Can An Adult Student Request a New Instructor Use a Lesson Series She Knows Works For Her Instead...

Edited: October 17, 2018, 8:53 PM · Can an adult student request a new instructor use a lesson book series she knows works for her instead of that Suzuki that just about every teacher is in love with? I have been looking high and low for a violin instructor. I am going to have to sign up with an instructor that I was trying to dodge. Not because I do not like her, she is wonderful person. I really like her. Unfortunately, she uses Suzuki. I detest Suzuki. I had her for a different instrument and she uses Suzuki for that. That is a main reason for my quitting. I detest that format, if there is even a format with it.

My search has been going on for some time and has been fruitless. Even my husband was in on the search and found the same thing out. He said we are in a drought area for orchestral instruments and strings teachers. I told him a drought area for fresh veggies and violin teachers, but that is a whole other story! LOL

I have been doing violin on my own, just a little so I don’t get bad habits, until I get an instructor. I have been using Müller Rusch books, and another series that are identical in the system and the order of how strings are learned, and the other series has internet access for songs to play along with, that allows tempo change. Gives me more song and exercise options. I love this method, or the way it is organized. This is what I want to continue using. I am 63 years old and this old fashioned method works with me, Suzuki does not.

I intend to request that this instructor use this system. Suzuki does not have a lot of info in the books. I need to see it. I need it written out. I actually took a college class, for fun, that examines how you learn best. It was designed for returning older students so they could use this info to learn better. It was very thorough. It was shown that I need organized structure, written, verbal, and (can’t remember what the third was called as this was back in 1996). This was on target! So, method and presentation means a great deal to me.

If I am paying for the lessons, shouldn’t the instructor be agreeable to using the method I know is best for me? Shouldn’t she be able to teach using one of these series of books? I am going to the music store she rents a studio from and see what times are available to choose from. I am going to make this request when I do this. Should I expect an issue with this request?

To go into detail about the method organization of Suzuki compared to the method I like would create a huge post, so I am purposely not getting into the details here. Suffice it to say, I have tried Suzuki twice and it did not work. I even bought the Suzuki violin book because it matched the other instrument and the songs were familiar. I bought that first. Even given that, the Müller Rusch and that other series was more helpful and easier to understand and had more information on the pages.

This teacher is a wonderful person and plays that other instrument beautifully and also does so professionally. We get along really well.

Replies (58)

Edited: October 17, 2018, 9:06 PM · "I am hoping to find a teacher who is willing to teach me using the Muller-Rusch books instead of Suzuki, as I need to have more organized structure and written-out instruction than is in the Suzuki books. Can you do this? Or do you know of and could teach from a similar highly structured approach? If not, do you know of any teachers who could?"

Edited: October 18, 2018, 3:15 AM · I think anyone able to teach violin should be able to teach from any music. The think is, you basically teach from the combination of the student and the music.

I had adults start violin or cello lessons with me because they wanted to learn to play a particular song: in one case the 59 year old lady wanted to learn to play "Amazing Grace" on the cello - right from the first day. So we got that over with by the 2nd week and then launched into the Suzuki order of progress. The actual notes were pretty much the same, just in a different order.
Another student wanted to play "Ashoken Farewell" on violin - same story - same result. And - for all students, young and old I always inserted a bluegrass number, "Devil's Dream" to spice things up about halfway through Book 1.

I liked teaching from Suzuki for my last 30 years of teaching because the order made good sense all the way from book 1 through book 10, although where there were better editions of the music to use, I used those. For my first 10 years of teaching I used the method books that I had learned from, the progression the music was really not much different from the music I had learned from in the USA the early 1940s. The real "method" is not the books you learn from but how your teacher uses them "on you" and what supplemental material is chosen to fill the gaps and what you do with it all. You are not going to learn violin from reading and even video lessons have serious problems.

If a student came to me with your request I would first want to look at the Muller-Rusch books and decide if I thought that would work - and then try it.

Edited: October 18, 2018, 8:31 AM · So, the instructor would be open to the request, which is good. I have never been in this situation and was not sure if it was only up to the instructor. Thank you.

Edited to correct typos.

October 17, 2018, 10:20 PM · Yes, of course you can, one of the advantages of being an adult of a certain age is that one knows (finally!) what works for one and can speak one's mind. I've had to do that with my teacher too. She's a very accomplished performer and teacher, but her style is not very structured. I need structure and need to see measurable progress. So I've had to ask her to assign scales and etudes and help me set milestones to work towards.

So go for it. What's the worst that could happen? Chances are she'll appreciate that you're a dedicated student. Don't go back to something that you know doesn't work. You'll give it up again.

My three cents.

October 18, 2018, 12:23 AM · If a student insisted I use a different method than the one I typically start with (suzuki), I would tell them I'm not well-versed in that method but I'll give it a try. I took the same attitude with a girl I teach whose parents insisted she learn left-handed. I said "I don't know how well I'll be able to teach this but I'll give it a try." It's gone very, very well actually.

Honestly, I could probably teach using no method at all (and sometimes I have to), but a familiar method does tend to make things smoother. I guess my point is that a good instructor can teach pretty well no matter what method they're using.

I am curious why you don't like Suzuki. It doesn't have much information in the book because the teacher is supposed to tell you *every* *detail* about how to play each song, what we're supposed to learn from each one, and what we expect before we're allowed to pass each song.

I often will write literal PAGES of notes just to specify exactly what we're supposed to be doing with each piece.

Suzuki is not a "curriculum" where the student can self-lead through it and use it effectively. It is a method that REQUIRES a teacher that knows how to properly implement the "hidden" concepts in each subsequent song. This is the case with Suzuki more so than any other method I've seen; much of the "logic" in the method appears very cryptic, confusing, and non-linear to someone not familiar with it. But it is a good method, in my opinion, for a semi-talented student.

Some slower progressing students struggle with the large steps that are involved, and with them I generally pull out a more linear, step-by-step method book.

Edited: October 18, 2018, 9:48 AM · "If I am paying for the lessons, shouldn’t the instructor be agreeable to using the method I know is best for me? Shouldn’t she be able to teach using one of these series of books?"

If I was a teacher, which I am not (I'm barely a decent student if that), I might take your request and apparent hostility towards Suzuki as red flags for a prospective student - one who might be difficult to work with, and who apparently has a need to tell me how to teach, and a probable misunderstanding of what are important in the learning processes having certain preconceptions of that without the necessary experience on this instrument.

In addition, when would I be expected to learn the new method and material myself? Are the years of experience I would have gained working with students with other material to be discarded and immediately replaced with a foreign method? Am I to do unpaid homework just to have this one-off student and method which others are unlikely to use? If the material was simple enough for me to wing it during lessons, and the student was okay with that, I suppose it might work.

So those would be reasons why I might not want to accept such a student.

On the other hand, an obviously motivated and self-driven student would be a plus, assuming that that student is willing to give up some preconceptions and work to learn.

October 18, 2018, 10:50 AM · Given a prior history, and a rational, thought-out explanation on what it is that has and hasn't worked and what you are looking for instead, I might be inclined to at least take a look at (meaning borrow) your books. I use Suzuki as "core" materials, it doesn't mean that I don't use other things, but if someone wanted a different core, I would have to weigh my interest in working with the person vs. what additional preparation I might need to do. A blanket "I detest Suzuki" (whether spoken or implied) would just make me kindly suggest that I'm probably not a good fit, etc. If I didn't want to agree to do things in a way that severely limits making use of my expertise, I'd simply not accept any pay, for not teaching you...

