki teachers (generally) work very well with children. There's something to knowing how to explain concepts to kids. I watched my son's teacher do it and I know it takes training. He knew how to pace the lessons just right, and he had some wonderfully vivid exercises and descriptions. I just threw out suzuki because it's a formal approach to learning how to describe stuff to little kids. Anything would be helpful to a new teacher.

And yes, there are lots of crappy teachers. One of my teachers told me to pound my fingers in fast passages. I didn't figure out until I switched teachers why I couldn't play very fast! I still look back on the year and a half I took from her with regret. She created quite a few technical problems that I later had to fix, so it's like I lost twice that amount of time. And she was THE teacher in town. She was highly regarded and everyone took from her.

Anyway, I know everyone is new at some point, but it does seem like having some sort of training would be helpful. (for instance, knowledge of child development. It seems like Skylar doesn't know the basics of what can and shouldn't be expected of a 5 year old).

January 16, 2014 at 02:34 AM · Do make everything a game. If she only wants to play for 1 minute, that is fine. Get a stop watch and time her. Challenge her to hold the bow for 1 minute then do something else.

Do coloring sheets and ask her to name the parts of the violin. You can even bribe her a bit. Stickers and hand stamps tend to go over well with the 5 year old crowd.

January 16, 2014 at 04:03 AM · I have a couple of very young students around that age for violin - I love the enthusiasm they bring, and all you have to do is keep it going. :) Easier said than done sometimes, but it needs to be taken at their pace.

When I taught recorder and basic basic...basic... haha theory to kindergarten and first graders, it was a 30 minute lesson for 20 students. Even then I had to break it into itty bitty pieces.

I've always said teaching is part cheerleader, part coach and part educator. When you have those three thing working together, then you have a better chance at working with the kids. :)

January 16, 2014 at 11:07 AM · To me teaching under 7 year olds is always a real challenge. Especially because they cannot yet write and read, so you basically have to teach them in little amounts how to write, read AND play the violin.

In my opinion its very important to be qualified to teach small children and I think skills on the violin are not the real qualification needed here.

In the first two years, until the children get more aware, basic knowledge about the violin is enough for teaching beginners, but you have to be really versatile in pedagogic and communication with the child.

But after one or two years of basic violin lessons on how to hold everything and how to read music and move your arms in a somewhat right way there must be a teacher with a outlook to where it can go and wich way to go with the pupil.

Sorry I am interfering with this general discussion. I am just so into teaching at the moment and I have this kind of situations, where I see, that the student only needs motivation and couraging, so that he practices. Detailed explanations are at a very young stage obsolete of course. But I always try to speak to my young students, as if they understand everything, sometimes when I notice, they dont get it, its more my fault because I used the wrong words. I try to find pictures then, like metaphors, these not only work wonders in terms of understanding, but they also make the children smile, because their brain works that way and they love to imagine things and they often give you great ideas back.

To the OP: No discourage, but teaching small children needs a lot of experience in teaching. Its better to start of with some older ones, where the communication base is somewhat more equal. But its also a question of personality. I never thought I would be able to teach small children but I have quite good patience, wich helps a lot. Especially the bow hold is in early stages very difficult to teach. Dont spend too much time on it, because some things will come easier with time. It also depends on the hand of the student how quick this learning procedure goes.

And last but not least: An "incorrect" bow hold will not prevent children to sound better than another with "correct" bow hold. Think about that! We are so stuck into putting straight jackets to our playing habits... give it some room!

January 16, 2014 at 04:34 PM · Let me put it this way. I can play and teach all the Paganini Caprices and all the major concerto literature, but I would not attempt to teach a 5 year old, simply because I have no expertise in that area. There are many others who are better qualified including my 19-22 year old music education majors.

