Teaching violin to beginners?

August 4, 2023, 9:32 AM · Hello! I got my violin degree one month ago and I'm looking forward to start teaching the following year. It's something that I genuinely would like to do and not just for the sake of income. The problem is that I have no idea how to approach this and how to teach violin to beginners. Are there any books that work as a guide for violin teachers in terms of building technique and repertoire? Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks!

Replies (15)

Edited: August 4, 2023, 11:16 AM · I suggest you think back to when you started taking lessons yourself and how you might apply that successful regimen in your own teaching. That's what I did when I started to teach, my own final lesson having been about 18 years earlier, before my 12th birthday.

I taught violin for about 40 years and cello for about 12. I taught beginners and intermediate players, as young as 5 and as old as 60. It was an avocation started after I moved west to the California desert and only after it was requested by parents who knew I played (after I became CM of the local community orchestra). For the nearly 30 years I lived and taught there I only charged $5 per lesson. always in my own home. After moving to northern California (after living 33 years in the desert) I charged a more "going rate" but also offered the option to teach at the student's home for the same rate (and paid for an advertisement at the local music store and created my own website). I stopped teaching about 15 years ago as my own playing was "slipping" too much. I still play all three "string quartet instruments."

I think I was quite successful in bringing some students to a reasonable level although only 2 of my violin students made it all the way through the Suzuki books and the 2 Mozart concertos at the end - even though I used alternate publications for those concertos and some others that came earlier.

I started to teach based on what I remembered from my own lessons that had started when I was 4-1/2 years old. A few years after strting to teach I "discovered" the Suzuki books when I inherited a few ex-Suzuki students and subsequently based my violin and cello teaching on the Suzuki "chronology" with 'supplements' I considered appropriate.

When I started to teach cello, after moving north, I started with the Suzuki books, which were pretty much in line with my own non-Suzuki lessons that had started in 1949 (10 years after I took my first violin lesson) before Suzuki had made it to the US. My cello teacher had been a member of a number of major US symphony orchestras and had studied in the early 1900s, before WW-I, during which he served in the US Army Band. I was actually quite amazed to find how closely the pieces I had studied with my cello teacher followed the Suzuki books.

August 4, 2023, 11:09 AM · If you are teaching Suzuki, you should definitely do the Suzuki units on the books and Every Child Can.
August 4, 2023, 11:39 AM · I would highly suggest taking at least the first two Suzuki classes: Every Child Can and then Suzuki Book 1. There are other methods, but the Suzuki teacher training is available worldwide and has proven highly successful.

Every Child Can requires no prerequisites or auditions and is now frequently offered online. This class is short and mostly philosophical in nature.

Taking the actual courses usually requires a video submission -- they want to make sure you can actually play -- but the rep is not hard. Once approved, you can sign up for Unit 1 Violin which is Book 1 more or less. You can take these in person or online. Sometimes they are a 4-5 all-day workshop; sometimes they are a shorter weekly session over a month or two.

For the Americas, this is the info: https://suzukiassociation.org/teachers/training/ Courses are mostly offered in the summer, but some are year-round. If you are not in the Americas, you can look up the ones for your region on the parallel websites.

August 4, 2023, 11:55 AM · Also, look up Paul Roland.
August 4, 2023, 12:05 PM · Ah, good idea, Adrian
August 4, 2023, 12:53 PM · Teaching the violin is not the same as playing the violin. There is training available, I urge you to get it, even if it's somewhat expensive, as Suzuki training can be.
August 4, 2023, 1:32 PM · I've actually been wanting to do a video series on this for quite a while now, since it is definitely my wheelhouse, and I have a fairly developed system for taking someone who is brand new and getting them to an intermediate level. Unfortunately, since I haven't done that yet, I'll just give you a basic idea of how I start.

First of all, i don't use any books for the first 3 weeks. Generally, the first lesson is spent teaching them how to hold the bow (using both hands to help set it up), then how to hold the violin, and the how to use the bow to play open strings. Generally it's a good idea to start with small bows in the middle, then gradually make them bigger.

The 2nd lesson is used to teach left hand, and putting tapes on (I use tapes with new students, regardless of how good their ear is). After this point, the student is instructed to practice 3 different modes:

1) bows only
2) fingers only
3) bows+fingers

In the 3rd lesson, I generally introduce their first song, which is almost always Twinkle. However, I use color coding + numbers, instead of having them read music. That way they can focus on playing the piece well, instead of worrying about learning to read music.

In the 4th lesson, some very basic note reading is introduced and they are given their first book (usually Suzuki book 1).