"Some slower progressing students struggle with the large steps that are involved [in Suzuki]" (Erik)
In that case, the teacher should be breaking down the steps into micro steps or micro micro steps, whether by making up things personally to fill the gap, using other stuff that's already been written, etc. (also knowing when steps could be consolidated based on a student's ability at the time). That's not "Suzuki" though, just good teaching.

Edited: October 18, 2018, 12:07 PM · Suzuki method is designed to work with children learners, and as an adult learner I also have different needs and expectations. I used Suzuki repertoire, note that I am not saying method, starting at book 3 through 5, and diverted from there to a more traditional approach with good old scales and studies as just focusing on one piece after another didn't work that well for developing my technique. I myself could not work with a teacher that is unable or unwilling to adapt to my needs as a learner in a private lesson setting, this is what I am paying for,... and at a premium IMO. Don't tell your teacher how to teach you, but indeed, do express your feeling toward the Suzuki method, and what worked well for you in the past. Your teacher may chose to follow that other method, or ad hoc a method of her own customized to your needs, it matters not if your teacher is professional and competent. Teaching methods are only suggested paths that are proven to work with most, but certainly not all learners, we are all individuals after all. Whereas methods are a must in a group setting, private lessons ought to be adapted to individual needs.

Edit: As 'methods' go, I should have mentioned that I find the RCM (Canada Royal Conservatory of Music) program and progression far more suited to my adult learner needs.

Edited: October 18, 2018, 12:01 PM · Cynthia, it would be interesting to know more what you disliked about your teacher's method and why you find yourself more inclined towards the method books you mentioned. Even if different teachers say they use Suzuki method, perhaps they are not all in reality using the exact method...some bring in supplementary literature, some use Suzuki only as a source for scores, etc. Does she bring in scales, etudes etc as well?

Others have stated it here...a good teacher really is good no matter what source she or he has recourse to, because they can identify what needs to be taught, how and where to find pieces for practicing the techniques in question.

Edited: October 18, 2018, 1:32 PM · Hi Cynthia;

As an adult beginner who has had four teachers and three different method books, I have to say the teacher is 100 times more important to your progress than the method book. If you have a good teacher who tailors lessons to your strengths/weaknesses, you will forge ahead regardless of the method book. If you have an inexperienced, inattentive and uninterested teacher, you will make no progress regardless of what method book you use; no method book will help you along if the teacher is not doing his/her job! Believe me, with the right teacher, Suzuki will not hold you back. Use your decision-making power to choose a fine teacher--the method is really taught by the teacher, not the book.
In answer to your question, YES you have a right to say what you want to do. But, choose the teacher, not the book!! Best regards, Erin

Edited: October 18, 2018, 1:55 PM · Cynthia, I asked pretty much the same question about a year ago on this same site. Worth reading to get a flavor of the opinions offered. Hope this link works:
October 18, 2018, 4:00 PM · Mengwei said: --- "In that case, the teacher should be breaking down the steps into micro steps or micro micro steps, whether by making up things personally to fill the gap, using other stuff that's already been written, etc. (also knowing when steps could be consolidated based on a student's ability at the time). That's not "Suzuki" though, just good teaching." ---

Of course I realize this, but you also have to take into account the psychology of the student (mainly talking about adults here, btw). When beginner students see a Suzuki song, they see *one* song. We, as teachers, might see 5 songs, or 10 songs, depending on how much we need to break it up for each particular student's needs. Now, for 90% of students, I'm able to make them see it as I do, but there are always those 10% of students that can't "unsee" it as one song, and thus feel like failures when they're "taking over a month to complete just one song." Rationalizing won't work with these types.

For these types of students, whose particular viewpoints don't allow them to see the Suzuki songs outside the scope of "it's just *one* song", a different method will be a better fit. Ideally, one that presents hundreds of small exercises/songs, so that they can *feel* like they're doing much more, even though the amount of progress ends out being roughly the same.

I hope this helps clarify my original point.

Roger St Pierre said: ---"Suzuki method is designed to work with children learners, and as an adult learner I also have different needs and expectations."---

I have mixed thoughts on this. I've had extremely good results with adult students using the Suzuki method (or perhaps you would say the Suzuki "repertoire"), but it was only when they were very good listeners and decently hard workers.

I've found that stubborn-minded people, whether they are adults or children, tend to do poorly with the Suzuki method. This is because the Suzuki method requires the student to be *led*, 100%, by the teacher. They cannot effectively self-guide through the books and have success. They truly have to do *exactly* as the teacher specifies. But it seems some people just have a problem with not being able to self-lead.

Anyways, I guess my point is that I don't think Suzuki method's effectiveness is a matter of "Adults vs children" as much as it is "receptive to being led vs self-leading". This is just my experience, though.

The last thing I want to mention: every time there is a discussion about the "suzuki method" on here, I think much of the disagreement/confusion comes from different experiences with how the method was implemented. A few examples:

Teacher #1: Views Suzuki from the viewpoint of how it would work on a 4 year-old child. Uses lots of games and breaks things into impossibly small tidbits that even the smallest child can understand. --- This teacher is technically using the "suzuki" method, but implementing it in a way that will be useful for an adult learner might be difficult.

Teacher #2: Uses the Suzuki Repertoire but implements it in a way that encourages note-reading and tone production from the outset. Approaches each song in an adaptable way, depending on the needs of the individual student. Doesn't adhere to a strict idea of how the process should go, but does *not* skip songs! This teacher will do moderately well with a variety of students.

Teacher #3: Uses the Suzuki books merely as a collection of curated songs. Skips around a lot, thus doesn't really have an organized idea of what each song should be teaching the student. Assigns pieces/scales/etudes from all over the place. Usually expects the student to "just get things" and has difficulty relating to the problems that beginners have. This teacher will do well only with very talented students who are able to connect the dots on their own.

It's important to realize that all 3 of the teachers above would say they "use the suzuki method." But none of them are *exactly* using the method. The only common factor is the book series.

So ONCE AGAIN, it is very much the teacher and not the method/book series that is going to make the process a success!

Edited: October 19, 2018, 9:01 AM · I agree with all the posters above who say that it's the teacher not the method that makes the difference. To be a successful violin student, I think you have to be willing to be led by the teacher, and to be receptive and willing to struggle with an exercise/technique/etude over and over and over again, if the teacher thinks its important for you. A good teacher will know when to try something different, or let something go for a while. Even as an advanced student, I don't trust my judgment regarding what I need to learn and how I need to learn it. My previous experiences of learning languages, sports, other skills and subject matter don't seem to help me very much when learning violin-playing.
October 18, 2018, 11:00 PM · "there are always those 10% of students that can't "unsee" it as one song, and thus feel like failures when they're "taking over a month to complete just one song." Rationalizing won't work with these types."

Oh, I see the point. It's related to being willing to be "led" - if the student allows/trusts the teacher who teaches through the perspective of each piece being the sum of the skills that came before it, rather than a song/exercise to be checked off. Or if the student is willing to write down and keep the "pages of notes" (referencing what is to be learned in each piece or between pieces and thus seeing that they are completing multiple "books'" worth of learning) but then some would just rather see that kind of intermediary content in published print.

(I can't say that I don't want students to self-lead though. It only becomes a problem when they do what they want instead of or directly contrary to what I asked. "How did ABC practice go?" "Well, I didn't do it, I did XYZ instead." If you do what was assigned, then spend some time experimenting, sure!)

Not being able to access my tools would surely limit me as a teacher, and if I did not think I could put forth a worthy effort using the requested alternatives, I would consider it in the student's best interest to seek someone else.

