Teaching

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, plus 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 rarely or never take on beginners. I believe a key reason is the note reading conundrum. An emphasis on notation at the start precludes 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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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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How to Select Students for your Violin Studio

Starting out as a violin teacher is a very exciting time! After the years spent studying, the countless hours practising and playing the music you love and will teach, greeting the first nervously smiling students and their parents feels like a dream come true.

You’re all so eager to begin, it’s tempting to accept every potential student, just because they ask you. For a time, I did take everyone, and the interesting consequences taught me some important lessons. As we refined our new student induction process, the positive repercussions for our violin programme and students were dramatic.

As you’ll see later in the post, we realised that how you choose students and who you select is critical to the overall success of your violin studio. Why? (Hint: it’s not only the student you are choosing.)

How to Select Students for your Violin Studio

Building from your Vision

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How to Find New Students for Your Violin Studio

When you’ve organised a good studio space and put together the scores and equipment needed to start teaching, it’s time to find new students. Actually, attracting them isn’t so difficult. As you and I know, learning to play violin is a very desirable activity, and as a school principal once told me, a rather prestigious one. Selecting the right students from those who apply is another matter, the subject of a later post. Today we outline some of the more successful ways to build up class numbers until the time when word of mouth becomes the trusted primary source.

Advertising

A short advert in a weekly local newspaper for a few months will usually produce a trickle of inquiries, which I’d have to rate a limited success in our case. It has the advantages of being inexpensive and likely to draw people from the surrounding areas. We specified beginners in an age range from 3 to a maximum of 6 years old.

What to put in the ad – and what not

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Setting up for a Successful Violin Teaching Practice

Two or three choices become clear when you decide to become a violin teacher: take a job, set up your own studio, or have a mix of both.

Photo courtesy of Reuben Hustler

Each choice has its own advantages, benefits and challenges. A teaching job in a school or institution has the security of a regular salary and usually a prescribed curriculum, although you may sometimes feel that you follow someone else’s agenda and conditions.

Setting up for yourself and becoming successfully self employed entails more work and has less financial certainty in the beginning, yet you gain complete control over your time and energy and have the opportunity to create a flourishing violin programme founded on your ideals and vision.

Founding your own studio practice is an attractive and exciting adventure that will take you on an enjoyable and fulfilling lifetime journey.

Take into account the time needed to assemble enough students to make it viable. During this period a part time teaching job can be a good option, allowing time to build up numbers for your own studio.

Whatever you decide, setting up for future success means putting in place the right structure and systems.

Gearing up for a Successful Teaching Practice 

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How to Set Up and Run a Successful Violin Studio – Introduction

“I’m so lucky. I have a fantastic profession, which I love. My work life is fulfilling and rewarding, and I’m excited by the opportunities and creative challenges it brings me.”

How often do you hear expressions of happiness and contentment like these – about work?

They are the words of a successful violin teacher running a flourishing studio of enthusiastic students who are all making great progress.

That’s the golden goal. How do you make it become a reality?

How to Set Up and Run a Successful Violin Studio

In the new series on TSV Gold, How to Set Up and Run a Successful Violin Studio, we’ll show you how to do it. You’ll learn from our greatest successes – and from our worst mistakes.

You’ll find out the important things to set in place to make your teaching life happy and productive, providing you with a healthy income and proper holiday periods to sustain a balanced life – while your students enjoy exceptional progress.

Here’s a brief list of some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • Gearing up for a successful studio teaching practice;
  • How to set your fee structure and get paid fairly and appropriately;
  • How to develop and organise the Teaching Schedule;
  • How to attract and select new students to make your programme accelerate;
  • The initial phone call and qualifying newcomers;
  • The interview, the offer and how the process of choosing of students is critical to the success of your programme;
  • Important issues about accepting students who have been studying elsewhere;
  • Where to find and how to use the right venues for group classes and concerts;
  • How to keep up with the boring stuff like accounting, taxation, insurance and record keeping;
  • Accreditation – for you and your students.

If there’s a topic or question on setting up and running a teaching studio you’d like to ask about, let us know! Go to TSV Gold Support on the Gold Dashboard.

