Creating Life-Long Passion One Skill At A Time
Violin is a wonderful instrument to start a musical journey! In learning to play the violin, we learn to coordinate over 50 separate actions which come together to form a sound that can be the most beautiful of all instruments. The method of teaching I am most inspired by was put together by Shinichi Suzuki over the span of the 20th century and is very much a Japanese-based method, whereby each skill is broken down, practiced separately and brought back together to form a solid technical foundation. This foundation allows a student to pursue any type or style of music they wish. Suzuki based his method on how children acquire language and ear training is a critical aspect of the training, as it should be for any musician. Reading music is also critical in the development of a musician and in my studio is learned alongside the violin from the very first lesson even in the smallest of children, though reading and playing violin are kept separate until the coordination of those 50 separate actions become smooth and second nature.
An important consideration when choosing to study the violin is choosing an instrument which is correctly sized to fit the body. Fractionally sized instruments start at 1/32 (though you can occasionally find 1/64). If an instrument is improperly fitted, the student stands to develop bad habits, will struggle to progress and runs the risks of developing physical problems away from the violin. The same applies to the quality of the instrument, which can also prevent a student from progressing, lead to bad habits and create physical problems all in the quest to do the impossible on an instrument which would not play correctly! In light of these things, I ask parents to wait to purchase an instrument prior to lessons and, if scheduling allows, will meet with parent and child at the shop to help ensure a correctly fitted violin, chin-rest and shoulder pad.
For the littlest students, we usually start on a “box” violin. This allows for coordination to be developed while teaching focus, concentration and listening skills. This also allows parents to get a feel for the violin themselves and set the example of practicing. (Children learn best from what we show, not tell them!) When the child is ready for the violin, the parent can then swap their violins in for a fractional sized violin. Once the parents have had experience playing the violin themselves, they are better able to articulate the difficulties faced by the child. (Don’t worry–you don’t need to become a concert violinist, just play through the Twinkles with the actions broken down every step of the way!)
Recommended Materials for Violin
Below are listed the regularly used materials in the studio. Please check first to see if and when the books are appropriate to use!
This is where we start! Please make sure you get both the Book AND the CD. When they arrive, make a back-up copy of the CD and put the original in a safe spot away from little fingers! Immediately start listening to the CD on low volume and play on repeat until everyone in the house can sing the songs backwards and forwards! (Well, ok, not backwards!) This not only helps train the ears, but all of the ear training will help you make more efficient use of practice time–and save years worth of tuition in the process!
This gem of a book is best used for younger students and students who want or need more Pre-Twinkle repertoire. The book comes with a CD which can be used to practice for performance.
We start using this book after fluency has been obtained in pre-reading exercises, the student has graduated the Twinkles, AND the teacher feels the student can begin reading without harming technique or tone quality. (Don’t get rid of it because we will cycle back through the book many times adding layers of complexity!)
This is the go-to holiday book that we use every year for Christmas Carols at the Mary Ryder Home. The book is filled with easy arrangements of popular carols with harmony parts for multiple instruments in different combinations.
This book supplies additional performance and audition repertoire. The various pieces are inserted throughout Suzuki levels 1-5. Please make sure to also purchase the cd, so you can practice with piano accompaniment.
(Please note that those needing to work on ear training will first start with the CD alone and those working on reading will start with book alone!)
The student should order this book while still working in Book 1 and begin listening to the CD along with the Book 1 CD. Again, it is highly advisable to make a back-up copy of your original and put the original in a safe place!
This is one of my favorite beginner etude books. We will build on reading and counting while adding technique to be practiced, such as bow distribution.
This is an optional supplementary book which comes with piano accompaniment as well as a CD which provides both Demo and Play-Along tracks. The themes are movie classics and are popular pieces to perform for family, friends, and at our holiday performances at the Mary Ryder Home. If you are a reader, we will first use the book as part of ear training. If you are more comfortable with reading than playing by ear, we will first use the book to strengthen your reading. (Either way, we’ll have loads of fun!)
This is a supplementary book that we use both to strengthen reading and sight-reading as well as supplement and solidify technique. Pieces included both simple and compound time as well as key signatures from three sharps through two flats.
This is a supplementary book that we use both to strengthen reading and sight-reading as well as work on ensemble skills. Pieces included both simple and compound time as well as key signatures from two sharps through two flats. Technique is infused throughout.
This supplementary book we use both to strengthen reading as well as work on ensemble skills. This book provides the harmony parts to the first three Suzuki Violin Books and we use this in Group Classes.