October 18, 2018, 11:41 PM · Mengwi said: ---"(I can't say that I don't want students to self-lead though. It only becomes a problem when they do what they want instead of or directly contrary to what I asked. "How did ABC practice go?" "Well, I didn't do it, I did XYZ instead." If you do what was assigned, then spend some time experimenting, sure!)"---

This brings up a discussion I often have with myself: how much independence/self-leading should the ideal student have? Although the usual problem is from students not doing what I asked of them, I've actually had some students who were so reliant on my information that they would wait an entire week to ask me about it before trying to figure it out themselves. Even after being given permission multiple times in the past from me to "please experiment on your own," they were always so terrified to do something the wrong way that they wouldn't even try until I had told them *explicitly* how to do it. So we would end up going much slower because I had to micro-manage more than should have been necessary.

So although it's not a common problem, I've definitely seen students who I wished would be just a bit more independent/self-leading. Even a 10% effort on their part would have yielded 100% more results.

I guess a good analogy to this problem would be giving a person a draw-by-dots picture but then they're afraid that something will go wrong in between 2 dots, so they request that another dot be put between them. Then the space between those dots is still too much, so they request yet another dot. By the time they stop asking for more dots, there are so many dots that the series of dots makes a line.

This ends up taking WAY more time than was necessary to connect the dots, because the student wouldn't just put in that 10% effort to draw the single line.

October 19, 2018, 8:50 AM · Love your teacher examples Erik - made me laugh because they are true.
Edited: October 19, 2018, 11:40 AM · at the risk of over-generalizing, I will state that sticking to a certain learning method might be a sign of insecurity and/or inexperience. A great teacher, in my opinion, is excellent in noticing / diagnosing student's weaknesses, bad habits and undeveloped skills. He/she is also great in tailoring a set of studies and pieces to correct the above and help you grow as a musician. No "one size fits all" method is capable of doing the same. At this age of brands, it is is rare to fins a unique, personalized and in essence eclectically, practical approach. You may find a "Honda" or "Volkswagen" certified used vehicle, but looking for a "Suzuki", "Yamaha" or "Kodaly" violin teacher might be useless.
October 19, 2018, 2:02 PM · Cynthia,

First of all: Welcome to the Late Starters Club. At 63 you aren't the oldest.

I share your frustration with Suzuki used with adults only because I know more than a few who just don't click with Suzuki yet seem to be stuck with it.

I was a professional teacher/consultant in Supply Chain Management for a good part of my career. I've learned that teaching adults is way different from teaching young people. At some point in the teacher-student relationship the teacher has to realize that they must deal with the student as a full human being, not just another "student." Unfortunately, most adult beginners in music arrive at that point and a fixed rote "system" may not work past the absolute basics.

Here is a suggestion: break the student-teacher relationship. Talk to the "nice" violin teacher you know about hiring her as your "Coach." Yes, even beginners can have coaches. Tell her that you are working from a particular method, using some internet resources but need a live coach to help with specifics where you are having difficulties.

In addition, take some time to write out what your goals are in wanting to learn the violin. That will help the coach get you to your goals without engaging the student-teacher relationship. Knowing where you want to arrive will make the coaching job a lot easier.

FWIW: I started violin at the age of 30 and fortunately Suzuki was an unknown back then. My teacher (who later became both a coach and a friend) used Doflein which I personally love because it is very logical and focus is on the bio-mechanics of playing. While Suzuki is correct in saying music is a language, playing a violin is a definite skill set based in bio-mechanics.

October 19, 2018, 2:45 PM · "Even after being given permission multiple times in the past from me to "please experiment on your own," they were always so terrified to do something the wrong way that they wouldn't even try until I had told them *explicitly* how to do it."

To be consistent, I'm not going to invest a lot of mental energy to deconstruct this situation and look at it from multiple angles, but I would like to add that this sort of stupidity (not simply meaning to be insulting; I think that's a correct word here) is sometimes learned and perhaps unwittingly taught. There is a concept of learned helplessness, which might naturally be difficult for a teacher, especially a directly paid one, to deal with, but it does happen as a matter of course in teacher-student, senior-junior relationships where the student / junior is often told that they're incorrect. At some point it can change to - instead of probably being wrong, why don't I just wait for the authority who will be right. The problem here of course is that having the authority being right gets the student nowhere - they must develop the rightness for themselves, which might require a different method of teaching and learning.

Edited: October 19, 2018, 3:26 PM · A beginner at violin simply does not have an understanding of what is necessary to learn, whether child or adult. What IS really important is that you trust your teacher. A good teacher probably isn't really doing "Suzuki Method" or any or "method". A good teacher is going to teach you a set of principles that are widely agreed upon that will work with any set of books. Having a teacher, it doesn't really make sense to count on getting information about technique from your music books - You get it directly from the teacher.

I think a lot of adults get in their own way not understanding that they have to humble themselves and give up control in ways that adults usually don't, and in ways that society tells adults they shouldn't. I understand your hesitance, and what I'm writing may be my own projection, or it may be on the mark, which might lead to a reaction of either recognition or defensiveness.

If your goal is to try and learn violin, you have to make the maximum effort to do what your teacher asks, which can be tough, because on the flipside, anyone can teach, and there are bad teachers out there. I wouldn't search on the basis of what books they use, but how they play, whether they explain themselves well, and whether their students can play. Your sense of trust in a teacher will be the bedrock of your motivation to put in the necessary work. A teacher that talks to you as an adult and that believes that you can learn violin is a good sign. A teacher that talks to you like a child is a bad sign.

I see returning adults here enough that express a big desire to play, and then can't let go of the idea that they are going to be their own teacher. That is the ultimate goal, but for someone starting out, it's kind of like having yourself as your own lawyer.

October 19, 2018, 4:22 PM · ---"Having a teacher, it doesn't really make sense to count on getting information about technique from your music books - You get it directly from the teacher."---

I agree with this. Technical details should be explained by the teacher, not the book.

---"I think a lot of adults get in their own way not understanding that they have to humble themselves and give up control in ways that adults usually don't, and in ways that society tells adults they shouldn't."---

Very true, and probably the #1 problem that adult beginners have.

---"I wouldn't search on the basis of what books they use, but how they play, whether they explain themselves well, and whether their students can play."---

Good criteria.

---"A good teacher probably isn't really doing "Suzuki Method" or any (other) "method"."---

*This* statement I would be cautious about. Many good teachers use a "core" method or book series, and that certainly doesn't mean anything about their teaching. I know what you meant, but the way that statement comes across is a dangerous generalization.

---"I see returning adults here enough that express a big desire to play, and then can't let go of the idea that they are going to be their own teacher."---

This is actually a really common problem I've seen a lot of, both on this forum and in my own teaching experience. There's a disconcertingly large group of beginners, usually between ages 50-65, who seem to have both a *victim complex* and an *independence* complex regarding learning the violin. Thus, even if they do take lessons, they always do so with the initial idea that a teacher will "just give them the basics" for a few weeks or months and then they'll somehow fly off and do their own thing. And, when reality doesn't meet those expectations, they usually blame the instructor or the method, when the actual problem is just that they're expecting to improve faster than is realistic.

Here's what I always tell this group of students when this happens:

Them: "why am I improving so slowly"?

Me: "Your rate of improvement is normal for someone with no violin experience, let alone someone with no musical experience (rhythm, pitch, etc...).

Them: "But I was watching youtube videos and I saw an 8 year old who plays 100x better than me"

Me: "That 8 year old has been playing for 5 years, and you have been playing for 5 weeks.

Them: "Yes, but they're 8! And I'm 60! Why am I not better than an 8 year old?"

Me: "Because the violin doesn't care what age you are: it cares about how long you've been playing, and how much good quality practice you've accumulated in total."

Them: *contemplating* "hmmmm"

Me: "Let me ask you a question: if a random 8 year old walked in the room right now, said they're going to perform for you, and then said they've been playing for 5 weeks, what sound would you expect to come out of their violin?"

