When are you too young to teach?

August 15, 2005 at 05:13 AM · I'm a junior in high school. I've played violin for five years (since I was 11). I'm switching teachers at the moment, and the price for lessons is going to increase. My mom wants me to start giving lessons to younger kids to help pay for my lessons.

Obviously, you can't here me and see where I stand, so I'll just tell you some of the pieces I have learned:

Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4

Mozart Sinfonia Concertante

Brahms Double Concerto (only the third movement)

Bach Violin Concertos 1 and 2

Lalo Symphonie Espangnole

Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1

Bach Partita No. 2 (without Chaccone)

Bach Sonata No. 1

and I'm currently working on Bach's Sonata No. 2.

I have some kreisler showpieces under my belt, as well as a bunch of Vivaldi violin concertos that I learned when I first started out with my old teacher. I also work out of the Kruetzer book.

Would I be someone that you would let teach your kid violin? I know that repertoire isn't the only thing that matters. Obviously, you have to have a friendly personality and get along with other people.

These kids that I would potentially teach would be anywhere from playing for 1-3 years, and they would also have a middle school orchestra teacher. Another important question is how much should I charge?

Replies (71)

August 15, 2005 at 05:39 AM · I question seriously whether you are qualified to teach. A teacher is a leader, a shaper of minds and characters. A big responsibility. I suggest you ask YOUR teacher about this. Maybe you should be a practise tutor first, under the direct guidance of your teacher.

August 15, 2005 at 05:45 AM · I'm also curios about this, I've been playing 8 years, am the same age and have a similar repetoire, excepte Mendelssohn instead of Bruch. I was also trained under Suzuki and Traditional, and I've been absorbing all sorts of information on common habits from my teacher.

In any case, this is an interesting topic. I know people less advanced than me that teach, and other's that didn't start until way later. I have seen the results of poor teachers, and it terrifys me, but how do we get experience otherwise? So when are we good enough to begin getting experience without ruining our student?

Edit: oops, Ninja'd :-D

So, practice tutor..hmm.

August 15, 2005 at 08:31 AM · Hey, you're repertoire is pretty stout, but that's not everything there is about teaching. The thing you need to ask yourself is whether you feel comforatable and able to chart out a series of lesson plans that can get someone who doesn't know a thing about music to be able to get a handle on the basic violin skills. In order to do this, you should understand the mind of your student, the order in which things will be most easily absorbed, and have good, clear communication skills. It helps to be orderly and have a system, but at the same time, to be flexible to tailor each lesson to meet the student's needs. You have to have an eye for detail to be able to spot technical problems and prescribe corresponding exercises taht will help tham make progress. Then again, they probably won't practice anyway.

Teaching's a pretty complicated thing, and most likely you'll use the first couple of students like guinea pigs if you don't know what you're doing.

But I would say the same thing about parenting, too, and they don't make you take classes to be a parent. But it might be a good idea...

August 15, 2005 at 10:08 AM · Teaching beginners is the hardest to do (next to teaching advanced players that is). You have to just have a whole bag of tricks up your sleeve on how to fix or set just about any posture or playing issue out there. You have to be creative and think on your toes. You need a very complete knowledge of songs and etudes and scales and exercises so you know what to perscribe your student.

But every teacher was a beginner teacher once, so there are guinea pigs the world over for these new teachers to learn on.

I would recommend tutoring a student who has played a few years (suzuki book 2 or so) to start out with. They should have the basics down and are working on learning more about music and playing so you can add to what they know. At this stage, I find it the easiest to cope with because you can clearly see where they need to go.

I am sure there are families who have students in strings at school who would like their kids to take lessons but cannot afford a regular teacher and would be delighted to have you learn on their kid for a more reasonable price. Once you have practice teaching, you will get better and after a few years can charge full price yourself.

If you do teach a kid with a few years experience and a school orchestra teacher, I would recommend maybe charging $8 a half hour up to maybe $10 depending on your neighborhood.

August 15, 2005 at 03:17 PM · Do you still keep in contact with your middle school strings teacher? If so, I would highly suggest going back to them and asking if you could help out for a few classes or meet some of the students after school. The hardest part about being a teacher is being able to diagnose a problem and know how to fix it quite quickly. It certainly sounds like you have able technique and can diagnose your own problems at this point, but it can be a good deal more difficult when you're talking about beginners or novices. Your new violin teacher might be able to give you more ideas on that.

As for other ideas to make money, if you decide not to teach (and it can be HARD trying to find students when you are younger, I remember it all too well), you could ask your new teacher about things like babysitting their kids (I did that once for a teacher- it worked marvelously). Or, should you decide to teach, talk to your current or former teacher about teaching a lesson to one of their younger students with them to guide you. Not only could you get some of the money for it (I once did it with a teacher and they gave me 60% of the lesson fee, which was quite high and generous, although I doubt most would give that much!), you could also get great experience.

Oh, and as to the fee. It's hard to know unless you look at other teachers in your area. In the DC area, for instance, everybody charges about twice to three times as much as people charge in some of the Cleveland area (again, I'm speaking from experience, so don't take offense any of you Clevelanders!) Again, I think it all boils down to two things- how comfortable you feel with teaching young students, which is a huge responsibility, and what your teacher would feel is the wisest plan of action. Good luck!

August 15, 2005 at 04:12 PM · I'm actually in pretty much the same boat- I just switched teachers and my new one charges 3 or 4 times as much as my former teacher did. I'm 14, and have been playing about 4 years, and am working on Vivaldi Winter and the Bach E Major concerto. I have 3 students and charge $20 an hour. What I've decided to do is not take anymore students than I need, and after about a year and a half to 2 years I'm going to send them on to a more experienced teacher, and also if I notice any remarkable talent in a student, I'll definately refer them to someone else. But basically with my first two (they're sisters) I've just kind of picked it up as I go along. Go back to when you first started decide what material you want to use with your students. Plan out in detail what scales and method books you want them to use, and when. Observe your teacher and the way he/she handles technical problems, bowing issues, intonation, etc. Good luck!

