Violin Method Books for children

November 3, 2022, 9:35 AM · What are some of the best method books for children and why (excluding Suzuki)?

Replies (18)

Edited: November 3, 2022, 12:31 PM · This may be country-specific, and I'm not sure how rigid the definition of "method book" is. But you could look at Mary Cohen. Why? Because I don't know anyone else!
November 3, 2022, 4:36 PM · I haven't found the perfect method, but I use Essential Elements for Strings. However, I introduce the bow from Day 1 and do not wait until page 16 is reached. I'm open to suggestions, but I find most of the methods for young beginners to be either old fashioned or over complicated.
Edited: November 3, 2022, 6:58 PM · I had Whistler Books when I was a kid. I felt they were well structured and progressed at the right pace for me.

The O'Connor books have the advantage that the tunes are catchy and not necessarily "too classical" and there is an introduction to improvisation and aspects of ear training that are lacking in Suzuki. I have all of the O'Connor books. Unfortunately, they're expensive.

A lot of adult students seem to like Doflein because it's simultaneously logical and intuitive, but I don't know how well it works for kids.

November 3, 2022, 7:02 PM · I really like Sassmannshaus
Edited: November 3, 2022, 7:40 PM · Well when you exclude Suzuki......

The schools here mostly use Essential Elements and it’s OK; it’s not really all that well suited though to private lessons in my opinion. I would say that’s an issue with many of the current methods. My beloved childhood violin teacher, Doris Gazda, co-authored an excellent method for strings, Spotlight on Strings.

The older methods, the type that are available for free download at IMSLP, are problematic in my opinion because they typically do things like start in C Major, necessitating that the student learn several finger patterns all at once at the beginning.

I wish I could remember the name of the one school orchestra method that I really, truly, thoroughly hated. I have blocked it from my mind. The only thing I remember is that it introduced fourth finger from the very beginning, which I thought was a really bad idea. Let the student develop a good and correct left-hand position before introducing fourth finger! It was brought into her lessons by a private student who was using it at school, and I had a heck of a time fixing her left hand.

November 3, 2022, 9:34 PM · When I was a kid the school orchestra classes used "String Builder" which is an Applebaum product.
November 3, 2022, 10:39 PM · Yes, “String Builder” also has problematic keys very early on, if I remember correctly. I still have my old books from that, which were used as supplemental in my private lessons.
Edited: November 4, 2022, 3:46 AM · I use Applebaum's stuff quite a bit. I really like that it focuses on a logical initial approach to sight-reading, starting from the open strings. But I rarely use his String Builder method past the first book (although occasionally I do). Generally, I switch students to Suzuki fairly quickly, or I have them work through Applebaum's duet books.

I also have a lot of Applebaum's supplemental books (such as "building technic with beautiful music").

As a general rule, I try to only use one method at a time, until I have a reason to switch over to another. But, I almost always end up using at least 2 method books.

It's worth noting that I don't think the method matters nearly as much as the execution and implementation by the teacher.

November 4, 2022, 3:57 AM · Being from the low countries I was taught as a child using the "Vioolmethode" (in Dutch) by the Dutch violinist and violist Louis Metz (1910–1978). He was violist in the Concertgebouworkest of Amsterdam. The books may be available in good music libraries in the US.
November 4, 2022, 6:12 AM · I was taught to play the violin with the Eta Cohen books by my teacher, they appear to have served me well, i went on to be a decent lifelong player.

November 4, 2022, 7:38 AM · Presuming that the young aspiring musician is literate at the primary school level - my favorite - Doflein!

The duets for student and teacher are great (OK Bartok's harmonies can be distracting for a beginner but they aren't all Bartok). The four "Attitudes" (fingering patterns) make it possible to play tunes across multiple strings early on. Once you have first attitude (half-step between second and third fingers) There are two string tunes. Add second attitude (half-step between third and fourth fingers) the young musician can play a tune in A-major across all four strings combining both second and first attitudes. Third attitude (half-step between first and second fingers) opens C-major. Finally fourth (half-step between nut and first finger) transition to most major keys as well as introduction of minor keys and accidentals. The relationship between attitudes makes third position easier to achieve and understand.