Them: "Well I'd expect it to be pretty awful"

Me: "So why do you expect your playing to be any different after 5 weeks? Are you under the impression that a 60 year old somehow learns faster than an 8 year old?

Them: "Well, I don't know ab..."

Me: "OR, are these expectations really just a reflection of you feeling like you *need* to be able to improve faster because you're starting much later in life?"

Them: "...."

Me: "From now on, whenever you want to judge your progress, ask yourself what an 8 year old would sound like after the same amount of time playing. Then you'll stop having cognitive dissonance, and you'll actually make better progress because you won't be spending so much mental energy wondering why things aren't moving faster."

Edited: October 19, 2018, 6:32 PM · Erik, that's valid, but I guess I mean the method stuff in terms of just not getting fixated on the it in a sort of perfectionistic way.

I was trying to buy a jump rope a few months ago, and I spent all this time online researching and comparing different styles of jump ropes, and watching videos, and weighing all these pros and cons, and trying to make the perfect decision. In the end, I just went to Target and got a 5 dollar jump rope and started jump roping. Could I have gotten a better jump rope by going with all the research? Probably. Would I have noticed the difference? Maybe. Is there something special about getting the perfect jump rope that makes me a better jump-roper? Doubtful.

Adult students sometimes have too much non-essential information at their fingertips, and don't bother researching or know how to research the more important stuff. It's the whole issue of digital modernity and the paralysis of too much choice. It's easy for people to do the same thing with strings, rosin and a million other variables that really aren't on the same level of 'well, have you been practicing?'.

At some point you just have to start jump roping if you want to get good at jump roping.

Edit: Below, Erik, I agree with you.

October 19, 2018, 6:30 PM · Like I said, *I* know what you meant, but others may not. I just wanted to clarify to others reading this that the statement ---"A good teacher probably isn't really doing "Suzuki Method" or any (other) "method"--- isn't a stand-alone statement. It requires more clarification in order to not be misleading to beginners.

The problem is that it's a statement designed to be used by beginners, but for it to be a completely true statement it requires advanced knowledge. Of course you and I read it as you intended, but certain complete beginners would read it as "good teachers don't use methods."

I wouldn't want someone to come on this site at some point during the future, read that statement, and then go looking for teachers, only searching for the ones that specifically *don't* state that they use a particular method.

October 20, 2018, 1:01 PM · Thank you for the thoughts, but I must make some things clear. I am not planning on being my own teacher. That is why I was looking for a teacher. In the ideal world, violin teachers, as described and touted on many posts here, would be available to people no matter where they live, in reality, they are not and those in the”drought” area, must do what they can to 1. Find a teacher that is the best available, 2. Find other resources to learn.

I am not expecting to be a a fine tuned violinist. I am not intending to perform for anyone, anywhere, nor will I ever do so. This is for my own enjoyment and self-worth. I have no dream of being a “classical” violinist.

I have taken cello lessons with an instructor who used Suzuki. If it was not in the book, it was not covered. Proper bowing was not stressed, scales were not used, etc. Again, I live in a drought area and this was my only choice. I did that for my own enjoyment and self-worth, also and no plans to ever be able to perform. I am taking cello again, after moving out-of-state and coming back. I am taking them from one of the students from the other cello instructor, who is my age and has same old age issues and back issues I have. It has been great with bowing, intonation, etc.

I have still not been able to start violin lessons, and I am not just going to sit around waiting to be able to start, so, yes, I have been researching and found a few books, including scales, and I have been watching YouTube. I am using what is available. The only teacher available is the one I did cello with, who used only that Suzuki book, so this is a concern of mine. I was simply wondering if asking to not use Suzuki is appropriate. The other day I spoke to the music shop owner, and he said that I can bring it up with the instructor. I am 12th in line for a time slot when this instructor can resume instructions.

Sometimes, I am a little reluctant to ask any questions here. Sometimes the responses sound a bit like those of us who are not in a position to get the well-trained violin instructor, due to location, or financially, or both, should not do the best we can with what sources are available and are belittled in a way because we do what we can. I try to keep my questions and answers short, but I want to make sure that it is clear that these “great” violin instructors that the answers tell us to get simply are not available. I feel a bit put off by many replies, but sometimes there is a reply from someone who understands that not everyone is in the ideal situation but has the desire, anyway, so I ask.

Here was my instructor search result for my area. Keep in mind the two music stores are not orchestral string music stores. We are talking mainly guitar, piano, drums, etc for the most part.

Store number 1: I was given the name and number of the violin instructor who rents a studio from them. Contacted twice. No response. Replied to the email that the store sent and asked if the contact information was correct. There was a typo in the number, so I tried again. Left a message. No response. Called a week later, left a message. No response. Stopped in at that music store on the way home from cello lessons. They have not heard from that instructor either. The lady I spoke with gave me the name of another person.

I called the other person who does lessons from her home and left a message. She called back. She is not taking new students but gave me the names of two other ones. One only teaches kids. The other is no longer available. The other person texted me again with a third name she remembered. That was the name of the cello instructor I used to have from the other music store that only used that Suzuki book, so I was really trying to dodge her.

2. Mentioned my instructor problem to the violin store about 2 hours away when I was there last, and they were kind enough to see if they could find any in my area, or reasonable driving distance, and they were not successful, either.

3. Decided that I had no choice but to use the former cello teacher, who I like personally, but really do not want to use because she only uses that Suzuki book.

Violin teachers in my area simply are not available. I have signed up for the former cello instructor, but she cannot start lessons again until November for personal reasons. When she can start up again she is calling students to set up her schedule, until slots are filled. I am 12th on the list because her students she had when she had to stop are first in line, as it should be.

“Adult students sometimes have too much non-essential information at their fingertips, and don't bother researching or know how to research the more important stuff.”

We do know how, and do do the research. We are not ignorant.

“... 'well, have you been practicing?'.

At some point you just have to start jump roping if you want to get good at jump roping.”

I have been practicing regularly since I purchased my violin. Making the assumption that an adult student does not practice, is not correct. Adult students are just as driven to learn an instrument, or anything for that matter, just as much as younger student. We understand it takes a long time, years, to learn this instrument. Most of us do not expect to become virtuosos. We want to be able to play it for our enjoyment, maybe some want to be able to perform, maybe some don’t, but we understand the need to practice and that it takes a long time. There is no thought that we “need to be able to learn faster...” because we started later in life.

I find the discussion about an adult thinking (s)he can play well simply because an 8 year can to be very insulting. We are older, but we are not stupid and know that it takes time. To group us all together as a sub-class of students is very insulting. I am not making these statements to cause any trouble, but to sit here reading replies to my question and reading the condescending comments about adult students and how unrealistic they are, want to be our own teachers, how they don’t practice, don’t know how to research, don’t know how long it takes to learn, etc, like we are a subclass is very insulting and like we are looked down upon. Not helpful at all. Luckily, even though violin instructors in my are are hard to come by, when I have asked the music stores about it, I have been encouraged and not talked down to. Luckily, I have a husband who is very supportive and encourages me, also.

Not sure if this is the forum for me as I am not a classical violinist, I am an adult learner, I don’t have the ideal situation because I live in reality, etc. I just found the conversation in this thread I started, and how it has morfed into a thread about adult students, very demeaning. Thank you for your time, but at the receiving end of the comments, as I am an adult student, it was demeaning. You all had to learn at some point. Probably not meant that way, but that is how it reads, to an adult student looking for answers.