August 15, 2005 at 06:02 PM · I have been playing the violin for 19 years now...seriously for about 13 years and I am more than qualified to teach young children but I don't. I don't because to me there is nothing more frightening than starting out a young child on their musical journey. It takes a very special person, a very special musician that has the patience and the care that is necessary to begin young children in learning violin. It does not matter how long you have been playing or how old you are.

I think there is 100X more responsibility on the shoulders of beginners' teachers than on the shoulders of a college professor. The teacher of a beginner is responsible for the creation of habits that will either plague or develop a young persons abilities for the rest of their career. I have seen FAR too many teens with BAD HABITS formed by a careless teacher in their beginning years. I think that the beginning teachers must be even more careful, more diligent and more dedicated than the college professor who deals with pre-professionals.

That's why I think it's unwise for anyone with so little experience themselves to become a music teacher.


August 15, 2005 at 06:40 PM · Preston, I totally agree with you though I am not a violinist. It is so hard to find an experienced and qualified teacher who teaches young children the right things from the beginning. I have three children, 9, 7 and 4 who are studying violin. First two took lessons from the same teacher. They weren't directed fully how to draw a bow and posture, etc.. They switched the teachers now and still working on correcting the bad habits they develped and overlooked. My youngest one just started with a wonderful teacher who started with him on how to stand, how to hold a bow and how to hold the violin correctly over and over without boring a 4 year-old. I wish I knew what I know now. Then I could've kept them from developing the bad habits. They are still young, so I'll have to keep at them and hopefully they will get better. To their original teacher's credit, she made them enjoy violin playing very much and she was very patient with them. It is so important what the teacher puts into her/his students' violin study in the beginning, but there aren't many great teachers who are willing to teach very young children especially in small cities.

August 15, 2005 at 08:52 PM · Well, I have talked the situation over with my private teacher, and she thinks it would be a good idea, mainly to see if violin is where I want to go in life (because if I don't like teaching other people, then I probably won't make enough money to support myself, unless I got a really good orchestra gig right off the bat).

I just wanted other people's opinions on the matter, and I appreciate the advice all of you have given me.

August 15, 2005 at 09:25 PM · I think there is definitely a line to be drawn where teaching is a good and not so good idea. If you don't understand your basics, for instance, how can you teach them to someone else?

At the same token, there are some teachers that are not great players, but are fantastic teachers (Galamian). Even on the very same token, there are phenomenal players that aren't the best teachers (Heifetz).

Should you choose to start teaching, it's important that you speak with other teachers, observe lessons, and analyze different techniques. Go to someone who can give you feedback, because you can always stop and wait until you have more experience. It's not like you're automatically stuck teaching for the rest of your life.

It's easy to assess your skills by yourself too! Do people understand you when you speak? Can you demonstrate techniques or explain them in ways that people can understand? Of course there's a point where the student is ultimately the deciding factor in whether they'll learn something.

Read books, watch masterclasses, and just absorb! GOod luck!

August 15, 2005 at 11:47 PM · Galamian actually was quite a fine violinist.


August 16, 2005 at 04:11 PM · Haven't read many other posts, so sorry about that, but my thoughts...

I got my first students when I was 14, and I didn't want to teach because of my age. But teaching did help me to think about what I was doing and improve myself. Just a thought. My teacher always wants me to be teaching someone, and if I'm not she's like, "Why not?" so, it could be a good idea.

August 18, 2005 at 05:18 PM · Preston,

Yes, but he wasn't on the level of Heifetz.

August 18, 2005 at 06:23 PM · Feuermann taught at I think the Berlin Conservatory when he was 16. But that's Feuermann.

August 18, 2005 at 06:59 PM · Andrew,

No, of course not. But he could have been a concert violinist if he wanted.

Carely, I agree with you about learning more about violin playing by teaching, but to do so at the expense of another potential professional musician is not very responsible. However, if you know of an adult who obviously has no chance to be a professional musician but wants to learn the basics of violin, that would be more suitable. Many adults, finding disatisfaction or tedium in working day in and day out, find it a great stress relief to learn to do something else other than their job, even if at the most elementary level.

I find this in myself even. As my family is rather prominant (especially my father and uncle) in the circles of our worldwide church I became very tired of hearing "...Ooooh, you're a Hawes! You're the Hawes boy that pays violin, right?!" Which I would invariably answer in my mind... "Yes, and I have a name! And I don't just play violin..."

Not that I'm dissatisfied in being a violinist, but since I perform, practice, play, rehearse, etc. etc. day in and day out, I've found it to be GREAT fun to learn to do other things like rock climb (I even became an instructor), SCUBA dive, skeet shooting, kayaking, waterskiing, downhill skiing, golfing, and the newest one on the list is Jujitsu. And even doing different things that don't take learning/study like shark diving (the most incredible experience EVER), parasailing, snowmobiling, bungee jumping (next on the list) etc. etc.

*Later* Hmmm....sorry, I see I got distracted off the topic.


August 19, 2005 at 07:20 PM · In the small-ish Kansas town where I grew up, I and most of the kids I knew took lessons from high school students. It's tremendously depressing to compare what I (didn't) learn from them to the teacher I have now. These were all women who could play reasonably well, but didn't have the understanding or ability to impart their tools to their students. It's not just a matter of age, either; I did switch to an adult teacher when I was 11 or so, but she wasn't much better. And the scariest of all? I started teaching younger kids myself when I was 16, and I taught the same way I'd been taught. Mostly just playing stuff through together, very little talk about how what you do affects your sound. It wasn't teaching, it was more like supervised ineffective practicing.

Now that I've got a really good teacher, I know what a difference one can make. And if you yourself have a good teacher, as well as patience and a deep understanding of your instrument, you could do well despite your youth. So I wouldn't say you're necessarily too young, but think about it carefully before you decide to do it. There are other ways of making money, if that's the only issue.