From this point on, things branch out more, depending on the student. I use a combination of Samuel applebaum books (string builder, beautiful music for two string instruments, building technic with beautiful music), Wohlfahrt, and the Suzuki books from this point on. Each book has its own place and purpose, but it's worth noting that I generally don't diverge from the Suzuki books until someone is starting to struggle. Sometimes this happens much sooner, and sometimes it happens much later.

It's also worth noting that although I broke up the first few lessons in a way that makes it sound like lessons 1, 2, and 3 always correspond to those same weeks, this is not the case. Sometimes students take several weeks (or more) just to get the bows. It's important we don't introduce the fingers until the bows are looking comfortable. Likewise, we shouldn't introduce music until the student can comfortably play simple scales (0123210, on one string) with decent left/right hand form.

August 4, 2023, 1:35 PM · I just realized that the „Fiedel-Max“ books are in German, only. The collection contains also a teacher’s book which thoroughly explains the method. Anyway, you will certainly find something suitable recommended by the others here.

What I do recommend, though, is the bow hold buddies. Those saved my son’s bow hold and made sure that two little students of mine who were not particularly interested nor very much talented, at all, and quit after about half a year, did so with a bow hold way more advanced than the rest of their playing.
In my opinion, these BHB are one of the best inventions, lately.

August 5, 2023, 2:09 PM · I do not recommend beginner classes. Multiple beginners playing violin or soprano recorder can be dreadful. In this day and age there is little tolerance for the bad sounds that occur in such groups. It can permanently turn people off of instruments and music. Classes with kids are usually worse than with adults.

If you want a beginner to play in a group, put them in with more experienced players.

I just do not see a compelling case for group instruction, versus its obvious issues.

Edited: August 5, 2023, 2:56 PM · My institution offers a low-cost group string class (The Virginia Tech String Project) as an outreach activity (part of the National String Project Consortium). It's well-subscribed and parents feel their kids are getting a lot out of it. They understand that they would be better off -- at least in some ways -- with individual tutelage, but that's quite expensive and not all families can manage it. I think the String Project has some scholarships for students who really have very little to help them rent their instruments, but I'm not sure.

There is also a local violin teacher who runs a string class as a weekly afterschool activity at one of the local elementary schools. Again fees are modest, but in a way it's also an incubator for her home studio. There is yet another group that calls itself the NRV Homeschool Orchestra (NRV stands for New River Valley -- a geographical distinction).

The sounds produced by such ensembles can indeed be pretty grim. But if you look around you see smiling children who are enjoying playing their instruments -- with their friends.

August 6, 2023, 4:48 PM · i think the book "all for strings" is a very nice place to start the student with.
if the student seems to learn faster i start with the sheet music, if don't we go with the letters section first. the book goes veeeeery slowly, but it gives a sense of evolution in each exercise, this makes the student wanting more and more lessons.
after book 1 the student is ready for tackling suzuki 1 in a very fast rate until the later pieces, and then another books, be it all for strings bk.2 or any other method book.

just remember: you can have the best books in the world, but if you don't know how to teach it's useless.
you MUST know how to teach, otherwise the student will be very damaged on his musical life as an instrumentist.

August 7, 2023, 2:51 AM · I also think there's nothing wrong with using something like All for Strings, Essential Elements, Doflein, and others to start a student especially when you're just starting out teaching. Eventually, you'll learn what to do and what not to do as well as figure out what supplemental material to use with each individual student to further develop technique and solve any problems they might have. You will eventually be using supplemental materials no matter what book you use. Most method books will always lack something that you'll need to address at some point whether it's right away or later on. Using books is fine because it's not the books that produce results but it's the teacher using those books.

Also like others said if you plan on using the Suzuki method get at least the first two levels of training. But this is only if you plan on using the actual method. There are plenty of teachers (myself included) that use the Suzuki books (and other supplemented material) for repertoire without actually using the method. The books aren't the method they're just a collection of pieces that Suzuki teachers use to teach said method and even they will often use supplemental material to support the Suzuki books.

August 7, 2023, 6:30 AM · I inferred the recommendation to be getting the first two levels of Suzuki training even if you're not using the method because it's at least a concise course in basic pedagogy.
August 7, 2023, 1:00 PM · Oh, I know. I wasn't shooting down people recommending the Suzuki training I was just giving the OP another option. Pedagogy training in general would likely help the OP a lot anyway, but some people opt to not get any. I think that's why a lot of college music programs have started adding pedagogy courses (in some cases requiring them for certain degrees) to help counteract that.
Edited: August 7, 2023, 6:36 PM · whatever you use to teach, the most important thing is:
watch your pupil every second, don't look elsewhere. correct posture and playing mechanics are essential. if he develop bad habits and you don't correct asap he will have serious problems in the future.
teaching is 10% saying how to make the lessons and 90% correcting the pupil's posture. for this your sense of observation, judging, and how to tackle these problems must be in pristine conditions.

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