Edited: October 20, 2018, 2:37 PM · Hi Cynthia,
I think many of the posters above (myself included) are adult learners, not professionals. We jumped in with lots of advice about teachers and methods because one of the good things about being an adult is you can pick your teacher, and get a new one, if necessary. As a child, you rely on your parents' choices. They may not choose well because of lack of music experiences or lack of interest, even when you live in an area with many fine violin teachers. Many of us have had less-than-excellent teachers and we've realized how important good instruction is, and we want you to learn from our experiences.
It does sound as if you do not have a rich selection of teachers in your area. It seems to me that you've found the best teacher available to you. It also seems that this teacher, who used the Suzuki books with you, used them incorrectly; they're meant to be supplemented with a lot of instruction in technique, scales, intonation, and musicality, and she did not do that. Now I understand why you want a method book that "spells it out"--you need to make it easy for the teacher to teach technique, scales, etc., so you are hoping the material in the book will "remind" her to give you those things. I think that is smart.
I didn't read Erik's post as insulting. I can empathize with the adult student he describes. I think most of us as students (probably not the prodigies) have heard a small child play something better than we can and thought, "Why can't I do that?" I understood Erik's point to be that learning the violin is just different than learning most other things.
I do think you are going to be surprised by how much effort, instruction, and skill it takes to play for your own enjoyment. Wasn't it Itzhak Perlman who said that to play Twinkle Twinkle beautifully will take ten years? That is just a warning not to get discouraged. Perlman's comment helps me when I get discouraged.
I hope you will continue to post.
October 20, 2018, 2:57 PM · Hi Cynthia

Can you contact me privately at misterdmmc AT gmail DOT com? I might be able to help you find something!


October 20, 2018, 3:24 PM · I agree entirely with Jocelyn. Further thoughts from me:

It sounds like that cello teacher isn't a good teacher -- at least not of cello. Are they primarily a cellist? If they're not, and they are teaching cello, they may be teaching as best they can based on, say, a one-semester general string methods class they took in college. Their own knowledge of how to play the cello might be rudimentary, and they might be totally unaware of the teaching points that a teacher is supposed to cover in the Suzuki book, resulting in poor instruction. It is possible that if they are primarily a violinist, they might be better at teaching that... but maybe not.

The Suzuki books are intended to be used by a Suzuki-trained teacher who has completed both a training course for the Method itself, as well as a training course for each book (or at least every book up to the point they intend to use Suzuki). Each book's training course sets out what the student is supposed to learn in each piece, as well as a variety of methods for doing so. Training courses are usually multiple days per book, with a combination of training and observation of master teacher's lessons -- or even a full master's degree program in pedagogy.

Many teachers just buy the books in order to use the repertoire, though. It's not that the teacher is "teaching Suzuki" when they do that. For an adult, the whole Method is probably inappropriate, but the teaching points of the pieces would remain. (By the way, actual Suzuki includes a focus on tone quality from the very beginning -- it's quite possibly one of the most important things about the Method, so if you are finding a "Suzuki teacher" isn't focusing on good tone production from the very beginning, you know that's a red flag.)

If your teacher is using the Suzuki books, but not clearly explaining the teaching points and/or you need a written explanation: Get the Step by Step books by Kirstin Wartberg, which breaks down the teaching points with individual exercises and whatnot.

October 20, 2018, 4:10 PM · Cynthia said: ---"I find the discussion about an adult thinking (s)he can play well simply because an 8 year can to be very insulting. We are older, but we are not stupid and know that it takes time. To group us all together as a sub-class of students is very insulting."---

You way you phrased that makes me feel that you missed the point of my post altogether, or perhaps skimmed the details. I would suggest you re-read the post you're referencing.

First of all, I wasn't grouping you "all together." I was saying that there is a "disconcertingly large" sub group of adult beginners who all seem to have the same attitude problem when they start learning. And in saying so, I wasn't referencing you, I was actually responding to a point that Christian made about adults that want to teach themselves. Unless you're an adult that wants to teach yourself, that post wasn't directed at you whatsoever.

Regarding the thing about 8 year olds and whatnot, you really just need to re-read the post. My main point was that in some instances, adults have unrealistic expectations. I didn't say they were stupid. The conversation I listed was one that I've *actually had* multiple times with adult students. It was not a made-up, theoretical conversation.

Anyways, based on the new information you've given us (there are no good available teachers in your area), my suggestion would be to find a teacher who is willing to instruct you online. Of course in-person lessons are always better, but a good teacher online is still much better than a bad teacher in person.

October 20, 2018, 6:21 PM · Sorry for the misunderstanding. Since I started the thread, I read the posts as directed at me.

Actually, I tried to get one of the instructors that teaches online. Found one that seemed like a good match. It was from one of the online sources where they have the instructors listed and info about them. There are a few sites like that. I contacted that person with the contact form and never heard back. I double checked to make sure my email address was entered correctly before submitting, so that was not the issue. That was three weeks ago. That was a bust. After thinking about it, I could not figure out how an online teacher would be able to help with bowing, holding the instrument and posture, etc. You would have to have a pretty good way to set things up at your house and that I do not have. I can Facetime with my granddaughter, but we are holding the iPad in front of us. I also signed up for ViolinLab. The ViolinLab is fine, actually pretty good, but a little hard to concentrate for me, when watching the lesson on my computer or iPad.

The first cello teacher I had is an excellent cellist/violinist/violist. I could listen to her play any of those instruments for hours. When I started cello a few years ago, I told her that I was not in any hurry. I have no problem going over a lesson over and over and over again until I get what is being taught in that lesson segment down pat before I move on. I explained that this is for my own enjoyment, I want to learn it properly so I can enjoy it and be satisfied with what I am doing, and will have to go slowly. So speed and what I was expecting was pretty clear.

I am pretty sure she is used to teaching kids, and not adults, but that does not explain the lack of scales, and exercises that actually improve the bowing and intonation. I have been working on those on my own on the violin while I wait for lessons, if I get in, all the while paying attention to my posture and bowing so I don’t get bad habits. The scales and exercises I have issues with, I am not doing because I obviously need hands on help with those. Basically, just trying to get so I at least hit the right spot fingering first position. That was lacking in my first go at cello before we moved out of state for a little while. My current cello instructor is paying attention to all the bowing, fingering, intonation and detail. But, she is actually learning herself, about 3 books ahead of me, and is my age. So, we kind of understand each other, and she remembers the issues she had and can relate.

I have been making sure I am using my elbow, not my whole arm when bowing, modified my cello grip to match the violin bow grip, so that was a little familiar, even though not the same.

Since the music shop owner said that suggesting or requesting a book is okay, I am going to bring in my Essential Strings, Müller Rusch, and scales books with me. I bought the Suzuki book 1 violin when I purchased my violin, only because I knew the songs from the cello Suzuki, but I am leaving that home. I do not want to encourage it. I find the way the string progression is presented with the Essential Strings and Müller Rusch easier for me to learn from than the Suzuki string progression. To me, they make more sense.

Anyway, I am trying to get some skills on the violin while I wait for the instructor to start up again and I get a slot. I now feel pretty good about making sure she pays attention to my intonation, uses useful lessons for me, etc. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait very long.

October 20, 2018, 6:24 PM · Hi Cynthia,

I can see why my post wouldn't be taken well. I'm an adult student, and my point is not about you per se, since I don't know much about you, but I know a little bit more now.

The broader point I was trying to get at is that you are missing the forest for the trees a bit. I would personally be wary about someone who was advertising themselves as a "Suzuki Teacher", because it's sort of a marketing term, and in my experience, the best teachers don't extensively market themselves (There are exceptions I'm sure). A certification does not make one a good teacher, and I think Jocelyn put a lot of good thoughts down above, perhaps more tactfully than I did. But Suzuki or not, the books are NOT the problem - I assure you. A good teacher can probably work with any set of books, and given your situation, I wouldn't mess with bad teacher. In my opinion, no teacher is better a bad teacher.