Good luck.

August 19, 2005 at 09:15 PM · I think you can teach! As long as your okay with it.

August 19, 2005 at 09:44 PM · You can teach, as long as you know what you're doing.

Read up on children and education, and violin methods, take a teaching workshop (like Suzuki),

plan the student's lesson out so you're never like "Ok....what do you want to work on?"

demonstrate humbly, be very encouraging, and enjoy it!

August 19, 2005 at 10:46 PM · Preston...

I agree totally with you and see your point. I just want to mention that I was all the parents could afford, and I tried very hard to be as good of a teacher as my teachers were/are to me. I am currently not teaching violin lessons. (starting in the fall, unfortunately...) I agree, though..."using" a student so you can learn to teach, when you have a potentially gifted musician on your hands, is not-even morally-right.

August 20, 2005 at 02:19 AM · Preston,

I agree with you that I have always been scared away from teaching because it is such a responsibility. Guiding someone so young and impressionable through the steps of gaining exactly the right setup and concept of sound production for them is a heavy burden. However, I think you might be a better teacher than you believe. Your playing seems incredibly solid and in control.

Charlie, I think a very important point (though I'm no teacher yet) is to be aware of and try to come to terms with your own weaknesses in your playing. Once you understand the concept of how to produce a beautiful sound or vibrato, you are much more likely to be able to experiment with a student to figure out how it can work for them. Conception is a fundamental idea; arm weight, for example, is a hard thing to grasp. But we all understand the law of gravity, and when we latch on to an image like that of relaxing and letting gravity take over, we can start to transfer that idea into exactly how technically to hold the bow and draw the bow across the string to produce a deep, rich sound. Having these concepts in mind gives me much more direction when I practice, and it probably carries over to some degree to teaching.

August 20, 2005 at 02:32 PM · From Preston Hawes

Posted on August 18, 2005 at 11:59 AM (MST)


Carely, I agree with you about learning more about violin playing by teaching, but to do so at the expense of another potential professional musician is not very responsible. However, if you know of an adult who obviously has no chance to be a professional musician but wants to learn the basics of violin, that would be more suitable. Many adults, finding disatisfaction or tedium in working day in and day out, find it a great stress relief to learn to do something else other than their job, even if at the most elementary level.

I'm sorry Preston, but that is pure unadulterated horse manure. To suggest that someone teaches an adult beginner to a lower standard than a potential child prodigy is complete nonsense. I seriously doubt any adult would ever seek to learn an instrument and PAY a teacher to teach them at a lower standard than "real" students.

NO student, whatever their age (and probably even moreso for adults), wants a teacher who isn't going to give them a thorough grounding in the basics. I can't for the life of me imagine someone saying, "Teach me the violin, but skip the important stuff. Oh and I don't want to be taught well, I just want to be your guinea pig so that you can make money to be a real violinist which is something I'll never be."

We may never get to a standard where we can play a concerto with the SFO at the Davies Center, but I can assure you we take learning the violin every bit as seriously as any kid. In fact, I'd suggest given that we're more aware of how long it takes to learn and how difficult it is, we probably take it more seriously. Besides, your "potential professional musicians" are usually kids of 5 to say 10 years old who are only learning violin because they're parents make them or they think the violin is cuter than ballet tutus.

I've just about had enough of the pompous, self-aggrandizing, ego-maniacal BS that floats around among some, usually younger, violinists that those of us who are learning violin later in life aren't "real" violinist or "real" musicians. I suggest you learn more about adult beginners before you continue to throw us on the trash-heap of "good money spinners, but don't pay 'em any respect."


August 20, 2005 at 02:56 PM · Wow! Now I make the connection. The Church of the Latter day Hawes. And you're that Hawes boy that plays violin!

August 20, 2005 at 06:48 PM · Wow.

I was just going to insert something about a scenario in which it was either a mediocre teacher like myself or no violin at all. That's the situation in my town. We have three violin instructors, and the most competent of us still takes a lot of stabs in the dark. But if it weren't for us, there would be no violinists at all. Now, that's something worth pondering... Is the world better without us half-assed musicians?

Okay I thought about it. No.

August 20, 2005 at 03:31 PM · You know, I'm not sure starting kids needs to be such a daunting undertaking. Teachers run the gamut from genius to hack, and the personal situations of students cover a similar span. There are ten year olds who've obviously had the best of everything. But humans are very robust, resilient, and adaptable. I think there's a lot of mythology about bad habits and their persistence, some derivative of the sport of finding fault. If something ought to be fixed, I don't think it implies a situation that presents more of a problem than a capable teacher would have faced in the first place.

August 20, 2005 at 04:35 PM · Ok, Neil, I think you took what Preston said wrongly. At least, I didn't mean, when I agreed with Preston, that adult beginners were something to be fooled around with. Please look at the threads around here about older beginners, and you will see how I admire them (including you) and think that you can really make something of yourself. When I agreed with Preston, mainly I was saying...yes, don't take advantage. If there is a better teacher, don't claim you're the best and take away from that teacher if you just know that they student is going to do wonderfully (no matter the age). Free the student (or student's family) to be able to CHOOSE a teacher. However, like Emily said...if you're the best they can afford or find, GO FOR IT! I hope that clarifies your thinking about what I'm thinking...

August 20, 2005 at 05:19 PM · I agree with Carley. 2 of my students are sisters and their mom just told me that they'll have to start having lessons every other week because of hospital bills. So, for people like that who couldn't afford lessons period if they didn't have a student teacher, I think it's fine. But like I said before, if I ever start teaching someone and think they may be talented, I'll refer them to someone else.

August 20, 2005 at 05:35 PM · Carley, my response may have been a touch over the top, but please be assured it was in no way aimed at you.

However, Preston's statements are another matter. :) To sum up, effectively he's said that bad/learner teaching shouldn't be done on kids who may one day be superstars, but is perfectly okay to be inflicted on beginner adults. That's not acceptable to me. I want the best teaching I can get. In fact, I need the best teaching I can get.