January 16, 2014 at 05:13 PM · I do agree with all the cautions about the teaching eexperience, but seriously, it's not like she's trying to set up a sstudio here :) It's one student, in exchange for tutoring. You have to start somewhere! probably most of the eaching majors are there because some brave parent let them babysit the kids and they realized it was a good fit. There is no harm in giving it a try! We know she's going to be precise on technique, she is going to have to learn how to communicate with a 5 year old, and she should keep in good communication with the parents so they understand how things are going-which she also mentioned she's doing. She will either learn enough from the experience to succeed, or if it's just not a fit, hopefully she'll be able to communicate that in a way that will be positive so the student will keep interest. Not too much to lose. Go for it!

All the advice on bbreaking it down, games, etc. is great. Also, sometimes it can be ok if not everything is perfect at once, there is a lot going on and on the day the bow hand is perfect, you may want to just focus on praising and reinforcing that and dealing with the droopy violin next time :) :)

GGood luck!

January 16, 2014 at 07:16 PM · There are so many reasons why you are not the right teacher for this child. As frustrated as you are listening to this little girls' "reasoning" I am likewise frustrated with your expectations of her. A 9yr old that still plays a 1/8 size violin is also absurd. I've had small 9yr olds before but I have never, ever had one play anything smaller than 1/2size and most of the time 3/4 and 4/4 sizes can work.

I have a master's degree in music education, am a board certified public school music teacher, have been teaching beginner students for over 12yrs and I don't have the patience required to teach a 5yr old. The mere notion that you can get a 5yr old to "take this seriously" is beyond absurd. You're banging your head on a wall and the only real danger here is that this little girl will want nothing to do with violin in about 3 seconds flat - which you've already accomplished.

One hour is too long for a 5yr old. End of story. A real teacher will know to cut it down to 20-30. Play for her, make her sing songs back to you, and only deal with one hand at a time is about all I can say. There's so much more to it that that, so much detailed work that requires buckets of patience. I'm not trying to be harsh but I think if you want this extra tutoring for yourself it might be a better deal if you help this family with chores or something else in exchange rather than music lessons. Better yet, try babysitting instead, and play music for her and color with her and teach her about the parts of the violin and stuff like that.

Furthermore I'd be really careful about telling this girl's parents that their child is difficult. A 5yr old is not like you, they don't have the same attention span and maturity that you do and the only reason that a 5yr old gets out of control is because they're not being dealt with in a way that is appropriate for their age. 5yr olds are not at fault for not cooperating, and as a mother I would be extremely defensive and skeptical of anyone who tried to blame my child for not taking something seriously.

January 16, 2014 at 08:06 PM · A good way to teach under 7s is have 2-3 15 min. lessons a week with very little or no practicing on their own for the first months until they get the fundamentals down. Repeating something 3-6 times during a lesson is all that is necessary for any age student to learn. If students are not getting something after several repeats or after several lessons it is usually YOU the teacher that is doing something wrong, and a different approach is necessary. Over repeating something in one setting until they get it is a poor teaching concept; the mind needs time to process new information.

January 16, 2014 at 09:14 PM · You have got a lot of good advice above. Take it easy. It was your first lesson and with a five-year-old and you probably had no previous experience with them:-). Logical arguments do not work too much, leading them the way you need makes wonders.

Also check if violin play was the parents idea or the child's idea. I had it easy - my daughter wanted to play the double bass at the age of 2, it was easy to agree on the violin at the age of 4. The most difficult thing was to find the teacher and appropriately sized instrument.

Check the violin size, I think 1/8 is pretty big for a 5-year-old, especially of Asian decent, measure her hand from the neck till the wrist crease and that should equal the physical size of the instrument from end pin till the end of the scroll.

I do not find the idea of a 9-year-old playing 1/8 absurd, my daughter still will use one at that age. She used 1/10 till 8 because she is petite and has short hands and could not play in tune with the pinkie on 1/8 (our 1/8 was slightly bigger than the usual 1/8 with total length of 44 instead 42 cm and mensure 24.5 instead 23.5 cm).

You can achieve shorter lessons, a 5-year-old starting will manage 20-30 minute lessons with different activities - exercising posture, clapping rhythm, doing bow bunny, holding box violin - all with breaks. With coaxing you will achieve that the child will think she wanted to it in the first place. Stickers make wonders.

