My personal teaching method

March 22, 2015 at 12:03 AM · Excerpts from Violin Playing & Teaching(For Intonation; Galamian)


core books in order:

String Builder vol. 1(Applebaum)

String Builder vol. 2(Applebaum)

Position etudes(Suzuki)

String Builder vol. 3(Applebaum)

Contemporary Violin Technique books 1,2, & 3(Galamian)

Viva Vibrato(Fischbach)

as you can see I'm not really concerned with the performance pieces so much as technique & tone

Replies (26)

March 22, 2015 at 03:36 AM · Is this something you are actually doing with students, and if so, how is it working?

The year of piano seems excessive...most of my professional colleagues don't really play piano. I do, but I started piano the year after I started violin (age 6 and age 5, respectively)--seemed to work well enough.

March 22, 2015 at 03:45 AM · What you've described here is a plan I'm sure fits a particular student (or kind of student) really well.

The challenge is, what are you going to do if the student you have doesn't excel by fitting into this mold?

March 22, 2015 at 11:29 PM · If you're going to learn the piano, for goodness sake learn both clefs and play with two hands. Otherwise take up the accordion.

March 23, 2015 at 12:35 AM · I echo Paul Deck on this subject, but I really don't think piano is necessary for most people. As long as you have students listening to music with accurate pitches, their pitch recognition should be just fine. Piano proficiency is generally useful, but for that, you need to be able to actually play the piano with both hands.

By the way, Catherine Stay, are you the one who is playing on this video?

March 23, 2015 at 01:21 AM · I completely disagree with the piano before violin suggestion.

When I was little, I really wanted to learn the violin. Had I been forced into playing an entirely different instrument to prepare, I surely would have lost interest -- that's just they way my mind and learning worked as kid. Once I had that violin there was no looking back...

March 23, 2015 at 02:44 AM · I agree with Paul, Lydia and Douglas. I'd also add that you SHOULD be concerned with repertoire. There's no better way to develop tone then for a student to be inspired to express emotions and a musical line in a piece. And playing music is the goal for taking up any instrument, isn't it?

I'm all for developing solid technical fundamentals and have always stressed this in my teaching. One way that I've changed however, is that I've become a little more flexible about applying the material, rather than forcing each student into the same mold.

Keeping the above in mind, here is my own typical approach, but it breathes:

Loureux Book 1. At a certain point I'll introduce various easy pieces leading to a first position student concerto or two, and 1 octave scales.

Loureoux Book 2 along with starting the Kayser etudes and vibrato, eventually 2 octave scales and arpeggios, more advanced student concertos, when ready, pieces like Corelli's La Folia, etc.

Eventually Sevic and Schradiek for positions, extra double-stop material, Mazas book 1, Kreutzer along with alternating other etudes, etc. 3 octave scales, more advanced pieces, etc.

I could go on and go into more detail, but the above is a basic idea for beginner into high intermediate. The most important thing is not what you do but how you do it. We teachers are doctors of violin playing. The wrong medicine, especially in overdose can be deadly!

March 23, 2015 at 01:20 PM · Surely performance pieces are the raison d'être of technique and tone!!

We should certainly convey the pleasure in mastering dexterity and tone, but we play music for its beauty.

Don't we?

Or did you mean that your list was only concerned with technique and tone, not your teaching?

March 23, 2015 at 02:24 PM · One way that piano is very helpful (albeit perhaps not strictly necessarily) is with "visualizing theory." But I agree that forcing a student to study a different instrument for a year is a bad idea, especially at an age where a year is basically an eternity.

March 23, 2015 at 04:42 PM · I understand what you're saying, but 1) the pitches of the piano are already given. start with that so when you move over to the violin you can recognize them easier. 2) if someone comes to me and says "I want to play [insert name here], I want to be able to tell them yes, go ahead. 3)"What you've described here is a plan I'm sure fits a particular student (or kind of student) really well." well, seeing as how I myself started the violin really late(age 19) and had no teacher I guess you're right. I would teach the "late bloomers"

March 23, 2015 at 06:09 PM · Hi, although I started studying piano a little more than a year after starting private violin lessons when I was a kid, I did so because I really wanted to, not because it was a requirement to study violin. For a child, having to study piano for a year before getting to start an instrument he or she really wants seems unnecessary, and creates what to me seems an unnecessary barrier to entry.

Part of that barrier in some cases will be financial. For some families, buying or renting a suitable piano (even one of the decent less expensive electric/digital models now available) followed by a purchase of a good student violin can be an onerous requirement.

I do agree that studying piano can enhance learning of other musical instruments (and I still practice daily on my keyboard), but I don't believe I've read anywhere that even the great violin pedagogues thought piano should come first. My main concern is that such a requirement would be too much a barrier for some children (and their families) who would still do very well on violin without the piano study.

March 23, 2015 at 07:57 PM · "Mommy?"

---"Yes, Dear"

"I weally want to learn how to pway the violin!"

---"That's wonderful, Sweetheart!

Here, play this piano for a year first of all...."

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaah! OK, forget it. I'm gonna go play Minecraft for a few hours...."

