teaching a first timer in person

Edited: September 21, 2021, 2:17 PM · the back story is this,
i'm in turkey for couple of months, our cleaning lady saw my violin and asked repeatedly if i can give her 12 year old daughter some lessons, i have zero experience in teaching, and i threw whatever excuse i could at her but she still insist. the only reason i hesitantly agreed to this is due to the fact that they are a family economic refugee from uzbekistan or something, and there is no way they can afford her lessons. however she pleaded that I give her daughter some time on the violin.

my question is twofold.

one, how would i safely go about this, as in what else can i do besides make sure we both wear masks and stand at least a arm length apart, and i think i'll use my bow or maybe a stick to correct her hand position and postures, or anything else that i would need to do. maybe open couple windows so there is circulation of the air.

two, from what i researched, i know the first couple lessons is basically having her get comfortable holding the violin, and do pizzicato instead of bowing. have her get to know the strings and the first position, and maybe a G major scale if shes a fast learner.

thats all i have for now, and her lesson is set for this saturday, if anyone can give me some suggestions that would be greatly appreciated. thanks

oh and if it wasn't obvious, i'm not charging her.

Replies (11)

September 21, 2021, 3:30 PM · Greetings,
Not the scale. It requires not only use of all four fingers but also different finger patterns. You would usually just teach one finger at a time.
If you really want to go ahead with this project then the best thing to do in my opinion is go on youtube and study all the Julia Bushkova beginner videos about violin setup and then reproduce those basic lessons on how to hold the violin and put the violin up .
This kind of basic work must be done carefully and takes time. Pizzicato is a good option to play little tunes while doing this necessary beginning work.
Edited: September 21, 2021, 3:46 PM · Kyle, I'm not a teacher, but I can offer some advice about safety.

Wearing an FFP2- or KN95-mask, making sure that you both are free of symptoms, and fresh air are basically all you'll need. These already give you a huge amount of safety. If you're even vaccinated, then the better. I don't think you have to use a stick to correct her posture or bow hold, nor should you. If possible she should learn as much as possible from watching, copying, and verbal corrections, but for getting started (especially with the bow hold) it will be inevitable to lend her a hand from time to time.
Be there a virus or not, you will avoid unnecessarily close body contact with someone else's child anyhow. But using a stick for physical interaction may make her feel weird, probably. Washing one's hands before touching the violin (and, during these times, also after a lesson) is part of your instructions.

Will she have her own instrument?

Edited: September 21, 2021, 4:09 PM · I applaud you for giving something of potentially lasting value to this family.

I urge you to consider Suzuki Book 1 to start your student. The hallmark of violin playing is the sound of the bowed string instrument. Twinkle lets you play the open A and then the open E. If you can play those two notes then you've learned something like one-third of the whole tune. (Yes, I know the stopped notes are harder). The piece also requires one hand-frame (see Buri's comment about scales), and that's a huge plus. And once you've learned Twinkle then you can try some of the Twinkle bowing variations and move on to Go Tell Aunt Rhody, which uses the same notes as Twinkle. Whoever put that Suzuki series of books together must have been some kind of clever...

I'm seconding Nuuska's question about whether she will have her own violin. I remember my dad telling me about growing up in the Great Depression. His family (seven) lived upstairs in a duplex. The couple living downstairs (children grown and gone) had a marvelous device called a record player and a couple of dozen records. At that time, records were very expensive. They allowed my dad to come downstairs when they were not around and listen to records. One was a recording of the Bach Double. This story gives me the thought that you will allow this girl her own regular instrument time, in your home and on your violin. Of course that would be an amazing gift to this child and her mother, but it's also more than anyone could reasonably expect.

Edited: September 21, 2021, 4:13 PM · I started teaching some beginner kids around 1966 - about 20 years after my own final violin lesson 20 years earlier. I did this at their parents request after they learned that I played. I seemed to remember enough about my own lessons and still had my old music books to use as a basis for lessons. It worked and I continued to teach a small number of children and adults in that area commmunity I moved away 30 years later.

About 10 years after I started teaching I learned about Suzuki and started to base my teaching on the Suzuki books supplemented by various etudes and tunes that would be familiar to the students and use the techniques they were learning.