Insist that the child does the activities under parents supervision every day - but it must always be taken as a game, not as a chore.

Read the following pages







more or less explore all of those blogs related to violin teaching on the teachsuzuki.blogspot.com

There is a lot of information for the teacher in your situation.

Check these materials:






I am not telling you that you should use Suzuki methodology but in those materials you will find a lot of interesting information related to your needs.

January 17, 2014 at 07:26 AM · Please don't teach five year olds until you have the proper training and experience to do so. You should help this family find a qualified instructor.

I'm not passing judgment on your ability to BECOME a teacher in the future, and certainly your interest in taking on a young student and the brave act of posting about your experience on this message board does show a level of interest that many teachers would find heartening.

If you have no idea where to start, many teachers here can recommend a variety of early childhood music programs that you can develop skills and earn certification/training in:

* Suzuki

* Music Together

* Orff

* Kodaly

* Dalcroze

* Gordon

* There are lots of others...

January 17, 2014 at 01:50 PM · Nice to hear from you again, Skylar, passionate as ever, and you seem to have met your match!

My own first attempts with 3-5 yr olds were a mess: clever tricks and "games", then I am asked "but when do we start playing the violin?"!

May I just add to the excellent list in the above posts: find any documentation on pre-school activities to see how we trick very small children into doing what we think is good for them. And the violin is very good for them!

Just as little children don't move and talk as we do, don't expect the same immediate perfection as we demand of ourselves.....

January 17, 2014 at 02:50 PM · I agree with Buri that the lesson for a 5-year-old should not emphasize technicalities like the Franco Belgian bow hold, but should emphasize the wonder and totality of the violin and of music in general and facilitate the child's entry and adaptation to that immense and complex world.

Then I was five years old I had half-hour lessons. At least half of that lesson was my violin teacher playing the violin for me. I did not have the attention span for more than 15 minutes of actual trying to play the violin. My parents were not in the room, those were different days. On that note, depending on the child, the behavior might improve dramatically if the parent is not in direct view. Lessons can be videotaped and reviewed later by the parent.

Does your student know any TV show themes or video game music? You can learn those tunes off of YouTube and play them for her. My daughter thought it was really cool that I could learn a couple of the ditties from "MarioKart" and the theme from "The Flintstones." Then we found a YouTube where a guy plays the music along with Super Mario Brothers (link below).


I suggest you start with the "beginner's bow hold" where the thumb is completely under the frog. Stand behind her and hold her hands and guide her through the first phrase of Twinkle, just the first seven notes. Get to the point where she can play this by herself. Then very gradually dial in the hand positions, etc.

Something useful is a foot chart made of sturdy cardboard for playing vs. bowing (as in, the bow you take after you have performed something, not as in spiccato or detache). Practice taking a bow, it's s surprisingly useful skill! She can color her own foot chart, of course. She can draw the score of the first seven notes of Twinkle and color it. She can get the Music Mind Games kit with all the plastic notes and such and invent her own games to play with it. Lots of options.

January 17, 2014 at 05:32 PM · Here's some information on how to measure for the correct-size violin: http://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/20138/14944/

January 17, 2014 at 11:12 PM · I thought the essential part of the Suzuki method was that mummy was present all the time - but then I've never tried to teach it, only read about it.

January 17, 2014 at 11:23 PM · Greetings,

the good thing about having a mummy present is that when the lesson is finished you can shout 'It's a wrap!'



January 18, 2014 at 01:11 AM · The parent can observe the lesson, but does it need to be synchronous? Videotaping allows the whole of the lesson to be captured, even allowing the teacher to make asides into the camera to convey instructional points. But the fact is, the parent can be a significant distraction to the child as well. I've never needed to do this with my daughter, but it's just my dumb luck that she's very well behaved.

