I have been teaching the violin for over 35 years. I specialise in teaching beginners and I occasionally teach children as young as 2½, but most of my students start between the ages of 3½ to 7 years of age. Teaching a beginner of any age, especially a child who is little more than a baby, presents a real challenge to most inexperienced teachers. After many, many hours of teaching and many hours of watching other teachers, I’ve amassed some ideas which I think might be helpful, especially to new teachers or to any teachers who may be looking for fresh ideas. Some of these teaching ideas are my own but the majority have come from - or been adapted from - what I’ve learned by observing other teachers. This is what I’d like to pass on to you.
First of all I’d like to tell you that 3 year old Lyra and 6 year old Harry, the children I’m using in this film, have already done all of the things you will see me ‘teach’ them. This is deliberate so that the film can move quickly onto the next phase without the tedium of showing lesson after lesson in order to get a point across. So, naturally, progress does not go as quickly or easily as it seems to be here! Nor does it always go quickly or easily for me. Every technical point must be repeated and corrected until it becomes reasonably ‘fixed’. This is an ongoing necessity. One teacher, when asked what she does when she has to teach a ‘remedial’ student, said “After the first lesson every student is ‘remedial’.” So, yes. We keep fixing and re-fixing. What I want to show is the sequence of exercises I give to students in order to build the technical ability necessary to move from level to level while shoring each of them up along the way. The time needed for this obviously varies from student to student and, might I add, from parent to parent.
Lyra and Harry’s excellent progress is due to the support of their parents. They follow instructions to the letter and their practice routine is consistent and methodical. This leads to ability and ability leads to enthusiasm. Unfortunately this is not always the case. When practice is irregular and/or practice instructions are not followed, progress is slow and the child can become discouraged. One brief anecdote here: one mother complained to me about how hard she was finding it to get her son (who had learning difficulties due to dyslexia) to practice. She asked my advice. To her horror, I said, “triple the practice”. Being an exceptionally conscientious mother who always followed instructions she somehow managed to do just that. Result? This reluctant child became not only a very good player, he also became exceedingly enthusiastic. One day when I asked him to review a particularly difficult piece, expecting him to groan, I commiserated saying “I know this piece is hard.” He replied, “Yes. But I’ve practiced hard. When you practice hard you get good. When you get good you want to do it." In secondary school his violin playing got him a full scholarship to a top public school.
The reason I’m so passionate that children succeed to a high level goes way beyond my desire to teach them to play the violin. Learning to play a musical instrument is difficult. In learning to meet this challenge they learn their tremendous capacity for excellence.
Fishing Introduction and Rocket Song
Sharron introduces the all-important fishing game, as well as that old time classic, Up Like A Rocket, which encourages all the necessary freedom of movement in the bow arm and control of the tip.
Song of the Wind
Doing 'circles' or 'retakes' with the bow, referencing the Rocket Song and the clock face. An engaging story for the left hand fingers to help them with the 'finger hopping'.
Knee and Back Posture
Sharron explains how a lack of core strength in many children, caused by soft chairs and too much screen time, can result in poor violin posture. She works with Harry to solve this and encourages exercises that build core strength.