Oh and I agree 100% with Emily. If the only teacher around is mediocre, that's still better than no teacher at all, well most times. Provided of course that the teacher adheres to the old medical principle of first do no harm.

I think one thing that needs to be emphasised again is that teaching and playing are not the same thing and, really, bear little relationship to each other. The best player doesn't always make the best teacher and the best teacher doesn't have to be the best player. The two things aren't mutually exclusive, but in no way do they equate with each other. They're entirely different concepts.

For those of you who want to teach, make sure you learn about teaching! Educate yourself about education. Learn about learning. And any other pithy sayings you can think of. There is reams and reams of stuff out there on pegagogy, not to mention on education as a whole. Read it, absorb it and don't use students as tools or guinea pigs for furthering your own ends.


August 20, 2005 at 11:33 PM · Niel, i'm sorry you feel I'm full of "pompous, self-aggrandizing, ego-maniacal BS". I can, however, assure you that I'm not.

I'll stick to my guns about my point. What I'm saying, and I don't think you understood it correctly, is that a child ages 5-10 is 100% more likely to become a professional than an adult beginner. I feel it is irresponsible of younger less solid players to mess up that child's the potential musical career by teaching flawed basics. I'm saying that it is less a moral condundrum to teach these perhaps flawed basics to an adult who has limited time to dedicate to learning the instrument (because of their job) and is most definately NOT going to become a professional (again, because of their existing profession and age).

Another reason I don't think it's wise for younger less solid players to teach children is that children will follow blindly where as an adult is far more capable of questioning (for instance: "Hmmm, this doesn't feel right...am I doing something wrong?") whereas a child will likely just zip it and not bring the problem to the attention of the inattentive teacher.

Neil, I'm not full of it. I've taught both children and adults and have a full understanding of the needs of both beginning children and adults. And I stick to my guns on my previous comment, But I hope you better understand now just what I'm saying.


P.S. Neil, the last two paragraphs of your last post are right on the money!

August 20, 2005 at 11:56 PM · Preston, what else do you do besides play the violin, anyway?

August 21, 2005 at 12:16 AM · The message here is: adults, keep an eye on your teachers.

P.S. nobody is fully reading previous messages.

August 21, 2005 at 12:33 AM · My bad, I withdraw the previous question. It's hard to keep up these days.

August 21, 2005 at 12:41 AM · It's ok. He's not reading me, or maybe he's ignoring me.

August 21, 2005 at 04:32 AM · Emily,

I also sing...to myself...in the shower...when no one is home...*cough* j/j

In regards to:

"Wow! Now I make the connection. The Church of the Latter day Hawes. And you're that Hawes boy that plays violin!"


And your other post Jim about humans being resiliant, is right on point. But from personal experience, I would have MUCH rather not had to "resiliate" *grin*


August 21, 2005 at 05:13 AM · many of my friends that teach are afraid to teach little beginners, so they teach the groups of people

1. people who have played enough to absorb the basics

2. people who aren't really serious anyway

3. people who couldn't afford lessons with a more experienced teacher...

August 22, 2005 at 09:12 AM · "What I'm saying, and I don't think you understood it correctly, is that a child ages 5-10 is 100% more likely to become a professional than an adult beginner. I feel it is irresponsible of younger less solid players to mess up that child's the potential musical career by teaching flawed basics. I'm saying that it is less a moral condundrum to teach these perhaps flawed basics to an adult who has limited time to dedicate to learning the instrument (because of their job) and is most definately NOT going to become a professional (again, because of their existing profession and age)."

I think I disagree on the principle that you seem to believe that one is handed a destiny and has little to no power to change their course.

I believe that as humans (like Jim said) we are malliable and can participate in this world rather than reacting to it. Not every child is a professional violinist in the waiting. The child has to WANT it and has to see and be inspired and do the work. I think the same is for adults.

I also think that you can indeed survive less than ideal teaching situations and still make something of yourself if you WANT it bad enough. I had some pretty amateur teachers but I have beat the horrible odds and have played with semi-pro orchestras and made it past auditions to play with Cambridge University's premiere chamber orchestra. No- I dont' play for Cleveland Orchestra, but considering my start in this music culture, I have come a long way. And it was because I wanted to.

I see no earthly reason an adult can't work just as hard and be what they want.

An adult can solve complex calculous problems....a 3 year old can't. SO why can't an adult play violin??????????

August 22, 2005 at 06:55 PM · "An adult can solve complex calculous problems....a 3 year old can't. SO why can't an adult play violin??????????"

This reasoning is inherently flawed for the simple reason that most adults cannot solve complex calculus problems if they did not study calculus as a child. Of course an adult can usually learn calculus which is a "fixed" skill, in that once you learn calculus you have achieved the ability to understand and solve most if not all calculus problems.

Playing the violin is a totally different type of skill and is not "fixed"; in that do one should ever really feel they have "arrived" to the point of having learned all there is to learn about playing the violin. I believe it was Heifitz who said that there was never a single concert he played with which he was completely satisfied.

Lastly, the idea that an adult can begin the violin and become a professional (a professional, in this case, being someone holding a position in a demanding orchestra, a professorship, or developing a large, in demand, and talented studio) is rather idealistic. Sure it's possible, but I cannot think of a single adult who was able to do that that did not at least study the violin seriously first as a child (perhaps then leaving the violin to do something else before returning to it).

I still don't think I've been sucessful in making my point. A rather eliptical argument has developed instead. A few posts back someone made a comment that I think encapsulates my point best. I'll elaborate on it a bit by saying: If you are going to teach and are still rather inexperienced and uneducated in violin pedagogy, any student that shows glimpses of unusual talent or aptitude toward the violin, whether child or adult, should be IMMEDIATLEY referred to an experienced and talented teacher. Don't screw up their potential just out of selfishishness or pride because it WILL affect them later on...even just one year spent without the right teacher WILL affect them. I speak from my own experience because I was that student.