January 18, 2014 at 07:52 PM · To OP: such questions are better reserved for your own teacher, or violinist friends you trust, for the simple reason that they always deteriorate into posts full of people making judgments of whether or not you're qualified to be a teacher. Five year olds are full of energy and it takes a special person to make things click in their brain, but if you have a good team of your own teachers and good players behind you, you can be an amazing teacher!

January 18, 2014 at 08:57 PM · Greetings,

I think questions tat directly concern one`s own teacher`s ideas should be banned on this site ( most of the time...)

However, the OP got a great deal of good information from the post, therefore it makes absolute sense to put up the original question. Personally I avoided saying whether or not she should be teaching because my priority was a) how to make things better if all else fails and b) maybe the information would be useful to other people reading this thread.

The strongly worded suggestions that she should not be teaching all come from extremely expert and qualified teachers. That also counts as advice rather than criticism. Its also good advice for other people who think they might find themselves in this situation.

I would therefore respectfully suggest that this post is precisely the kind of thing that can usefully be posted on this site and that it should have helped not only the OP but others as well,



January 18, 2014 at 09:10 PM · I am not saying helpful things cannot be gathered from asking such questions. I myself have greatly benefited from things here! That's what v.com is for! What I'm saying is perhaps more to those who consistently say such things. We get it, young teachers are still learning. But frankly, usually we no one's asking for your personal opinion on who should or should not be teaching. Therefore, usually, I save these questions to ask personally to teachers I trust and who trust me. If you aren't going to directly answer OP's question, it's perhaps best not to answer at all, because anyone who's so much as haunted this place knows that it's full of people with opinions regarding who should and should not be teaching. You made the right decision, buri, in not making a judgment on that, and I am not saying it's not people's right to express themselves, but rather in sympathy with the OP, gently suggesting to her that she may not find the support she's looking for here. Besides, usually, in such cases you should always try your teacher first. That's what you're paying them for! :-)



January 18, 2014 at 10:02 PM · Don't assume that because you haven't got anywhere with a 5 year old she hasn't learnt anything! You may remember that Sibelius's 2nd grew out of an abandoned tone poem inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy? Much is made in some quarters about his "reversing classical sonata form" in the first movement, developing his theme(s) before exhibiting them plainly in the middle of the movement? But suppose it's nothing to do with form, but everything to do with describing life? Our lives only come together as we grow and often dishevel as we approach death. Your little five year old is still coming together, as is what you are teaching her.

January 18, 2014 at 10:23 PM · My response came from my experience not only as a teacher but as a mom. The OP made some pretty strog accusations. towards the child's behavior, as well as other comments about the child that were worrisome to me. If a child says that her hand hurts it probably means "I don't want to do this" and should be taken as a sign that what the teacher is doing is not working. This is not the child's fault, but clearly she wasn't enjoying the lesson.

January 19, 2014 at 01:31 AM · I understand that impulse, certainly....I am quick to defend a child when she's in over her head. But it's a five year old. Especially if the parents support this teacher and understand their daughter's behavior to be at least slightly problematic, then we can have a pretty good indication that the five year old simply has a short attention span (hence the one minute thing)---and what five year old doesn't? I think from the dialog provided, the OP was being very kind and encouraging, ("you can do it!!") and also very understanding ("you don't have to do this"). Also as a young teacher myself, I remember that even as a ten to eleven year old, I often made excuses for my shortcuts, and with my own young students who conveniently forget something or get tired of the hard work involved and start behaving oddly. Thing is, we know they can do it, we don't want to push them too hard, but what student is going to go anywhere if somewhere along the line they're not made to do something they don't want to, and push through "pain" which can often just be muscle fatigue due to learning something new.

In your admirable desire to defend the little one, you may be judging OP to harshly, and jumping to conclusions. Besides that, perhaps gentle warnings to that effect might be more helpful than suggesting it's OP's fault. She asked for suggestions regarding her difficulty, and is getting judgments, and I don't know that that's fair in us, that's all.

