Theory workbooks for kids who only play violin?

September 30, 2020, 1:03 PM · I am looking for a good series of theory workbooks for my 11yo, who only plays violin and currently just knows treble clef. She has the basics down (note reading, key signatures, time signatures, intervals, major/minor chords). I would prefer a series that spirals, as she tends to forget things over time, and especially one that slowly introduces bass clef.

My son used a great series of books at her age, but they were piano theory books, and aren't working for her since they require a strong knowledge of bass clef. I eventually would like to get her into this series, but she needs to have more than just a basic understanding of bass clef to get there.

Any ideas? I've found a bunch of violin-oriented theory books but most seem to be geared toward the real basics.

Replies (8)

September 30, 2020, 3:39 PM · The ABRSM theory books grades 1-8 are pretty good
Edited: September 30, 2020, 3:40 PM · Harmony is basically the only part of music theory that requires reading bass clef. If you don't play the piano (or guitar) learning harmony is really hard. It is not just the bass clef; it is the fact that one can not easily play around and experiment with chords on a violin like on a piano or guitar.

So I'd accept that an 11 year old violinist has some theory deficit compared to a pianist. If they later want to become professionals they'll need to study piano and will then be better prepared for the missing theory.

September 30, 2020, 4:45 PM · @Jake I am assuming they use UK terms for rhythms? That probably wouldn't go over well.
September 30, 2020, 5:05 PM · They use both in the books I believe
Edited: October 1, 2020, 9:49 AM · I do not understand how this is a problem for an 11 year old violinist. If you place the TREBLE clef in the context of the GRAND STAFF, the harmonic relationships of TREBLE and BASS clef are immediately apparent.

It should be possible for your daughter to count down by octaves from the treble staff to the bass staff and assign note names. Everything else about "music theory" is irrelevant to clef. (It's really no different to what I did with my more advanced violin students when they started to play in higher positions and had to learn the names of "ledger-line notes." They could pretty well learn an octave of such notes in a week - just by learning one-per-day.)

I was started on a weekly one-hour theory class at the Manhattan School of Music some months before my 10th birthday - I cannot recall if we had any book to go with the class. But we did have a piano at home that I used often to check intonation on higher notes or to work out some new melodies for my violin studies.

Your daughter could certainly work it out.

I never really learned to play the piano, although I did start to study the cello at age 14 and became quite proficient, but I never really got comfortable with BASS or TENOR clef note names (as I had been with TREBLE clef notes since kindergarten age, or earlier) until I was older than 60 and taught myself to read a couple of piano sonatinas - which came in handy, as by them I had several cello students I would have looked foolish had I not been able to name bass and tenor clef notes at sight.

I assume you still have the piano!

September 30, 2020, 8:41 PM · I would teach bass clef first. You can use flash cards for this purpose, initially.

I would teach theory beyond the absolute basics at the piano. Lots of things are easier to visualize on the piano.

You can teach scale theory and key signatures on the violin, though.

Edited: October 1, 2020, 8:06 AM · I'll just come right out and say it: Your daughter can stand to learn some piano, and from there, many things will become easier, not just theory. It's great for rhythm too, and of course sight-reading. I suggest you enlist the support of the violin teacher in encouraging your daughter to self-teach piano.

If you have a piano or an electronic keyboard of some kind, and if your daughter has been brought up with the Suzuki books, then all you need to get are the piano accompaniments for Book 1 and Book 2. She will know all the tunes very easily, and for Books 1 and 2, the piano right hand just doubles the violin melody (there might be one or two exceptions). This will allow her to focus her bandwidth on her left hand -- reading bass clef, finding the notes, and putting the simple rhythms together. I predict that if she gives it 10 minutes a day she'll be through Book 1 by Christmas. After Book 2 you can get the Clementi Sonatinas or a book of "easy classical pieces". Both my daughters (violin and cello) self-taught piano this way, and for the violinist, it was her introduction to bass clef, and she did it entirely on her own. They can both muddle their way through simple stuff like the first Clementi sonatina. I have given them no lessons even though I play the piano reasonably well. I have only offered a suggestion here or there, and I have once in a while corrected an accidental after hearing it incorrectly played more than twice (my younger daughter likes to try some simpler Chopin). But almost always they fix those by ear. I confess that I did make the suggestion that it would be worthwhile to at least try the printed fingerings.

October 1, 2020, 11:19 AM · I taught her a little bit of piano this summer so she does know the basics. You are all probably right; doing some more piano will cure the bass clef problem and then she can easily progress in the more advanced theory books.


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