August 22, 2005 at 06:28 PM · It's spelled 'calculus'.

The only differences between adult and child when it comes to learning something new are these:

1 - Barring disaster, the child has more years ahead of them to spend on practice then an adult

2 - A child's brain has not solidified its neural pathways yet and they are thus able to pick up new skills in less time than an adult. This tapers off in the teenage years.

That's it. Setting aside the rare prodigy, excellence in anything is only acheived through desire, focus and hard work - the violin is not unique in this regard.

August 22, 2005 at 06:55 PM · Calculus...You're right, thanks! I could never stand calculus so I guess I never learned how to spell it either.

There is no reason why a competant adult shouldn't be able to excel in violin playing and become a competant musician. However, music is like a second language. Adults who learn a second language are far more likely to retain an accent and have more difficulty in speaking the language than a person who learned the second language as a child. I have a friend who's parents came from Nicaragua and brought her along as a 4 year old. Her parents both have very thick accents, meahwhile their child is fluent in French, English and Spanish with perfect accents in all 3.

There IS something to be said about learning the language of music as a child, in the same way there is something to be said about learning a second spoken language as a child.


*Later* The perfectionist in me made me go back and correct "calculous" in my last post.

August 22, 2005 at 06:51 PM · I completely agree that it's a tremendous responsibility to teach beginners.

However, I do teach beginners. Not very many of them, but they're doing pretty well.

They play in-tune, and in rhythm. They even, on occasion, play musically. I don't let them get away with out-of-tune notes or bad rhythm, and they know it. I demand that they critique their own playing -- at age 6, 7, 8, 37, or whenever they begin with me. Anyone at any age is capable of that, if only they know it's expected of them.

With the children, I insist that a parent also study the violin along with them. What a difference this makes!

I don't have a thorough knowledge of etudes, repetoire, etc. I've played the violin for more than 25 years, and about 10 of those years (in the middle) I was just hacking around. I finally started teaching only a few years ago, and I haven't taken many students.

As I've looked over various beginning methods and kept track of my own students' problems and progress, I've come to the conclusion that at the beginning, it doesn't matter what method you use. The method I teach is simply the repetoire and method I'm most comfortable with. As long as it covers the basics -- posture, mechanics of fingering and bowing, eartraining, memorization and music theory (including reading) -- all is well. You don't need to know all 13,538 beginning violin methods in order to be a successful teacher.

Anyone can teach -- as long as you have a good grasp of the basics of violin playing and music theory (too many violinists have no knowledge of music theory!) and can communicate them effectively. Equally important -- you have to have the ability and patience to be really picky with your students, and to instill in them the need to be both patient and picky with themselves.

For each piece that we study, I have my students practice it up to nearly performance quality. They perform it for me, and if it's good enough they get a sticker and we move on to studying another piece. When they've played and they're looking to me for a pass or not, I ask them how they think they've done. They always know whether or not it was good enough. It's only my job to teach them how to fix it, because they already know what they need to fix.

It's the way my teacher did it, and I happen to think she did pretty well. :)

August 23, 2005 at 02:00 AM · From Preston Hawes

Posted on August 20, 2005 at 4:33 PM (MST)

Niel, i'm sorry you feel I'm full of "pompous, self-aggrandizing, ego-maniacal BS". I can, however, assure you that I'm not.

I'll stick to my guns about my point. What I'm saying, and I don't think you understood it correctly, is that a child ages 5-10 is 100% more likely to become a professional than an adult beginner. I feel it is irresponsible of younger less solid players to mess up that child's the potential musical career by teaching flawed basics. I'm saying that it is less a moral condundrum to teach these perhaps flawed basics to an adult who has limited time to dedicate to learning the instrument (because of their job) and is most definately NOT going to become a professional (again, because of their existing profession and age).

Another reason I don't think it's wise for younger less solid players to teach children is that children will follow blindly where as an adult is far more capable of questioning (for instance: "Hmmm, this doesn't feel right...am I doing something wrong?") whereas a child will likely just zip it and not bring the problem to the attention of the inattentive teacher.....

Preston, why tell me I don't understand what you're saying and then go and post exactly what I was upset about, i.e. that you don't think it's a problem inflicting an inexperienced or bad teacher on an adult, but it should never be done to children?

That is such complete nonsense on just so many levels. Trust me, my accusation concerning the way some violinists think adult beginners aren't real violinists or musicians wasn't actually aimed directly at you. In hindsight it should have been. You clearly don't respect adult beginners. I won't say anymore about what adult beginners might think of you.

Anyway, I've made my points and I'm done with this thread. Needless to say I for one will be carefully following Jim's advice. ;)


August 23, 2005 at 05:21 AM · Neil,

This is obviously pointless as you seem to be stuck in assuming that I think less of adult beginners. If you read my original post where I said "However, if you know of an adult who obviously has no chance to be a professional musician but wants to learn the basics of violin, that would be more suitable." I didn't say, "teach adults BECAUSE they ALL obviously have no chance..." I have never said anywhere that an adult cannot gain joy and satisfaction from learning to play the violin. I've never said that an adult cannot become a competant musician. The only thing I have said is that I have yet to see or hear of a person without childhood musical training turn around as an adult and make music their profession.

Perhaps you are upset because you don't want to hear that. Don't be! There can always be a first, and maybe there has been. I can't say for sure. But I can tell you, that if you ask any professional musician out there about this subject, that they will tell you that an adult beginner has the odds stacked against them in the pursuit of being a professional musican. Again, not to say it can't happen, it's just MUCH less likely.

That aside, I honestly did not mean to make it sound like adult beginners are somehow less worthy of great teachers. What I am saying by standing behind my original statement is that there are adults out there that are happy just learning about the violin and playing the violin on a very elementary level. Many have no desire to become great musicians and just want a few lessons when they have time aside from their jobs. Often adults only take for a year or two just to get the basics down and thats it. What I have been saying (or trying to anyway...sheesh!) is that these are excellent people on which to practice your teaching methods. To them it doesn't matter if they don't have the best teacher in town, they just want some pointers.