March 23, 2015 at 08:31 PM · I know of a teacher does not allow the students to handle a real violin until they've held a box violin for an entire year...regardless of their age (!!). A family with an eleven-year-old came to me in frustration and asked if that was the norm in the music education world.

I met another teacher that insists on a specific regimen of etudes, with no deviation from the prescribed curriculum for any student. A student came to me from them with a wrist injury that his previous teacher didn't seem to care about or understand, with no sort of rehabilitation plan in the works, just "follow the plan."

I also had to work with a student from another teacher who taught her to play entirely by rote by copying recordings...and had no comprehension of rhythmic relationships whatsoever...and trying to play the Bruch G Minor concerto!

The failure in all of these cases is that while the individual teachers themselves were decent players, they only attempted to teach a *subject*, when they could really achieved greater success had they decided to focus on teaching the *student* instead. The creative aspect of our discipline comes from developing solutions for each student to realize their technical and musical potential.

Mandating a year of piano for late starters? Well, that would wipe out participation in the music program in almost every low-income community that my outreach programs support, which includes many "late bloomers" who never had the opportunity for music education earlier in their schooling. At least in some communities, a beginning violin from Shar or another reputable shop is at least financially possible. A piano, not so much.

March 23, 2015 at 08:57 PM · When I become a violin teacher I am planning to mandate students spend a year MOVING pianos. This will help build up core body strength.

March 24, 2015 at 12:00 AM ·

March 24, 2015 at 12:41 AM · Raphael — I agree that the point is rep! The etudes will build a foundation, make the rep possible, and solve problems as they arise. All great methods that you mention!

Paul - It’s true about “visualizing” theory — and this is where the piano recommendation usually stems from. It is completely sufficient in this regard to show the violin student how the piano keyboard is laid out as they reach certain stages of progress. They don’t have to play it to understand the logic of it.

Gene — Bravo for seeing each person as an individual case. We need more of this!

Seraphim — We once moved a baby grand ourselves to a new house. Amongst the 4 of us, there was one broken thumb and one minor head injury :-D

Liz — That’s absolutely hilarious!

March 24, 2015 at 01:03 AM · Douglas, intersting point. But if there is a piano in the home, most kids will end up noodling on it anyway. And actually a reasonable first piano book for a young violin student is the accompaniment book for Suzuki Book 1. They already know the tunes!

March 25, 2015 at 12:17 AM ·

March 25, 2015 at 04:10 AM · The thing about the first two Suzuki books is that the right hand on the piano just doubles the violin part. The first few pieces, as you know, are very simple tunes. If the child is very young with super tiny hands, then the black keys can be hard to reach, that's really the only possible drawback that I can envision, that's one reason why beginner method books on the piano start in the key of C for the initial studies and pieces.

March 26, 2015 at 11:14 AM · I find the Suzuki piano accompaniments relatively "heavy". I prefer to make my own low-calory versions for myself, and for parents and siblings. I can fing "better" harmonies, too.

March 26, 2015 at 04:03 PM · Absolutely true. The melody doubling is helpful for some kids but oppressive for others. Twinkle is a great tune for improvising totally different harmonies. I have a lot of experience now as a Suzuki accompanist because I've been accompanying for the violin class in my daughter's studio for a few years, in addition to lots of "mixed recitals" and so on, you just learn to play lightly or add/remove notes when needed, and I leave as many of those decisions to the child's teacher as I can. For the concerto movements I recommend Carol Leybourn's "Frustrated Accompanist" reductions -- they are quite sparse which is good when you are accompanying someone playing a 1/2 size violin.

March 26, 2015 at 07:21 PM · I do the same thing, Adrian! I don't like to double the melody so I usually leave that out. They do fine, generally speaking. It's not particular musical anyhow.

March 26, 2015 at 07:27 PM · As far as requiring a year of piano before learning the violin, I completely understand the temptation. Coming from an adult perspective, we know that note reading and theory are much easier to understand on the piano. But in my experience, it doesn't feel that way to the child. Beginning piano seems to feel just as difficult to them as beginning violin, if not more, so I think that requiring piano of a child interested in violin would be likely to squelch interest unless the child were already truly interested in piano.

March 26, 2015 at 11:35 PM ·

March 27, 2015 at 03:41 AM · Plus there's the debate on intonation: tempered vs. expressive...

March 27, 2015 at 07:59 AM · I can't stand playing tempered tuning (all half steps the same size) on the violin. For me, it sounds out of tune, and the instrument doesn't ring anymore.

I've had a few students come to me who were taught their concept of pitch by matching the piano with their violins...and they played everything out of tune. They couldn't play a beautiful sounding perfect fifth even if one attacked them in a crowded parking lot at high noon.

March 27, 2015 at 09:48 AM · Yes, equal temperament can de-sensitise the ear, but we often have to adapt to a pianist partner. Let's remember that equal tempered 5ths are very nearly "pure": the problem is all the other intervals!

The piano's multiple strings "spread" the pitch perception slightly: so does our vibrato.

This is why I suggest frequent listening to string quartets, unaccompanied vocal music etc (often with little vibrato), but also to piano music.

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