The problem with your situation, NOT in being an adult, but in being a beginner, is you likely don't have the experience to know good teaching from bad teaching. But even besides that, a good teacher is a teacher that inspires you to practice.

Again, I'm not casting aspersions. When I say that a lot of adults want to be their own teachers, I mean that over the years, I see posters coming here that are very excited about learning violin, and think that they know better than their teachers - They might, but that means that their teacher is bad, not that they know a lot about learning violin.

I wish you well in your search - Maybe online is your best bet, as Erik suggests. I think you are fixated on the method book, and I'm sorry that your search for a trusted teacher is difficult - It must be very frustrating. It took me a long time to find a teacher that I really believe in. The market for teachers for adults is more limited than for children - A lot of teachers won't give an adult the time of day. My suggestion is to not settle on a teacher you don't believe in.

October 22, 2018, 2:30 AM · Hi Cynthia, sometimes changing one thing can change the whole picture. I would talk with her about what your needs are and give the lessons a second chance. Perhaps it’s different after talking and starting fresh with a new instrument. There is nothing to lose.
Best of luck
October 22, 2018, 8:59 AM · Eva, that is what I am doing. Didn’t quite work when I did cello with her. She is off on leave now. When she is able to return, she will reschedule her current students who are still interested first, and then schedule as many from a list the store she works from created. I am on that list. I am going to be a tad more firm this time with what I am exactly wanting to get out of these lessons. I can’t be bossy, she knows the instrument, I do not, but I know my learning process and what is needed on my part to succeed.

I am not aiming for perfection, at my age that will not happen because that takes more years than my joints will probably allow. Kids take lessons for decades to become a performing classical violinist. I want to play it in a way that is enjoyable and fulfilling for me, not perform difficult classical pieces for other people. I do not expect miracles. Would I like to be able to just pick it up as quickly as a younger student, sure, but in reality, that is not going to happen, and I know that. But, I am going to work hard as if that is possible. I just have to go at a slower speed than younger students do.

I need to go slowly and make sure I have whatever techniques were presented in the previous week figured out before we move on. That didn’t go over too well before, but I will just be firmer this time. I told her I was not in a hurry the last time. Repeating a lesson until I get it is just fine with me because I can’t add on new info if I am still struggling with the previous info or techniques. Didn’t quite go that way. It was too fast. New lessons every week, even though I still needed time on the previous week’s lesson. Probably the speed of a younger student.

I am not going to join a group (have to make that clear based on what happened with cello), I am not going to perform in front of anyone. This is just for my own benefit, self-worth and enjoyment. There is nothing wrong with doing something for yourself that helps you feel good about yourself and/or gives you enjoyment. I will have to be firmer with that, also.

I am hoping that if I make all of this more clear to her this time, that it will be a better experience for me and more helpful to me than the last time. I am going to keep an open positive mind about it, when, if, I can get started.


October 22, 2018, 10:54 AM · Violin's very difficult to learn- might be useful to simplify and just focus on a few basic techniques to start out with. If one focuses on the technique, which is what most teachers do, the material is not as important. If your short-term goal is to learn a good how hold, bow with proper arm motion, keep bow parallel to bridge as much as possible for beginner, the material is not as important. It's only grist for the mill. Same with basic left hand- intonation, hand shape, relaxed hand, are the goals, not mastery of some primer or learning the first few chapters of any particular method. Sometimes it's good to get the goal for a technique from a teacher, then go home and figure out the best way to master it on your own. The teacher may have some suggestions, but there's no limit to what you can do on your own as long as you're not developing bad habits.
Edited: October 22, 2018, 1:41 PM · My.00000002 worth here.

Only speaking for myself and in looking at others similar to myself. Most adult learners are stubborn. That includes me. There I've said it.Actually most adults in general are stubborn.

In attempting to see this from the teacher perspective, their time is an investment in our improvement. They get fulfillment in teaching and want the students success. If that looks to be a losing battle they may not desire to fight it.Why would they?

Adults are usually self sufficient. Those who are older have been self sufficient for a long time. We are accustomed to the way things usually work.There are some benefits to being stubborn over being overly passive.I don't generally support stubbornness..unless you know you're right. In that case, by God dig in and never back down :)

My suggestion would be to rework an adult version of Suzuki. It isn't a bad guide. I think we need a guide to keep us on course. It needs to be presented as an adult guide even though the techniques don't change between young or old.Some of the learning methods might change for older bodies. Dump the kiddie songs and play simplified versions of adult songs with adult themes( nice ones). Pics of little Billy holding his miniature violin playing Mary Had A Little Lamb doesn't inspire the greatest sense of accomplishment.

Yes, you can teach it to an adult. We know it isn't intended to be an adult method and I think that takes something away from it for us.

Want to make some money in music publishing? Come up with a nice fun course specifically for the adult violinists.

Everyone has different goals and abilities. Some probably shouldn't even venture, others really should or could.I think this ties back into goals.
I believe everyone would agree that you don't want to be making dreadful squeaking noises 3 years into lessons. I'm into year 3 and beginning to sound good enough to keep playing. If I had nothing to show for it I would be looking for something else to do with my time and theirs.

Edited: October 25, 2018, 10:29 AM · Yes, I fully agree with you. I am the same, I detest the Suzuki method, made for kids and parents and full tilt with an Instructor that you have to see each week. The books are awful. The music selection some exceptions are awful. It requires you to spend lots of money with an instructor and your parent to continue with the series. Most or many of the Violin teachers where I live not all, use Suzuki method. I refuse to hire them. The UK ABRSM method, Wolfhart, Essential Elements, some of the Violin YouTube instructors are much better. I stay away from Suzuki. I went to a recital with my ex Violin teacher and all of the kids she was training were all using Suzuki, so she could make lots of money requiring instruction each week. I am looking to practice and learn with adults not a 8 year old kids.
Edited: October 25, 2018, 12:38 PM · I have no issues with using an instructor for weekly classes. I am convinced that weekly lessons with an instructor is the way to go. The issue was the method. I thought this thread I started had run its course, but before it takes a turn again, I want to make clear my thoughts.

My Thoughts:
A weekly lesson with an instructor is imperative, at least for me. This is for a number of reasons.

1. The instructor can actually see your hold, posture, etc and can correct you in person and work with you on it.

2. An instructor can watch your fingering and bowing and help you in person as you are doing it.

3. An instructor can answer questions in real time about what is causing your issues with the previously mentioned points, or why you keep doing it.

4. It gives you structure to your learning and a schedule to follow.

5. The instructor can note intonation issues and help with that.

6. An instructor actually gives you someone to olay with who knows how to play the violin so you can watch and listen in person.

I am realizing that the instructor I had for my first go round with cello is not a Suzuki instructor, she just used that book, not method. She should have been more thorough in what was needed to supplement the book, that a trained Suzuki teacher would have been trained to do, which, I have found, is an issue with many instructors who use this book, but their own teaching style.

I have no issue with the songs in the Suzuki books. I am 63 and I have no issue. There is a good mix of music for young students and older students. I do not find any of the music to be childish or babyish. You need simple songs to start and children’s songs are simple. We know how the melody is supposed to go, so that is a benefit, too.

I have realized that I have to speak up on day one of what I expect, the fact that I am in no hurry and need to go as slow as a turtle, or maybe slower. The speed could pick up as I get used to it, but slow and steady is what I need. If I have to spend quite some time on intonation for first position, so be it. This is for my enjoyment, not performing. It will do me no good to add second position if I am not accurately fingering first position, I know how my learning goes. I need to be reminded of proper hold and posture until it becomes natural to me. I know I will unknowingly fall back to more comfortable positions until it becomes natural, so “nag” me. I want to learn this properly.

