John Berger

Violin Beginners – Week 4

By Week 4 our new violin beginners and parents are enjoying the two daily practices. At the group classes they’ve joined both the first session play-along and the beginner group in Session 2 where they are swept up into playing with more advanced Twinkle players. What comes next?

Photo by Dawid Zawiła

Why did Suzuki focus on learning to play rhythms in the beginning while some other music teachers were persisting with reading? It’s all about the growth of ability, which involves absorbing the sound of the music and developing physical skills.

Which are the most important skills?

Ask anyone who hasn’t learned a string instrument to name what looks like the most difficult skill to master on the violin and they’re likely to identify left hand gymnastics, the dazzlingly rapid and amazingly accurate display of fingering up and down the fingerboard.

While it’s certainly true that left hand skills require an immense amount of careful practice to precisely form correct pitches of notes all over the fingerboard at speed, the violinist’s right arm and hand have far more control of the sound – its tone, shape, colour, volume, attack, length, timbre and rhythm, music’s living soul.

How to Achieve Good Progress

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Violin Beginners – Week 3

Two weeks of daily practice and listening to recordings, two studio lessons and two group classes. That’s what’s already happened as Week 3 arrives for our new violin beginner.

Beginners week 3

Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden

The bowhold and violin hold, two essential foundations for learning to play the violin, are starting to feel natural and easier to do. These two skills need to be habitual for our new student to focus attention on the next major advance – learning to play the Twinkle rhythms!

In the first instance, learning to play the rhythms is a physical skill, and as you’ll see below, teaching a new student to play each Twinkle rhythm involves giving them the experience and feeling of the correct bow arm motion.

We’ll show how the teacher helps the student’s bow arm produce the rhythm and as it is refined and improved, listening and making a good sound takes over as the basis for bow control.

Our aim, even at this early stage, is to extend the beginner’s awareness from the up and down of the bow arm to encompass the quality of the sound they are creating. The search for beauty and good tone quality begins at the very outset of the new player’s violin journey.

Main Teaching Point for Week 3 – Learning to Play Two Rhythms on E String

What To Teach in Week 3

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Violin Beginners – Week 2

By the time Week 2 arrives for new violin beginners, the parent and child have become part of the community of violin musicians and are setting the daily activities in motion from Group Class and their individual lesson. Every day they listen to good recordings of the music they’ll soon be learning. At home they’re practising the bowhold together and having fun clapping the Twinkle rhythms. What’s next?


Photo by Madison Nickel

From taking part in the group class and watching other individual lessons, parents and beginners see how students work and conduct themselves. Parents have started reading Suzuki’s insights about how to create musical ability.

Beginners actually make the fastest progress in the group classes, mainly from watching, listening, joining in what others are doing and setting goals for the week with other parents and children.

They emulate the advanced players and respond quickly to the environment and energy of the class. We often see young beginners learn skills in an hour or so that would otherwise take a week or more of practice.

This is the time to take advantage of the flood of enthusiasm to start building the expectation and habit of quick progress.

Main Teaching Point for Week 2 – the Violin Hold

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Violin Beginners – Week 1

The day has finally arrived for the first violin lesson! Violin case in hand, the new student knocks at the studio door, excited and perhaps a little nervous.

new violin beginner

Have a Plan and Keep Notes

It is important for teachers to have a lesson plan and keep clear lesson notes on each child. Over the weeks there will be variations on what children can achieve at the lesson and at home. Lesson plans and notes help the teacher evaluate their students’ progress, identify what might be slowing a student down and allow them to make adjustments to the main goal or teaching point of each lesson. Evaluation is important at the end of each lesson, just a short note to make clear what to look for next time.

Arriving Early

Each week the parent and student arrive ten minutes before their individual lesson to watch other lessons. By watching others, children learn huge amounts of what is expected and form a picture of what they can achieve. Children and parents learn from observing students from all levels.

Main Teaching Point for Week 1 – the Bowhold


What happens in Week 1

  1. Learn how to get into rest position and take a bow;
  2. Learn how to hold the bow correctly;
  3. Assess the set homework for listening to Book 1 twice daily;
  4. Clap Rhythms

Now let’s look at how to do each one in detail…

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Violin Beginners – Preparing for Week 1

The first 10 weeks of learning violin create a culture and a pathway for the new student’s quick progress and enjoyment – a way of working, especially with other participants in the whole adventure, and establishing new permanent habits to propel them happily forward on the crest of the learning wave, free of the ups and downs of want to/don’t want to practise.