The basic literacy requirement is critical in that the young musician must be able to read so that reading standard notation is possible. There isn't any ear-training.

Edited: November 4, 2022, 7:46 AM · I cannot recall what method books (if any) I was raised on and I still retain only the book of pieces I last had at the MSM when I stopped lessons in 1946 at age 11.

I taught violin (and later cello) from around 1965 to 2007 and for the last 30 of those years I used the Suzuki books supplemented by (what I considered to be) necessary "exercises" from various sources as well as alternative sources for some of the "music" pieces). I first decided to look into the Suzuki books when a very young Anne Akiko Meyers soloed with our community orchestra in two successive years and I learned she was the in the local Suzuki School that was directed by our orchestra's principal violist (with whom I frequently played chamber music). That was enough for me. I used those books with all my students, young and old and immediately started with the Suzuki cello books when I began teaching that instrument around 1996. I supplemented the Suzuki material with etudes/"exercises" from the literature as needed. The cello books definitely followed the path of my cello learning to beyond the end of the Suzuki series - at least from book 4, the equivalent of where my teacher started me (at age 14). My teacher was a retired major-professional-orchestra cellist, who had played cello in a WW-I Army Band before that.

I found that the Suzuki books seemed to follow a progression that matched the one I recalled from my own experience through 4 violin teachers and that had started with "Twinkle" when I was 4-1/2, and definitely followed the progression directed by my cello teacher to well beyond the Suzuki cello books (which I thought was interesting for a veteran of the First World War - veteran enough to be buried at the Gettysburg National Cemetery).

November 4, 2022, 8:17 AM · >>The basic literacy requirement is critical<<

Yes. Chomsky's black box needs input. Imagine, the Wells Method encouraging younger learners to first learn a second language.

November 4, 2022, 8:46 AM · Jim, et al.,

If you consider music to be a "language" then I'm tri-lingual: English, Japanese and Music. I guess that gives me at least two languages that I share with Suzuki-san.

FWIW: A lot of pre-school children are already reading English above the first grade level. I was reading at the fourth grade level in First Grade. Back in 1953 that got me into difficulties because I got bored during reading practice.

November 4, 2022, 9:52 AM · The notion of reading levels is fair old nonsense. What interests me about George’s post is that, if music is a language, are flute, violin, tympani dialects?
November 4, 2022, 11:08 AM · Teaching to audiate or sight read with voice is not included in any graded curriculum, AFAIK. But it is available outside the violin methods.

Edited: November 4, 2022, 12:34 PM · Jim, that's an interesting (and, I think, relevant) point of discussion. Something I've been running backcycles on in my own teaching. Questions: how well can "learning by audiation" be incorporated into a written method--by definition they are two different things. By extension, can the violin be taught, systematically and thoroughly, by primarily audiation and is that even desirable? Or, maybe the better question, how best can we integrate the reading and the hearing so that they develop together and each upholds the other? Suzuki doesn't expressly do this, though it leaves room for the teacher to incorporate it. Other methods try, including solfege/sightreading-based, but my experience is that they very easily get "stuck to the page"--and also that the structure of early violin learning and of sightsinging/audiative sightreading are not quite parallel (though movable do goes a long way to help with this!)

Anyway--that was a fast type and a bit of a tangent, sorry :D

FWIW, I'm experimenting with Adventures in Violinland series this year, and she makes the best shot at this I've seen. I find I can't use it completely "straight" but I am learning a lot from it. In many ways it is a solid, thorough, step-by-step curriculum that I suppose would be called "traditional". I feel it is self-limiting in some ways but that's a discussion for another day. :)

November 6, 2022, 7:17 AM · >>not quite parallel <<

Well, there's the rub. So it was "discovered" that Bloom's taxonomy of learning didn't quite come up to snuff. An advanced technique from book 5 is acquired before the elementary skill from book 2. In the end, the skilled teacher is someone in command of a method that is fluid.

A good method uses a check-off list (vs. a fixed order of development). Judging from her notes, Dorothy Delay worked this way. Sassmannshaus has a checklist.

The Suzuki method is a good graduated system, but leaves you darkling as to what was missed.

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