I need to make it perfectly clear that I am not a performer, and will not be performing for people. I do not want to be asked to join a Safurday morning group like I was prodded to do when I did cello with her. This is for my own benefit. It is time for myself, now.

I can do this and be firm and nice (I really like her), and may have to remind her once in a while. I was very timid and did not speak up enough when I did cello.

So, for me, yes, an instructor is a necessity to learn my violin properly and in a way that I will be able to enjoy it and be proud of myself. It will take years, but as long as my body and purse allow it, that is what I plan to do.

I thank everyone for responding to my question on this. It has helped me immensely and I am looking forward to starting my lesson the first week of November.


October 25, 2018, 1:37 PM · Weekly instruction on the violin is best for the student who wants to learn to play the instrument correctly. It isn't a money grab on the part of the teacher. Good grief.
Edited: October 25, 2018, 3:09 PM · I agree with Mary Ellen. Weekly lessons are vital for beginners, regardless of the instructional approach used. (And they are useful for intermediate and advanced players, too.) Arguably most students would actually be better served by two lessons (or more) per week, but once weekly is practical. It's not a money grab, sheesh.

Also, Stephanie, with all due respect, as a beginner you probably aren't qualified to judge the quality or efficacy of a violin method / instruction book. (The jumble of non-equivalent things you cite in your post illustrates this very clearly.) You may prefer to learn from one thing or another, of course, but that is very different from understanding the utility of a book, especially in the hands of a teacher who understands how it's intended to be used.

October 25, 2018, 3:10 PM · LOL Stephanie is like the example-adult in my earlier post.

Is she a Doer or Don'ter? Stay tuned.

October 25, 2018, 5:17 PM · Lydia, I agree that 2 lessons a week would be great! But, the cost would be too much for me and I don’t think there would be another slot available where I am. I was lucky to get the slot I have. Such is life. Boy, if I could do 2 a week, that would be fabulous.

I cannot inagine learning any orchestral string instrument properly without an instructor. Unfortunately, I am in an orchestral strings instructor desert (during a drought season!). I had a really hard time finding one and being able to actually sign up, but I believe it is worth the frustration and work to get an instructor. Cannot wait to start.

Edited: October 25, 2018, 10:10 PM · > The UK ABRSM method, Wolfhart, Essential Elements
> some of the Violin YouTube instructors are much better.

Your statement belies a fundamental misunderstanding of pedagogy.

ABRSM is not a method, it is a comprehensive diploma program with level-based performance and theory requirements which are earned through exams. It is not so much about pedagogy as it is establishing the criteria by which the accomplishment of musicians can be measured objectively.

Wholfahrt is not a method. Franz Wholfahrt was a violin teacher and composer who wrote several books of etude materials used in beginning/intermediate skill development.

Essential Elements is a method, but was designed for group instruction for late elementary age musicians in K-12 school ensembles, and the generally slow pace of progress that it entails.

YouTube is hit and miss. Learning by watching non-interactive videos is unsatisfying, and will not replace the quality of interaction one has with a dedicated teacher.

> The books are awful.

The Suzuki Method's material like Tonalization and pieces are laid out in a logical sequence for skill development. If one understands what skills are being trained, it makes a lot of sense. Check out Kerstin Wartberg's Step-By-Step books, which provide a more rigorous formal approach to identifying and solving the individual challenges presented by each piece. Of course, if you'd like to present any specific details on why you think they're "awful," we're all ears.

The first 4-5 books are designed well, although personally I'd avoid books 6-10 and simply use the equivalent level material from other sources as students need to play etudes (Kayser and Kreutzer), non-arranged Bach, Kreisler showpieces, Massenet Meditation, Mozart 3, 4, and/or 5 Barenreiter editions, etc.

Learning to play the violin is not about a book or a is about SKILLS, and an effective teacher is willing to use anything to empower students to learn to play, regardless of the name or reputation attached to it.

October 26, 2018, 10:28 AM · I fervently disagree with your assertions. You have not convinced me or persuaded me to use the Suzuki books. I gave away my Suzuki books to children who will need to weekly attend a local Violin instructor with their parent all of who are enamoured with the Suzuki method. Skills are developed by the use of pedagogy which includes the use of a structured curriculum. I now use much better "methods"and have a good Violin teacher who does not use the Suzuki method. Have a good day.
October 26, 2018, 11:24 AM · No one is trying to convince you (Stephanie), personally, to use the Suzuki books or take weekly lessons. However, people are attempting to correct your ignorant statements, since other readers in the future may come to the discussion archive and it's better for such statements to not be left to fester and misguide later readers.

It is not unusual for the best teachers to completely ignore a structured curriculum/method in favor of an approach that has worked well for them. Indeed, that is how new methods get created in the first place. Some students do prefer to work from books that lay everything out for them, but that is a matter of personal preference and by no means a universal rule for what makes a good teacher. And those methods generally stop at a beginner or earlier intermediate level, anyway. Teachers of more advanced students are largely on their own to determine proper progression. Exam systems like ABRSM or ACM may provide a certain degree of guidance on expected progression, but interestingly the countries where those systems are popular seem not to produce the best violinists.

October 26, 2018, 11:47 AM · Lydia Leong, so now your rhetoric has to include personal insults of me, calling me "ignorant"! I take offense to your personal condescension of my position to not use the Suzuki method, for which I believe is warranted and valid. I am not denigrating your position as everyone has an opinion, mine is based on experience and you seem to not accept that. You seem to assume that i am completely ignorant and know nothing.
Edited: October 26, 2018, 5:52 PM · This - "It was too fast. New lessons every week..." - means not getting what was meant to be gotten in the Suzuki repertoire sequence (because of going too fast), so it's no surprise that it "didn't work" even without considering other factors such as adult and child learning differences.

As for groups, many things can be taught/learned just as well, as easily, or better in a group setting, leaving private instruction time for what is better done one-on-one. My students can see me up to twice a week, once individual and once group. Yes, beginner, non musician adults too (including parents of children students) and they are separate from the children groups. My opportunity cost of offering groups is not being able to schedule more private lessons, but I'm fine with that. (At the intermediate level, the non parent adults have to move on for lessons and there are more suitable adult ensembles too if they are interested.)

Cynthia, Stephanie, and others have had negative experiences with "Suzuki" and it's unfortunate, but unavoidable, that those experiences cause continued misuse/misunderstanding. I appreciate those who are supporting objective information and can constructively critique Suzuki based on thorough pedagogical study. It sounds like Cynthia has substantive points about the prior lessons, in order to have a discussion with her previous/future teacher, and Stephanie found someone who bypasses the name entirely - both valid solutions. Again, it goes back to what teachers are actually doing (teaching skills in an organized manner), not what they or others are calling it (the name of the book/method/whatever).

I have previously taken lessons as an adult on not-my-primary-or-secondary instrument and of course I did not seek out a teacher like me because I needed what I couldn't teach myself. Fortunately, in general there are many teaching styles available for the different ways people want to learn. (Off topic on Erik's draw-by-dots analogy - when I read about the series of more dots that becomes a line, I thought, that's nearly calculus!)

Edited: October 26, 2018, 2:00 PM · This online community involves many people for whom music is either a profession or life-long avocation, and have both breadth and depth of comprehension of the subject matter. If you're going to participate in the discussion and make sweeping generalizations about some aspect of the pedagogy, you need to support your claims with actual evidence if you intend for the members of this community to take your opinion(s) seriously. If the only response you have to criticism is to claim "offense," then the message you're sending is that you're not interested in a discussion that might elicit some discoveries about the study of the violin.