Cheers,

John

 

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Group Class Success – Goal Setting

One of my biggest interests in the arts of teaching and learning is the power of the group to get things done and get skills learned. I would even go as far as saying that individual learning leaves most students in an unmotivated no man’s land where not enough learning happens. In Suzuki group classes, it’s great to see children (and parents) learning from each other. It looks like the child is thinking, You can do it, so I must be able to do it too. And bang! They work it out.

And one of the best things I have seen was a child at the end of Book 1 as she sat entranced, watching some Book 4 players. At the same time she had her violin half way up attempting to follow the fingering. I was very impressed by how close she came.

Another time I noticed a four year old student intensely watching some advanced students rehearsing a piece for concert. The group session for the younger students had finished and her mother desperately wanted to go home, but the little girl dug in her heels and absolutely refused to go. This little violin player turned herself into a very quick learner and was more in control of the learning process than her mother could fathom.

The group has what I call an enormous unseen learning effect on the individual.

Goal Setting

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Group Class Success – Building Memory for Successful Learning

A significant moment arrived in our violin school when we decided to create a fast incubator for violin progress and practice – without the pressure. Our students were doing quite well and some very well, however we believed everyone could go much quicker and learn new music easier. We wanted better results, greater success and faster progress for all students. Ultimately, it worked. How did we do it and what did we achieve?

Photo courtesy of David Becker

How to Build a Powerful Memory

One of our initial steps was to focus on how to build memory. To work successfully with their children, parents need to understand how memory works, how it is built. This topic formed the basis of several talks I gave at our group classes. The Talk came after a short break following the second session, where everyone – parents and children of all ages including the three year old students – came together to listen and participate in the discussion. I aimed to keep the talk short. To my amazement even the youngest students would listen and sometimes have great answers to my questions about how to study violin at home.

Previous teaching experience had taught me how to wait until everyone was quiet before starting. It is quite reassuring and fun in such a mixed group to watch the calm tide of quiet go through the room as people and children realise you are ready to start.

At group classes we illustrated clear learning pathways for parents to understand how their child could consistently master and retain new steps. This pattern meant that children could progress through the pieces in the Suzuki books much faster than usual. Once children had mastered Twinkles and all the early learning needed to get to Twinkles, we came to expect two books a year as normal progress. Beginners were able to learn Twinkles in about three months.

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Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Minor, K. 304 – W.A. Mozart

Mozart composed the Sonata for Violin and Piano in E minor, K.304 in 1778 while he was in Paris, during the same period when his mother, Anna Maria Mozart, died. The mood and intensity of this piece clearly reflects the emotions of this time of his life. The sonata is the only instrumental work he wrote whose home key is E minor.

Memorial plaque to Mozart's Mother

Sonata in E minor is a relatively easy recital piece for students at Suzuki Volume 7 level and beyond, and provides an especially good opportunity for advanced piano students to partner them in performance.

Both instruments play the opening theme in unison, to continue in a heartfelt expressive partnership of poignant beauty and drama, returning often to darker and softer emotional colours. The sonata is another of Mozart’s creative wonders, with his unique colours of light and dark, matchless melodic invention within a harmonic landscape that is somehow both seamless and unexpected.

TSV Gold members can now download and print the scores from the Gold Resources page.

The Main Study Points

Tempo

Due to the Allegro marking, we’re tempted to begin the first movement too quickly, which I think can lessen some of its dramatic power. In measure 8, for example, the strong contrast between the rather plaintive voice of the opening theme and the ascending staccato line following sounds better at a slightly slower tempo. Try it and see what you think.

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Group Class Success – Session 3 The Talk

From the activities and enjoyment of the Play Through and Teaching Session 2, the group class is now buzzing with energy and enthusiasm. Parents and students are chatting with each other, exchanging ideas and discussing points from the sessions. It’s a good time for the teachers to take advantage of the heightened concentration to share their knowledge and experience about important areas of learning to play the violin. It’s Session 3: Welcome to The Talk!

Allie presents the Talk

A relatively short session of about 5 to 15 minutes, The Talk is an opportunity to engage and educate parents and students about topics such as how to implement morning and afternoon practice in order to learn new pieces quickly, infallible techniques to securely memorise the music and how to create fluent musical ability.

In the video below in this post I present my talk on the keys to daily practice. It’s particularly interesting to see how the students themselves contribute to the discussion.

Within our violin school The Talk also grew into a kind of interactive forum about how to work together successfully.

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