After moving and starting to live closer to my own children and their children I started teaching my oldest granddaughter when she was 6.5 years old using my Suzuki-based approach. It seemed to work pretty well. I worked with her for 10 years - about 8 years to get through the works in Suzuki books (and other music activities with her and some of her friends) and another 2 years working on chamber music for her high school chamber-music group (the "Chamber Gladiators"). This means that she got through at least Mozart Concertos 3 and 4 and a bunch of chamber music at school before she got into "world music" and some improvisation later at college. She had also played in youth orchestras from about 3rd grad on.

At the time I started my granddaughter on lessons I was semi-retired and when I learned the local music store had a teacher discount and registry program I signed up for that and continued teaching in this community for about 15 years (violin and cello) mostly beginners, children and adults.

What I like about Suzuki ( and why I chimed in here after "Buri" is because I really don't agree with his scale approach - good as it may be for some). Learning a familiar piece, such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" as I did at starting with my first lesson in 1939 and as the Suzuki approach does - starting to bow on just the A and E strings and using only the first three fingers for starters really seemes to work well. It gets them started on the critical concepts of framing the hand and finger spacing from the start.

I recommend using a wooden pencil as bow-hold practice device when the violin bow is not at hand.

Also check out the local Turkish violin customs. I know that in some areas of Greece there are many people who play the violin held upright in cello position, supported on the thigh - much the same way as the 3-string Cretan Lyra that my violinist granddaughter has taken up from living several stretches on Crete (and happens to be flying back there for another stretch as I write this). You may want to learn what your prospective student knows about violins before you start the first lesson. I don't think I ever started any of my students with plucking - getting the bow under control is just too critical - in my opinion.

September 21, 2021, 7:24 PM · Greetings?
Andrew, I actually teach finger patterns from the beginning using finger games away from the instrument. The basic teaching material I use is by Applebaum butI don’t think it really matters whether you do that or Suzuki or the lovely set of books based on Galamian whose name I temporarily forgot. the problem is not simply solved by saying use this book, or start with that. For example, it’s easy to say play on the a and then the e. But as an experienced teacher like you knows, there is an awful lot to unpack there. Aside from holding the bow in a natural, comfortable way,, the Ss should know where the strings are located in space and in relation to each other for which I personally recommend balancing the bow on the string and memorizing the feel type exercises.. Then there is the question of the arm as a chicken wing that does not flop around and change shape. , never mind the left hand. A good Suzuki /Suzuki book teacher is well aware of this kind of stuff. The issue is always how the material is used.
Warmest Regrads,
September 21, 2021, 7:50 PM · Adventures in Violin Land. Some of the best teaching materials ever, in my opinion.
September 21, 2021, 10:16 PM · To Paul's point about building up through Suzuki, there's a book of Wohlfahrt progressive duets, the first of which had the student play only open A's and E's, which to me is a great starting point since bowing itself is a significant challenge to a new player. Then the fingers are introduced one by one, then different keys and rhythms. I think it's great for young students. I also like Mimi Zweig's approach and you can find a lot of free videos of hers online. For a beginner you have to lay a careful foundation and repeatedly reinforce good habits.
September 22, 2021, 10:30 AM · What a great opporunity, for you and her! If you are only teaching her for 2 months while you are in Turkey, I think.you will be surprised how quickly it goes. Start with opening the case, and somehow two months have gone by in a blink. Have a step by step plan in place, but take it as quickly or slowly she needs. For me, I use Suzuki books a lot, and two months is about the time a twelve year old is finishing the Twinkle variations. Also, the twelve year olds I get already have music and music reading experience through the schools so they seem to move quicker than the 5 year olds.
September 22, 2021, 10:44 PM · yep,
Mimi Zweig is terrific. i’ve got lots of ideas from her videos.
Edited: September 23, 2021, 5:32 PM · Although mostly not too applicable to beginners, you should watch some of Kurganov's videos about improving technique. It might assist you, because you will learn how to effectively teach from observing Kurganov's musings.
September 23, 2021, 6:49 PM · I agree with Andrew about..."getting the bow under control is just too critical". I teach some basic bowing strokes before any left hand fingering. The left hand is in the 'rest position'; a specifically placed position against the upper violin bout.

The principles of bow hold and arm attitude are instructed, the bow is divided in thirds and the middle is used initially. Once a basic crotchet rhythm is acquired the instructor will play known songs in the key of the open string; in two chord songs the open string will be the fifth of the key.

Corrections can be made as the song is played. Change of string is then introduced with the each open string relating to the two chord song, in a simple progression. Once this skill is acquired I progress on to the tutor book which teaches one finger at a time and the reading of notation.

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