How the heck do I do this
So, as fate should have it, I have been tasked with giving a young girl (8 years) her first lessons on the violin. There is money involved, so there is the expectation that I do a decent job. I also don't want to screw up a kid's first lesson.
I have a general idea of how I want the first lesson to go, but I don't have much (any) experience with the little ones. Any advice for teaching children? How fast are kids usually able to progress?
I was started at age 4-1/2. The youngest student I ever undertook was 5 although I made it a general rule not to take students less than 6. By the time I was teaching violin and cello fairly regularly I had decided to use the SUZUKI books. Book 1 started with "Twinkle" and it seemed a good place to start. I had been started in 1939, long before Suzuki in the USA, but I remember well that learning Twinkle was my first piece.
There are pictures in Suzuki Book 1 on how to hold the violin and the bow. Use those to help you guide the child. Then you learn to make a sound on an open string, and then you play Twinkle. There is a local teacher who insists that his very youngest students learn to name all the parts of the violin including the obscure ones (small children can learn this stuff immediately) and that kind of sets the tone that they're expected to learn, and that learning is fun and it's fun to get things right. They also learn that there are things in common between violin lessons and school, and things not in common. But the most important thing in common must be respect for the teacher. If school comes up, always speak positively about school and school teachers.
There are reasons for Suzuki being popular and successful with kids, among others. I'd suggest adopting those values and practices, and not trying to wing your own methodology, especially if you have little or no experience with kids. The practice of listening alone is invaluable for violin playing. Besides, who wouldn't want to hear HH play twinkle?
I’d actually use something like Muller Rusch for an 8 yo. If you don’t have any Suzuki training, there is a lot you will be leaving out, using the Suzuki Violin School. It’s not actually a method book.
First off make sure the student has the proper size violin -- if it's too large injury can happen.
I use The First Year Violin Tutor from Neil Mackay for the first lessons, I find it makes more sense than Suzuki. Twinkle is not ideal for first peace because it already has the fingers coming on a downward order instead of upwards. And before the first actual peace I always start with open strings, long notes with full bow.
Keep it simple, make it fun!
At 8 y.o., she will know her numbers and letters and will be able to count the number of lines in the staff, so you do not have to use the Suzuki method, especially if you have not had the special training. Whatever book or method you use, you will be spending the first two weeks on posture, form, bow-hold, bowing on open strings. After that, I prefer to add the 3rd finger, instead of the usual 1st finger, tuned at the octave to the adjacent open string.
Have you checked that she is at all suitable for learning the violin? Can she move her left hand fingers into a "V" shape with two fingers on one side and two on the other, and hold them there, using only the muscles on her left hand? If not, intonation will always defeat her.
I was a little younger than 8 when I started, but I distinctly remember that the first week of lessons involved a cereal box violin with a hole cut in it for a chopstick bow and a sponge rubber banded to the bottom.
One lesson is easy, follow-ups are hard(er). Regardless of what you have taught or how well, you then have to take into account what the student retained or not.
I was taught from the Whistler Books. They're fine too. But the progression of tunes in the Suzuki books is very good.
Go to http://toddehle.com/id69.html
Thanks the for tips, guys.
One great thing about teaching is that it helps the teacher refine their own thoughts. Things you might think are easy to understand may require more careful thought on your part to explain to someone who doesn't understand it. My experience has been that I have learned a lot from my students over the years. My own musical concepts which evolved over my years of studying and playing and which I hadn't tried to put into words to explain to someone else became clarified as I taught others. Enjoy the process!
A good thing about Suzuki is there are tutorials and multiple performances of every song on youtube. For my kids first hearing the song makes a big difference. This is another way parents can help them learn the songs and get started.
Two more thoughts on this:
Weight differences between violin/viola sizes are more noticeable than smaller vs. larger pencils or crayons or brick toys, and books are often supported on a table or one's lap. A too-large violin can be more physically straining, lead to unnecessary discomfort, injury, etc., so it's more like too-large shoes in the safety aspect. I would never over-size a complete beginner BUT there are situations once a student has gotten going where it can make sense. (For note-reading, on the other hand, I go with large print for younger eyes...and older eyes.)
My student's mom cancelled today, because of new lockdown hysteria caused by the government—they decided to lower the case threshold for a "red zone" by over half, making just about everything a "red zone", and decided Toronto is a "gray zone" (whatever the heck) and all sort of other nonsense....