Violin Lessons, Turn Signals and Intersections

The city where I live took more than a year to approve a stop light at a busy intersection near my home. When crews finally began construction, I saw activity at the site for many weeks. But there was little visible progress. No lights, no stripes, no traffic control at all.

Finally, one day almost a year later, the shiny new signal lights stood guard at the intersection. In fact, they were installed in a matter of hours. Then it all became clear: the end was the easy part. But the months of planning, drilling, digging and wiring seemed unrewarded and unnoticed. One morning’s work is what got all the attention.

Your violin journey will likely be much the same. The first months, even the first year of lessons may not produce a result that looks glamorous or exciting. Still, it’s the most crucial period of time in any violinist’s lifetime. Doing things correctly at the start make it possible to reach the Mozart Concerti and beyond.

In the perfect curve of a tiny five year old finger, I see a brilliantly executed concerto passage. In the simple arc of an arm are the seeds of a rich and mature violin tone. It doesn’t look like much, at least to the untrained eye.

In the perfect curve of a tiny five year old finger, I see a brilliantly executed concerto passage.

Patience and vision and resolve are by far the most important virtues for a violin family. Too many folks try to sandwich this long term project into a few remaining slivers between soccer practice and homework.

When your child mounts the stage and plays her first Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, it’s a 90 second reflection of months and hour upon hour of dedication. It’s a celebration of a family’s resolve.

Practice is a pleasurable activity for an Invincible Violinist. He works to make sure that is so. That’s not to say there won’t be some moments that test our mettle.

The decision to begin a violin journey is always easier than the many decisions that follow. There’s a decision point at each intersection of the journey’s path with a busy family schedule. Greet each intersection with care. That’s how to make the journey successful.

“Learning to play the violin is not what you think!”

 

 

Understanding what I’m about to tell you can make the difference between success and failure in your child’s violin lessons. Between a joyful experience and drudgery.

Picture this scenario:

You are beaming. Your six year old daughter is receiving enthusiastic applause from a full room of admirers. She has just performed beautifully at her first violin recital.

Or this scenario:

Your son is once again complaining about practicing. You’ve already threatened to cut off his lessons entirely if he doesn’t do better. The excitement and enthusiasm you both shared six months ago is long faded away.

[alert]The sad truth is that kids struggle and fail at violin far more often than you might expect. [/alert]

It happens because the “violin is so hard.” Or at least that’s what most people assume.

We start out expecting to suffer through months of squeaks, groans and scratches. And after that, volumes of exercises, scales and music reading are on tap. Months later, you’re still struggling to “play” your first song.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We can learn to play, really play well, from the very first note.

When I started violin, I shared many limiting thoughts. And sure enough, I was frustrated by slow progress. I worked hard, but without much focus, and achieved only a fraction of my potential, even after years.

After decades of playing in symphony orchestras and recording studios, I began to teach the violin. That’s when something remarkable happened. I stumbled upon some important people and ideas that turned my violin world upside down.

What shocked me the most is that these ideas worked even better for my students than they did for me. As a teacher who loves the violin dearly, I’d like to share them with you in this course.

After years of teaching violin, and of working with some of the finest string teachers around the nation, with each new day I believe more firmly than ever:

      1. Age 6 or 60, learning the violin becomes simple, once you have mental clarity about what’s most important at any given moment.

 

    2. The most important lessons your child must learn are the first ones. He/she must master only three basic skills.

If you take just this one concept to heart, success is practically guaranteed:

Violin lessons aren’t for learning songs.

Many people, even a few violin teachers, forget this basic fact. They lose sight of what really is crucial: with every note you play during the lesson, with every sound you make, you are focussed on learning the simple movements needed to produce a beautiful tone in the most effortless way possible.

Yes, in my studio students perform songs, and they learn to gain comfort performing them on the stage. When students demonstrate the relevant technical mastery, only then do we begin to discuss artistic interpretation of songs.

Stated another way, the best early lessons and practice sessions are less about what to play and more about how to play. How to hold the instrument and bow. Posture. Tone. Freedom of movement and lack of tension.

Focus on the “how” with your child. Let the “what” come in its own good time. You’ll discover that even playing nursery rhymes becomes joyful and pleasureful. Isn’t that why we play music in the first place?

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Are Suzuki Violin Lessons the Best Choice for My Family?

The Suzuki Method of violin lessons has gained great popularity over the past several decades, and for good reason. Suzuki instruction has demonstrated superior results for thousands of students. These students enjoy added benefits often not available to violin students from previous generations.

In fact, many of today’s top performing violin soloists have come up through the Suzuki system. This, in addition to countless thousands of students and families who have enjoyed being part of a burgeoning and warm violin community.

So, how is Suzuki instruction different from “traditional” violin lessons?

This question can be the source of much confusion, but here’s the key thing to remember: Suzuki lessons are really very traditional in approach.

Suzuki instruction is very traditional in approach. So don’t worry that your student will be missing out on any aspect of violin technique.

Plus, Suzuki comes with many other benefits, not the least of which the ability to get up on your feet and build stage confidence at an early age. Suzuki students are required to get up on stage and perform pieces from memory from the very beginning. That’s huge!

There is a large and growing network of Suzuki teachers all across the world. They are tightly networked and enjoy many opportunities for professional development.
Teachers and students alike can travel to special summer “institutes” which are great opportunities for networking and enrichment of skills. Suzuki students share a common graded and progressive library of musical selections and thus are able to play together. with any Suzuki group.

There is a common misconception that Suzuki students don’t learn to read music. This is completely untrue; music reading skills are introduced to the student at an appropriate age.

Another misconception: Suzuki students don’t play as “musically” as other students. Attend a recital at a great Suzuki studio and you’ll know that is utter rubbish!

Full disclosure here; I’m a certified Suzuki teacher and an enthusiastic proponent of the method. In fact, I wish it had been available when I was a young student! If it were, I’d have developed these skills more fully:

  • Easily memorize long musical selections
  • Eliminate stage fright at an early age
  • Always have something ready to play at a moment’s notice

On the other hand, the Suzuki vs traditional violin lessons choice in itself won’t make or break your results. The key is finding a great teacher that you are comfortable working with, and doing the best possible work with that person.

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