To begin with, let’s look at what happens before the first lesson.

Preparatory Session 1

At this stage, the new students have been accepted into the program.

1. Getting the Right Violin and Bow

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Violin Beginners – A New Series

Violin Beginners, a new button on the TSV Gold Dashboard directs members to a collection of posts and resources relevant for everyone in the teaching triangle – teachers, students and parents. It’s about the most important stage of teaching and learning the violin: The Beginning.

violin beginner

Why the beginning is so important.

We’ve created so many posts and resources directly related to violin beginners and getting started because this exciting phase is so crucial to the growth and progress of new musicians. Laden with the hope and promise of realizing the dream of playing music, the early stages require more expertise and careful guidance than any other time.

Good musical beginnings lead to happy, fulfilled and cultured lives, and the ability to play music is a life skill like no other.

During these early months, beginner musicians and their families gain vital new knowledge and skills about learning, the real nature of talent, how to acquire ability, the power of good habits and the role of parents in educating children. This exhilarating period is the launching pad for their successful future in music and education.

We currently have a great variety of information relating to beginners on the website. To help you find it all, we have organised it onto the TSV Gold dashboard with a button for the Beginner topics. At the same time, as we reviewed these posts and resources, it became clear that something more is needed.

Coming Next: A New Series: Violin Beginners – 10 Weeks to Twinkles

Next up on Teach Suzuki Violin, we are creating a new series, Violin Beginners – 10 Weeks to Twinkles, setting out the sequence of lessons and learning steps for beginners in a clear and systematic way. The new series will lay out in detail the first 10 weeks in this pivotal stage of the violin journey.

Why are Suzuki teachers so good with beginners?

Shinichi Suzuki’s philosophy and insights about the development of ability, and the practical approach he pioneered, led to a very successful way of working with beginners of all ages. And just like good science, the ideas he realized are able to be endlessly improved, expanded, refined and deepened. (It’s interesting to note that Dr S never personally described his work as a fixed method or a standardized system of learning to play music.)

Suzuki music programs particularly excel with beginners, producing healthy numbers of emerging musicians.

To work successfully with beginners, especially very young ones, Suzuki violin teachers undergo specialized training and experience not always offered by more traditional music teacher training institutions. In fact I’ve met well qualified, excellent violin teachers who never take on beginners. I believe a key reason is the note reading conundrum. An emphasis on notation at the start of lessons is a barrier for most very young beginners.

Music – a language

As Suzuki and others have shown, treating music as a language has big benefits for beginning students, particularly very young ones. It means working directly and immediately with the sound of music rather than through the page, as we all do when learning our mother tongue.

Good teachers of beginners play a vital role in the future of music. Every musician was once a beginner, needing the careful direction of an expert teacher who is skilled and knowledgeable about the big picture, able to guide students through the shoals of practice and persistence, and keeping up their enthusiasm and love for music.

More than teaching skills

Suzuki teachers work in two essential areas in the early stages. The sequence of practical steps and skills needs to be mastered to build the foundation abilities correctly and accurately for unlimited musical growth and refinement. At the same time students and parents learn to become part of the enriched education environment of the group, the talent producing musical biosphere.

Up Next: Week 1 for Beginners



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Zigeunerweisen – Pablo Sarasate

Pablo Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen is one of those quintessential showpieces every violin virtuoso performs at some stage in their career. This famous piece has everything a violinist loves: drama and excitement, dazzling speed and bowing wizardry, flamboyance and flair, genuine pathos and a moment or two of yearning – with appealing Gypsy-like melodies.

Has it become a cliche? Only a very jaded listener would think so. Part of the virtuoso’s rite of passage, a musical mountain that all yearn to climb and conquer, it remains an irresistible glittering treasure of desire for every aspiring violinist. Not all may reach the summit, but the climb is a whole lot of fun!

Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) is in one movement with four identifiable sections, three in C minor and the final one in A minor.