January 21, 2014 at 04:47 PM · I don't know if I'm judging the teenager any more harshly than she's judging a 5yr old. Either way, aren't you judging me while we're at it? Can't this just be a conversation about opinions and not about judgments? In any case we should direct out opinions to those who asked for them.

My opinion is as stands. I do not believe the 5 yr old meant that her hand hurts. I think she meant that she doesn't want to do it anymore. A good teacher will know how to excite a student and help her develop her attention span.

January 21, 2014 at 07:02 PM · I'm not very experienced in the area of teaching (I'm 16 years old also), but I know that one of the biggest things that got me off to a good start was listening to a lot of good music. My mom had music going all the time, and I loved it.

When my family got a piano (I was probably 4 or 5), I eagerly sat down and tried to teach myself to play. When my mom gave me lessons, I was very co-operative and really enjoyed it. It was the same with the violin. I had a drive to learn it because I loved music. When I was given *boring assignments (i.e., playing open strings for 15 minutes every day), I was willing to do it because I understood that this was preparing me to play beautiful music like the tapes Mom played for me.

When my younger sister said she wanted to learn the cello, I was asked by my parents to teach her. My sister did not have the same foundation in listening to music that I had. And, unlike me, she was under the impression that the cello would magically play itself. She was not serious about "learning" the cello; she wanted to "play" the cello.

It has taken a lot of stuggling for me to work with my sister. We've probably had more lessons where she broke up crying than lessons that went well. Each time this happens, I ask, "Do you still want to play the cello?" Sometimes the answer is, "Yes, but it's so hard." Other times, the answer is, "No."

I think that, at some point, most musicians go through a time where they don't really enjoy playing. I did. Several times. So has my sister. In fact, she has quit more than once. At this point, I don't know if she will come around or not. She has played for over 4 years (though she had quit for about the equivilant of 2 years in there), and she is not yet to the Minuets in Suzuki book 1.

As I've said, I'm not an experienced teacher. However, I think that if my sister had been exposed to more music, or if she was listening to music now, she would be inspired. I am now teaching my other sister the violin, and she listens to as much music as she plays. I see a lot of promise in her, and she is motivated to work with me, largely because she has the goal of playing like the recordings she hears.

*I'm not sure why I had to do this. I think it had to do with my bow co-ordination. Anyway, I would not make any of my students do it! I have a hard enough time doing 5 minutes of open strings in my practice today!

January 21, 2014 at 08:32 PM · Marina, I'm sorry that what I said came across as judging. I'm really not judging you, I'm frustrated with the mentality that you have to be x before you can teach y demographic, or whatever. I was more standing up for Skylar than judging anybody, because everybody is entitled to their opinion, and that's okay. But I, as a young teacher myself, feel that her questions could have been better answered, rather than having her ability to teach (due to no Suzuki training or young age) called into question. From what you wrote, perhaps you weren't meaning it this way, just as I was not meaning to judge others and their opinions, but rather myself be helpful to her by suggesting she ask her own teacher.

I do agree with you that a good teacher inspires even the most distracted five year old. I think that that is a perfect place to start helping Skylar! How would you go about encouraging and inspiring the student if you found yourself in this case? This could be very helpful information for her and anybody else, such as myself, who may find themselves in a similar situation. :-)

Please, accept my apologies for any hurt my words may have caused.

January 21, 2014 at 08:52 PM · There's no need for an apology, I'm not insulted in anyway and I hope you're not either. But this statement "I'm frustrated with the mentality that you have to be x before you can teach y demographic" is problematic. If you had a child and was sending them to learn math and science and all those other goodies at a public school you would expect the teacher to have some training. Even if the teacher was a brand new first-time teacher, he/she would at least have a degree, some credentials, some knowledge on the subject of teaching. In fact it would be illegal to teach anyone without it. If you hired a tutor to help your child with math I expect you'd want the same kind of credentials. So why isn't it fair enough to say that a child needs a teacher with some kind of credentials?

After all, it is frustrating to those of us who have credentials to hear someone say that it isn't necessary or important. That makes all those years I spent earning degrees, doing student-teaching, writing theses and getting certification sort of frivolous.