I've really enjoyed working with adult students; after receiving a violin from her family as a HS graduation present, one of my students started off with Twinkle and within four years of effective daily practice achieved works like the Bach D Minor Partita and Lalo Symphonie espagnole, participated in a summer chamber music festival, and played in the violin section at her major university's excellent orchestra in Los Angeles...this while pursuing a wholly unrelated academic major. While her busy career in the legal profession currently precludes her from playing anymore, her love of music and support for the arts in general is clear evidence for why accessible music education for all people is so vital.

If it would be encouraging for you to have a conversation with another adult student who took and succeeded on this path of violin study, and perhaps see how the range of pedagogical materials (Suzuki, Barber, Kayser, Yost, etc.) and integration of those different materials by teachers helped them achieve their goals, I would be happy to put you in touch.

Best wishes to you on your violin studies.

Edited: October 26, 2018, 3:09 PM · Mengwei Shen, you are exactly right, I did not get out of the lesson what I should have, but I also need more than a week of playing to be comfortable with whatever was learned. That is not from not practicing and concentrating, that has always been the case with me. Once I “get it”, I take off, but that is not the same with instruments. You have to be able to do that technique physically as well as know what is meant and what you are supposed to do, so that slows it down some. I don’t mind. I love playing it and the process of learning something new. So I am good with slow and steady.

As for groups, that has been an issue with me since school and it is not something that I am going to be able to get over. Been there, tried that. Wish I could but the panic attacks and stress are too much and take the joy out of it. I have great admiration for people who can speak or perform for a group, whether non-professionally or professionally. Sheer panic for me and I really am not interested in having to deal with that anymore. It is my time to enjoy myself. It would be good to be able to that, and I understand why, but for me, that does not work.

As for Suzuki, I am tending not to be so much against that series of books as a whole. My problem was the experience I had with it. That is partly my blame because I figured the instructor knew more than I as far as advancing to the next lesson and I did not speak up. I will this time.

For any beginner of any age thinking the Suzuki songs are too simple, remember we are learning. These songs, at least many, are familiar tunes. Yes, they are children’s songs. Children’s songs by nature are simple, easy to learn. When we are learning an instrument, we are basically at the children’s level, for the most part. Children’s songs are the perfect format. They are also familiar to us, as I stated earlier, so the melody is known to us. For me, that is a big help.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is the first one in the Suzuki book, if I remember correctly. It is played with different rhythms. I do not find myself to be above it. I actually enjoyed the song and playing with it. On my cello, I still go back to it and use it to practice my bowing with softness, louder, slower, faster practicing for bowing. I do the same for the next two songs in the Book 1 Cello book. If I am having an issue with one of the later songs I am working on, I go back to those to loosen up and relax. Those simple songs really help the adult student in different ways than they probably do for children students.

So, what I am saying is, when I started this thread and asked the question I did, I did not expect to learn quite so much. It has really helped in my thought process in ridding myself of my first experience with Suzuki and this instructor. I really believe this will actually work out beautifully this time as I know where I missed the mark in my role as an adult student and my instructor missed her mark as an instructor of an adult student. I think we were both pretty much not speaking up. Thank you all for helping me reach this conclusion.

I have always believed in lessons with an instructor. It is no different than needing a teacher in school. This is just a delayed extension of my lifelong learning, basically.

So, thank you all for helping me figure this out and I am so relieved I was able to get a spot on this instructor’s schedule. I cannot wait to start, and I also cannot wait to hear her play. She is wonderful on both the cello and violin.


October 26, 2018, 4:25 PM · An interesting aspect of teaching children vs adults is that children tend not to be good at self-advocating for a learning style -- they just absorb, or not. And their parents tend not to know what constitutes good violin teaching. So whatever happens, happens -- if the kid turns out not to advance well, the parents generally shrug their shoulders and quit purchasing lessons, especially if their goal was music "exposure" rather than music "achievement".

But adults who pick up (or continue) study of the instrument expect to advance. They have different strengths and weaknesses, both physical and intellectual. They have different expectations and desires. And that can make it far harder for a teacher to figure out what approach is the right one for an adult student. Even if the teacher has a well-trodden path they use for kids, it's not necessarily going to be optimal (or even viable) for every adult learner.

October 26, 2018, 6:33 PM · "Exam systems like ABRSM or ACM may provide a certain degree of guidance on expected progression, but interestingly the countries where those systems are popular seem not to produce the best violinists."

Speaking of assertions which should not be left unchallenged..

Canada is a relatively small country, and I think it doesn't do badly in comparison to others in proportion to its population, and there is so much interchange between that country and its southern neighbour that the distinction of its population is often lost, let alone the fact of more general globalization. I think that the arguments against RCM and others are more ideological assumptions or preferences which are expressed rather than being substantive in themselves. Moreover, I think other circumstances in different countries influence their music involvement and competitiveness more than the general programme per se. As is often said, the program as such is just a guide of sorts, and not explicitly adhered to, and applied in different manners, and is generally of little relevance to the high achievers, who surpass them before long. But this is not the thread in which to have that discussion (if it is indeed worth debating).

October 26, 2018, 6:53 PM · Mengwei said: ---"Off topic on Erik's draw-by-dots analogy - when I read about the series of more dots that becomes a line, I thought, that's nearly calculus!"---

Some students want the Riemann Sum, when they could have just figured out the integral!

October 26, 2018, 9:58 PM · To J Ray's point, I suspect the exam system itself is not at fault per se. Interesting Simon Fischer's article from some years back with regard to the UK system: LINK
Edited: October 27, 2018, 12:46 PM · Lydia, thanks for linking the article. As an adult who is working through the last quarter of Kreutzer, I realize I may well run out of time before the “basic training” can be completed. At least, I know what is ahead : )

Edit to add: the suggestion by some that the model of weekly lessons is a money grab is at best uninformed and at worst offensive.

October 27, 2018, 3:05 PM · If a teacher understands the violin, they can teach from any reasonable method, applying even Suzuki insights in teaching someone else's method. If, on the other hand, they only understand Suzuki, they may have problems.
October 28, 2018, 12:12 PM · David, I find that Fischer's list parallels my childhood and young-adult learning quite well. Currently, though, I don't have the same solid technical grounding that I used to be able to rely upon, and many more things feel hard. I remember working through Dont op. 35 in childhood, for instance, and it's practically like seeing the etudes for the first time now and drawing a blank.
October 30, 2018, 1:39 AM · Having been on the receiving end of many different music instrument teachers during my teenage years, but now learning at a mature age (55) a new instrument, I can relfect on what worked for me. There were some teachers I did not jell with, their selection of music did not inspire me — no progress made. Then I had teachers that did jell with me, I enjoyed the instruction, but were lacking in method — you don’t know what you don’t know, so I only realised there was something missing when I changed to a different instructor. Then I had a teacher that jelled with me, inspired me and concentracted on method — what a difference, I could see myself improving. So I believe it is important to find a teacher that teaches the style of music that you like, inspires you and concentrates on proper methods. As an adult I think it is quite fair to ask for particular course work, but you should also be willing to sway with the wind and take on good advice. I wish you good luck in finding a suitable instructor.
October 30, 2018, 8:02 AM · Lydia couldn't it also be that you just played those Dont 35 very sloppily at the time, which you currently no longer would find acceptable? At least that is how it was in my case.
October 30, 2018, 2:49 PM · Nope. My teacher at the time wouldn't have tolerated it (I was a super-"clean" player as a teenager), and I did pretty much the Fischer-mentioned sequence. Kreutzer, Dont op. 35 (preceded by op. 37 and 38), Paganini. (And then later when I resumed playing, a review of some Dont op. 35 followed by Gavinies and Wieniawski Ecole Moderne.)

October 30, 2018, 3:29 PM · good for you!!

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