Moderato, the first movement, is a kind of slow introduction, written in an improvisational style common to Gypsy (Romani) inspired music, with frequent pauses and interspersed with long rapid runs and flourishes.

Lento follows, continuing the sense of spontaneous ad libbing in a passionate display of bowing fireworks and gymnastics – including flying spiccato and richochet.

Un poco piu lento comes next with a poignant melody by Hungarian composer Elemér Szentirmay called csak egy szép lány van a világon (in English, There’s Only One Lovely Maid in the World), often played with a mute.

Allegro molto vivace provides the scintillating finale, a dazzling display of wondrous violin pyrotechnics – long runs of spiccato, artificial harmonics, double stops and left hand pizzicato.

Below we’ve assembled a collection of videos and links for the brave at heart to study.

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Allamanda in D minor by JS Bach – Violin Solo

Transfixed at hearing Bach’s solo violin partitas and sonatas, a student asked me which one to learn first. At the time she was playing Bach’s Concerto in A minor from volume 7, the first big concert piece in the Suzuki violin repertoire.

Hilary Hahn plays Bach

From the point of view of ease of playing, two of the more obvious choices were the Allemanda and the Giga from Partita No. 2 in D minor, the same suite that contains the sublime Chacconne. My personal preference perhaps would have been the dancing delightful Giga. She chose the Allemanda in D minor, that lively earnest first dance in the suite, with its resonant opening D and free flowing melodies.

The Allemanda in D minor (or Allemande) provides students with a happy doorway in to Bach’s immortal solo violin works. It has all the richness and power of his unstopping musical logic and his seamless modulations and harmonic sense, richly compressed and concentrated into a single page of surprising beauty. Technically, the Allemanda is accessible by students at Suzuki volume 6 or so, who can then look forward to years of discovering the exquisite musical treasures within Bach’s solo violin works.

Where to start and how to learn it.

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How to Get Paid – Running a Successful Violin Studio

A job, a career, a profession or a calling? Violin teaching is all of these and to be sustainable it is also a livelihood, with the requirements of a business. Yet we teach for deeper reasons and rewards than riches, mostly for Love. Love of music, of playing the violin, love of teaching, learning and working with people, especially children, parents and all those who love music. Welcome to the latest post about running a successful Violin Studio.

Music and the Arts are the foundation and flowering of human culture and civilization, far more valuable to the soul and the spirit than politics or economics. Musicians and artists are more likely and able to create beauty and save our precious planet than mining magnates and arms manufacturers, so why aren’t they rewarded accordingly?

The truth is, it’s up to us to get organised and to make sure our wonderful profession is viable and renewable with a great future, which means getting paid – fairly and adequately.

Let’s talk about Money.

How to Get Paid (without the hassles)

  1. How to design the teaching schedule and determine the fee structure;
  2. How to set up the payment system and receive fees without the hassles (includes a sample application form).
  3. What to do about missed lessons, using a clear, simple and friendly policy;
  4. How to arrange your schedule and enjoy adequate holidays.

Full access requires TSV Gold subscription

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Ave Maria by Bach-Gounod – Violin Solo

Solemn, spiritual, moving, profound, beautiful! Ave Maria by J.S. Bach and Charles Gounod is music from two deeply religious composers. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 846 from the legendary Well-Tempered Clavier Well-Tempered Clavier collection is the original melody for Gounod’s Ave Maria.

Charles Gounod

This deceptively simple and enchantingly lovely arrangement immediately took on a life of its own, spreading out into versions for a multitude of instruments and settings. Ave Maria continues to be recorded by operatic singers from Melba to Pavarotti and beyond.

Charles-François Gounod’s life story makes interesting reading, particularly his connection with the Mendelssohns, how he came to write Ave Maria, his deep religious impulse to become a priest and the time he spent in England.

Apart from Ave Maria, his opera Faust and a few others, Gounod’s illustrious body of compositions is relatively unknown to string players.

Study Points

Like Schubert’s Ave Maria, the Bach-Gounod song introduces few technical challenges for players at about Suzuki Book 4 or 5 level. Once again the primary area to focus on while studying this solo is interpretation – phrasing, expression, dynamics and tone quality.

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