Is it possible that a young person can teach another person how to play the violin? Yes. But it requires patience and an understanding of 5yr olds and in my opinion the OP did not exhibit that in the post she wrote. She doesn't describe the child in favorable terms and it's a bad sign when someone blames the child after just one lesson. Again that is my own opinion but there it is.

And I do not think that someone needs to have a suzuki certification, I don't.

January 21, 2014 at 11:14 PM · Wow wow wow wow! I'd never my post would ever recieve this much attention. The amount of support in this community is great!

First of, I would like to thank all the tips and critique. After reading all of your comment, it's like going through a rigorous class, so much information to takes in!

Well, let's recap this week for all of you to know that nearly of you advice have been put into practice!

This week went much much muchhh smoother than the last week. I return to K house with more confidence and a plan.

The Agenda:

-"Bunny bowhold"--check

-Stances (rest position, violin under jaw, bowing after performance, etc.)--Check

-A small attempt at twinkle for fun ;) ( I have K trying to bow on A and E while pressing the note for her) (some of you may not approve, but it a start)

Over all, after coming with tons of information and a lesson plan of 20-5-20-5-10, which is learn, break, learn, break and a wrap up. Also the sandwich method of compliment-critique-compliment. K (and I) accomplish a heck of a session.

Now, down to explaining and discussing.


During the week of not seeing K, I pretty much loiters around my public library and stopping by the elementary school to seek more "hand-on" experience. I agree that with the first two lesson, I was indeed very stresses and way over m head; promise that I'm better now. This week, because K also have a little sister(2 yrs old) I intended to bring a box violin over to keep her still and not doing cutesy eyes at her big sister. Turn out, she actually prefer harmonica!(and is really good too;)

And one of you, ( too lazy to remember who) said that if the kid is bored, it's the teacher fault. Well, kudos to you, after a memory search, and some light reminiscing with my mother, it turns out that the reason I went on "a break", was because of an older teacher lack of ability to handle little kids.

I got a way to develop K attention span now, it's (drumrolls please) Sticker!!! I got the idea after mall-creeping and saw a selection of adorable stickers on sale. My Calculus teacher also use the sticker methods to encourage high school students, and it hit me like a wrecking ball. If stickers work on HIGH SCHOOL kids, it should be magic on the tiny one. And for once in my life, I did not have an awkward time explaining to my mother why I blew $5 dollar on a stickers set.

My first teacher was in the same situation as I am now. And that is, young, she was 17 whereas I'm only 15; inexperience. But what would you expect, private music study is expensive in Vietnam. the only difference (huge) that she was already playing for a decade and got a scholarship to Singapore. So no hope of ever contacting her for my embarrassing story.

I will now try harder to lmake it as fun for K as possible. The last thing I'd ever want is her hiatusing like me.


First of, thanks for your honest and blunt critiques.(no sarcasm intends).

To Marina- Standing at 4"11 and a half; I am quite literally, THE smallest teen-agers in my high school, where everybody was fed a special growth-inducing formula since birth. Now I don't know how tall you are, but my guess is that your definition of small doesn't includes a 9 years old barely 4"5 and cutesy tinsy tiny little hands. I have the good fortune of being a jitterbug that couldn't sit still and therefore plays with my hands by stretching it since I can hold a pencil,which give me a very nice 10 inch handspan and flexible fingers, which then a allows me to comfortably fiddle on a 4/4. My younger cousin playing on a 1/8 was not my decision, it's her school orchestra teacher. She could fit on at least a 1/2 size, but it's her teacher decision to keep her on a 1/8. That is not at all absurds to me.

On the other hand,a 1/4 was far too big for K, I measured her properly before telling her mother to switch her to a 1/8 that fits her perfectly.