You can think what you like, but I cannot make myself more clear and I see nothing disrespectful about what I've said. This idea that I'm suggesting is certainly not new. How many of us were tought by TA's in college while the professors worked with graduate students in research? And that's TA's teaching people who actually ARE going to become professionals. It's not a new idea, it's not a disrepectful idea, and it's certainly not horse manure.



August 23, 2005 at 05:28 AM · Good morning class. Anybody know what is weather in Bombay today?

August 23, 2005 at 06:06 AM · The heat index is 91 degrees. Someone open a window.

August 23, 2005 at 07:50 AM · Haaa. I should have used that. I'm still thinking about the phrygian 2nd note thing. Don't tell me.

Charlie, teach those kids. You aren't going to mess anybody up. Anyway, your first responsiblity is to yourself. How much you should charge depends on what their parents drive. Divide the value of their car by some constant. Speed of light or something.

August 23, 2005 at 08:18 AM · Responding to Andrew earlier, you are very misinformed to call Heifetz a less than wonderful teacher. I'm tired of reading these falsifications on here it detracts from the quality of the board. I agree with Preston about how important it is for a teacher working with a beginner to be no less than first rate as this will shape the student. I do not think I would send a beginner student to some high school student especially if that beginner has talent and drive. I am even reluctant to work with beginning students as I feel not qualified enough to teach them due to for one thing not being very patient or terribly imaginative in explaining things. I regret not having worked with someone better when I began..

August 23, 2005 at 08:12 AM · "The only thing I have said is that I have yet to see or hear of a person without childhood musical training turn around as an adult and make music their profession."

Just off the top of my head, wasn't Avril Levigne one person who started guitar lessons at like 13 or something, and now she is a professional musician?

I know of a kid who used to take lessons with my teacher, and he started violin at 14, and in about a years time was playing 'Havanaise'

*By "adult" I assume we are all talking about those who didn't start with music during that magical window of childhood brain development that is claimed to be closed off by early teens.

The point is, brain research is still young in respect to what is developed at a young age that "cannot" be developed as an adult. I only know enough about it to probably get myself in trouble for writing this, but the items one gains benefit for by starting music as a youngster is not proven yet to be exclusively trained through music alone.

Music creates a greater capacity for spatial temporal processing (maths ability), reading, memory skills, selective attention, and a host of other activities. This is good news as it appears in a generic sense that music makes you "smarter". However, this does not mean that an adult who wishes to learn music as an adult has completely missed his only window of opportunity to become a musician.

What if (this is new and ongoing research) a child is a chess champion or even just a chess buff as a kid...who learns most of the same disciplines as a child that the violinist learns.....what if those brain developments achieved as a kid mesh well with those same basic brain functions and skills required to play violin? What if this chess kid- as an adult- wishes to pick up violin? Would he not find it possible to be a good musician--holding the same youthful advantages in brain development--???

August 23, 2005 at 09:09 AM · Do you people not know enough to tutor 4th graders in addition and subtraction? For fear of ruining a potential Einstein in the bunch? You really need to be more objective. The negativity is amazing.

August 23, 2005 at 10:37 AM · I'm the typical adult beginner that Preston has described. I'm 54 and started lessons 2.5 years ago. The only difference in his description is that I want more than just the basics. I fully intend to be taking lessons 10 years from now.

My teacher plays in our state symphony and affords me the same time and attention as her 6 year old students. I have no delusions of being a professional, however, I am shooting for a community orchestra.

Most adults like me are working 40 hours a week or more and have family responsibilities that seriously limit our practice time. I think a young student trying to get their feet wet at teaching would have been fine for me. I could grow with them.

Some of you are considering a "late start" as being 12 or 14. Those are not "adult" beginners..."late starters", yes, but not adult.

I'm here to tell you there are a whole lot of "really" late starters like me out there who would welcome a young teacher. I'm constantly reading in forums about adults who can't find a teacher.


August 23, 2005 at 10:59 AM · Evelyn,

my apologies for sounding off when I say 14 is adult. I am aware 12-14 is far from adult in maturity or function in society or in terms of personal obligations. I meant it only as a function of brain development in that by that age, the ability to absorb information is greatly slowed when compared to the learning rate of a toddler/infant when it is believed is the best target age for starting music instruction in order to reap the benefits of those formative years.

I imagine the only differences in starting late- be it 14 or 54- is the ammount of personal obligations and family responsibilities that determine our ammount of practice time. Oh- and other factors as well, such as arthritus.

August 23, 2005 at 11:20 AM · I wasn't meaning to single out anyone in particular, Sarah, with the "adult" comment. I understood what you meant. I was just trying to make a distinction. Yes, we adults come with a lot of baggage, lol, not the least of which is arthritis.

August 23, 2005 at 05:48 PM · Jim,

I feel I know enough to teach them, but I don't feel that I am the right person. Like I said before, it takes a very special person to be able to work with kids. I KNOW I'm not that person! LOL I see it as positive rather than negative thinking in any situation when the childs needs and interests are put before my own as a teacher.

Evelyn, thank-you for your input. It seems you understand what I've been trying to say and kudus on your lessons so far and in the future!


August 31, 2005 at 03:06 AM · I'm in a similar boat as you are: I've been studying the violin since I was nine, and began to teach private lessons when I was 15. It was difficult at first, but I kept at it.

Yes, it is really scary to start someone out on the violin. I am often talking with my own teachers about what tricks they use. We compare notes and (SURPRISE) I find that my own playing gets better.

I now teach music at an inner city school and I can honestly say that it is the best job ever. I am starting six students from scratch and rectifying another who has recieved poor training.

Some people can teach and others can't. I would suggest that you try it out as a "student teacher" under your school music teacher with younger students, if you can. Get a feel for it and see how well you can handle having to explain the same thing five times and only getting halfway there. If it doesn't bother you too much, then consider it.

