Beginners

How to Build a Powerful Memory for Violin Beginners

As you can see in the violin beginner’s lesson plans for 10 Weeks to Twinkles, it’s crucial for the students to build and accumulate the exquisitely fine skills for playing. The key to success being all of the incrementally acquired skills and learning points are permanently remembered – and none can be forgotten.

young elephant

Photo courtesy of Maurits Bausenhart

Each lesson is progressive, based on building the violin playing memory bank by adding each of the skills to those already established. During lessons and group class, teachers must illustrate and explain clear learning pathways in order for parents to understand how their child can consistently master and retain new steps. The lesson plans set out in 10 Weeks to Twinkles aim to build a pattern of revision and learning so children can progress through the pieces in the Suzuki books much faster than usual.

When children have mastered Twinkles and all the early learning needed to get to Twinkles, we expect two books a year as normal progress. This will happen only if each step is cemented during each week and the teacher is watching to make sure none of the steps are lost along the way.

Therefore one of the vital skills for teachers to impart – and for parents to master – is the role of building memory. Generally speaking, it’s a real challenge for many parents to understand how orderly and organised memory work has to be. This is the most common reason why the learning rate is slower for some children.

In many school classrooms something may be taught once or twice and rarely or never seen by the child again. There is no chance for memory and memorisation to be built. This trend has been exacerbated by the inroads of technology into learning.

The Value of Good Repetition

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Violin Beginners – Week 6

Week 6 for violin beginners opens up with the new skill they have all wanted to start for the past few weeks: Learning to place fingers on the fingerboard to form the notes that make the music!

violin left hand

Left hand studies start after the bowing basics are fluent and confident. Why not before? It’s all part of establishing skills cumulatively – building abilities a step at a time.

Main Teaching Point for Week 6 – Left Hand Shape and Correct Finger Placement

What To Teach in Week 6

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Violin Beginners – Week 5

At Week 5, some Violin Beginners are starting to show a little fluency in their rhythms. It shows up in group class as they try to match the playing style and tempo of the other students. This is a very healthy development. Emulating the advanced players is a great way to improve – and as we’ve said before, it’s a lot of fun to watch!

Photo by Toa Heftiba

Like all beginners, these eager new students want to start playing pieces and are spontaneously joining in at the group class playthrough with the more advanced students. And why shouldn’t they?

When we all first talked about this idea, as mentioned in a previous post, John was dubious about letting them do it. Wouldn’t they learn to play with mistakes? He was still a little doubtful when we started the experiment, mainly because for a moment or two the sound was somewhat cacophonous, but over the next few weeks what happened was dramatic and unexpected.

These beginners were making much faster progress than any previous group of new students. Not only were they were absorbing good playing skills at a faster rate, they were learning to play correctly.

So what’s happening at Week 5 in the 10 Weeks to Twinkles series?

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Games For Violin Beginners

With everyone living in isolation, parents are even more challenged with how to get children to do the things they need to do. This is where games help with violin practice. This is relevant for teachers in the studio and for group classes, but games are equally suited to the time we are all in.

games

Photo courtesy of Hannah Rodrigo

Tools like Skype and Zoom will help to teachers to continue lessons, and the ideas below will give teachers ways to cope with online teaching, balancing the focus of the lesson between parent and child – especially for Book One students. Keep very well, everyone!

Games are a secret ingredient of success for parents, especially working with violin beginners, and of course for teachers in lessons. The games we describe in this post can be used in practically every lesson and for any teaching point, and are based on correct repetition and building memory.

Good games take the seriousness out of the moment and the toil out of practice, both in the studio and at home. As you’ll see below, once a teacher has mastered the principles of creating games for children perfecting all aspects of learning the violin, it is easy to endlessly create new versions and variations of any of the games you use.

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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?

sunrise

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

Cheers,

John

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