Now, while I do admit saying tht K was "difficult", it was mainly because of the fact that it's only my second day of teaching. By past Sunday, K and I have both calms the calamity in our bust and proceeds smoothly. I am by nature blunt to point of brutal, I don't sugarcoat, what I observes is what I will say. Thankfully, K mother also shares this personality trait(such luck on my part), so instead of getting angry and offended like you might have. She helps me calm the H down and encourage K, and I as well to learn to teach better, which is why I'm here on this forum, shaking and shivering.

Next week, I am planning to help K with her posture more and have her listens to Hillary Hahn twinkles and maybe Perlman, my first idol and why I wanted to start playing, after that, maybe we'll do those plucking string games the my cousin does. And because I'll also bring my violin, maybe some simple open string "duet" would be nice(if I can find some).

I enjoy the honest critique, and also because my lesson/teacher and I only meet once a week for 30 min. And she's a 25 minutes. Drive; so I only have this forum and the flocks of fiddler on here as "trusted colleague". -(???).

Thank a lot for ALL of your help. I'd never thought I'd receives this much attentions.

January 22, 2014 at 05:23 AM · Kudos Skylar-way to do your research and so glad you had a better lesson!

Be aware that things can fluctuate from week to week with 5 yr old-one week can be great and the next, crazy, for reasons that may be totally out of your control! The more ideas you have in your back pocket, the better chance you have of rescuing a crazy lesson :)

I was reminded of my first-grade orchestra days-THAT was definitely crazy, talk about getting little kids to focus-try 10 at once :) But through it I had to come up with quite a bag of tricks and it ended up really fun! Figured i'd throw out a few ideas; just off the top of my head; some probably will overlap with what others have said; they're definitely not all original. :) a lot of these are also music games you can do in your 'playing breaks'-an hour can be quote a time to fill with a little one!

-rhythm clapping echoes (make them progressively harder)

-rhtyhm converstaions-you make something up then she does

-pepperoni pizza rhythms-I use pepperoni for 16th, pizza for 8th, cheese for quarter-makes them smile :) If you get good you can do a duet where she holds the pizza steady and you put pepperoni and cheese on top-great for developing sense of beat!

-Kodaly rhythms are also great for rhtyhms games (ta ti-ti etc) and to start associating with notation.

(I never taught playing from notation right away with my young ones, but I taught them to recognize and understand it and read it with their voices and then once they got their fingers and bow reasonably mastered we could usually start putting things together-usually focusing on Either rhythm Or notes at first, not both at once)

-clap the rhythm of one of her songs and see if she can figure out which one it is. Or have her try to see if you can recognize her doing it!

-learn the musical alphabet-make it a game. Remember to teach how it repeats and also to do it backward!

-teach her that higher fingers make higher pitch, lower fingers make lower pitch. for some reason a lot of my beginners would get reversed on that.Try making up a song with 'wiggly notes' where she can experiment with sliding finger high and low on purpose

-slide up and down the whole length of the fingerboard, like shifting-make a game of findign the harmonics

-play 'birds' on the e-string, by using a trill- can really prepare and strengthen high fingers with this and teach nice loose 'fun' fast finger action (also can play shifting games by making a cow on G or a cat on D)

-My go-to when I needed to give them a brain break or fill a little time was to teach them to sing one of their upcoming songs. Then they will have a headstart when time comes to actually learn it!

-Use cutout circles and tape or string to make a staff if you want to start playing with pitch notation. We always made a game of memorizing the 'homes' for the open strings and going from there. Then you can show how the notes going up and down matches the letters and the pitches going up and down (one thing at a time though for most kids!)

-Try to find a broader repertoire of the really easy songs, so that if she's learning her songs well but still needs to work on the technique or other concepts before going harder, you have something else to pull out at the same level. Old McDonald, This Old Man (aka Barney), Frere Jacques, and stuff like that can work well. You can always make up stuff too!

-My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE and super-fun song for teaching fingers is the Monkey Song which I think originated with Mimi Zweig. also great when you are ready to associate pitch notation. You can probably find it online but PM me if you need it.