How well you can teach depends less on what you can play and more on how well you can work with people. You need to understand music to teach, not be a virtuoso. You need to understand why the bow hand is shaped like that and how to explain it. You need to demonstrate perfect technique. It isn't easy, but when you do it it is the most gratifying thing.

August 31, 2005 at 04:14 PM · Hi everyone...

I'm fifteen and have played the violin since I was 6. This year I had several people who were interested in having their kids take violin lessons with me. I think I would really enjoy it but I'm not quite ready and I know that there will be many more if I start. Plus I don't want my practice time to be eaten away. Maybe next year when I've had time to think it out and plan a little bit more.

I think if you're ready to teach, go right ahead! I know from experience that most little kids need a kind hand to guide them in the beginning. My first violin teacher was wonderful in that aspect - she really helped instill in me the love of music that I have now. But at times I am very sorry I didn't start with my current teacher nine years ago, because I had to relearn a lot of things a redo a lot, mainly with my right hand because I didn't have solid foundations to build on from the beginning. So I encourage you to evaluate your own right hand position and your other techniques before teaching others. Of course you're not perfect but you can be alert and aware of these technical problems that your students will undoubtedly have.



August 31, 2005 at 11:30 PM · I'm curious to know whether any of you expressing your pearls about children are in any way trained in childhood education.

September 1, 2005 at 06:01 AM · I have a degree in Elementary Ed...

...which, in my opinion, says nothing about my ablility with children.

September 1, 2005 at 06:16 AM · Everyone has to start somewhere. So if you want to start teaching, and you are at a fairly advanced level, then start teaching.

September 1, 2005 at 06:23 AM · It's not the repertoire that matters but your character and skills as a teacher. The most important think is to ask yourself some questions

- Am I able to teach?

- Am I able to make playing violin fun?

- Am I able to interest my students and invite them to practise?

- am I able to efectively teach them skills I possess myself?

It's absolutely possible to teach, even if you'd be younger. I acctualy am studying under the guidance of a young girl, who has just turned nineteen, and I'm happy with it. She's friendly and really knows what to give me, so I'm happy to practise, and also it makes my skills more and more coherent and stable.

Best wishes,


September 1, 2005 at 08:19 AM · Ron,

As violinists we have all generally had one-on-one training from an early age and are very involved in the learning process so I don't believe it such a huge insurmountable leap to cross over into teaching ourselves.

If you want my bio and teaching qualifications, see my link and website.

October 18, 2005 at 01:20 AM · There has been a lot of talk about young teachers ruining a potential professional music career in a young child by teaching flawed foundations. (Whew!). Perhaps if the parents come to a beginning teacher requesting lessons, they are not too overly concerned about their child becoming a professional. After all who could expect high-quality teaching at $10 for half an hour? The parents should realize that quality is going to come at much higher price. If the parents want their child to be a virtuoso, they won't bring the kid to a beginning teacher, and if they don't want that, the child probably doesn't want it either. If neither the parents nor the child want to work hard (the only way to a professional career), there is nothing lost.


October 18, 2005 at 02:46 AM · ZOMG, forget professional carrer, I just don't want to teach ANY child flawed technique.

Whether the parents want their child to be a pro or not, If I were teaching I'd still want the student to have the best instruction possible.

October 18, 2005 at 01:18 PM · Joseph, not to be annoying, but why would you want them to have the best?

By the way, the opinions that I am expressing are not necessarily my viewpoint, but rather merely another side of the argument, with a high chance of being incorrect.

(What does ZOMG mean?)


P.S. I just looked at your bio and saw that you live in Davis California. I used to live there! We loved it.

October 18, 2005 at 01:33 PM · Hi,

I can see Joseph's point - a solid foundation from the start saves years of trouble. Remedial work is hard for teachers, students, parents and everyone involved. The better the foundation, the better the chances of playing well as the person goes along.


October 18, 2005 at 06:11 PM · Stephen- you have some good points, but the problem is that most (if not all) parents start their child on the violin with no intention of them playing professionally. Either they want them to have the experience and to appreciate music, or they just think it's cute. It's usually later on that the child or teenager realizes that that's what she wants to do- and if they've been taught bad technique, they have a long, narrow road ahead of them.

October 18, 2005 at 06:33 PM · Thank you Candace, I see.

You can't predict the future of a violinist.


October 19, 2005 at 12:08 AM · In reading your post I was a little concerned about what it didn't contain; something about your knowledge of violin pedagogue. If I was going to pay you I would be wondering if you have started studying the material written by Auer,Flesh and Galammian about violin teaching (just to cite some examples). While I wouldn't expect someone at your age to be a full fledged professor of violin, I would want someone who was truly interested in learning the ins and outs of violin teaching as much as earning an extra dollar (not that I am saying you are not)

How much should you charge? I can't say but I would question the ethics of the situation if you tried to charge as much, or more then what your teacher charges you.

October 18, 2005 at 11:34 PM · Hm, I haven't read all the replies to this post--it'd take quite awhile! But I can remember some experiences that were helpful when I started teaching. A teacher let me observe her working with younger beginner-ish students. I didn't agree with everything she did, but it helped solidify my own ideas about how I would approach things. Perhaps you can observe your own teacher, and/or other teachers in the area.

I was fortunate enough to have a job for several summers supervising practicing for string students aged 8-15, everything from beginners to kids working on wieniawski, mendelssohn., etc. That was invaluable, as I was able to observe what etudes, pieces, and method books were being used, and which books/approaches produced the best results. Perhaps there is a summer festival you can take part in, which will give you a broader understanding of teaching.

As mentioned, there are resources out there to give you ideas. One--dunno if it was meniotned before--is stringpedagogy.com. And of course, your own teacher can be a valuable resource to ask questions about teaching.

October 19, 2005 at 03:04 AM · If all violin instructors were equally as capable and all students equally as dilligent, the world would be full of superstar violinists.