-Consider giving her an open string 'song' to get the bow comfy before adding fingers. The suzuki people I think do the 'e string concerto" which is basically twinkle rhythm on e string, and if you play the melody it sounds really pretty together. also consider giving her some kind of open string song to practice the string changing motion.

Yeah ok so that was a lot of ideas...can you tell I miss working with this age? :) Hope it helps and feel free to PM me if you have questions though I can't promise to be prompt with a response. Remember it is ok to move slow and steady, as long as she is learning-at some point probably in a year or two, her readiness will mature and everyhting will click and she'll be off to the races :) Good luck!


January 22, 2014 at 07:47 AM · > That makes all those years I spent earning degrees,

> doing student-teaching, writing theses and getting

> certification sort of frivolous.

This is a greater problem in the education community when it comes to looking at what music teachers do. I'm actually a bit sad that every now and then, someone who IS a K-12 teacher just like me says to me, "wow, it must be nice to teach music! No homework...just play and have fun with the kids!" Mind you, this isn't some parent that has no music background, it's a colleague. :(

There is a totally false assumption that somehow, music happens purely by "talent" and that there is no real "work" involved.

January 22, 2014 at 02:37 PM · I don't think it makes it frivolous. It makes it that much more valuable. I recognize my cut off point, where I can teach no further, as any honorable teacher would. But you have all those degrees, a wealth of taught and earned talent, etc., such that if someone was looking at the two of us put side by side, they could make a decision between me (not as educated beginner teacher with a minimal fee) and you (a very highly trained musician with a much higher fee). At that point, the students who need your level teaching have a much clearer choice, or the parents of six year olds with VSOs who don't want to sink a lot of money into something they're not sure about, may go with me. It gives a choice that, if it benefits anybody, benefits you by making your services that much more valuable. This applies to so much in life, as it's pure economics.

I do not trivialize all the work you've done. I think, however, that some people perceive that you can't learn to do things without going through years and years of college, grad school, post-grad, etc. This is not the case, and it has been shown throughout history that if you have quality teaching (in this case my teacher teaching me to teach) you can attain similar heights as those who have degrees. That's really the only difference, because as I go through my life taking violin lessons, even though I don't intend on going through all these educational establishments, I can be playing at college level, playing at master's level, etc., and be as qualified without the degree.

The fact that you have, however, does indicate that you were willing to put down a lot of money and a huge chunk of your life and dedicate it to your art and that is admirable and I would never trivialize it.

January 22, 2014 at 08:05 PM · Ok you are able to attain similar levels of expertise, very interesting.

Thanks Gene, unfortunately what ends up happening to us teachers is we inherit students with all sorts of interesting habits that we have to fix. I spend more time teaching kids how to unlearn the garbage they've learned than anything else. It is much more difficult to unlearn something than learn it the right way the first time. One wouldn't chance that with multiplication but they chance it all the time with an instrument that can cause more physical damage than any other.

February 4, 2014 at 06:27 AM · You are more than welcome to use any of my free materials on denleymusic.com

I have lots of free downloadable/printable games for beginners (I adore teaching 3 year olds), violin flash cards and some beginner pieces I wrote/arranged. The skittle game has been a huge hit with my younger students. They seem to learn the notes super fast that way!

I also love the Adventures in Violinland by Shirley Givens. They are wonderful books.

Hahahaha Buri - I almost spat out my dinner with your response about Mummy's in the room. ;D

All the best Skylar. If you're having fun, your little student will have fun too :D

February 4, 2014 at 11:50 AM · Yeah, the 5 year old could put on suitable rap background music and chant "It's a wrap" to it!

February 5, 2014 at 06:05 AM · Sounds to me that the kid isn't ready for formal violin lessons.

When my kids were little they did a program called Music Class. It was singing, movement, rhythm and tonal patterns..all different genres. It was great. Before and after class the teacher sat the kids on her lap and had them play the violin with her. They loved it.

My daughter was mesmerized and began to pretend to play violin with sticks on her arm. She began formal lessons at 2 1/2. The other kids didn't start lessons till they were 8 or 9. They weren't ready.

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