This is very obviously not the case.

As an adult student, I expect to receive the same level of instruction as a child prodigy. Had I access to a $200/hour teacher I would gladly pay the money despite the fact that I am likely too old with too many conflicting responsibilties to ever become a pro. It is my money, it is their time. Unless there is some sort of egotisitical discrimination on their part, it would appear to be the perfect relationship.

If you feel you can teach, then teach. If you aren't sure, then perhaps you need the self-confidence that comes with age and the technical confidence that comes with doing. Why would teaching violin be any different than teaching any other skill? You should learn the skill yourself, then learn how to teach that skill (two completely different tasks), and then take on students. Somewhere in the four hundred preceding posts someone mentioned apprenticing as a teacher by learning under an experienced teacher. Again, a concept that applies to any field and sound advice.

Would I pay a 16 year old to teach me/my kid? Like any purchase (and it IS a purchase - my money for your time) I would compare you to other available teachers and try and decide where I get the most for my money. 'The most' being a combination of your ability to guide me through the challenges ahead in a way that indicates to me you are thinking of my progress outside of our half hour together, and an ability for us to connect. I stand in front of you as someone who is woefully inept at what I am trying to do. It is your job to build my confidence and my skills and to make the most of me that can be made.

How much should you charge? As much as you can. Realistically you should be able to charge the going rate in your area (I'm guessing $20/half hour). If you are an excellent teacher, you can charge more. If not, then less. Your teaching skills and the reputation they gain you would be the deciding factor in any deviation from the average.

October 19, 2005 at 05:21 PM · Hey, I'm almost 16 and I've been teaching one student for 2 years. She was about Suzuki book 2 when we started working together so she had a pretty good idea of the basics. Before I started teaching her, I started out just helping her practice for her other teacher. Now its working out really well. I don't charge much, cos her parents can't really afford it, only €10 an hour and I may be taking on a few more students soon. Its a really rewarding experience, it helps me to improve, and I really enjoy seeing her improve so much.

October 19, 2005 at 06:23 PM · I haven't read very many of the above posts but I started teaching at a very young age and can give you some thoughts on what it was like for me.

I had my first experience teaching when I was 13 and had my first, own private student when I was 14. At 16, I was a sub teacher at the music school where my teacher works when she was off on injury and now I am a hired apprentice teacher at that same music academy. That means I get to keep my own private studio there but have to adhere to certain things like level that I can teach up to, other faculty are my mentors and will have to conduct interviews or observe me teach at some point during the year.

When I taught so young it was after having observed my teacher teach brand new beginners, and near beginners and she aided me. She let me teach an older beginner first, that was her own, while she wason tour for 3 or 4 weeks. That went well and I had the chance to do that again with a couple more students when she went on tour the following spring.

My first private student's family wanted a student teacher as they felt a younger person would be better compatible with that particular child and it worked, we really clicked and I really loved teaching this girl. Gradually I became more confident in my ability to teach and explain things and now I have a really nice sized studio with some really great students of all ages and at varying levels.

I can say from experience too, as someone else I believe mentioned, it's not necessarily your ability to play hard stuff. I have participated in masterclasses and lessons with some really astounding players but can they teach? No. They don't know how to explain things so unless you learn really well from a visual perspective there's a huge challenge in getting very far that way. On the other hand I've studied with players who aren't at the top of their field but their ability to teach is amazing. And then there have been and are exceptions to both of those things.

The key thing to being a good teacher is your ability to explain and re-explain things and concepts and your knowledge of the instrument. Teaching I find exciting because it challenges me to be always thinking and analyzing what I am doing and being able to explain things to my students in a way that makes sense to them. If you find yourself repeating the same thing(s) over again, you need to find a new way of explaining what you are trying to get the student to achieve. At the same time, some students adapt more easily to a certain teaching style than others do. I've had students where I've explained things many different ways and had them never understand or register what I'm trying to get them to do, others pick up on things quickly and sometimes just the difference in approach and teaching style can make a lot of difference to an individual. I know it has for me.

I really love teaching and get a lot of satisfaction out of it and so do my students.

October 20, 2005 at 07:03 AM · I'd like to share some thoughts about my experience teaching to date as well.

In the past eight years, I have spent many hours observing as many teachers as possible, teaching students of all ages and ability levels. I believe that growing as a teacher requires seeing it in action with other people! As a result, I also work with students of all ages and ability levels, and have come to realize that teaching to me is two things (paraphrased from my most recent mentor, who inspires me every day to never stop learning more):

1. The desire to understand.

2. The desire to share that understanding.

I have a little 7 year old student who is plowing through her first year, asks all sorts of questions, and whose energy level is just astounding. I have a 13 year old whose parents told me when he started that he "lacks talent" but somehow he's made significant strides despite their assessment. I even have a sophomore at UCLA who started playing violin sixteen months ago for the first time, and as a result decided to take up a Music History major! Her progress thus far (currently working on three octave scales and arpgeggios, Kayser etudes, Trott double stop studies, Vivaldi A minor concerto, Handel sonatas) is mirrored by most of my students, regardless of age.

I am not a "Suzuki method teacher" in any sense of the word, but there is something in the philosophy that I totally buy into: talent is created in people!

October 31, 2005 at 04:59 AM · I am currently 18, and planning a career in music education. I have only been taking, and imporved immensly in my past 3 years, although have been playing for 7 yrs. (i started in teh public schools) that was not good for posture. Bu ti have these problems sorted out, and currently teach 6 students, ages varied from 6 yrs to 56! ITs awesome, iget an incredible charge from sharing my passion for playing, and i love when my students achieve their goals. I use a general system of books and methods that i adapt for each student, for they are different ages,and abilities as well as knowledge. And i think it is OK to ask your student and give them a choice of what they want to work on, it allows them to explore their own interests. I LOVE TEACHING, and have been doing so for 3 yrears now!! Go ahead and teach, as long as you think its good for you and the student!!

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